chapter fourteen

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

chapter fourteen
mountain valley

Norny had spent the next eight months with Diego and his family. They had journeyed to a place not too far north of Carson City, where Norny worked hard helping them settle in and get their lives headed off in the right direction. She noticed how at first Diego encountered resistance from the other people already there because he was Mexican and Rosa was a Navajo. But after a while the people got used to him being there and they eventually accepted them into their little community. It didn’t take long before the people were glad they did after they savored the flavor of his cooking creations.

With the magic of Diego’s culinary abilities he couldn’t help but become successful.

And Norny found herself doing everything from handyman to waitress and even dish washer. It was a kind of life she was unaccustomed to. But it was all part of her life’s adventure and Norny did it with the same enthusiasm she had for most things in life.

 

It was late in May of the following year when Norny wrapped up this chapter of her journey, and would move-on westward. Diego and Rosa tried their best to get Norny to stay and be a part of their little family. And as much as she would have liked that, she couldn’t stay. She had to push on to where ever the trail led to.

After sharing the necessary farewell’s between friends, she pointed Poco in the direction of the mountain range, and once again headed off toward the setting sun.

Norny followed the trail and would cross the mountains where a much earlier group known as the Donner party had met their fate in 1846. They say that on the other side of the mountain was a lake of unbelievable beauty known as Tahoe. She had been told of the lake by several people including Sabrina and Amy. They told her that at one time the whole basin where Carson City and other small towns exist was once part of the great lake. Norny wanted to see the lake for herself and was looking forward to it.

The going wasn’t all that bad in the spring. There were still patches of snow on the ground, but not enough to hinder their travel or slow them down.

Norny walked most of the way up the mountain with Poco to spare him her load. It took them the better part of the day to reach the top, but they did. They had to travel for a while longer before the lake came into view. When it did, the size of the lake was impressive, but she didn’t think it was as beautiful as she was told it would be.

It was dirty and baron around the lake. What hadn’t been taken by the woodsman’s axe, had been destroyed by fire. Although there were small saplings sprouting everywhere, it now looked like something less then she had expected. But there was still an undeniable beauty to the lake.

Norny had remembered Pete telling her of a small settlement somewhere up here on the mountain where there was a woman he once cared about.

Norny asked some of the locals about the settlement until she found a merchant who had some charts that mapped out the mountains. The village she was looking for was known as Mountain Valley. It was at least a three days journey south over the mountain and perched at about 7500 foot elevation. It would be a hard trip to make sense there were no trails and the terrain fluctuated from 5000 to 8500 and in some place drastically.

The question is, should she chance the journey there or not?

She had to think about this for a bit, before she decided whether to make the trek across the sierras. She knew she could make it, but she wanted to be careful where she journeyed Poco.

Since she last saw him, Norny had been carrying a letter from Pete just in case she should travel through the settlement where he last saw his lady friend.

 

Norny thought she would look around the town of Tahoe and see what it had to offer. They had just launched a steam ship on the lake about a year prior to this, and offered rides across the lake to its visitors.

There were quit a few people including a bunch of school aged kids lined up to go on the cruise, and one of them curiously asked her, "Are you going on the ship?"

"I don’t know? I think I just might." She said.

"I’ve never been on a boat before. This should be fun." The little boy says to her.

"Well I haven’t either, and I think your right. It should be fun for both of us." Norny replies.

 

Over on some rocks there were four boys. One of them had just gotten a telescope for his birthday, and they were all taking turns looking through it. When they saw Norny she looked like a tourist, so they walked over towards her.

 

Norny was reading the sign that told her about the cruise and that it would cost fifty cents.

Just then the four boys approached her saying, "We’ll watch your horse for you for twenty five cents Ma’am."

Norny quickly determined that twenty five cents could not be divided equally by four, and for the first time she exercises good business sense by making them a more equitable offer. So she tells them, "I’ll tell you what. You feed my horse some oats and brush him down and watch him till I get back and I’ll give you each a dime."

"OK, Sure!" They answered enthusiastically. So Norny puts ten cents into each of the hands extended towards her.

"I’ll be back in a little while boy." She says and hugs him. She now felt comfortable that Poco would be cared for while she took the cruise.

She walked over to a gentleman who was collecting the money and passing out tickets, and purchased hers. As she approached the gangplank to board the ship, she read the name of the vessel as "the S.S. Tahoe." How appropriate she thought.

 

The entire boat ride took about three hours, but was well worth the money. She would get a view of the mountains and the lake that could only be had from a boat. Besides she wanted to experience a boat ride for herself.

Seeing the results of fire and over logging, she had wondered how this place must have looked when it had a lush growth of trees.

On board the ship the children were having a wonderful time, running around the deck and playing games with each other. The kids didn’t really care about the sites, they were just happy to be doing something new for a change.

Norny liked the sound of children having a good time, so she slowly walked around the deck viewing the lake from all sides and listening to the frolic of kids playing. The boat ride was smooth, though she could hear the churning of the engines that powered them across. She stopped at the railing to look out when the boy from back at the dock walked up behind her and asked her. "What’s your name?"
"Norny." She tells him.
"Norny? I never heard a name like that before. What does it mean?"
"In the language of the Indian it means No Name."
"Are you from around here?" The boy asks.
"No, I’m from far away. I’m just passing through." She says.
"Well, I’m from here, and my school is on a field trip today. See that’s our teacher over there." He points.
"So I see." She says.

While the boy is making small talk with her, Norny sits up on the top rail and puts her feet on the bottom rail and balances herself by gripping the rail on either side of her with her hands. They go on talking when Norny’s right hand still gripping the top rail accidentally uncouples the hook from the eye that holds the loading gate closed. She didn’t realize she was sitting right on the boarding gate, and when her little finger unhooked the gate it swung out and there was Norny looking down at the water.

"Oh no!" She exclaims. Suddenly other people noticed she was dangling out over the water. The children were all in hysterical laughter. Just then the rail sleeve she was on rolled forward and she looses her balance and falls straight down into the lake. Here is a woman that can stick to the back of a mad bull or a bucking bronc, but can’t seem to ride a gate railing on a steam ship.

 

*CATDOUISHHH* Was the sound she made as she went in. Her hat was floating on the surface when she came back up. Norny could swim, but it wasn’t one of her best attributes. Then the emergency bell from the boat clanged and all engines stopped.

"MAN OVERBOARD!" Someone shouts.

One of the crew grabs a life preserver and tosses it to her.

When she got in close enough, a couple of men leaned over and took her arms and lifted her back on board. She looked like a drenched cat, "This is a site seeing cruise Miss, there is no swimming allowed." This man says jokingly to her.

The first thing Norny did was make sure she was still wearing her earring necklace and had her pocket watch. She opened the watch and was relieved to find it was still working.

"Well ma’am. Your our first man overboard, or should I say woman. And I hope the last. What happened?" He asks.

"I don’t know. I was just sitting up on that thing, then it swung open and I was out there over the water."

Norny was totally embarrassed by what just happened. The Captain came over to her and told the crewman to take her below deck to the engine room and dry her off.

He took her below and got her a blanket to wrap around herself while her cloths were drying next to the burner compartment.

"You know Miss, You now have the distinction of being the first passenger overboard. So that means you get to sign the wall."

"Sign the wall, what do you mean?"

"Here take this pencil and write your name on the wall right here." Pointing to a spot.

 

So Norny does exactly that. Of course the crewman was just having fun with her, but she thought he was serious and went ahead and signed it.

"Norny huh? What kind of a name is that, Hungarian?"

"No, just a name. My name."

Norny’s signature had remained on that wall in the engine room all the years the S.S. Tahoe stayed in service. And when they scuttled the ship many years later her name was still there, and probably still is at the bottom of the lake.

When they had arrived back at the starting point, Norny got her dried clothes and put them on and left the ship thanking everyone for there help., "Sorry you had to stop the boat for me." She said.

"Well, Miss, it would have been a long swim back. Besides you added a little excitement to the trip for the young ones." The Captain told her.

 

Norny left the ship and went straight over to Poco but he wasn’t there. She looked all around but didn’t see him anywhere, so she whistles, long and loud.

Then from behind the building she hears a sound. Clang, clang, clop,…….. clang, clang, clop,…….. clang, clang, clop. She turns to see her Poco with tin pails at the the bottom of two of his legs. He had the feed bag on the top of his head like a hat, and painted on a board hanging around his neck with a piece of rope was the word "SUCKER".

She looked at the sign not understanding what it meant. Then she noticed a couple of people were chuckling over it. So she looks at them and asks...................."What does it mean.....SUCKER?"

"It means you've been made a fool of." The man replies.

I guess I deserve it for trusting Poco to just anyone, she thought.

"Oh Poco! What did those boys do to you. I’m sorry boy, I guess I was too quick to trust them with you.", Then gradually the chuckles started until Norny broke into laughter. She had to admit, it did look a pretty funny.

"I’m sorry Poco. I don’t mean to laugh at you boy, but you do look funny. Yeah, well I guess they’re right, I am a sucker. I shouldn’t have paid those boys until I returned." She said.

Norny removed the feed bag the tin pails and the sign, then she inspected him for any injuries. But at least there wasn’t any physical damage. Her poor baby was just humiliated. To see a once magnificent specimen of a horse like Poco degraded like this wasn’t right.

"Well Poco your not the only foolish looking one today, guess what happened to me,….. the first time I’ve ever been on a boat and I fell off it……… Yeah that’s right, I took my first boat trip and I fell in the water. No body else did, just me. I was soaking wet. The Captain told me that there was no swimming allowed on the trip. After they pulled me out of the lake, they took me below to dry off by the fire of the engine room. So I didn’t get to enjoy the rest of the trip like everyone else did. Then they asked me to sign the wall since I was the first. I felt like a fool. It was humiliating. All the kids got a good laugh out of it though. Now when I think of it, it was kind of funny. We’re two of a kind today, huh boy?……..Come on Poco, lets find you a treat and us a place to stay."

While on her tour she had made the decision to chance the journey across the top of the sierra’s, but she would take it slow and easy. She decided they would gather some provisions and start out first thing in the morning.

 

When the morning came, Norny went over to the little store for some supplies. She got a couple of apples and a couple peppermint sticks for Poco. Poco loved peppermint candy ever since Jim (the candy man) treated him to it. While Norny was in the store she sees something unfamiliar to her.

"What’s that?" she asks looking at the square objects on the plate.

"Here try it." the man says and holds up the dish. Norny takes a piece and puts it in her mouth.

She doesn’t say anything at first. Then her eyes open wide and then slowly cross as she savors the flavor with heavenly delight while emitting a moaning sound of sensuality, "mmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!! WHAT…IS…THIS??? "

"You mean you’ve never tasted chocolate before?"

"No! If I had, I would never forget it." She said

"Here, let me wrap you a few pieces to take with you, 'on the house'."

What a delightful discovery she thought. She started to thank the man, then said.

"You know, I don't know why , but you'd better give me one more peppermint stick please."

"Sure here, that'll be a penny." Norny thanked him and went out to Poco.

"I’ve got a treat for you boy." She says as she feeds Poco a peppermint stick. "You like that don’t you boy? Well are you ready Poco?"

 

Norny knew the trip might be difficult for both of them. At the first sign of hardship on Poco, she would end the journey and head down the west side of the mountain.

 

Back at the cove, the four boys that tricked Norny were skinny dipping in their usual spot. They were all in the water swimming and taking turns looking through the telescope. They would laugh and joke at times about the trick they pulled on that unsuspecting woman and her horse yesterday.

"I'd like to have seen the look on that woman's face yesterday when she saw her horse." One boys exclaims.

The others all laughed and agreed. "Yeah, we got her good."

While the boys are horsing around in the water, they see the S.S. Tahoe taking a new group out for a cruise. One of the boys noticed something different about the boat. "Say, what’s that thing with the red flag following the Tahoe out? "Here, gimme that telescope."

The boy looks through it and notices. "There’s a rope towing something behind it. Something with a red flag. It looks like a shirt but……………HEY! THAT’S OUR CLOTHES!!!!

Norny had taken the time to locate these rascals and repay them for the humiliation they treated Poco and making a sucker out of her.

She had gathered all their clothes and put them on a old door she found, then tied a rope to the back of the boat and towed their clothes out to sea. That is except their shoes. And those she tied the laces together, and tossed them into a tree. Now who would look like the fool?

 

Norny and Poco traveled along the mountain top for a day and a half when they stopped to take it all in.

The sierras were beautiful. She had never seen anything like it in her travels before. The trees were so large and the air was fresh and clean with a sweet aroma of the natural foliage growing there. The sky was a kind of blue, she had never seen it before.

The gods must live here, she thought.

At one point she stopped when she could look out and see Carson City and other small towns she had been through. She was looking back at the trail she left behind, and could see for miles.

They found a clearing to stay the night. And from their vantage point they could see the faint flickering lights of the towns way off in the basin on the Nevada side of the mountains. It was a wondrous sight for her to behold. Her view was clear for as far as the eye could see, then her imagination continued the mental journey and saw even farther. This was a good place to stay the night.

 

After a good night's sleep, they were well rested and ready to push on.

Norny loved this place, and her heart floated across the mountains and through the trees as if it were a feather.

"Oh Poco, isn’t it beautiful up here? How you doing boy, are you going to make it?" She asked as she gave Poco his morning brush down. Poco seemed to be doing OK so they saddled up and moved on.

The farther they would travel the more beautiful it was. And over every rise and around every bend the wondrous beauty of the sierra’s intensified.

As she foraged her way atop the mountains, the journey would at times become a long and arduous one. But still worth it.

Every mile seemed to tire her more then usual. She didn’t understand why she would get out of breath so easily. Norny didn’t know that the change in altitude meant a difference in the density of air available. And that left her short of breath. She couldn’t understand why she would get so wore out so quickly. But after a week or so at the higher altitude she would acclimate to it, and feel much more like normal.

At another point they had come to a creek that was full of fast moving water from the spring thaw. They would have to travel along it carefully until they could find a safe place for them to cross. About a hundred yards down they found a place and Norny carefully walked Poco across.

At different intervals in their travel, they would come to a clearing that would allow them to see for miles out, assuring them the spiritual grandeur of what she thought to be 'the mountain of the gods'.

Though the traveling was tough, she believed it to be worth the hardship in order to experience the wealth of beauty that could only be found there. To her it was one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen and believed it to be of a religious nature. It was as if the earth were lifting up it most beautiful place high into the sky as an offering to the gods. And she felt fortunate and possibly by some grand design, that her and Poco were there at this time to share it together.

 

Norny found a small place to stop and sit on a log and see out to the east in the direction from which she had come and think to herself. It was clear and the end of her vision was the end of the earth. She took hold of her omen earring and thought about Daniel. How far away in which direction he was now. Had Daniel ever seen the beauty of these mountains she wondered.

Norny was holding the reins and walking Poco along a narrow trail looking ahead, when the earth beneath her gave way and she slipped down off the edge. She grabbed a hold of a section of root sticking out and hung on. If she were to drop, there was a small ledge below her that would save her fall. But if she fell past that, it was quit a ways down.

She whistled for Poco, and he walked over to the edge. Then she says, "sheeta-bah-too Poco." and he lowers his head to the ground so that the reins would extend down to Norny hanging there. When she grabbed hold of the reins, she made a clicking sound with her tongue, and Poco started backing up, with his hind legs digging in and pulling with his lowered head at the same time. He drug Norny back up on the trail.

They were quite a team, Poco and her. To see them together in action anyone could tell they understood each other perfectly. It takes a special relationship between a horse and rider to work together like that.

 

A good example of the trust and understanding between them was when a couple of miles farther along they encountered a large timber rattler. The snake coiled up and rattle it’s warning right in their path. About ninety-nine and nine -tenths of all horses would have thrown their rider in panic, and bolted the hell out of there. But of course not Poco. When he heard and saw the snake, he stopped dead in his tracks, then carefully backed up with Norny still in the saddle. The snake slithered away and they continued on with their journey.

Over the years Poco had learned to trust in Norny and her judgment of what there was or wasn’t to be frightened of. Poco had become a very stable and dependable animal. That horse had complete confidence in her, and needless to say she trusted Poco the same way.

That is the kind of bond, a communication in which a unity of mutual understanding between a woman and her horse allows them to think and act as one. It is very rare, but with a special woman like Norny and an intelligent, one of a kind horse like Poco and the years of working closely together it was a natural, and inevitable for them to form such a relationship. Norny was a one horse woman, and Poco was a one owner horse. And nothing on heaven and earth could change that.

 

When Norny was less then a half a day from the settlement, she heard some gun fire off in the distance. She didn’t pay much attention to it and figured it was probably just some hunters. Well she was right, but what they were hunting was on another hill a few hundred yards away and across a crevasse. It was a really large bear. Though she didn’t know it was the hunters prey. She stood there and watched for a moment or two. The bear sniffed the air as if it had caught the scent of something, possibly her and Poco. She watched until the bear disappeared into the trees. Then they moved on following the scent of some smoke they smelled on the trail about a mile back.

Finally on the third day, they arrived at the settlement. There wasn’t much to it. There were a dozen or so cabins spread out through the trees on the side of the mountain. There was a little store, a blacksmith and a tavern called the Red Bear. The settlement was nestled at the edge of this beautiful meadow filled with green grass and wildflowers.

Most of the property there was owned by a wealthy rancher named Donald Wheeler. He had a couple hundred head of cattle, but mostly he bread horses.

Wheeler ranch was probably the biggest employer sense it had several thousand acres to care for.

Right now Norny’s business at hand was to deliver Pete’s letter and then get some food in her.

Norny stopped into the post office located in the general store. She showed the postmaster the letter from Pete in hopes that she might know of her or help her locate the woman. But she was told that this person had met a man and moved away several years earlier to parts unknown.

"Would you please hang on to this letter just in case you should ever hear from or learn of her were abouts?" Norny asks.

The postmaster agreed, so Norny thanked her and left. She took Poco to the Smitty’s shop where they boarded horses and got him some oats while she went over to the tavern for a bite herself.

 

"Well here’s a new face." The tavern owner says, "What brings you all the way up the mountain?" He asks her.

"I had a letter to deliver for a friend and I wanted to see the beauty of the mountains for myself."

"Do you plan on staying long?"

"I don’t know. I’ll have to see how it goes."

"Well if your looking for some work, old man Wheeler can always use a few good hands if you know anything about horses." He says.

Norny and the man made small talk while he served her a meal and a place to relax.

While they were talking Norny heard off in the distance a couple more gunshots, "What are they shooting at?" Norny asks.

"Just some old pesky bear that comes around where he’s not wanted."

"Has he hurt anything like livestock or people?" She asks.

"Not yet, but then they're not going to give him the chance. He’s been around here forever, and he as clever as hell. No matter what they do, they can’t seem to out smart him. So all they have left is to shoot him on sight."

With that, the man went on to tell her about tales the previous settlers were telling about the big ol’ bear. They painted a pretty scary picture of that animal, no wonder they felt the need to rid themselves of his presence.

But Norny thought their fear was without reason or justification. After all, the bear hadn’t hurt anyone yet. And animals have a right to life just as we do she believed.

She would have offered up the idea of living with the bear rather then killing him, but she figured it would have fallen on deaf ears.

 

When Norny finished her meal, she thanked the man and decided to head out for the Wheeler ranch and see about hiring on. She finally located the foreman and convinced him that she could handle whatever job he threw at her.

Since the bunk house was full of men, Norny slept in the barn with Poco as usual.

The next day, sun-up came early and she headed out with the other hands and worked the fence line. Once again, Norny was a woman in a mans job and she had to take a lot of ribbing about it. But she was getting used to the doubts people had about her and took it all in stride.

Every day at one time or another she would hear a gun shot from someone trying to shoot the bear. She hated the fact that they had condemned this animal out of a fear that had no basis. Surely there was enough space on these mountains for them both, but this was white men, and there would never be enough space for them.

After a couple of weeks of working with the men, they came to know each other like friends and they all accepted Norny in as one of them. It didn’t take long for her to earn the respect of the men she worked with. They could see she was genuine, and they didn’t treat her like some dainty female in a dress, she was one of the hands.

There was one morning when Hank and Jerome were out in the back forty searching for a lost steer when Hank told a joke to Jerome. They all burst into belly bustin laughter including Norny. When that happened the expression of laughter on Norny’s face and the sparkle in her eyes were immediately noticed by the two men. It changed forever the way they saw her. They had never seen such a gifted smile before. It was something they couldn’t describe or would even try to tell the other men. And unbeknownst to them, from that morning on their hearts belonged to her.

 

The following day was a slow one for the ranch. Mr. Wheeler sent the foremen to the auction, and except for the few men riding the fence line, most of the chores had been done. So Norny took the day off to share with her pal Poco.

Norny remembered the meadow just over the hill full of aromatic wildflowers, and thought they would go there.

First thing when she got up she cared for Poco. Then before she saddles up she says, "Here you go Poco, a little morning treat for my pretty big boy." And she gives him a peppermint stick then grabs hold of his head and gives him a big kiss on his face like always.

She climbed into the saddle and rode out of the barn into the fresh morning air.

They headed out to the meadow of wildflowers and green grass. When they had arrived, Norny relieved Poco of the bridal and saddle. She left him to graze and enjoy the freedom of the grassy meadow while she picked up the saddle and started walking towards the creek. The waters were rushing fast from the snow melt off. The closer she got louder was the sound of the turbulent water. She would find a spot near the river to relax and maybe rinse out a few things.

The air was fresh and clean and sweet smelling and had a sense of peacefulness like nowhere else she had ever been. It was a beautiful day, a good day to appreciate being alive, she thought.

 

She was almost at the waters edge, when from behind her Norny heard a horrific sound.. It came from Poco and it made the hair on the back of her neck stand-up. It was unlike any sound he had ever made before. She quickly turned around to see what was happening, and saw Poco down and flailing around on the ground.

He was on his side facing away from her. His body was wrenching around violently. He lifted his head as if he were going to get up, but his head fell back down. Then his head twisted all around looking for Norny. The sounds coming from him were high pitched and panicked and it went through her like a shriek of terror.

Immediately she dropped the saddle and tack and took off running. She was at least two hundred yards away. She never ran so hard in her life as she did then. Her heart was racing so fast that like always it got to Poco long before she did.

Her hat flew off her head and she was breathing hard as she ran like hell to get to him. It seemed like it was taking forever to get there, and she could see her pretty big boy was in trouble. She couldn’t imagine what she was going to find. Her insides were churning and the sinking feeling in her heart was weighing her down.

When she got to him, the problem was obvious. Poco had stepped into a large bear trap that was hidden in the grass. She could see that the steel teeth of the trap had broken his leg. The damage was severe and he was in a lot of pain, "Oh no Poco." She said in a shaky voice as she dropped to her knees.

She grabbed hold of the jaws of the trap with her bare hands and frantically tried to open it. She pulled so hard that the edges of the steel were cutting into her hands, but it was no use. The jaws were clamped tight, and she wasn’t strong enough to pull them open. Then she used both hands on one side of the jaw while she put the heel of her boot against the other and tried like hell to pull them apart.

 

On the hill above her were three men from the ranch. Hank being one of them. The three men saw what had happened and rode quickly down the hill to her aid. Norny was distraught trying to remove Poco’s leg from the trap.

The men jumped down off of their horses while they were still in motion and grabbed a branch from a tree that was laying on the ground. They wedged it between the jaws and pried them open. They were able to remove the steel trap from Poco’s leg, but the damage was already done.

The large toothed edges of the steel trap had badly crushed the bone in his front leg. It was permanent and there was no repairing it.

She fully understood the seriousness of it all, and what it meant. She knew Poco was down for good, and would never see her magnificent proud pony stand up again, and the pain of her loss was rapidly consuming her.

Norny couldn’t help herself and from within her throat she whimpers and chokes as she strokes her hand down his neck soothing him and wishing it had been her instead.

She would have gladly endured the pain to spare him this moment. The pain of a broken leg would have been far less then the pain of the loss she must now live with.

 

This was the moment she had dreaded for so long, when her and Poco would come to the end of their trail together. She knew it would inevitably come someday, but she never thought it would be today. The day started out so well. The morning was beautiful and she felt in love with life. Never would she have imagined that it could all go so wrong. But it did.

The three men being horse lovers themselves understood her grief. They just stood there unable to do anything more to help her. Poco was making noises like an injured animal, and he was moving around trying to get up. But he was wounded, and out of his character.

So the men stood there just in case.

But as they stood there, the men curiously watched as Norny did something they had never seen before and would never be able to explain to anyone else.

Her horse was in tormented pain and was thrashing around on the ground, so Norny leaned over Poco’s head putting one hand on his neck and the other gently on his nose and quietly whispered something into his ear. It was the damnedest thing they ever saw. The horse seemed to immediately calm down and lay still. The panic was all gone as he stopped thrashing around and became quite. All of the sudden he had a peaceful contentment about him.

What the hell did she do? Was it a sound that she made, or something she said? They had no way of knowing. But whatever it was the animal had such complete confidence and trust in her that he seemed to understand, and relaxed right down even through the pain he was suffering.

One of the men turns to the others and quietly says, "No one's going to believe this."

Another one says, "I know I wouldn’t, if I hadn’t just seen it for myself." The other man nodded and agreed.

It was amazing what ever she did, but it wasn’t magic or she would have healed his wound.

 

Norny’s mind flashes back to how far they’ve come together, and except for Poco’s illness they covered many miles of treacherous terrain unscathed. She thought of how they had spent most of their lives together. All the miles and all the years. All the adventures they had shared had all come down to this day.

She thought about how through all the years from the first day they came together, they were inseparable. And from that very day, and that moment on, they were always a pair.

Knowing they had arrived at trails end, she relates to her friend,

"We had a good run boy." She said as the tears began to flow…………. "You were always my pride Poco."

"You stayed with me and never let me down………………… We did it all together, didn’t we boy ………………. It was just you and me, huh Poco? "

"You were always my pretty big boy, and you always will be."

 

The men stood there silent. They could see that this wasn’t just her horse, that it was personal and she had a special relationship with her animal. Unlike any they had ever known before.

"I’m sorry Miss, but there’s no way to save him. I can tell you love this animal. But you have to do the right thing. You owe it to him. You can’t let the poor creature suffer."

The poor creature, she thought. To hear him referred to as a poor creature sounded odd to her.

He wasn’t a creature to her, he had an identity of his own. A spirit, a personality, a name that related to him alone. He wasn’t some dumb animal.

This was her best friend, her playmate of her youth. And as they grew up together he was the champion of her dreams and the shinning knight of her fantasy. Together they became the colors and the movement of the wind.

He carried her faster, farther and jumped higher then any other horse could go.

He was her confidant and the keeper of her secrets. He was her spirit, and her motivation and the only thing that made life on a long and lonely trail tolerable.

He listened to her when she needed to voice her words or just to talk to someone. He was her security and her warmth on those frigid cold nights when her blankets weren’t quite enough to keep her from freezing.

They shared everything. They shared the blue skies and the stars at night, and the crackling embers of the fire light. He shared in her sorrow and all of her joy, he’s more then a horse, he’s her pretty big boy. He is her beloved Poco and the spiritual extension of herself.

The men felt bad for her, "I can see how difficult this is. I’ll take care of this for you." The man said as he removed the gun from its holster."

"No!" She said, pushing the gun away. "Its something only I can do." She says to him.

All along Norny thought she would never be able to take her friends life if it ever came down to it. And she hoped she would never have to be put in that situation. But she never thought she would someday be in a position were her options were so limited. Where she would be left without a choice.

Poco was hers and hers alone. She couldn’t let a stranger deliver her companion from mortality. A stranger that didn’t have feelings for him or cared about him like she did. This required someone with a personal connection, someone who shared history with him. Someone who could do this out of love for him, rather then out of necessity.

 

She knew she couldn’t let Poco just lay there and die, although she thought about doing nothing, but that would be cruel and she couldn’t bare him suffering. What was left? There was nothing else. She had to do it herself.

"Please go away and leave me alone with him." She said in an uncertain voice.

"Sure Miss,……. here you’ll need this." Handing her the gun.

"Do you know how to use it?" He asks her.

"No." She replies.

"You just point it like this, then cock the hammer back, then squeeze the trigger." He says as he hands her the gun.

"Come on boys, let’s give the lady some privacy." So the men climbed back into the saddle, and the three of them rode back up the hill and over the other side.

 

Nothing else in Norny’s life would take the kind of courage that this job required. But part of her strength was Poco, so where would she find her courage for this?

Norny had never even held a gun in her life. It was heavy, and the cold hard steel had an impersonal, almost brutal distinction about it. It was an object of death, but like most things in life, it had its time and purpose.

She just sat there for a few minutes sobbing and wishing that it had never happened.

If only I could turn back time to relive the past few moments, she thought.

Memories of her life with Poco ran through her head as she knelt there beside him.

She tenderly strokes his neck and reminisces with him of their times past, "Remember Poco, how fast we were. You sure loved to run. I never saw a horse who could run like you. And you never seem to tire. "

"Remember the times Crow Feathers and Red Arrow chased after us, but no matter how hard they tried, they could never catch us. Remember boy? We would let them get right up on our tail, they would think they finally caught us, and then your powerful legs would carry us ahead with tremendous speed. I would look back and they would be following our dust way behind us. I laughed so hard sometimes. They would get mad at us, but they would always have to give up and let us come back into camp on our own. They never caught us boy, they kept trying but they never caught us. You wore their ponies out Poco." She said crying and chuckling at the same time. "You were the fastest and the smartest horse I ever saw. And you were my horse. Only mine weren’t you boy?"

Norny knew horses well. Though the tribe had given her Poco, still she had chosen him as her horse, but she knew for there to be real communication, for total unity between them, the horse must chose her. And animals have an instinct for what humans have in their hearts towards lesser creatures. He sensed her heart was pure, so Poco took to Norny without hesitation. He knew she would always love and care for him the way he needed to be.

 

Norny continues……………….

"Sometimes I would look at you, and there you were with your long mane, and your powerful muscles. I use to love to watch you run and prance around in the meadow by yourself. You would hold your head up high like you were proud. You were like a powerful thunder cloud in a clear sky. I would think to myself how lucky I was to have such a wonderful horse like you. From the first day I got you, you became my best friend, and you still are."

"Remember when I got sick and didn’t show up to take you out riding, so you came into the camp looking for me. They chased you off, but you sneaked around the back of my lodge and poked your head under my tent. You were so smart Poco, and I knew then just how smart you were, and I knew then that I was your chosen one, and you truly were my horse."

"And I remember when I first got you? We played together every day. You were always excited to see me coming to get you. You would raise up your front legs and stomp the ground hard and move your head up and down as you came towards me. Remember boy, remember how it was? "

"We would ride off together and pretend we were on a journey to a far away place. Then one day, when we grew up, it really happened, our pretending came true and we really did ride off together on a real adventure. Didn’t we boy? Now here we are, on a journey far away, and still together, living our fantasy together, just as we dreamed, just you and me Poco. Some of it was pretty tough going, but we got each other through it. And it still is as it always was, just you and me."

"Only the gods know how much I truly love you,…….. and you Poco, I hope you know,"

"I only hope that I was as good for you as you were for me."

"I can’t tell you how much your friendship has meant to me boy."

"You put the wind in my hair Poco, and I will always love the feel of the wind in my face because of you."

"Thank you for sharing it all with me old friend. Thank you for being my pony."

 

She pauses with a tortured look on her face and stares at her beautiful Poco, her pretty big boy. Her heart is bursting with love and remorse at the same time. How could this be happening she thought.

With tearfully swollen eyes she held on to the gun with both hands, and with both her thumbs she slowly cocked the hammer. Her eyes were so wet she could hardly see. Her nose was running and she was trembling so bad, she couldn’t have hit the ground if she pointed down..

 

Norny had tried to prepare herself for this moment, the eventual departure of her friend, but she wasn’t ready, and she knew now she never would be. When his time came and the moment arrived, she was still clinging tightly unwilling to let go.

Norny had never killed anything in her life, and now she was appointed the task of ending Poco’s life.

His companionship was her most cherished possession.

He was the only remaining link to her past. The token gift of her family, and like her tribal family, Poco was now about to become part of her history, leaving her to face the uncertainty of an unknown future alone.

Norny stalled for time, but she knew the longer she waited the more painful it was for him and her both.

As she sat there unable to save her wounded friend, every feeling, every ounce of emotion that she possessed or had ever experienced, all of the sensitivity from the depths of her were converging all at once to the middle of her chest and announcing its presence through the tormented expression of her face.

It was filling up her head and heart and eyes with every bit of love and compassion for life that she was capable of. All of her human senses were over loading and her emotions were spilling out of her for Poco, out of control and unable to stop them.

 

She couldn’t pull the trigger. She tried as hard as she could, but she couldn’t make her finger squeeze hard enough. She tried squeezing with the fingers from both hands at the same time, but she still couldn’t do it.

She kept trying, but some force inside her was preventing it from happening. She knew what she had to do, but her subconscious was fighting her.

Norny knew that in that instant, the ten thousandth of a second it would take for the projectile to reach its target, she would lose the most valued thing in her life. The relationship she had cultivated and nurtured over the years with her best friend. He was her dependability factor, and the one constant of her life that would cease to exist.

There would be no turning back. No second chances, this decision would be fatally final.

There were tears streaming down her face as she was wracked with indecision when to make the moment occur.

Forever was a long time, and she had to be sure.

Her whole body was trembling and gasping with fear. In excruciating agony her voice cries out across the meadow……………. "Daniel, help me."

And from a spot high up on the top of the hill sat the bear, looking down at Norny in the meadow as she cry’s out in pain over Poco.

 

Daniel was the strongest man she had ever known. To have so much loss in his life, the loosing of his family, but to be able to carry on and still have compassion for his fellow man takes strength beyond measure.

Where ever Daniel was right now he had no idea of the mental anguish she was going through…….or did he?

 

Poco’s pain and torment was almost unbearable for her to witness. His breathing was erratic, and his eyes were open wide telling Norny the trauma of his injury. His heart was beating fast and his nostrils were expanding and contracting out of time with his breath.

Then she looked inside herself, to her god and said………… "Please give me the strength."

 

Then while Norny looked into the tortured depths of Poco’s big brown eyes, something came into her head. She remembered that Poco is a smart animal. But even though Poco was smart, he falls short of understanding those things about life that only a human could understand, and he is counting on his best friend to recognize and deal with those things for him just like she always did in the past. Poco trusted her to act in his best interest. She was doing for Poco what he would expect her to do as his best friend. To do what had to be done for his sake no matter what, if she really loved him.

It was because of the pain of her loss that she can’t let him go. When it should be because of her love for him that she would endure the pain and let him go. That’s what her relationship with him was all about. The closeness they shared for all those years was for the sum total of her devotion to his welfare, and her unselfish love for him right now. All those years together would have meant nothing if she didn’t follow through and help him when he needed her most. There was no way she could let him down now. She had to be strong for her pretty big boy. It was clear to her now.

All of a sudden, she felt that of which she had summoned come to her for that moment, and give her the support necessary for her last act of kindness. In her broken, quivering voice she utters her final words to him……………" Till we are the wind once again, ….You are with me always Poco."

Suddenly from her vest pocket, Emilly’s class reached out in her time of need, as her watch chimed…….once……twice……and a third time, then ……………………………….

 

The men were on the other side of the hill when they heard the shot. It echoed like a canon as it roared across the valley on a wave of slow rolling thunder, moving on forever, carrying her pretty big boy away from her, to the forever after.

It was a sound that marked a turning point in her life, and the mortal departure of her companion and friend.

To Norny it was the loudest noise she ever heard or would ever hear again. And the sound of the gunshot reverberated forever in her memory to her very soul. The joting reflex of the gun firing shuttered through her whole body with deadly force. And were she to ever hear the sound of a gun again, it would only serve to remind her of the painful memory of Poco’s final moment.

Back at the settlement, all heads straightened up at the sound of the gun shot alerting everyone. They all wondered was it the bear they shot at or for something else. But they were unaware that what they heard was the sound of Norny’s heart being torn in half.

The three men having heard the shot rode back up to the top of the hill to see if they could be of help at this point. When they looked down they saw Norny sitting along side her horse, running her hand down his neck grieving for her loss. She couldn’t say good-by, and she couldn’t believe it was over.

She had to realize Poco was gone now, but it would take some time.

Norny knew that Poco understood she loved him. And that was the most important thing to her right now.

They decided to leave her alone. They would come back later and take care of Poco’s remains for her. But for now, give her all the privacy she needs to get through this, no matter how long it would take.

 

After a while Norny sat upright, she couldn’t stop thinking about her loss and it would take quit some time before she would be able to think of anything else.

Norny sat there next to Poco’s lifeless body sniffling and sobbing. She wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands and her nose with her sleeve, then bent forward to retrieve a knife out of her bag. She held up a length Poco’s mane and cut it off. Then she proceeded to weave it into a braid as her keep sake. When she completed it she pinned it to the inside of her vest.

Then Norny did something that would have seemed strange to anyone else, but made perfect sense to her. She cut a length of her own hair, then leaned over and carefully braided it into Poco’s mane. She made this symbolic gesture so that part of her physical person would always remain with Poco.

 

Hours later as the sun began to set, and it was just getting dark, the men were outside of the bunk house discussing tomorrows chores and their day and Norny’s misfortune. Hank saw her first coming down the side of the hill from the meadow carrying her saddle and gear. The men all shut-up as she approached knowing this was a solomn moment for anyone who had ever lost something they loved as much as she did her horse.

"We’re all sorry about your horse Miss. We’ll give him a proper burial for sure. You can count on that." Hank says to her as she is heading for the barn.

Norny didn’t answer him, she just looked at him without saying a word. But they could see the portrait of her pain and they all understood her sorrow, and didn’t expect any response. It would be a long time before anyone would see the sparkling smile in her eyes again. For the part of her heart that triggered her magic, was dead for now.

Norny turned in early that evening, sleeping in the stall that was Poco’s. The men all gathered the tools and lanterns and headed back out to take care of Poco’s remains.

 

The next morning Norny was up early like always. She walked out to the meadow and the spot where they lay Poco to rest. She saw that one of the men had taken the time to put a cross on the spot.

She couldn’t shake the images of Poco from her mind no matter what she did.

Norny understood that death was part of life, but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with. She knew well that to enjoy all the wondrous things that life has to offer, you must accept the consequence that would always follow……death and all its emotional trimmings.

Except for the time when she had tried to set her pretty big boy free, and discovered that the roots of their friendship were joined together, Norny hadn’t thought much about her life without Poco. But at this moment the grass wasn’t as green and the sky wasn’t as blue and life was never so absent of his reassuring warmth..

Norny needed to be alone to think. Usually that meant to be alone with Poco so they could take a ride somewhere just her and him. And she thought to herself, this is surely what loneliness must really be. Alone without Poco. The shock of it all was still fresh in her mind.

She hoped that her mind would adjust to her loss soon, so that she could see clearly the direction in which she was heading. But the images of Poco in Norny’s mind were too numerous to close out. After all she spent most of her life with him, and of that almost every day of it. But now, Poco was but a memory. And all the happiness he had brought her were now just fond mental images of times gone by.

Norny walked over to the creek where the waters were churning swiftly, flowing violently down the mountain. The sounds of the water engulfed her drowning out anything else.

She removed her boots, vest and hat. Then she rolled up her pant legs partially and carefully stepped from rock to rock until she got out to the middle of the water. She sat down there looking at the water churning and splashing against the rocks. Feeling the icy cold spray on her face and feet.

The deafening roar of the turbulent waters all around, provided a cocoon of isolation for her so that she could block out everything else leaving her alone in her thoughts.

The waters around her were treacherous. One false move, one little slip and she would be swept away with little chance of survival.. At this moment she didn’t think much about it. The roaring sound of the fierce waterway swept around her with a hypnotic effect sending her deep within her own thoughts.

She was wracked with guilt and her mind was tortured with "if only’s" thinking that if she had only done something differently that morning he might still be with her.

But she had nothing to feel guilty about. She had given Poco everything she could and especially the things that counted the most. Poco had never felt the lack of her attention, she lovingly, eagerly gave it.

And Poco had many times over the years proved that she was his chosen companion. He was always her loyal steed.

 

Now she felt stranded, isolated and very much an island unto herself.

Her emotions were spiraling, and getting a grip on them was as slippery as the rocks she was climbing on. She had lost so many things she held dear and didn’t understand why. She was feeling a little bit sorry for herself, but she couldn’t help it.

She had never imagined life without Poco, and now without him she couldn’t see the clarity of tomorrow.

To her the definition of the word love was her feelings for Poco. That was the only kind of love she was familiar with. Norny never loved anything in her life like she loved that horse. Poco was always first and foremost in her life.

Although her degree of sorrow felt beyond the tolerance of mortal man. Her belief was that the gods were at last smiling on Poco and he was on to gentler pastures and a better place, but without her. This was the only small measure of solace she had to hold on to.

The loss of Poco was paramount in her mind, but adding to her confusion were these strong feelings for Daniel that she had been carrying with her all along and couldn’t get past.

This was another form of love she was yet to experience, and she didn’t know how to recognize it. But she knew there was something within her for Daniel, but she didn’t know what. She knew that Daniel felt for her, but where was he now?

And now for some reason she was feeling resentment for him. Not that he did anything wrong, but because she needed someone (him) and he wasn’t there to help her through this.

It wasn’t rational thinking but she couldn’t help it. Her emotional state was beyond her ability to cope with or do anything about. This was one of those emotional issues that no one including women could understand.

At this moment her life appeared to be too painful to live with. Her vision and ambitions were gone for now, and all she could see was the water, moving fast around her. Heading somewhere, a direction, replenishing the earth with moisture and creating new growth. The water had a purpose. It was part of the necessary cycle of life.

To bring forth new growth, fresh beginnings. Maybe that’s the answer. A fresh beginning.

Norny’s life at this moment was void of purpose and absent of meaning. Since she couldn’t see her worth, she was searching for a permanent solution for a temporary problem. There was no one there to tell her what she needed to hear or to put her back on the path she was on.

 

"Daniel." She sobs. At this moment she needed to feel his arms around her. To give her the support and the shoulder to cry on. All her strength was depleted from her grief and she wanted him to pick her up in his arms and cradle her like a baby. She wanted him to lift her up into his arms like he did that first day when he found her and carried her into his cabin. She needed to feel that someone else had control, and sheltered her from harm and the insecure feelings that life often gives us. She wanted to know that she wasn’t alone in her sorrow, and that someone was out there to catch her if she falls. To know that someone cares that she hurts inside. She felt immersed in her pain.

But she didn’t feel Daniel’s hand on her shoulder like he told her, to guide her thoughts and emotions. Now like any other human being would, she felt nothing. But the problem was she felt too much, and it was weighing her down with negativity.

If she had any idea of how many lives she had reinforced along her way by just being her humble self. Her life was more valuable than she would ever know. The strength within her that came so naturally was partially due to the spiritual support of her good friend and companion. Now she had to find it within herself, and right now she didn’t no where to start looking.

 

Slowly she lowered her legs down into the water. She could feel the tremendous force of the rushing water as it swept her legs down with it away from the rock. Her hands gripped the rock to hold on as she wondered what it would be like if she just let go.

She was at the very crossroad of her life. She wanted to be with her friend Poco where ever he was, and she wanted to touch Daniel again, that’s all she could think about. Her life’s value was in question. All of a sudden her hands slipped and she slid down almost off the rock. She caught herself, but she was chest deep into the current and it was moving fast. It was an accident, but it was very cold and difficult to hold on. Her fingers had found fishers in the rock that allowed her to hang on. This isn’t what she wants.

Suddenly Norny knew it would be a mistake to even think of letting go and allowing her life to slip away.

Norny was not suicidal, she never gave thought to ever deliberately taking her own life. It just that she had never experience the degree of loss that she was feeling now. And for the moment, all of life had seem to lose its value, including hers.

Now if she can just get enough strength to pull herself back up on the rock. She’s trying but the cold water and the tremendous pressure are tiring her fast, she hasn’t got the strength. The longer she hangs on, the more strength it requires. She gets a face full of water now and then and swallows some causing her to cough and choke. Her eyes are wet from the spray and she can’t see. What is she going to do?

Fatigue is setting in and she hasn’t figured out how she can pull herself back on the rock so she just hangs there. She was getting weaker. She was so tired she couldn’t even lift her head up to look around. She’s thinking of Daniel and his inner strength when suddenly she feels this tremendous pressure on her arm. Not enough to hurt, but enough to feel the power. Her own strength was helpless against the powerful grip that had a hold of her. And in her minds eye she sees Daniel pulling her out of the water and dragging her onto the rock. She’s so tired she just lay there face down unable to look up. She coughs and chokes up water she had swallowed and trying to get her breath.

Norny lay there exhausted, with the side of her face on the rock. She dozed off to sleep from fatigue for how long she doesn’t know, but enough to regain some strength. Slowly she awakes to the sound of the water and to feel the warmth of the sun on her back. She lifts herself up to look around thinking she might see Daniel. But there was no Daniel. What there was, was the bear everyone feared. The large bear of the mountain. He was just a few feet away, fishing for his supper. The bear couldn’t have pulled me out she thought. So how did I get out of the water and onto the rock? She wondered.

Norny looked at the bear. He doesn’t appear to be the fierce man hater everyone thinks he is. I’m here just a few feet away and he acts as if he doesn’t even see me.

Could all the story’s and the fears of the bear be just made up and exaggerated? He seems to be contented to just fish and go about his business. I could see how people might think he is a threat, just by the shear size of him, she thought.

Poco had stepped into the trap that was meant for the bear. It cost Poco his life. Now here is the bear who possibly saved my life, but I don’t know that for sure. Could the bear have known what happened to Poco. Meeting the fate that was meant for him. But then how could he know, he’s only a bear. Or maybe there is a high communication between animals that we humans aren’t aware of. She thought.

But animals could sense something about Norny. Something beyond the normal human scent that was kind and gentle, and told them that she was not a threat and had nothing to fear.

Suddenly the bear gets his fish. He lumbers over to the banks and calmly quietly goes about eating his meal.

 

From about a hundred yards away, the approaching men saw the bear sitting there close to Norny and thinking she was in harms way, they opened fire.

The bullets were whizzing by him. The bear stood up on his legs facing his attackers, and lets out with a loud blood curdling roar. He must have been eight feet tall. He roared again and swung his arms out like he was striking at them, though they were way off.

Norny yells out, "Stop! Don’t shoot him!" But they couldn’t hear her.

Then the bear dropped down on all fours, leaving his dinner on the banks he ran off into the woods.

 

"Are you all right Miss?" The man ask as they approach.

"Yes! The bear didn’t mean me any harm, he just wanted to share the waters for his food. I think you have the wrong idea about this bear." She said.

"We almost had him. If we hurry we can catch his trail." The man says

"Wait! Don’t you see, the fact that the bear stood right here with me and made no aggressive movements towards me proves that he isn’t the beast you think him to be.

"Well ma’am. Regardless of what you think about the bear, there is a bounty on his head, and if we don’t collect it someone else will."

"Who put the bounty on the bear?" She asks.

"The towns people and Mr. Wheeler."

"Look, please don’t go after the bear until I talk to Mr. Wheeler. Please just give me that much time. OK?"

They thought about it for a moment, and feeling sorry for her resent loss they agree, "Alright ma’am, will give you a day. But that’s just us, someone else may get the bear by then." He says.

"Thank you." She replies. And Norny takes off to find whom ever she could who would listen to her.

Norny found her way to Mr. Wheeler, and he gathered a few of the promenant members of their group to listen to what the woman had to say about the bear. Normally they wouldn’t have bothered, but she lost her horse to one of their traps, so they owed her that much.

They all agreed to meet at the little tavern appropriately called the Red Bear.

"I know you have a right to protect yourselves from danger, and no one would expect you not too. But the bear by his mere existence does not necessarily mean he his a sure threat. He probably existed here before you did. And if anything you pose a much bigger threat to him."

"After all, look what you’re doing just to get this animal. One of you traps got my horse…………." she starts to lose it ………then pauses for a moment to regain her composure…………………………

"When you look at the bear... you see a monster, some furry beast. Can’t you look at him and see the beauty of the animal. The natural wonder of who and what he is. You are the intelligent ones, you are the only ones that can make the change and the difference in the way you view the creatures of the gods."

Her reference to the gods was a little puzzling to them. They knew the belief in more then one god to be that of the Indians, but she wasn’t Indian. They didn’t believe the idea of more then one god, their belief was in only one god, but there were some similarities.

" This place in which you live is a place of the gods, and the bear is one of their chosen creatures. The bear would not be here if he was not meant to be. You must see that."

"You must stop and ask yourself, what did the bear do to draw your hatred and your anger?"

"You’ve seen the bear with me. And you see he has done me no harm. Has he ever hurt one of you or someone in you village?"

"No." They replied. "But we can’t take the chance."

"But you take chances every day in your daily routines and you willingly except the risks. The bear is not your enemy, he is your neighbor. Though you don’t understand him and you fear him, he has as much right to be here as you do. You can’t just do away with him out of ignorance. That would be a sure sign of lack of intelligence. Don’t you see that?" She asks.

She does make a good point they thought.

"It would be better for you to find a way to live with your neighbor the bear then to eliminate him. By destroying him, it lessons the value of your own lives." She said.

They knew she was right. To destroy animals out of ignorance would eventually be their own demise.

Norny went on pleading the case of the bear as hard as she could.

It wasn’t that they were eager to hear what she had to say, its just that the way she said it, her expressionism caught their attention like it did to most people. It was that, and the sincerity in which she delivered her words that so obviously came straight from the heart. It seemed almost as if her words were guided by some greater source. This town like so many others suddenly realized they had someone special here.

Her charismatic effect cut to the very identity of every individual present. Her words didn’t fall on deaf ears, they had no choice but to listen and try to see what it is that she sees from within her for all things around her. Norny was not a normal woman, and they could tell this through her words that swept them away, and that allowed them to see the truth of their actions and her beliefs.

And with the manual movements of her facial gestures that grabbed their attention, it left them spellbound to the tonal qualities of her voice. And though the people of the settlement knew who she was and what had happened to her horse, they sat there silently as they too were seeing Norny for the first time.

And to the eyes and ears of those very religious individuals, Norny was a rare work of art, an angel that could have only come from the divine creation of a supreme being.

After an exhausting couple of hours of lengthy deliberation, they were convinced that she was right. They had to give all God’s creatures the benefit of the doubt. And unless through an actual act of provocation from the bear, they would contain their fears and distrust and treat all the lesser creatures with the reverence they deserved.

 

Norny returned to the ranch depleted of energy and needed to rest for a short while. She laid down in Poco’s stall and fell asleep for a couple of hours.

It wasn’t guilt that made Mr. Wheeler do such a generous thing; although it could have been one of his traps that Poco stepped in. But it was more for humanitarian reasons.

Mr. Wheeler knew of Norny’s loss of her horse and he wanted to help her out. He had many horses, and to give away one to a deserving individual would cost him nothing. But it would gain him peace of mind and self recognition that he still had a heart that was in the right place.

He heard Norny was leaving, so he went out to the barn to find her. He had sent one of his hands to bring back the horse he had chosen for her.

When he saw Norny gathering her things he approached her, "Norny," He says. "I know your heading down the mountain, and before you go I want to give you something besides your pay."

She wondered what he could be talking about. Just then one of the men came in with the horse Mr. Wheeler wanted to give Norny.

"I realize that no animal could ever replace the horse you lost. But you can’t travel down the mountain on foot and I have more horses then I know what to do with. So please, accept this from me and the men here at Wheeler ranch. His name is Captain, and you can see he’s a special high spirited animal who needs the kind of gentle care that I know you would give him. After what I heard you tell the rest of us about animals as God’s gift to man, I knew this horse would be better off with you."

"He’s beautiful." She says. "But why give away a horse like this for free. I’m sure he would bring you a good price."

"Did I say free. He’s not free. In turn I need you to deliver some very important documents down the hill to Angels Camp. I have an associate down there, but I can’t spare a man right now to go down. I was hoping you might do it for me in exchange for Captain here."

This sounded a little fishy to her. It was obviously overpayment, but she wasn’t going to turn down his offer and said, "I’d be glad to deliver your papers."

"Good! I’ll get them and bring them to you." He said.

Norny cradled Captains head and stroked his nose. "Well Captain, my name is Norny. And if we’re going to be traveling together we might as well become friends starting right now.

Then Norny reached into her pocket and realized she still had one peppermint stick left, the one extra she had gotten for Poco.

"Hey boy, did you ever try one of these?" Feeding him the candy. He gobbled it right up. "Well that proves we're gonna be friends. My old pal really loved these. He's gone now, but somehow I think he just introduced us by offering you his last stick of candy."

And they would be friends. Though no horse could ever replace her Poco, Norny had a soft heart for all animals and she would learn to love Captain in her own special way.

 

Norny had learned a knew lesson in the world of the white man. The lack of want of understanding of those lesser things around them. They had little use for anything they didn’t understand. But in this little community, Norny changed that.

And Norny learned she had Daniel’s inner strength. She had learned from him how to hold it together when the times were at there worst. Daniel’s hand was indeed on her shoulder just like he promised.

And as strange as it may seem, something good came from Poco’s death. Without this incident, the plight of the bear would have never been noticed by Norny, and he would have been doomed for sure.

For without the help of Norny and Poco, the bear stood no chance of survival.

The unfortunate thing about this lesson, was the fear and dislike the people had for the bear cost Poco his life.

Norny knew this. But she bore no hatred or animosity for her loss of Poco. It was not within her to hate anyone. And she had the intelligence to know that it was one of the hard lessons of life that just happen. Poco was gone now and pointing the blame or harboring ill feeling towards anyone for what happened would serve no useful purpose.

The people of Mountain Valley could see that she was a wise woman and she justly earned their respect. And Norny had learned the biggest lessons and did the most growing right here on the mountain. She brought so much with her and shared with others, and she now leaves so much behind as she moves on down the mountain. The people of the little mountain valley community took stock in her words, and believing in what she had told them, they changed the name of their little settlement to something more respecting and celebrating the existence of their newly discovered neighbor the bear. And like all places before, Norny left this community a better place for her having been there.

 

As Norny descends the mountain towards the next town, from behind her faintly in the distance and high up in the trees, she hears the roar of the bear perhaps his way of acknowledging her kindness and the sacrifice that had been made so that he may exist.

And so she travels on knowing that where ever the meadow is that Poco runs through now, he once again, majestically outruns the wind on his endless quest for his ghost rider eternal, his friend, his partner and the courageous force in his heart............Norny


chapter

15

wishing on the moon

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