chapter one

chapter six

chapter twelve

chapter one

chapter seven

chapter thirteen

chapter two

chapter eight

chapter fourteen

chapter three

chapter nine

chapter fifteen

chapter four

chapter ten

chapter sixteen

chapter five

chapter eleven

chapter seventeen

prelude

I want to assure you I don’t think I’m a writer, nor do I want to be. The script is written in my life, and I am a painter. However, I feel it necessary to tell this story so that those of you who follow my painting series will understand what I’m painting about.

It is not my intention to insult anyone or any group with my choice of words. If I do offend any ethnic group, I apologize. I don’t believe you can tell any kind of a story and be politically correct at the same time.

In order for me to do this series, I must travel from the Plains to the coast on the same journey traveled by the character in my paintings. Photographing the landscapes and scenes she encounters along her way. This is no easy task. There are many things to contend with. It doesn’t matter however, I have started the series and will find a way over and/or around any obstacle in my path to complete this series.

With a world full of carbon copy people, occasionally one individual stands out above all others. Not by design, but because they are uniquely different. They are truly one of a kind individuals from the core of their being. Generally those are the persons most emulated by others. Norny, the character in my story, is different by design. The difference was for the purpose of her survival. There is no way to tell how different she would have been if she had been raised the same as everyone else, except that it takes a special individual to endure the kind of life that she did. I like to think that she would have been unique no matter how she was raised. To the best of my knowledge there has never been anyone like this, but there could have been. Who knows?


chapter one
Norny's Beginning

By all outward appearances, they were a seemingly normal family. There was the father George and the mother Mary and the three children. The oldest child was Megan at seventeen. Then there was Bobby at twelve and Amber of ten. The children were all much like normal kids except for Megan. She was born with a gift. She had the ability to see things in her minds eye, beyond that of normal people. I guess they would call her clairvoyant. Sometimes she could see things before they would happen, or things happening far away. She tried to live the life of a normal teen, but some of her visions would get in the way.

Megan and the others had an older brother of nineteen, but he was one of the unfortunate individuals who was drafted into the war in Vietnam and was killed six months later. This was one of Megan’s troublesome visions. The others in the family only knew that John had been killed in action, but Megan saw it happen. She lived with that image ever since. This planted a sadness in her that would take many years to get past.

There were many skeptics of her abilities, but she didn’t care. She had nothing to prove to anyone, and there was nothing she could do about her gift anyway. She would keep her talent to herself, but little brothers and sisters needed something to boast about, so everyone in their hometown knew of her visions.

They were traveling to Yellowstone for a vacation, and right now they were somewhere at the west end of South Dakota. They had been on the road without a break all morning ( about four hours ). The kids are arguing and fidgeting around as kids do on long trips, and Mary was ready for lunch.

"We need to find a place to pull off and stretch our legs a while, George. Besides the kids are getting restless and we’re all a little hungry. I made your favorite, fried chicken." They drove on for another twenty minutes until Mary spots a place.

"Look at that beautiful tree up ahead there, George. Its so big and so different then the other trees in the area. Let’s pull off there, come on we’ll have a picnic and let the kids run around for a while."

"Ok Mary, I’m stopping." George slows down until he finds a good place to pull off the road and park.

As they disembark from the vehicle the children run on ahead while Mary and George gather a blanket and the picnic basket and a few things for the kids to play with.

"Lets go over there under the branches of that tree." Mary says.

So George and Mary find a spot under the tree and spread the blanket out on the ground.

The kids are fighting and arguing with each other, so the mother says, "You kids go over there by that rock and play, and stop the fighting. I’m getting tired of hearing it."

The children go off by themselves and leave George and Mary to sit and relax for a moment while they prepare the lunch.

Megan was curiously walking around the trunk of this large tree. There was something about this tree that had her attention. The trunk must have been six foot in diameter, and it was flawlessly perfect. The sound of the wind gently passing through its leaves soothed and comforted the weary traveler. It was so relaxing, it had the affect of timelessness on them as they sat there under it. The intoxicatingly sweet smell of freshness in the air must have been emanating from the tree, they thought. Unlike the smell of the air in the now polluted town where they were from.

After a few minutes, Mary had the lunch prepared and looked around for the kids, "Come on you guys, lunch is ready." She says.

Bobby and Amber come charging over. Bobby is holding something and he is yelling to his mother, "Mom, look what we found." He has his hand extended out so his mother could see what he has.

Mary takes it from his hand and looks at it closely. "This looks like a little piece of Wedgwood. Maybe from a plate or bowl. It must be a hundred years old. Wedgwood is highly collectable and worth a lot of money today. Too bad you didn’t find the whole thing."

"Where did you find it?" Megan asks.

"Over there in the ground where I was digging." Bobby says. Megan takes the piece and holds it in her hand for a moment. Her senses make a connection between the tree and the broken piece of china. Then she walks over towards the spot where they found it.

"Wait Meg, lunch is ready."

"I’m not hungry, you go on and eat." She says as she curiously heads towards the spot. The rest of the family go on and have their lunch. After about a half an hour the kids finish and Amber runs back over to the spot where they found the piece and Megan is now sitting there looking off in the distance and thinking. Bobby on the other hand, takes out his pocket knife and starts carving his initials into the tree. After a few moments Amber comes running back over to her parents.

"Mom, something is wrong with Megan, she’s just sitting there staring and she won’t answer me when I talk to her."

Mary looks over at her and says, "Megan, honey, are you OK?" But not a word back from Megan. " Come on George, let’s check on Meg."

They recognized this entranced spell from Megan once before. When she lost her brother. So Mary and George get up and walk over to her. She is just sitting there holding the little piece of Wedgwood in her right hand and looking straight out, as if she were in a hypnotic state. Megan’s left hand raises up slowly as if she were holding an imaginary cup of tea. Her little pinky finger was sticking straight out. Megan softly utters the words in a voice unlike her own, "Are you my pretty big boy?" Her eyes appear to be welling up.

"Megan, can you hear me?" Her mother asks.

Megan is looking straight ahead not even blinking totally oblivious to anyone around her. Then George and Mary notice a tear fall from her eye and slide down her cheek.

"Megan honey, what’s wrong?" They crouch down next to her and put their arms around her. "Talk to us Megan, tell us what you see."

Then Megan seems to awaken.

"Oh, I’m OK mother. Its that tree." Suddenly she notices Bobby carving into the tree.

"NO Bobby, STOP!! Get away from the tree!" Megan yells.

"Why? I’m not doing anything." He replies.

Megan jumps up and runs over to the tree to examine the damage done by the pocket knife. They all follow. "This tree." Megan says as she is rubbing the area that the knife cut into. "This is not just any old tree. This tree has a name."

"A name? Megan, trees don’t have names or souls." Her mother says.

"Maybe your right mom, but this one is special. Its not like the other trees here."

"What do you mean Megan? You saw something about the tree. What was it? Can you tell us about it?"

"I don't know how to begin. There is so much life within the tree, and a journey that spans a great distance. There seems to be so much sadness and joy at the same time. I don't know how to discribe it, but I’ll try." Megan says.

So they all sit down on the picnic blanket as Megan sits and leans with her back against the tree. She goes deep within herself and becomes like another person as she begins to describe the images as they unfold in her mind....

"It was a long time ago.............................................................

 

The grass is green on the plains this time of the year. In the distance, you can see hazy mountains of a pale blue. They’re so far back, they look to be in another time zone. Trees cover the hills surrounding the plains, and a river twists and winds towards us from the distance. The sun shimmers off the water marking its path. Overhead the sky is blue, but in the distance you can see storm clouds rolling in. The wind is lightly whistling the tune of the approaching weather system, and there is a thick musty smell of moisture in the air.

The plains seem a lonely but beautiful place, much like the character in my story. If you look closely, but far out, you can see a tiny figure traveling ever so slowly this way. Too far away to tell who or why, but they keep coming. The figure must be about a mile out. They’re carrying something in each arm. Something large. They’re moving in a straight line heading in this direction. There seems to be no one else in sight, just the whistling song of the wind as their companion, accompanied by the occasional rumbling of slow rolling thunder in the distance.

The figure is getting larger and still coming. They stop for a moment, and hoist something to their shoulder. It now appears to be a saddle. As they keep coming, they soon disappear from sight towards the base of the knoll. For a few moments we see nothing. Then after three or four minutes, there appears the top of a hat coming up into view. Then a face and shoulders, and now close enough to see it’s a woman! She has a saddle in one arm and a saddle blanket in the other. Over her shoulder is a bridle. She looks tired and dusty. The knees of her jeans are worn through, leaving large holes and frayed material around the edges. Her black hat is grayed with dust and over her denim shirt she wears a leather vest.

Looking at this woman, I would say she’s had a hard life. There are slight silver strands running through her hair, although by looking you couldn’t guess her age. Her face has a plain, rather simple beauty to it. Perhaps this is what they mean by a handsome woman. She is tall and slender. I can’t tell much else by looking at her except, she must have powerful forearms. To carry a saddle with one arm for the distance she did, takes strong arms. She is obviously not your typical female. She is a one of a kind female called “no name.” That is in our language, but in the language of the Indians that gave her the name, it is pronounced “Norny.”

To say she had a hard life is probably an understatement. You see, she was raised by a small outcast group of Umatilla and Shoshoni Indians. They were a tribal blend of proud and rebellious Plains Indians who, when the other tribes realized their plight was hopeless, joined together and refused to give in to the ways of the white man. They had raised her not to be a childbearing female, but as a capable individual set out to find her place in the world. They knew sooner or later their world would be restricted to a reservation. Though they did not belong on a reservation, they knew they couldn’t escape it. Their beloved Norny however, stood a chance at freedom since she was white. So the object of her learning was for that eventuality.

It was a mild spring morning in May when they found the child. It was like she dropped in out of nowhere. She must have been somewhere between a year and eighteen months old. How she got where they found her will always remain a mystery. How long she had been there, no one knows; it couldn’t have been long. The baby couldn’t have survived more than a couple of days in the elements, even if the animals didn’t get to her. It was a miracle that she was found at all. And eventually, that’s what they believed she was, a miracle baby. The fact she was a white child created a problem. It didn’t sit well with all the tribal members. At that time the white man was hated by the all the Indians, so the idea of raising one of the enemy’s babies was not a popular one.

The problem was, did they have the right to raise this child as one of their own, or should they leave it as they found it? Returning the child to its own kind was out of the question. They weren’t doing the white man any favors, and they probably would be accused of something they didn’t do. There were plenty of heated discussions amongst them on the subject. They held tribal counsel to determine the fate of the baby. The hardest hearts of the counsel wanted to take the child back to where they found her, and leave her there. The logic was that if the gods meant for this baby to survive, it would. And if not, then that was its fate. The women of the tribe weren’t about to let anything happen to such a small child regardless of color. Besides, they thought that she was perhaps a gift from the gods. Maybe this was some sort of test to see if they were worthy of the task of raising her. Or if two tribes could work together with a common goal as one people. So with their feminine determination they took control of the baby and the situation. They kept the child out of sight of the men and the elders so as not to remind them of her presence.

All the women of the tribe had a hand in raising the child. They found so much joy in her when the child smiled and the way her little eyes would sparkle back at them, that the only name to call her was “Smiling Eyes.” They said her smiling eyes were magic to their hearts. Gradually, as she grew, she became accepted by everyone in the tribe and was allowed to play with the other kids.

Children being what they are, outcast her at first, but later accepted her in, but not without taunting and teasing her. The children had no special name for her that was anything to be proud of, so they called her “Norny” (“no name”). As she grew, she spent most of her time with the younger ones, and Norny was the name she heard the most so that was to be her name.

Now, the women knew that she would never marry into the tribe. And someday she would have to set out on her own. They all grew to love Norny as one of their own, and dreaded the day would come when their hearts would feel empty from her absence.

When Norny grew to the age where they start teaching the female ways and readying the young woman for marriage and child bearing, they chose another path for her. They instead taught her the skills to survive on her own in the white man’s world. A world filled with illusion and false truths. It was a hard, cruel world, no place for a woman, but a place that only the bravest heart of a warrior could survive. She would be faced with many challenges, and they wanted her to have every advantage they could give her. She therefore was trained to become, and was soon known as the maiden warrior. They had to instill in her the confidence to face whatever came her way without fear, and to take pride in who she was. She was taught to fish and hunt (when necessary) and fight. She had all the cunning and wit she needed to see herself through any situation.

At the age somewhere between fifteen and twenty, Norny learned to ride, break and care for horses. They had their own ways, and Norny caught on quickly, however, not before she endured a few broken bones. When she had mastered their teachings, she was rewarded with a young horse of her own. She loved and called him “Poco.” Almost immediately her and Poco became best friends. They rode everywhere together. As their years together went by, they seemed to have a special communication with each other. They seemed to connect on a spiritual plain in a way that was unique to a horse and its rider. Norny talked to Poco out loud as if Poco understood her words and could answer her back.

Norny never had much interest in the boys of the tribe, I guess because they looked down on the female, and having been trained as a warrior she was not one to be dominated by a man or anyone else. The subservient routine didn’t work for Norny. After growing up with the young boys teasing and even fighting with her, she was like one of them now. She could handle herself in a fight with any man in the tribe. At first it was a joke to be beaten by Norny, but later the men had to fight for all they were worth to keep from being defeated. Sometimes that wasn’t good enough. What she may have lacked in brute strength, she made up for in speed, agility and keen sense of balance. She had more than her share of black eyes and broken noses before she was through. But she got tough.

Even though she didn’t have much interest in the men, they couldn’t help but notice that on the seldom occasion that she would smile, her eyes could mesmerize. The sparkle from her eyes could set a young warrior’s heart aflame. What was this strange relationship they had? She could never be looked upon as a potential wife or mate, for that was not her destiny. They treated her as one of the boys and knocked her around like the boys did to each other, poked fun at her, but when a smile came to her face, their eyes were locked on her and a strange feeling came over them. Norny leaving the tribe to never return was something the young warriors never thought much about, until now. The thought of her absence brought about feelings they never knew existed. For the first time ever, the young warriors that fought with and scoffed at Norny, were experiencing a strange hollowness in the pit of their stomachs. It was a bittersweet situation. They now saw her in a way as never before. She was now the most desired object of all the young warriors, but she was the one thing that was never to be.

Finally on a spring day in May (the same day she was found) a tribal meeting was held. It was time for Norny to leave them. For the past month they had all worked together to outfit Norny with the clothes and things of the white man. If she went on her journey dressed like an Indian, she wouldn’t stand a chance in the white man’s world. So they clothed her and saddled her horse Poco, and she no longer looked like the maiden warrior she was raised to be. Instead she looked like a cowgirl or ranch hand of the white man’s world.

They all gathered at the edge of camp. Poco was ready to ride with a saddle and blanket and had some supplies she would need for the first few days of her journey. This was it. They are seeing Norny for the last time. It wasn’t like them to show emotion or ever use words that were the equivalent of love, but it wasn’t necessary. The camp was silent, and the air was thick with emotion. The old women of the tribe that actually found the baby Norny, were crying. The young warriors stood there strong and silent.

Norny took the reins and turned the horse, and they both started walking away from the camp and her brothers and sisters. She got about fifty feet out, put her foot in the stirrup, swung her leg over the saddle and sat atop Poco. She turned Poco back around so she could face the only family she had ever known. As she looked upon the tribe, all the memories good and bad, (but mostly good) came rushing back. Suddenly a big smile came over Norny’s face, and the sparkle from her eyes burned into the hearts of everyone there. At that point even the hardened young warriors were finding it hard to fight back the tears as her smiling eyes shot through their hearts like a flaming arrow.

“We were right,” one of the old ladies said aloud. “She was a gift from the gods, and we have made them proud in Smiling Eyes.”

It was obvious to everyone that she was blessed with eyes that could stop a charging buffalo in its tracks. They knew it was her secret weapon. Then she pulled Poco’s head back the other way and was off. Some of the tribe turned and walked back toward the camp that never before felt so empty, but most just stood there until she was out of sight thinking, “You will always be one of us, Smiling Eyes. You will never be forgotten”


chapter

2

and so the journey begins

(click on Norny's face to see sketch detail)