The Fourth Trickster
By: T.G. Browning
January 30, 1933
The old man sat on the broad front porch, well sheltered from the rain that came down. This far back in the coast range, the rains were nearly constant on a day to day basis between October and May, at least, in the old manís more than ninety years of experience, that was so. He didnít leave the cabin often these days, nor had he for more than two decades. Not since Teddy Roosevelt had been president, anyway.
He let his kin do his running around for him. The older ones knew why it was important for him to stay at the cabin all the time. They knew the proper languages and the lore that went with them. The younger ones probably thought frailty and poor health were the sole reasons Dalton Johnny refused to come out of the mountains any more. Or possibly the despair they saw in so many of their peopleís eyes over the loss of their land and living. The Miluk and Hanis Coos Indians were a vanishing breed in Coos County.
Just like every other Indian band in the northwest. And in truth, the Coos Indians had done far better than some of their close relatives and neighbors. The Yaquina and the Alsea peoples were no more. No one spoke their language. No one told their dreams again. No one knew their lore, at all. That had almost been so since Dalton Johnny had been a young man.
His hands were still strong; one could see that as he carefully carved on a strangely cured piece of myrtle wood. The figure he made was not only from ancient memory, but from his own personal memory and it was a large part of why he was where he was.
Dalton Johnnyís ears were in damn good shape as well. He heard the light whistle that meant Annie or one of her children had come to call. The odd shape of the dead-end canyon where the cabin sat, allowed the faintest of sounds from two far off places to be heard. The closest was at the branch in the trail that led to the cabin and was the only place Dalton Johnny expected to hear anything.
He rather hoped not to hear any more sounds from the second place. It meant trouble, bad trouble thrice over should he hear those sounds again. He wasnít sure he was up to doing what would be required of him, should he hear those sounds again.
Dalton Johnny got up slowly, his back still straight but protesting his demands even so. From the whistle, he rather thought it might be Millie and that would be nice indeed. He enjoyed seeing his great-great-grandniece for she was a pretty woman and good humored. She had funny bits of gossip to tell and hearing about people, even the moving people, always cheered him up.
He put tea on the stove to boil and got down the old tin of good tea he saved for special occasions like this. By the time his visitor approached, heíd already prepared two cups and was waiting on the hot water, looking out the window for his guest.
It was indeed Millie, but Dalton Johnny could see that it was a sad, weary Millie that came to visit and not the happy, garrulous one he had expected. He left the cups on the table and stood in the doorway as she walked up.
She had a rucksack over a shoulder bringing him such supplies as he might need for the next month or so. She also carried a small package, wrapped in brown paper like something from the Allegany store and Dalton Johnny frowned. What could that be?
ďIíve come with sad news, uncle.Ē
ďI know. You wear it like a shroud and Iím sorry for you. Please, before you tell it, have some tea with me. Sit. Compose yourself. And give me time to prepare myself, for I think itís very bad news that you bring.Ē
Millie nodded once, a typical coastal Indian nod that meant not only agreement, but welcome, firm agreement. Much of their language had been so, expressions and movement, rather than words alone.
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