|By the time William was fourteen he could survive on his own in the woods, living on what the mountain gave him. He also had learned that every time the mountain gave, you needed to give something back. That was the way.
The only time William left the mountain for more than a day or two was when he was eighteen. He had been drafted into the army and went to fight in Uncle Sams war. He served as a medic for the United States army. He spent three years away from the mountain. He saw lots of things and traveled to many different places. For someone who was being shot at all the time, he observed more than most people who were in the same situation. He didnt talk about that time much, but the years he spent away shaped his future more than even he knew. For it was while he was serving in the army that the healing spirits began coming to him.
When William was sixty-two years old, he still had more vigor and vitality than most men half his age. He had married a woman from the mountain. She had been with him for over forty years before she traveled on to the spirit world. They had raised three sons, one of which lived in the small town at the foot of the mountain. One had been killed in another of Uncle Sams wars. The third lived in New York City. He was an actor and didnt talk much about his upbringing or his heritage unless it was to help promote a movie role.
Willard, the son that lived at the foot of the mountain, was the only son who had married and brought grandchildren into the world. Willards wife didnt care much for the old man or his way of life, but she never denied him seeing his granddaughters. Each summer they spent a few months on the mountain with him. And he had taught them much about the way.
The old man didnt leave the mountain often. Three times a year he would travel to the town below. Once in late fall he would take his hides and some canned herbs to town and trade them for the supplies he would need to get him through the winter. And in early spring he would travel to his sons home to visit his granddaughters. They were four years and two days apart in age, and each March he would visit for their birthdays. Then when school was out he would meet his son at the road going up the mountain, and he would take his granddaughters home. At the end of summer he would walk them back to meet their dad. The old man realized that as his grandchildren grew older they would want to spend less time on the mountain and more time with their friends. But for now, he taught them all he knew, and life was good.
One of the things he had taught his granddaughters was how to call for one another when the miles separated them. He taught them how to think about the person they needed to talk to in such a way that they would enter their heart and contact them. That was what was happening now. The old man had been busy all day working on his traps and canning food. The first snows of winter werent far off, and he was preparing what he needed in case winter was hard. He had been thinking about his oldest granddaughter all day. She was in his mind and heart and as darkness began to fall, he sat by the fire in his cabin and he began to pray. He offered sage and covered himself with the smoke. He loaded his pipe and prayed that the creator would reveal to him why his granddaughter was on his heart. As he puffed on the pipe and fanned the smoke from it over his head, he began to sway. He stared into the corner of the cabin and saw Mandy, his oldest granddaughter. She was praying and he heard her words as if she was sitting beside him.
Grandfathers, please hear my voice. My sister, Molly is sick. The doctors have done all they can. Grandfathers, please send Old Pa, he knows what to do. Send him quick, grandfathers. Thank you for hearing my voice.
After saying her prayer, Mandy threw tobacco into the fire and returned to the bedroom where her sister stayed. The old man jumped up and without hesitation began placing bags of dried herbs and roots into his backpack. He filled a canteen with water and filled several bags with dried food. He knew if he traveled fast he could be at his sons home the morning of the third day. After packing all he needed into his pack, he rolled a sleeping bag and blanket together and tied them to the bottom of the pack. Then he filled his ammo belt with shells and cleaned his rifle. It was too dark to leave now, so he slept for a few hours and awoke just before dawn.
He walked to the creek that ran by his cabin and took off his clothes. He waded into the creek and faced the rising sun. He began to sing as he dipped his cupped hands into the creek. He poured water over his head in this fashion seven times. He finished singing his song and said a short prayer of thanks, dressed and returned to the cabin.
Once in the cabin he sat on his bed and removed his moccasins. He tied them to his backpack and put on his best walking boots. He grabbed his leather coat and tied it to his pack. He strapped two belts around his waist. The first had a knife sheath and knife on one side and a hatchet on the other side. The second belt was his ammo belt. He slung two leather satchels over his shoulder, each contained dried herbs. He tied his hair back and tied his bandanna around his head. He stuffed a fur-lined cap into the top of his pack and then slid his arms through the straps. He adjusted the pack on his back, grabbed his rifle and stopped at the door to turn and look around his cabin one last time to make sure the fire in the fireplace was out and that everything was in its place.
He stepped outside and began to walk down the mountain. He kept a steady pace and even though he didnt run he was walking fast for a man of his age. Living alone on the mountain, chopping wood, hunting, trapping and gathering medicine had kept him in good shape. He had thought about making the walk to the old mountain road and then following it down the mountain, but the road went around the mountain and took over forty miles to reach town, and then he would have to walk almost another three miles to get to Willards home. Going straight through the woods and crossing the two small streams would be quicker.
He took an old deer trail that paralleled the mountain road for a short way. After walking for over two hours, the trail veered off and grew wider as it came to the first of the two creeks. This creek was fast moving and narrow. He stopped by it for a while to rest and drink some water. There was a pole in the ground on the bank where he crossed the creek. Attached to the pole were two leather ropes which disappeared into the creek. He pulled one of the ropes out of the water and grabbed the canteen that was attached to the other end, untied it, and attached it to his belt. The other canteen he would leave in the creek for the journey home. He trapped this area and had always left canteens in the creeks to keep a source of cold water handy.
After resting for a few minutes, he lifted his pack onto his shoulders and continued walking down the mountain. He knew it would take him two days of steady walking and a third morning to reach his granddaughters. He began thinking of Mandy and of telling her not to worry and that he was on his way.
The trail narrowed in places, and sometimes he had to use his rifle as a walking stick to get around the roughest spots. For most of the way, the trail had gone through the woods, but finally, it came to a clearing. He stopped at the edge of the clearing and looked up at the sky. It was overcast and looked like snow. He had noticed that the air was growing colder. He was walking fast enough to keep warm, so he decided to wait awhile before putting on his coat.
The field in front of him was covered with tall grasses and wild flowers. It was beautiful. He entered it and at almost the same moment heard a noise to his left. He froze for a moment and watched. He could see the grasses moving toward the far side of the field. He gripped his rifle tighter in case he needed it. Then he heard the sounds of wild hogs. They were looking for food, grubs and roots, he thought. He moved through the field, keeping his eyes on the direction of the hogs.
Mandy and her father were sitting by the fireplace in their home. Mandys mother was with her sister. Dont worry, Papa, Mandy said, Old Pa is coming, and he is bringing medicine. Molly is going to be all right.
Willard looked at his daughter and smiled. You know hes coming? he asked.
Mandy shook her head. He will be here day after tomorrow, she said.
The old man noticed more hog signs as he walked through the field. He knew that wild hogs could be unpredictable and kept his eyes open as he moved. He checked the chamber of his rifle to be sure it was loaded. At last he reached the woods again, and he looked back across the field one last time. He knew that he had several hours of daylight left and would be able to make the second creek before dark. That would be a good place to camp for the night. He also knew he would have to make a lean-to to sleep in for he was sure that it would begin to snow.
The old man reached the creek long before nightfall. He thought of going on but realized that this was the best place to camp for the night. He built a small lean-to out of branches he found nearby and started a small fire. He got a pot of fresh water from the creek to brew coffee and make a small pot of stew. He never liked eating a lot when he traveled like this, but he knew he needed to keep up his strength. He sat listening to the sounds of the night as he drank coffee and ate. After eating, he hung his backpack in the tree by tying one end of a rope to it and throwing the other end over a branch. Then he tied the end of the rope to the trunk of the tree.
He placed his rifle, with the safety on, under the lean-to. Then he stretched out his sleeping bag so that the head of the bag was under the lean-to. He made a pillow out of his coat and grabbed his blanket and sat on the sleeping bag. He placed a few more pieces of wood on the fire and stirred them until he was sure that they would burn. Then he laid down and covered himself with the blanket.
He slept for several hours when a noise downstream woke him. He sat up and listened for a moment and heard the sound again, something big rustling in the brush near the creek. He placed more wood on the fire and prodded it until the flames leapt into the air. He could hear what sounded like labored breathing coming from downstream, and it sounded like it was getting closer. He grabbed his rifle and moved closer to the fire. He held the rifle across his lap and let off the safety. He had a good idea what was making the noise and was a little concerned that it was moving in his direction.
The bear had gone to the creek to get something to drink and smelled the food he had cooked earlier. He was worried about a possible encounter with the bear. He didnt have the time to dress out a dead bear and he couldnt shoot to wound it. A wounded bear would be more trouble than dealing with a dead one. What he preferred was to avoid the encounter all together or to scare the bear off. While he was sitting there, thinking about his options, the bear helped him make up his mind.
The bear came into camp on the other side of the fire. Coming up from the creek. It roared and came in on its hind legs. The old man jumped to his feet and fired his rifle over the bears head. He discharged the shell and brought another into the chamber. At the same time he picked up a branch with his free hand and stuck the end of it into the fire, holding it there until it began to burn. The bear walked upright toward the fire. The old man stepped toward the bear, holding his rifle above his head in one hand and the burning branch above his head in the other. He roared out in his loudest voice as he approached the bear. The bear took a step back in the direction of the creek.
The old man didnt want the bear to feel cornered between him and the creek, so on his next step, he moved toward his right, hoping the bear would move off to his left, going upstream. He waved his rifle and the burning branch around in the air as he roared again. He came up on his toes to make himself even taller. Again the bear stepped backwards, pawing at the air as it did. The old man screamed with all his might and jumped at the bear. The bear dropped to all fours and turned upstream. It began running on all fours, and the old man chased it until he was sure it wasnt coming back.
The old man returned to camp and dropped what was left of the burning branch into the fire. He put the safety back on his rifle and leaned it against the tree. He dropped to the ground and sat back against the tree beside his rifle. It was then that he noticed that a light snow was falling. He placed more wood on the fire and looked up at the night sky. Its going to be an early winter, he said.
He didnt usually talk to himself, but the sound of his own voice seemed to relax him. He rested against the tree trunk and soon fell back to sleep. The snow continued to fall, most of it melting as it hit the ground. He woke early the next morning. There was a slight dusting of snow on the ground, but the sun was coming up and what snow was on the ground would soon melt.
He made a small pot of coffee and refilled his canteens and repacked his bag. There were no clouds in the sky. It would be a good day for travel, but it was a good ten degrees colder that it was the day before. He put his coat on and sat by the fire long enough to drink his coffee and eat a small piece of jerky. He wanted to get an early start. If all went well, he could reach his sons house early the next morning. He finished his coffee and placed his cup in his pack. He moved to the edge of the creek and cupped water into his hands, pouring it over his head seven times. He sang a song as he did this and then wiped the water from his face and head. He stood up and stretched out his six-foot frame. He pulled his pack onto his shoulders and placed his hat on his head. He made sure the fire was out and then began making his way down the mountain. He didnt see any more signs of the bear and relaxed as he crossed the creek.
He had an uneventful day traveling down the mountain, and after awhile, stopped long enough to eat a good lunch of jerky and biscuits. He had made good time again, but he was also getting tired. Nightfall was approaching so he began to look for a good place to camp. He wasnt much more than seven miles from his sons house, and he knew he could make it before morning, but there was no need to rush. Nothing could be done for Molly until morning anyhow.
He stopped by a large oak and removed his pack and set his rifle down. He repeated the procedure from the night before, gathering wood and branches for a fire and to build a lean-to. He then made another small pot of coffee and cooked up the last can of stew before settling down. He had made a larger fire than the night before. It was much colder tonight, and he slept with his coat on.
He woke the next morning just before dawn. He said his prayers and drank the last of his coffee. He packed and was headed down the mountain to the road that would lead him to his sons house. Once he reached the road he would be at his sons house in less than an hour. As he came down the last hill before the road, he saw a black man sitting on a tree stump near the road. It was the man who lived across the road from his son. His name was Henry, and everyone in town called him Black Henry. He was a little slow, but he had a good heart, and everyone in town liked him, even if they did make him the brunt of some of their jokes. Henry stood up when he saw the old man approaching. There was a huge grin on his face, and he was beside himself with joy.
Miss Mandy said you would be coming this morning, Henry yelled, and she asked me if I would come and meet you and help you carry your things in. Henry ran up to the old man and made a motion for the man to let him carry his pack. The old man smiled as he swung his pack from his shoulders.
Mandy told you I was coming, did she? The old man smiled.
Yes sir, she did, Henry replied.
Black Henry, how are you? the old man asked.
Im doing good now that youre here, Old Pa, Henry said as he started walking down the road toward their destination. The old man watched him for a moment and smiled. He walked fast to catch up.
Tell me. Black Henry, how is Molly?
Henry looked at him, but never broke stride. Shes bad sick, Old Pa, bad sick. The doctor said he done all he could do.
Henry had a sad expression for a moment, and then his face lit up again. But, Miss Mandy said you were a-coming, and that you would make Miss Molly well. Shes right, too. That girl, she knows. You can feel the touch in her.
The old man looked at Henry. It was all he could do to keep pace with him and talk at the same time. Molly is real sick, is she?
Yes sir, bad fever.
Henry, what do you mean when you say that Mandy has the touch in her?
Henry looked at the old man and smiled. She has the touch of God in her, Henry said. Just like you, Old Pa.
The old man stopped and watched Henry walk on. He shook his head and smiled. By the time he started walking again, Henry was a good ten feet ahead of him. He ran to catch up.
Black the old man started and stopped, Henry, he said. I do believe you have the touch of God in you, too.
Henry never stopped walking. Thats what my daddy use to tell me. My daddy was Cherokee just like you and Miss Mandy. He was. He used to tell me I was touched in the head by God, and that I would always be special for it.
I think your daddy was right, Henry.
When we gets to Miss Mandys house, do you want me to gather wood for a sweat fire? Henry asked. The old man was startled by the question. Henry continued before the old man could speak. Miss Mandy and me, we built a sweat lodge yesterday for you. Miss Mandy said you would be needing one for Miss Molly. We even went down to the river and found seven good rocks. Miss Mandy said you would want seven good rocks for to sweat with. Henry looked over at the old man without losing a step. Miss Mandy was right wasnt she, Old Pa?
Yes, Henry, Mandy was right. Seems you might be right about her, Henry.
What you mean, Old Pa?
I think the girl is touched by God.
The two men reached the house in less than half the time it would have taken the old man by himself. Mandy came running out of the house toward the two men as they approached. Her father came out behind her.
I told you he would be here, Mandy yelled as she ran down the road and into her grandfathers arms. I knew you were coming, Old Pa. I knew you would be here. She hugged him tight.
The old man knelt down to hug his granddaughter. I got your message, he whispered into her ear.
She looked up at him. And I got yours, she replied. Uncle Henry and I put up the frame for the lodge, and we found seven good rocks. Uncle Henry chopped down some dead trees from across the road and drug them over here. They still need chopping up, and we still need to cover the lodge.
Youve done really good, the old man said as he stood up.
Henry had gone ahead with the backpack. He approached the steps going up to the house and sat the pack down at the bottom one. He looked up at Willard.
This is Old Pas belongings, Henry said, Im going to chop wood for the sweat this evening. Henry was gone before Willard had a chance to say anything. Willard walked down the steps to meet his father and daughter.
I told you Old Pa was coming, Mandy said as they reached the steps.
You sure did, her dad responded. Dad, glad to see you. The two men hugged.
Son, how is Molly? I came as soon as I got Mandys message, the old man said. The three of them walked up the steps to the front door. Willard stopped long enough to pick up his fathers pack. He was surprised by the weight of it.
The doctors say they have done all they can do, Willard began, Her fever is bad! Dad, Lisa and I are frightened.
Me too, Son, the old man said, Where is the girl?
This way, Old Pa, Mandy said as she opened the door. The two men followed the young girl down a hallway and through a door near the end of it. The room was large, about ten feet by twelve. There was a fireplace along one wall. There were no closets in the room. The old man remembered the room being used as a diningroom at one time. Now there were a few chairs and a table by the door. A small single bed was pushed against the far wall, just under the rooms only window. There was a table by the bed with a basin and pitcher and glass resting on it. Molly lay in the bed and her mother sat in a wicker chair beside her. The sick girl had blankets pulled up to her chin and her mother was wiping her forehead with a damp cloth.
On the table by the door was a large bundle of sage, a large shell and a box of matches. Mandy pulled leaves of sage from the bundle and balled them up in her hand. She removed a match from the box and struck it on the table. She carefully brought the burning match to the ball of sage and lit it. She then placed the burning sage and match in the shell and began to smudge herself in the sage smoke. The two men did the same. Each one cupped the smoke in their hands and brought in over their heads and down their bodies. They each repeated the motion four times. Willard then fanned the smoke over his fathers pack.
The old man gave Mandy a surprised look. Dads remembering lots, Mandy said.
William looked at his son and the two men laughed. Lisa turned from her sick daughter, and looked at the two men standing by the door. She had been wiping Mollys head with a damp cloth, and she placed it in the basin and rose from her chair. She walked toward the men.
William opened his arms wide as Lisa approached. The two embraced. William, Im glad you came, Lisa said. She buried her face against the old mans shoulder and began to cry.
Molly is going to be all right, so dont you fear, the old man said as he patted the womans back. Lisa pulled herself away and looked into her father-in-laws eyes. She looked away.
For some reason, hearing you say it makes me believe that it may be so, Lisa said.
You keep on believing it, the old man said as he walked past her toward his sick granddaughter. The old man turned to Mandy. Granddaughter, bring the shell and more sage over here.
The old man had carried his pack to the sick girls bedside. He pulled an eagle feather out of a pocket on the front of the pack. Mandy carried the shell to the bed with the sage burning inside. The old man motioned for Mandy to stand close to the top of the bed. He used the feather to fan the smoke over the sick girl. As he fanned the smoke, Mandy moved along the bed.
When he was done, he nodded at Mandy and she returned the shell to the table by the door as the old man stood over Mollys bed. He placed his hands on the girls forehead and held them there for a moment. When he removed his hands, he turned away from the bed and blew on them. Shaking his hands as if he were removing dust from them. He placed his hands on the sick girls chest. He repeated this process several times. Each time he placed his hands on a different part of the girls body. When he was done, he covered the sick girl with blankets and sat in the chair by her bed. He pulled the leather satchel from his shoulder and began to pull paper bags from it. He motioned for Mandy and she returned to his side.
Granddaughter, he said, Do you remember how I taught you to make herb teas?
Yes, Old Pa, I remember, she said.
Good! The old man lifted a small bag containing bark and handed it to Mandy.
This is willow bark, he said, A friend from South Dakota sent it to me. Boil a small pot of water and use four good size pieces of bark to make a tea. It will help your sister with her fever.
Mandy took the bag and hurried from the room.
Daughter, the old man called out.
Yes, William, Lisa responded.
Take a handful of the sage and crush it up in your hands. Wet it and fold it into the cloth you were wiping Mollys head with. Place it on her chest. Lisa followed the direction. The old man got up and let Lisa sit in the chair. He moved to the far corner of the room and sat on the floor. He began sorting through bags of root, leaves and barks.
All right Dad, dont leave me out, Willard said.
The old man looked up at his son. Why dont you go out and help Henry chop up the wood. Then the two of you can cover the sweat lodge. You remember how to cover one dont you?
Yes. I think I do. Willard left the room. Lisa sat and watched the man sorting through his bags. The old man knew she was watching so he started explaining what he was doing.
Im looking for plants we will need in the sweat for Molly, he said. Bear-root to help all of us breathe, but especially her. Yarrow roots for the sickness that she has. Mullen for the spirits that come to me. They like mullen. And a mixture of mint and sarsaparilla bark. And of course cedar to purify everything.
Why the mint and sarsaparilla? Lisa asked.
That is what the spirits have told me she needs to make her well, the old man said. Daughter, you will need to prepare a small meal for after the sweat. Can you do that?
I have a large pot of vegetable soup I could cut up a beef roast and add it to make a stew, Lisa said.
The old man nodded his head. Very good, he said.
Lisa got up from the chair and started to leave the room. She paused at the door and looked over at William.
Shes going to get well, isnt she?
Good as new, William said without looking up from what he was doing.
Mandy returned to the room carrying a cup of hot tea. Her mother was close behind her. William looked up as the two ladies entered the room.
Good, the old man began. Mandy, give the cup to your mother. Lisa, get the child to drink the whole cup. Have her sip it slowly, but get her to drink it all. Mandy, I need your help here.
Mandy handed the cup to her mother and ran to her grandfathers side. Lisa carried the cup to Mollys bedside and sat down. She woke the sick girl and began to let her sip the tea.
Mandy sat beside her grandfather, and the old man began to push paper bags toward the girl. I need you to put each of these in a separate bag. he said as he handed her a bunch of small leather bags with draw strings. Use these bags. They wont get too wet while we are sweating.
Mandy watched close as the old man pushed the different herbs toward her.
Once the sweat is ready, I will place them in the lodge where I will sit in an order so that I can find them when we need them. He looked up at the girl who was still watching him close. Once we get into the lodge, you will sit by the door and place cedar on each rock as they are set into the pit.
Mandy shook her head, showing that she understood. Ill fill the leather bags right now, she said.
The old man hugged her before she left. Remember, the bag with the cedar is yours, he said, You will put it on the rocks.
Ill remember, Old Pa, the girl said.
Well, I am going to see how things are coming outside. When you finish with the bags, just put them back into this leather pouch. He placed a large pouch on the floor next to the herbs.
Mandy shook her head in acknowledgment again and gathering everything into her arms, hurried from the room. The old man got up and walked outside. He was tired and walked slow. When he got outside, he sat down on the steps for a few moments and said a silent prayer. When he stood back up, he felt refreshed. He walked around the back of the house to find the two men finishing the lodge. They were laughing hard.
So, you think the lodge is funny looking, do you? the old man asked as he approached.
Henry and Willard turned to the old man. No sir, Old Pa, Henry said. Just that your son is funny. Henry started to laugh again. Willard was laughing, too.
I was telling Henry about when you caught me smoking your tobacco, Willard said. He started laughing again.
The old man began to laugh, too. You couldnt have been more than eight years old, he said.
I was nine. William said, trying to stop laughing.
I had you smoke until you got sick. Darn near smoked the whole pack.
Yeah, I surprised even me, but I was sick as a dog that whole night.
Yes, and your mother really tore into me for it.
Henry was laughing harder. Mister Willard said he still thinks you came out the worse, he said.
I did, the old man said, I was out a pack of smokes and I had to sleep on the couch for three nights.
They were all laughing now. After a few moments William looked back at the lodge.
It looks good, the old man said. The other two men just nodded.
Henry, the old man began.
Yes sir, Old Pa.
Will you honor us by tending the fire, carrying in the rocks and watching the door?
Henry smiled and let out a little laugh.
What? The old man asked.
Miss Mandy said you would ask me to carry rocks and watch the door, Henry said.
William looked at his son. I think my granddaughter is a-know-it-all, he said. They all started laughing again.
Mandy returned to the room, wearing a sweat dress and carrying the leather bags. She carefully placed the bag containing the cedar into one of her pockets. She placed the bags containing the other four herbs into the large leather pouch. She pulled the drawstring tight and left the pouch laying on the floor. She heard her father and grandfather come back inside as she was getting up off the floor, and she met them at the doorway to the room.
I have the herbs taken care of, Old Pa, she said.
The old man looked at her and glanced at the pouch on the floor. Thats my girl. You got the cedar? He asked.
Mandy patted her pocket to let him know where it was.
How is your mother coming along? He asked.
Ill go see, she said. She ran from the room.
Willard had walked over to Mollys bed and placed a hand on her forehead.
She doesnt seem quite as hot, he said.
Good, the old man said. The tea is working.
Mandy and her mother came into the room. William turned to glance at them and then moved back to the corner on the floor where he had sat before.
Now that we are all here, the old man began, I will tell you what we will do in the sweat. I will go in first. We use a small bucket of water and just seven rocks. Willard with carry Molly in after me and he will lay her on the east side, opposite the door. He will sit next to her, between Molly and me. Lisa, you will sit on the other side of Molly. Mandy will go in last and sit by the door. I have asked Henry to carry the rock and he will stay outside. The old man stopped long enough to let anyone ask a question. No one did.
Mandy will place cedar on the rocks as Henry is bringing them in. When the door is closed, I will place some bear-root on the rocks, before pouring water. We will sing one song and then open the door. The bear-root will help all of us to breathe while we are sweating. During the second door, I will put mullen on the rocks and call the spirits to come and doctor Molly. The third door I will use the yarrow and sarsaparilla and mint, like the spirits have shown me. After the fourth door, we bring Molly out. He paused again for questions. There were none so he continued.
Mandy, He turned his attention to his granddaughter.
Yes, Old Pa, the girl said.
After we are out, I want you to come around to where I was sitting and pour the rest of the water on the rock and sing the thank-you song that I taught you last summer. Do you think you can do that?
Mandy looked at her parents and back to her grandfather.
Yes, Old Pa, but why me?
Because your prayers brought me and the spirits here. Its your prayers for your sister that is bringing the healing. He looked at his son and daughter-in-law. After we sweat, we will come back inside and smoke the pipe. Afterwards all six of us will eat.
Six? Lisa asked.
Yes, Willard responded before anyone else could. Henry too, he said.
Now I need to load the pipe, the old man said. He didnt wait for Lisa to question her husband. Mandy, could you bring me that shell and sage again?
Mandy scurried toward the table, while the old man pulled a pipe bag from his back pack. Willard and Lisa walked together to the kitchen, while Willard explained the new relationship the family would have with Henry.
An hour later, they were all in the back yard. Willard was holding Molly in his arms. She was wrapped in a blanket. Henry was holding a pitchfork and standing by the fire. The old man had removed his shirt and shoes and crawled into the lodge. He placed a small stick into the ground where he was sitting. He arranged the leather bags beside the stick in an order he could remember so that he could get them in the dark.
When the old man was ready, he had the others come into the lodge. They lay Molly on the ground in the east side of the lodge. Her mother was rubbing her head as Henry carried in the rocks. He brought in the first rock and placed it on the west side of the rock pit. Mandy and her father used deer antlers to move the hot rock to the right position and then Mandy placed some cedar on it.
The cedar popped and cracked and began to smoke. The process was repeated for each rock. The rocks were placed in different directions going clockwise from the west. When all the rocks were in place, the old man had Henry give him the bucket of water. The old man poured a dipper of water on the rocks before having Henry close the door.
Henry sat on the ground just outside the door. He sat near where the old man was so he could hear when he called for the door to be opened. Henry sat and he prayed. Three times he opened the door and three times he closed it again. He could hear the hissing of the rocks each time the old man poured water onto them. He could smell the burning plants and roots as the old man placed them on the rocks. While sitting outside the sweat, Henry began to visualize little Molly running and playing with him and her sister. He smiled and gave thanks to the Creator for answering their prayers.
Open the door! The old man yelled.
Henry jumped to his feet and threw the covers back from the door. Steam escaped into the night air. Henry stepped back and allowed the old man to crawl from the lodge. He crawled out of the sweat and stood just in front of the door. He looked up at the night sky and said a single word.
Henry repeated the word.
Willard handed Molly out to the old man and he cupped her into his arms. Henry wrapped a dry blanket around the girl. Willard crawled out and took his daughter back into his arms. Lisa crawled out and stood next to her husband and child. The old man bent over and looked into the sweat. Mandy was settling down at the door and pulling the water bucket closer to her.
You ready? The old man asked.
Im ready, Old Pa, she said.
Henry, close the door one more time, the old man said. Henry jumped to the task, and when the door was closed, he sat on the ground by the door as he had done all night.
Inside, Mandy began to sing a Cherokee thank-you song as she poured water on the rocks. Outside, Lisa took her daughter from her husbands arms and carried her inside while the others listened to Mandy sing. When Mandy poured the last of the water and finished the song, she shouted for the door to be opened. Once again, Henry jumped to his feet and flung the covers from the door. Once again, steam rushed out of the lodge and filled the night air. Mandy crawled out of the lodge and stood.
Ani, she said.
Her grandfather hugged her. You did well, my granddaughter. Before Mandy could speak, her father and Henry wrapped their arms around her.
How is Molly? Mandy finally asked.
Lets go see, the old man replied. Everyone started for the door. Henry began to cover the lodge door again. Willard stopped and looked back at him.
Henry, come on, Willard said.
Oh, no sir Henry started, but Willard cut him off.
Henry, come on, Molly is going to want to see her Uncle, Willard said.
Henry smiled from ear-to-ear. Yes sir, Mister Willard, he said. The four walked together to the house. Lisa carried Molly back to her bed and had already begun carrying bowls and silverware into the room when the others entered. They were all greeted by Mollys smiling face. She lay on the bed, and lifted her arms.
Old Pa, it is you, she said.
The old man walked over to the bed and sat on the edge of it. He took his granddaughter into his arms and hugged her tight. Welcome back, my granddaughter, he whispered into her ear.
She kissed him on the cheek and wrapped her arms around him.
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