Each summer when my daughter goes to camp I write her a story and send it to her in parts, one each day while she’s gone. This time the story is kid Robin and the Robber Barron a sort of retelling of the Robin Hood stories.
In the winter time the Tribe would travel out of the canyon following the river and stop at the base of this massive monument. The giant squared off slab of red rock towered above the desert floor which stretched out around for miles.
It was pretty exposed but the Tribe considered it to be sacred, a gift from the spirits who placed the slab there for the Tribe’s protection. Climbing up on it and into it was nearly impossible, and the Tribe held the secrets to making ther way up to the top of the tower. If the tribe were attacked they could easily rush to the tower, climb into it and be lost to their attackers. They passed these secrets down to each new generation in rites of passage, full of mystery.
This was Robin’s 3rd winter with the Tribe. She still wore what was left of her dress, but it was now in tatters and pinned onto the outside of a simple woolen garment more as decoration than anything else. She kept it as a reminder of her parents, but knew that soon it would not work any longer and she’d have to discard it for more practical Tribal clothing.
She’d had several discussions with Sylerr about it, and Sylerr had always been patient and understanding, but had always spoken both about the practicality of Tribal clothing and about the dangers of being seen by white men in the dress. There had been several close calls, with white men visiting the camp periodically, but they’d always been able to hide Robin in time Usually she was away from center camp fishing or learning the bow or on chores, so it wasn’t an issue, though they did have to catch her and stop her from blundering straight into camp.
Once they had set up camp, everyone went about their daily chores. Robin had gotten so good at fishing that she had been assigned to help the fishing group to set traps and lay out nets and lines to catch the day’s fish. She’d really excelled at fishing and was thought of as rather special for being asked to help at only age 7. Her traps weren’t quite usable yet, but her ability to mend traps and lay them at appropriate spots in the river rivaled any of the adults, so she worked with them.
She had been given a pair of waterproof leather boots which were buttery soft and kept her feet dry up to her knees, so she could walk out into the river and place the traps. She was working on a trap that she wanted to place just under a log in what was clearly a fish pathway. The current was a little stronger here, so she had to concentrate lest the trap get taken downstream. She heard a strange low noise, but she ignored it, reaching under the water to move the trap slightly to the left and wrapping the string from the trap around a nearby rock to hold it in place.
She heard the noise again, and this time, because she was done with the trap, she waved away a fly and looked up to see what the noise could be. It was low and long and mournful, unlike any noise she’d heard. She walked up the bank and when she got to the top she saw the entire camp full of cows.
There were cows everywhere surrounding the camp. People of the Tribe were standing in front of their tents, shooing the cows way, trying to get them out of the camp. Owanutaye was standing, holding the reins of a horse whose rider looked completely flabbergasted. Owanutaye was yelling at him and he was yelling back. He had red hair and the skin on his face looked nearly as red, either from the sun or from exasperation, it was hard to tell which.
The man pointed toward the river, and when he pointed he looked and saw Robin, and stopped yelling. He looked down at Owanutaye, grabbed his reins, yanking them from Owanutaye’s hands, and rode directly to Robin. He stopped his horse near her, leaned down and grabbed her chin, tipping her head back so he could look into her blue eyes.
He let her go after a moment, rode forward a frew steps and whistled and yelled “Round em Up!!” He looked back at Owanutaye and at Robin, then charged his horse into the job of moving the cattle onward. He didn’t look back again.
It took all day to clean up the camp. They hadn’t trampled more than a couple of tents, but the kitchen and storage areas were a mess and there was cow poop everywhere. It was important that they get it settled because this was to be the night for the Climb for those who were ready.
Tintye was ready, as the first Climb was done by most of the Tribe at age 10. Orren was to take his second climb, so he and Tintye were teamed up. No one spoke of the climb to Robin. Only members of the Tribe would make this climb, and though she was thought of as a member, this was a gray area. Besides, she was not old enough, yet, anyway, so no decision had to be made.
She was invited to the opening ceremonies, however, which were only open to close friends and family. The ceremonies took place in a special tent with a large firepit at the center. The ceremonies were simple, they blessed the boys and girls in the name of the Spirits, and used the fire to burn special herbs and plants which smoked a great deal. The smoke made Robin dizzy when it reached her and the boys and girls breathed it in and bathed their bodies in it to cleanse them. Then they said good-bye and left the tent. The families and friends feasted late into the evening.
At one point Owanutai pulled Robin toward him. “Robin, that man that was here today, he could be a problem. It was clear that he recognized you, your dress, before he left today. I think that may have saved the tribe a lot more trouble today, because I think it stopped him. I think he was sent here to harass us with the cows. I think they want easy passage through this land and we are in their way. He was supposed to destroy our camp with those cows, but he stopped when he saw you.”
“But I do not think that is the end of it. Somehow he will return, and he may return with others to take you away. You are part of the Tribe now, and we will do all we can to keep you from harm, but we must be vigilant and we must be careful. While we are here, there is always the tower, but in the canyon you must learn how to travel in silence and come and go unheard. I will assign someone to help you with this and you must devote your heart to it. It is not just you but the whole Tribe at stake.”
Robin nodded, “Yes Owanutai. I understand and will do as you ask. I am sorry I let the man see me and I will learn to be more careful.”
Owanutai patted her shoulder, “I know you will, Robin. We will help you be safe.”