She was four days out now, a day and a half past the point of two rivers. Farther than she was ever allowed to travel before. This had become a real adventure for her. Not knowing what was over the next hill or around the next bend, but anxious to see what lay out there beyond the boundries of her horizon. Norny didn’t know which direction she should head in, so she followed the setting sun. She was so caught up into the adventure of it all, that she hardly had time to be homesick. As she journeyed farther out, she thought to herself how angry Grey Sky (one of the elders) would get with her. If she would get beyond the point of two rivers, there were many enemies of their people and they could not ensure her safety.
Norny was adopted and a special member of their tribe, like a rare black pearl. She knew they cared for her as one of their own, but she never knew how much. They would hardly let her far out of their sight if she and Poco would ride off together. Norny would believe she was off on her own, but Crow Feathers and Red Arrow were trailing her to be sure no harm would come to her. When the day finally came to set their little bird free and send Norny out into the unknown without thier protection following a safe distance behind, it cut to the heart of those who cared for her all those years. They went through silent agony for months after she left, the not knowing what had or what would become of her. Part of them would secretly wish that Norny would return after a few days, and say that her place was there with them and that she couldn’t leave her chosen people. But they knew that Norny had the curiosity of a cub, the courage of a lion, and the spirit of an eagle. She must soar into the unknown to find her place in the world and her heart. Besides they wanted what was actually best for their Norny and that was complete freedom - not internment on a reservation. The only piece of mind her family had was the knowledge that the gods would go with her, and that they had taught her well.
Raising Norny had taught the Shoshoni that prejudice and hatred were an acquired condition. The white man wasn’t born with the hatred for the red man like they once thought. Hatred was like a disease that spreads from contact and conditioning over time. To them Norny was the only trustworthy and innocent white person. And she had been conditioned to think like the red man. She was the only link they had to the white man’s world.
It was getting late into the afternoon and time to start looking for a good place to camp. She had just rode into a meadow and could see a clump of trees at the other end that would make a good place to bed for the night. As she rode along smelling the fragrance of the native foliage she could hear the sound of water rushing from a large creek or river up ahead. When she arrived at the trees she could see the source of the sound. It was a river, and it would feel great to bathe and wash the dust out of her hair, she thought. So she unsaddled Poco, and turned him out to graze. She set up a little campfire and then headed down to the river to clean and refresh herself. Later, after she was fed and lay in her bedroll, she stared at the stars and listened to the song of a evening meadow. She was wondering what her people doing right then. Were they sitting around the fire telling stories, or maybe singing or just staring into the evening and imagining what tomorrow will bring? Were they curious what Norny was up to or where she was? Did they miss her like she was just beginning to miss them? It still didn’t feel like she wasn’t going to see them again. In the back of her mind she kept thinking that she would still be with them. She was! And always would be , but in spirit only.
Norny awoke to the fresh, sweet smell of morning air. She felt well rested, ready to get an early start.
She broke camp, let out a whistle and from wherever he was, Poco came running.
"Good morning Poco. Did you get a good rest boy?" She asked.
She saddled up then decided to follow the river a while. It was a beautiful day and they weren’t headed anywhere in a hurry, so why not?
He was a sturdy man. About average in height, maybe two hundred twenty pounds and built like a rock. I don’t know that he was handsome, but he was rugged as hell. His arms were large and perfectly formed like they were use to hard physical work. You could see the lines of age and time on his face. And he looked to be in very good shape , but the creases on his brow would tell you that he carried a heavy burden on his shoulders.
He came here fifteen years ago with his wife and daughter. He worked for the railroad laying track with a crew. He laid over a thousand miles of steel rail across three states. He was accustomed to hard labor and had no fear of it. His wife took ill after two years and died. He was left to raise their daughter on his own.
Now he likes to come down to the river and fish as often as possible. Not so much because he enjoys fishing, but because he can talk to his little girl. She was only sixteen when she drown, and her body was never recovered. The only thing that they had found was the earring she had placed on a log before she went into the water. The loss took a great toll on this man. He adored his sweet little Jenine. And she loved her father more than anything. Jenine is what life was all about for him since the loss of his wife.
He was standing in the middle of the river about hip deep lightly casting his line out. From the corner of his eye, he could see someone on horseback approaching along the bank. He looked up and stared at the rider. He couldn’t tell it was a woman, yet. He just watched suspiciously as the rider came closer. When she got parallel with the man she just looked at him and kept going. She was taught to never trust anyone until you are sure of their intentions. Especially the white man.
The man had an intimidating look about him, and was an unlikely canidate for a good morning greeting or polite conversation.
When Norny was as close as she was going to get, he looked at her as if he were a little puzzled, as if he wasn’t quite sure of who he was seeing. He didn’t say anything, no kind of acknowledgment of her; he was past feeling friendly or feeling anything for anyone. They just watched each other with an elimate of doubt and distrust as she rode by.
Norny traveled a couple of miles up the river when she decided to cross. She looked for a shallow area to make her way and then crossed over. She came upon a large clearing and dismounted from her horse to give each other a break. Ahead she noticed a sign. It read Ashby six miles. Norny hadn’t had much contact with civilization so she thought this might be a good place to start. With that in mind she climbed back on Poco and was Ashby bound.
Ashby wasn’t a very large town, but it had enough for the folks that lived here. As she and Poco slowly rode into town, they started to pick up some attention. The same thing would always happen to anyone new that rode into this little town. She was noticing the different people and the buildings when something caught her eye. It was the window of the general store. They had a display of women’s clothing. Norny stopped and dismounted for a better look. She tied Poco to the rail, then walked up and was admiring the flowery hats and lacy dresses. She didn’t quite know what to make of them.
Through the reflection in the window, Norny noticed there was a small group of men across the street staring at her. One of the men stepped out and was walking towards her. She turned to meet him and find out what he wanted.
“Hay there Miss,” he said. “I noticed you’re new in town. I’d like to welcome you to Ashby. My name is Leon.” With that he extended his arm to shake hands. “What’s yours?” he said.
Norny just looked at his hand sticking out there wondering what it was there for. “Norny,” she said.
She didn't shake hands sense she didn't know she was suppost to.
“Norny? Whats your last name?”
“Just Norny,” she replied.
“What kind of name is that? And without a last name?" He inquired.
She didn't answer his question, because she didn't know that she needed a last name, so didn't know what to say.
"Well, it doesn’t matter. I'd like to offer you to have a drink with me since you’re new in town. It’s my way of welcoming newcomers to Ashby.” He said to her.
Well Norny was a little thirsty after being on the trail for so long. So she nodded okay. Of course, Norny is thinking water; she doesn’t know anything about alcohol.
“Come on down here with me to the watering hole and we’ll get a drink.”
So they walked down and turned in through the swinging doors. She immediately thought WOW! The white man sure makes a big deal out of a drink of water. There were about a dozen people inside, and they all smiled at and acknowledged Leon.
Leon was from the ruling class. His family had a large ranch east of town. As a child he was spoiled, and given almost anything he ever wanted, so he had respect for nothing. Not even Norny.
“Keep! Let’s get a couple shots of Jack over here.” For Leon, this was the fastest way to liquor up this woman and get what he really wanted. The bartender set a couple of shot glasses up on the bar and started pouring. Now Norny was thoroughly confused, “red liquid?” she thought.
“Here’s to ya,” Leon said as he hoisted his glass and slammed it down. Norny slowly picked up her glass looking at it and not sure. “Go on,” he said. So she curiously sniffs it and noticed the aroma, then with that she did exactly what Leon did and jolted it.
Instantly, Norny sprayed it straight out of her mouth. The place roared with laughter, except Leon. It was a natural reaction. She couldn’t swallow it if she wanted too. Leon caught the full spray right in his face.
“Hey, what the hell’s the matter with you, you crazy bitch?” The words didn’t phase Norny since she didn’t know what they meant anyway. She bent forward gathering saliva and spitting in attemp to rid the foul residue of the whiskey out of her mouth and onto the floor. At the moment her stomach was deliberating the same thing with its contents.
Angerly Leon says to her........
“Here. You can wipe this off my face,” and shoved a bar towel into Norny’s chest. That was Leon’s mistake. To Norny learnings, shoving the towel at her like that was an act of aggression. Well, there was no scuffle, Norny made one quick move that resulted in Leon landing hard on his back on the floor and trying to get his breath. No one in the place could believe what they just saw. They were all dumbfounded, until the sheriff got there.
When the sheriff arrived, all the fingers pointed at Norny as the troublemaker. They had no idea what was within her heart and mind. Or what a sweet, kind and innocent soul this woman really was. Norny would never deliberately harm any living thing, except as a defensive measure just as she was taught. But to the people in Ashby she was some sort of freak. And from that day on, the rumors flew with all the different versions of how she effortlessly tarnished the reputation and leveled the barroom bully. The sheriff was obliged to show Norny out of town of course, so he escorted her and Poco to the town limits and said, “Just keep going if you know what's good for you.”
After about an hour in Ashby, she had enough. This was her first experience with the white man’s civilized world, and she feared they were all this way. Norny longed for the open spaces once again and that's where she headed.
Five miles later, she wanted to take a break and walk awhile. She climbed down off Poco, and started to walk ahead of her companion. She held the reins as she led Poco into the clearing. Without warning, Nornys feet went down into something intrapping them as the rest of her body kept traveling forward. She felt something terrible, like a broken ankle, happen to one or both of her feet. She had stepped into a large prairie dog hole. The ground around the hole had caved in and her feet had fallen through as her body fell forward. The pain was severe.
She moaned and agonized for a few moments, then sat up on the ground and worked her feet out of the hole. There was no way she was going to be able to stand. She was over five miles out of Ashby now, too far for help. Besides they were white folk, and might not want to help her anyway. She motioned for Poco to move forward where she could grab the stirrup and try to elevate herself. She couldn’t. With both hands she held on to the stirrup and commanded Poco to move on. She didn’t know where she was going, but she couldn’t stay out there.
Poco kept on going for what must have seemed like hours. Norny has very strong arms or she wouldn’t have lasted so far, but she was tiring and giving out. She just couldn’t hang on any longer, and dropped down into the dust. Her head hit solid and she was feeling too weak to move. If she were going to get out of this, she was going to have to rest there and gain her strength back. No longer was Crow Feathers following behind just in case. She was on her own, now and forever.
The day was quickly passing by and Norny was still on her back. She sat up and tried standing. She fell back right away realizing it was too painful to stand. She signaled Poco once again. She grabbed the stirrup and Poco dragged her along. They went on for another half hour or so, when suddenly Poco made an anxious sound like his path had been intruded upon and he stopped. Norny let go and rolled over on her back. She was looking up at someone standing over her. It was a man. Without saying a word he bent down and cradled Norny’s back into the bend of his bicep and forearm. He gently brushed the hair off her face, then with his other arm he scooped up her legs. He lifted her up and placed her into the saddle. When she sat upright in the saddle, she noticed it was the man in the river. The angry looking man.
“We had better look at you,” he said. With that he took the reins and walked them towards the trees. Norny didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say or how she should deal with being dependent on a strange white man.
They walked for about fifteen minutes when they came upon a small modest cabin. Neither of them spoke the whole distance. The man stopped, walked over and opened the cabin door. He came back and took Norny into his arms and out of the saddle and carried her in. When they were inside Norny looked around. How strange this all must have seemed to her. It was a one room cabin with a fireplace at one end of the room and a bed at the other. There was a sink, and a table and chairs. The furnishings weren’t crude like you might think they would be; instead they were nice, store-bought pieces. There was a china hutch with elegant little teacups and saucers. There was a tablecloth. It was all very civilized. On the wall were a couple of what appeared to be charcoal drawings of wildlife.
He laid Norny down on the bed. “You look thirsty, would you like some water?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
With that he took a ladle off the wall and scooped some water out of a bucket and handed it to her. While she took sips from the ladle he carefully removed her boots. Then her socks. Her ankles were swollen and badly bruised. So badly they had turned deep purple.
He gently lifted and cradled the heal of her foot and said, “Try and move it.” She did. “Well, it isn’t broken,” he says. I’ll get a fire going and boil some cloth to wrap them in. It will help with the swelling." He tells her.
Norny didn’t say anything. She was looking at this man and thinking how rugged and powerful he looks. He looks as if he could crush my foot in his hand with just a squeeze. But he is so gentle and so careful when he touches me. She would not expect a man like this to be so gentle with his touch.
In the world she came from, men were rarely gentle. They were usually rough and hard on the women, but that was their way; being gentle would be considered soft and a sign of weakness. Yet this man was not weak by any means and looked as if he feared nothing or no one. From the moment this man’s bare hands delicately handled Norny’s feet, she felt their was something special, a kindness about him that was rare with white men or any man for that matter. After all, never in her lifetime has any man touched her feet. Nor would she have allowed them to. She had no choice now, but this was a total stranger, and a white man at that.
On the fire there were some towels heating in a pot. He pulled them out and laid them over the back of a wooden chair to cool a bit. The steam was rising off the towels. He looked over at Norny and asked, “Would you like something for the pain?” He motioned towards a bottle of bourbon as he spoke.
Norny recognized the red liguid. “No,” she replied.
“I don’t like to drink either,” he said, “but there are times when a man needs a little help in forgetting.”
After he had wrapped Norny’s ankles in the hot towels, he asked her, “Are you hungry? I’ve got some fish stew.”
“Fish stew?” she replied.
“Yeah, it’s pretty good for someone like me. I would never have thought that I could learn to eat my own cooking. But out of fear of starvation....”
“Yes, I’ll have some,” she said.
He fixed them up a couple of bowlfuls. He ate at the table, while Norny sat upright in the bed sampling his stew. “I’ve taken care of your horse,” he said.
“Poco,” she replies.
“Poco? Oh sure, the name of your horse. He must have been a magnificent animal when he was younger,” he said. Norny didn’t want to think about the fact that Poco was growing older.
“You can sleep here on the bed, and I’ll…”
“NO!” Norny said loudly, “I can’t sleep in this box.”
“Box? This box is my home,” he says.
“Forgive me. I didn’t mean that this was not a proper lodging; I just meant that I must feel the breeze on my face when I sleep. I have to look up and see the stars.”
To Norny the stars represented her family and all the tribal members. When she looked up at the stars she would speak to them by name. Every member of her family believed they had a star that was just for them. It represents their spirit during and after life. When she would feel the grief of their absence, she would look upon the stars for their guidance. Her friend Crow Feathers would say to her, “If you ever think of me, look at that star there (pointing to a particular star in the sky). If I am thinking of you, I will also look at that star. If we should look at that star at the same time and think of each other, no matter how far apart we are, our spirits will touch.”
“You would feel much better in the morning after sleeping in a bed,” he said to her.
“I am used to sleeping on the ground. It’s all I know.”
“Then I’ll build you a little campfire and set out your bedroll.”
He took care of her bedding and the fire and came in for her. He bent over as she put her arm over his shoulder and he scoopes her up in his arms. He carried her out to her campsite and very carefully laid her on the bedding. He removed Norny’s hat and gently stroked her forehead, as if he were putting his baby Jenine to bed.
“You have a restful sleep. If you want anything just yell; I’ll be right inside.”
As he turned to walk away, Norny asked, “Do you have a name?”
He paused for a moment and looked back at her.
“Yes I do, and I’ll still have it tomorrow.” With that he walked inside. She just looked at him then slowly lowered her head to her saddle and looked up at the stars.
The next day was filled menial chores of seeing to Norny's wounds and needs. In such a short time she was beginning to feel pretty comfortable around the white man. She saw he was a decent man and not the enemy to be distrusted, as she was taught.
In the late afternoon he came in and picked up Norny from the bed. He said were going fishing. He didn’t bother to saddle Poco, he just set her on bareback. She was barefooted since it would be too soon to put her boots on over her injury. He walked and led Poco down to the river. When they arrived at his favorite spot, he lifted Norny, carried and placed her on a comfortable spot on the ground.
He removed his shirt as he started wading out in the water. Norny noticed the scars over his well-formed torso. He is the white man’s warrior she thought. His back carries many battle scars.
He was standing there casting his line out when he said, “I heard you let the air out of Leon over in Ashby the other day, Norny.”
“You know my name,” she said.
“They’re all talking in town about what happened between you and Leon. I eventually hear everything.”
“They don’t like me there,” she said.
“The polite women have put their own label on you,” he said.
“They are calling you the flower of many thorns. Leon and his little group are calling you that wild crazy bitch that blew through town.”
“And what is it that you would call me?”
“A very interesting woman, Norny.”
“What do they call you?” she asked.
“They call me Daniel.”
“Have you always been by yourself Daniel?”
“No, my wife died years ago, so I raised my baby Jenine by myself. Two years ago she drowned here in the river. I never found her; all I was able to find were her earrings.”
There was a long pause. Norny didn’t know what to say to Daniel. The poor man had suffered a lot in his life. She thought about how it must have taken a lot of the spirit out of him. Just at that moment Daniel got a bite on his line.
As he struggled with it he said, “I hope you like trout.” She was used to eating fish so Norny nodded and gave him a large smile. He was looking over at her and struggling with the line as she did. “Norny, did anyone ever tell you that…I mean, did you know that your smile…never mind.” He had felt the zing of Norny’s smile fly past his heart for a near miss. There was magic in her face, that could put the heat in the middle of a mans chest and he could see it.
When they arrived back at the cabin, Daniel said, “How about I build a campfire and we can eat out here and talk enjoy each other’s company. Would you like that Norny?”
“I would like that Daniel.”
Daniel built a fire and fixed Norny a nice meal. By then the sun was going down and the stars were coming out.
They sat there facing each other through the campfire. Their mood was set by the firelight dancing off each others faces. Norny was telling him all about herself. She knew now that Daniel was her friend and could be trusted with her life. When she got to the part of how and when the tribe found her, Daniel sat up and his eyes widened. He was sartled by what she said. He knew something. But what ever it was, he was keeping to himself and wasn’t saying.
She went on about her journey that she had just begun, and how far she must go, until she finds her place of belonging. Or until she solves the riddle of her existance. As he listened, he was caught up in the grace of her face, the way it moved in the firelight as she spoke to him. Norny noticed how Daniel seemed to be staring while she was talking. Suddenly she felt self-conscious and stopped. She just looked at him for a moment.
He said, “I’m sorry if I’m staring, but I just noticed how truly beautiful you are. How every little part about you is so in tune with each other. Your words come out as a song from that beautiful face.”
What is he talking about? She thought to herself. Norny had never heard anyone say she was beautiful or pretty or anything that classified her physical stature. To the people she was brought up with ( her Indian family ) she was just Norny. They loved her as their own, but they never said she was attractive in any way or treated her as a flowering female. So to her, beautiful is the blue sky, and beautiful are the mountains and beautiful are the trees, but beautiful is Norny? This puzzeled her. She had never heard anyone use beautiful to describe her. What is it that he is seeing that makes him say such a thing about me, she thought. Norny had never known what it was like to be admired as a woman. And a beautiful one at that.
“My daughter had a beauty like yours,” said Daniel. “She was gentle and kind and generous with a warm and friendly smile. You remind me so much of her.” There was enough difference in their ages that Daniel tried not to let himself think of her in a romantic way even though he was attracted to her like any man would be. And it wasn’t easy, especially if she had occasion to smile.
Norny just looked at him and stared. She hadn’t gotten past the beautiful part yet. She didn’t know what to make of this but somehow she liked it.
“If you’re feeling better tomorrow, we’ll go into Ashby and get you a new shirt. (Norny’s got torn when she was being dragged from the stirrup by Poco.)
“I can’t go back there, they told me to stay out.”
“You can go back there with me. Why don’t we get a little sleep and I’ll fix you a nice breakfast in the morning before we go to town.”
So they did.....
The next morning Daniel greeted her warmly like he would have any woman he cared about and said, “Norny, let’s get you up on your feet and see if you can walk.”
Norny stood up. Daniel stood right along side of her fo support making sure she wouldn’t fall. She was wobbly, but she was standing. Daniel put his arm around her to hold her up just in case. “Now let’s try and walk.”
She was doing it. Very slowly at first, but she was getting better fast. Her ankles were plenty sore, ,but Daniel knew the more she walked the better she would feel.
“We’ll go into town, so I’ll saddle Poco. You can ride in to town, but you should be able to walk into the store with me.”
So off they went. They talked and enjoyed each others company as they went. When they approached the town limits they were getting stares. They were surprised to see Norny again, but they wouldn’t dare say anything with Daniel there except hello. When they got close to the General Store, there was Leon and his little band of merry men. They were a real pain in the ass to the people in this town. They were a pushy little group of wise guys. They always had plenty of time on their hands and a need to entertain themselves at someone else's expense.
Everyone in Ashby knew of the hardships Daniel suffered. He didn’t deserve all the loses he endured in his life. He didn’t really have anything to lose and they all knew it, especially Leon and his gang. Daniel’s size and strength were intimidating enough, but now with all the loss, he didn’t give a damn. Leon and his little band steered wide around Daniel. They stood across the street looking at Norny with Daniel, but they didn’t say a word.
The two of them walked into the store. Daniel said, “Ben, I want you to meet a friend of mine, Norny.”
“Oh, I’ve heard about you, Miss,” Ben said. It was about time someone put Leon in his place. Norny didn’t quite understand want he was talking about., but he seemed friendly enough.
“I need to get a new denim shirt for Norny.” (Norny didn’t have or didn’t know anything about currency. Daniel had figured that out.) “Put it on my tab,” he said.
“What’s this?” Norny asks, looking at a jar of liquorice twists.
Daniel says, “Give her one, Ben.” So Ben takes off the top of the jar and Norny reaches in for it. She holds it in front of her looking at it and not knowing what to do with it. Daniel reaches over and takes it out of her hand. He takes a bite of it then hands it back to her.. Norny gets the idea and does the same.
“MMM,” she says as she tastes the candy for the first time. She had the child like look of delight on her face from its flavor.
“There are the shirts Norny. Find one your size. I’m going to look at fishing gear.
Daniel is looking at a new fishing rod, when he hears a loud crash of glass breaking. Daniel looks over at Ben and sees he dropped a glass jar on the floor. But Ben’s mouth is wide open and his eyes are bulging. Daniel’s wondering, “What the hell?” as he turns to see Norny naked from the waist up. Her old denim shirt is in a heap on the floor, and she is standing there nonchalantly eating her candy and browsing through the shirts. She was off in a world all her own looking like a picture post card that reads, “Having a wonderful time, wish you were here.”
Daniel yells, “Norny! He runs over and grabs her shirt off the floor and drapes it around her. You can’t change out here, they have a room over there to try clothes on. Norny didn’t understand. Where she was from, she never had to hide her body from anyone, and no one had told her that the white man thinks that being naked is a bad thing.
Daniel looks over at Ben and says, “I don’t want a word of this to leave here. Do you understand me, Ben?”
“Yes sir, I do,” he replied.
On the way back to the cabin Daniel says, “Norny, I’m going to have to teach you a few thing about civilization so that you can survive out there. Let me explain something to you. What you did back there, well, you did nothing wrong. It’s just that in the white man’s world, or as they like to call it the civilized world, (and believe me there is some debate about that) nakedness represents the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And take my word for it, nobody in the civilized world really wants the whole truth. Its a truth full of contridictions and illusions and makes no real sence if you try and analise it. So when ever you feel the need to disrobe, go someplace private where you can’t be seen. That is, unless you’re with that special someone that you share the depths of your soul with. Do you understand what I'm telling you, Norny?”
“I think I do, Daniel. It seems a little backwards to me, but I will remember what you tell me. I’m sorry if I offended you back there,” she said.
“Oh no, Norny, you could never offend me. To me you are all that is sweet and innocent and what my world lacks so much of. And you should never have to apologise to anyone for being who you are. Truth is, most of them should apologize to you for being who they are.”
She didn't quite understand his meaning, but it didn't matter.
When they returned to the cabin, Daniel brought Norny inside to show her a few things. He started with the cups and saucers his wife brought into their marriage.
“I know you have your own herbs and teas, so I want to show you how a proper lady would drink tea. You see the saucer, it goes under the teacup like this. Then you elevate the cup up to your mouth thusly and sip. The real prissy women stick their little pinky fingers in the air like this. Go on, you try it." So she did. "That’s it.” He said,
Norny was a little puzzled by the pinky finger sticking up in the air pointing nowhere. But then it was one of those strange white mans customs she heard about.
“You need to practice this when you’re out there on your own. Take this cup and saucer with you in your saddle bags.” Daniel tell her.
He went on to show her many of the routine habits of the white culture, including what money was all about: how to make and when to spend it, and most importantly what it is worth. Norny was obviously an intelligent woman, and she understood and caught on quickly.
“I wish you didn't have to leave tomorrow, because this time in both our lives has just begun, and if you go it all comes to and end.
Daniel had rejected any new relationship with any woman for fear it might end as tragicly as the last. But Norny fell into his life and he had no choice in the matter.
But if you must, I feel I must tell you that I've felt dead inside for so long. And I've gotten use to it. Then you came along and I realized I was lonely. By some divine purpose you relit the fire light to my soul. I don't know why, I’ve never met anyone like you before and I know I never will again.”
Inside Daniel’s heart he wanted to plead for Norny to stay with him. But he couldn’t. He thought to himself, I would give her all the love I was denied giving to another woman. I would dedicate my heart and soul to her if only..... But he could see that right now, at this time in her life she could belong to no one not even herself. For she belonged to the wind. And even Daniel deserved a woman that wanted him in return and could share his affections. A woman that would put him first in her life. Norny, as innocent as she was, might not be able to remain that way after she has spent enough time in the so-called civilized world. She wouldn’t be the same in time. As badly as I want it to, it wasn’t to be, he thought.
Daniel said, “Hey Norny, what do you say I rustle up some supper over the campfire, and we sit and talk for a while under the stars. I really enjoyed our conversation last night, and this will be our last chance.”
“Yes, Daniel!” she replied. “I would like that very much.”
That evening they sat and chatted about so much. Daniel told her about his life with the railroad, and how he came to live here. He told her, “Norny, if you are ever in doubt about where you are, find the railroad tracks. Follow them and they will lead you to people and food and help if you should need it. It will probably be tracks that I put there. I like to call them just what you are made of ‘Ribbons of Steel.’ Who knows, maybe I was meant to put them there for you. That you might someday find your way? Whenever you see or travel on the tracks ,think of me. Will you?”
“Always, Daniel,” she replied.
It was getting late, and Norny needed to get an early start, so they said goodnight. Daniel crouched down in front of her, put his hand behind her and stroked the back of her head. He put the index finger of his right hand under her chin so that he could look deep into her eyes twinkling in the moonlight. And as he looked into them, he could see the depth of her that went on forever like a tunnel of silver blue. It was as if they were speaking softly to him. And they were saying something he wanted to hear. Slowly, carefully he leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. Then reluctantly, he stood up turned and went inside to bed.
Norny lay there looking up at the stars, and thinking, Daniel is the exception to the rule where the white man is concerned. He is so kind to me; he took care of me and asks nothing in return. I have never felt this kind of a feeling with a man before. I don’t understand what this is, but I know that I feel safe and secure, and I feel a contentment that I have never felt before this. For the few short days I have been here, he has made this feel like my home. And like Daniel says, unless you’re with that special someone that you share the depths of your soul with, as we just have with each other… I just can’t leave here without the bonding of our souls.
And with that thought Norny stood up disrobing as she headed for the cabin door. She opened it and walked inside. Only the night could hear Daniel say, “Norny?” Then Norny says “I’m not your daughter, Daniel.”
Morning came too quickly for the both of them. It was time to say goodby and resume their separate journeys. Daniel saddled Poco and fixed Norny a few provisions to take with her. When they spoke they did so almost apologetically.
In Daniel’s mind he was thinking, the Shoshoni had raised one of the finest specimens of womanhood he had ever known. She has no hatred or prejudice towards anyone. She is selfless, and she has a deep respect for all life forms. They raised a better human being than her own kind could have, he thought. And the Shoshonis had no idea whom they had raised up as one of their own. Though she has a right to know who she really is, it might be best if it remains a secret. Or the result could otherwise destroy an innocent woman. And her Indian family, if they had known from where she came, I wonder what kind of a difference it would have made to them?
There was a somber feeling about the morning and they both understood why.
“I’ll walk to the clearing with you.” Daniel says, “Thank you."
While they are walking along Norny's head is confused with her attraction towards Daniel, and her departure. She has to say something, but what? The words would not form in her head to discribe the feelings she had inside.
"Daniel, I don’t know how to say what I feel, but I feel much for you. You are a special kind of man; I don't think I will ever forget you.”
“I don’t want you to forget me. I want you to always remember that you have a home here with me ( pointing to his heart ).”
They arrived at the clearing. Daniel stopped at the edge, while Norny continued on for a few more feet. She stopped. She looked into the distance, and could see vast open space for miles. She knew she had to cross that lonely plain. And after her feelings for Daniel it now appeared wider and lonelier then it was before.
Norny dropped the reins and left Poco so she could walk back to Daniel. She removed her hat. “Daniel, would you tell me again. You know, what you told me last night.
Daniel put his arms around Norny, but as he did he slipped something into her vest pocket without her knowing. He closed his powerful arms around her tight and snuggled her to his chest. He wanted to hold her as tight as he could, but he feared he would break her. He held onto her for a moment without saying a word, then turned his head towards her ear and gently whispered, “You’re the rarest and most precious of all the prairie flowers, you are my thorny but beautiful Norny.”
Norny was a little choked up when he said it. She loved the way it sounded and made her feel inside. Then Daniel slowly released his grip on Norny and backed off. He took Norny”s hat from her hand and placed it on her head. She just looked at him. Her pretty silver-blue eyes starred at him from beneath the shadow of her hat brim. This was her last hard look at Daniel. But he had burned into her memory like a brand on a steer that nothing could ever remove.
Daniel turned away first and started walking back. At about thirty feet, he stopped and looked back. Norny was in the saddle and still looking at him. She smiled at him and the sparkle from her eyes were now goodby tears that she couldn’t help. When Daniel saw her smile he wanted to charge over there, snatch her out of the saddle and make love to her all over again. As Norny pulled the reins to the right and turned away, Daniel felt the inevitable full force of loneliness hit him all at once.
He is walking back toward the cabin, but up ahead there is an incline that goes above the trees. If he went up there he could catch one last look at Norny as she goes. Daniel runs as fast as he can up the hill, when he reaches the top he looks out and there she is. He can just barely see her. She is a little speck deminishing in the distance. While he looks at her from up there, he says aloud to himself, “Forever in my heart Norny, forever in my heart.”