ONCE AGAIN EDITED BY THE INCOMPARABLE WIRES. WITHOUT HIS HELP THIS STORY WOULD NOT BE NEARLY AS READABLE.
Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Thomas Eagle's eyes popped open at the unexpected startling sound. His heart was beating loudly as the noise dragged him from a deep sleep. He lay still for a moment, then groaned and grabbed his phone to shut off the alarm. He was still exhausted from his past several weeks of roaming the hills in Afghanistan as well as the long flight back to Ft. Bragg, NC. To top that off, after they were released the night before he and some friends from his unit who did not have family meeting them went into town to celebrate their return to the States. When he finally got to bed the night before he knew he would be exhausted this morning. The alarm function in his cell phone had been set to allow only three hours sleep before waking him to face the new day. His exhaustion was so severe his body felt weak and shaky, he burned as if he was ill. Tom had a bone deep ache that wouldn't quit, most of which had no basis other than his exhaustion. He knew he should have just gone to his room and gone to sleep last night after his evening meal but his friends would not be denied. They insisted he accompany them to town. They told him it was their intention to get him well fed and staggering drunk as a thank you for his care for them during the deployment.
Tom stood and slowly walked from his room toward the latrine carrying his ditty bag. It was an old, dirty brown bag showing signs of hard use in the cracked and scuffed leather. There was even some blue mold showing in some of the creases. His father gave him the bag upon his enlistment in the Army nine years before. At the time it was new, full of modern bathing and grooming tools and soaps as well as several Indian remedies that his family still believed in. Now it contained almost nothing. There was a soap dish with an almost used up bar of Lava soap that Tom used for all his cleaning needs. There was a well-worn tooth brush in its grungy looking case and an almost empty tube of Crest toothpaste. Also present were a small bottle that held a couple swallows of Listerine mouthwash and a small bottle that held analgesics.
Tom entered the latrine and placed his bag upon a shelf under a mirror hanging over a small sink. He took a moment to look at his image in the mirror. His eyes were bloodshot and had dark circles underneath. His weathered complexion showed his heritage of 3/8 Cherokee Indian and a dukes mixture of other nationalities. His torso and face were scarred from past injuries. Thomas Eagle sighed and opened the bag. It was time to begin yet another day in his life as a United States Soldier. He took out his soap then moved into a shower. He adjusted the water until it was steaming hot then stepped into it. His stoic expression remaining unchanged, seemingly unfazed by the water hot enough to send lesser men back into the cool latrine. He did cringe slightly from the heat, but relaxed as he let the soothing flow of water hit and massage his body. Slowly he turned and moved from the water to soap his sinewy body.
Tom was so used to his several scars he never even noticed himself rubbing them longer than he did the other parts of his body. He paid special attention to his most recent scar. It was still an angry red color and slightly tender. It represented Purple Heart number three and his Silver Star. The scar stretched from front to back almost equidistant from his waist to his armpit on the right side. There had been a place or two where you could see his intestines through the cut on the day he received the injury. A Taliban fighter came within millimeters of killing him that day in the mountains. Tom just barely managed to lunge away from the dirty knife the Taliban fighter tried to skewer him with as Tom tended to a wounded comrade.
In spite of his injury Tom won that fight and stopped only momentarily to render first aid to himself with the assistance of one of his friends. Technically he shouldn't have been fighting because he was a medic, but Tom believed in being where his friends needed him the most. He stayed safe if he could but when one of his charges was injured he frequently went to him instead of waiting for the injured man to be brought to his aid station. After he was bandaged slightly, Tom moved out once again and engaged the enemy while on his way to another wounded soldier. He fought and treated his friends until loss of blood caused him to pass out. His fighting ability surely saved his own life as well as at least three injured soldiers he was guarding. He personally killed five Taliban who were trying to kill his injured charges.
Tom was still leaning with his head against the shower wall gently rubbing his side when one of the other Sergeants in his unit came into the latrine for his morning shower. The Sgt stopped for a moment and watched his friend rubbing his side then said, 'Morning, Tom. I thought I was getting an early start. You look like I feel and I feel like warmed over shit. It's been a long time since I got that drunk. Have you checked on any of the others yet? I bet most of them will need some of your medicine this morning.'
Tom didn't move for a moment, then he slowly stood straighter and turned to face Sgt Jones. Tom was always amazed at the sheer size of Jonesey. He was six feet three inches tall and wide as a barn door. His thighs were almost the size of a smaller man's waist and he was all muscle. He was also black as night and meaner than a snake in a fight. All in all he was one of the best soldiers in the unit, but he was also easy to anger and hard to calm down after becoming angry. His flashes of temper were one of the reasons Tom was senior to him. Jones was an eleven year veteran of the Army and had been a Staff Sergeant once only to lose his stripe because of a fight with another soldier.
Jones adjusted another shower head and moved under the water. As he was lathering up he turned to face Tom and asked, 'So, what're you going to do when we go on leave? I'm going home and see my momma, then I'm gonna find me a woman and do nothin' but eat, drink, sleep, and fuck for my two weeks.'
'I'm going back to Cherokee and see my folks. After that I'm going to take my horse and a pack mule and go back into the mountains to a little valley my family owns. I'm going to camp there and hunt and fish for the whole two weeks. I don't intend to see another human for the entire time after I go into the hills. I just want to relax and forget all about the world. I want to live like we were meant to and enjoy nature. No killing, no alarms or noise to bother me, no injured soldiers to try to keep alive. There will only be me and mother nature.'
'Man, that's some shit. Didn't you get enough Mother Nature when we were in country? What about pussy, man? You at least gonna get ya some pussy before you run into the hills, ain't ya?' SGT Jones grinned and continued, 'Or are ya agonna take some prime pussy into the hills with ya? Man, that'd be the ticket. Take some pussy into the hills with ya and run around bare assed nekkid and skinny dip and shit. Man, I could almost go with ya for that.'
'Dunno' 'bout no pussy man. I don't have anyone at home. You know my woman ran off with that damn Green Beanie a couple years ago. I don't have one on the string now and I'm not interested in catching some disease from one of the women hanging around the bars here. Most of the women around home aren't the kind to do a one night stand unless they are bar flies and I don't want nothin' to do with those skanks. No, I'll probably just spend a day or two with the family then go into the mountains.'
'Man, you some crazy injin, ain't ya? Man, jus' find a Ho, fuck her, then move on. Man has needs ya know, and Rosie palm and her sisters jus' doan satisfy 'em, ya know?'
Tom felt his anger stir at that comment. He knew Jones didn't mean anything by the comment, but it rankled. It rankled much as his calling Jones a Nigger would bother the big man. Tom was 3/8 Cherokee Indian and proud of it. His parents still lived near the reservation and even worked in the Indian Casino in Cherokee.
The two men finished their morning toilet and moved from the shower back to their rooms. When he left his room SSG Eagle looked every bit the soldier. He stood tall and straight, muscled chest and arms straining the uniform. His piercing black eyes and hooked nose made him look as fierce as his bow carrying ancestors. Before leaving his room he carefully placed his Green Beret on his head and surveyed his reflection. Yep, he was all shipshape and ready for another day.
Tom strode from the barracks and moved to his little Ford Ranger pickup. He drove for about five minutes and parked in a slot near the door of a newer brick building. As Tom strode down the sidewalk he stiffened to attention and snapped a salute to the Lieutenant Colonel heading toward the door from a closer parking spot. He crisply said, 'Good Morning, Colonel. How are you today?'
The Colonel smiled and returned the salute then said, 'I'm fine, Sergeant. I am somewhat surprised to see you so chipper this morning, though. When I saw you last night I wasn't sure whether I would see you this morning or not.'
The LTC (Lieutenant Colonel) looked serious and stared hard at Tom, then continued, 'You and some of the men were really tying one on last night. You didn't do anything I'm going to find out about today did you? You were favoring your side last night, too. How is your injury healing, son?'
Tom stiffened to attention and said, 'No, Sir. To the best of my knowledge we didn't do anything you will hear about. At least we all got back to the barracks safely with no law enforcement involvement, if that is what you mean, Sir. I'm sorry we offended you. Some of the men wanted to take me out for the evening and wouldn't take no for an answer, Sir. My side is fine now. It is still tender, but I am healed fine, Sir.'
The Colonel gazed into the medic's eyes, smiled, and said, 'Good, I'm glad you're doing all right. How's the college going, son?'
Tom was surprised the Colonel knew about his after-hours entertainment. Tom was just three classes short of a bachelor's degree in Pre Med. He dreamed of being a doctor, but that dream seemed out of reach. He hoped to obtain a scholarship from the Army when he had his degree so he could go to Medical School. If he couldn't get accepted for Medical School he would try to become a Registered Nurse. He had almost all the credits he needed for that degree, also. His intense training as a Green Beret Medic at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas had not only whetted his appetite for higher level medical training, it had given him several college credits toward that elusive degree.
Tom said, 'It's going well, Sir. I need three more classes for my Bachelor's, then I want to apply for an Army scholarship to Medical College. If I can't get into Medical College I have almost all the credits I need to become a Registered Nurse Practitioner with a Bachelor's in Nursing or a Physician's Assistant.'
The Colonel smiled once again and said, 'If you need anything from me to make that happen let me know, Sergeant. I've watched you with the men and I think you'd make a fine doctor or nurse.'
The Colonel looked at SSG Eagle once again before turning and moving into the building. Tom gave a silent sigh and allowed his body to relax from attention. He unconsciously rubbed his side one more time, then moved into the building and toward his small office to begin his day.
The next two weeks were filled with all the meetings, briefings, medical exams, and paperwork normal for a return to CONUS (CONtinental United States). After all administrative functions were completed the block leave began for the soldiers. The day his leave began Tom threw a duffel bag into his Ranger and drove off post headed for his home. He had the extended cab area filled with his gear, and presents for his family. There was a cooler in the front passenger floorboard and chips and bread in the seat. He intended to eat and drink as he drove so he could get home sooner.
It was only about a five or six hour drive home but it seemed to take forever. The humming drone of the small 4X4's off road tires lulled Tom and relaxed him. He was not one of those people who hated road noise and bought tires that were quieter but less aggressive. He took his small truck off road so had the Off Road FX4 package. There was a winch on the front bumper and aggressive tires so he could use his little truck.
Finally, Tom arrived home. He pulled into his parent's driveway and tooted the horn. His mother came running from the side door into the kitchen. His father walked out the front door and his sister and her two children followed. After a proper hug and greeting from his family Tom turned and pulled his duffel from the truck.
The whole family group headed toward the house jabbering and talking, trying to catch up as fast as possible. Tom looked toward the porch once again and stumbled. There was a beautiful woman standing watching the family walk toward her. She had a tentative smile on her face and looked nervous.
Tom stopped a moment then walked on toward the porch and waiting woman. The woman was his ex-wife's two year younger cousin. All during their dating and short marriage, Song tortured him unceasingly every time they were together. She made it plain to all concerned she thought Brenda was not the woman for Tom. She let it be known she thought she would be much better for him than her older cousin. Tom never seriously paid her any attention because she was six years younger than he was. When he and Brenda married she was still in high school. He treated her like a loved younger relative and that hurt Song greatly. The day Tom married Brenda, Song cried and not from happiness. When Tom stepped onto the porch he noticed his sister looking, almost staring at him. He smiled at Song and said, 'Hello, Song. It's good to see you again.' He pulled her into a quick hug before stepping back and looking her over once again. 'You sure have grown up!'
Song blushed and lowered her gaze for a moment then stood straighter and looked Tom in the eyes. She said, 'Hello, Tom. I'm so happy to see you again. I've missed you a lot. I'm so sorry for what that bitch did to you.'
Song hesitated a moment then continued talking. 'I was so sorry when I heard about your injuries and so scared for you. We were all so proud of you. Are you ok now?'
Without thinking Tom wrapped his arm around Song once again and gave her a quick hug. He said, 'I'm fine now, Song. Just a little twinge every so often from the last nick I got. How have you been?'
Tom heard a loud snort from his sister and saw his parent's grin. His sister's oldest boy Toby started talking loudly. He almost yelled, 'She's so cool, Uncle Tom. (Oh, crap, did I really do that to all you readers? It was unintentional I assure you.) She's been in jail. She got in a fight with Aunt Brenda and-- '
Melody, Tom's sister snapped, 'Toby, shut up. It's not your place to talk about things like that.'
Tom stepped back and looked at a blushing Song. He said, 'In jail? You went to jail for fighting with your cousin? That's not like you. What happened to the nice little girl I remember?'
Song blushed even more, but tilted held her head up. She said, 'Yes, I cold cocked the bitch down at the Casino seven months ago. She came in with her new man introducing him around like he was something special. I told her what I thought of her for the way she treated you. She didn't take it too well and we got into it. I promised that bitch if she ever hurt you I would kick her ass and I did!'
Tom stood for a moment with a blank look on his face then he broke out laughing. It had been almost seventeen months since his divorce was final. He had dreamed about beating Brenda and her new lover several times but knew better than to do so. Tom stepped nearer the young woman and pulled the seething Song to his chest. He hugged her and said, 'Damn, I wish I could have seen that. I've wanted to smash her smug face ever since I heard about her and asshole, but I couldn't. I wish you hadn''t done it, though. There are better ways of taking care of trash than going to jail for it.'
'I don't care. I told her what I'd do and I did it. I even landed a couple on the asshole she was with.'
Tom turned and wrapped his arm around Song. They once again moved toward the front door and into the house. His father picked up his duffel as he walked past it. Everyone found seats as his father went into the kitchen. He returned with his hands loaded with bottles of beer and coke which he passed around. The family settled down to visit and catch up with the news.
Song was sitting across from Tom. Every so often their gaze would meet and the 22 year old Song would blush once again. She said little but hung on every word Tom said about himself and his career.
Soon the women all stood and moved into the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. Tom and his father visited and played with the kids as they listened to the clattering and the drone of feminine voices coming from the kitchen. Occasionally the female talk was broken by quick barks of laughter. Soon good smells came wafting out of the small kitchen into the living room where Tom and his father now sat in companionable silence. Tom's stomach growled and his mouth watered thinking about his mother's great cooking. He really looked forward to several good home cooked meals while he was here. Just the thought of her cooking almost made him decide not to go into the mountains.
Tom stayed with his parents the next day and visited. Early the morning of the third day Tom saddled his horse and put a pack saddle on the two mules he was taking with him. He loaded all his camping gear, his fishing gear, rifle, pistol, way too much ammunition and even a crossbow. As he was leaving town he stopped in the store and bought way more dry and canned food than he could possibly use in the ten days he planned to stay in the valley. He bought twenty five pounds each of dry beans, corn meal, flour, and rice. He also bought ten pounds each of salt, sugar, and coffee. He purchased several smaller bottles of pepper and other spices as well as some dry gravy mixes. When he left his mules looked like the pictures of old time prospectors heading out into the hills. Tom also carried two 40 pound bags each of corn, wheat, and oats to feed his stock.
Tom could have used his truck and a trailer to drive the nearly twenty miles to the entrance to his valley but he chose to ride. It took him nearly all day to ride the trails through the reservation then back into the National Forest. He moved slowly and enjoyed the quiet, green, peaceful trip. Finally, at dusk he was in sight of the trail into his valley. He found a place to camp and pitched his tent for the night. He intended to get an early start the next morning and be set up for the stay before mid-afternoon.
Several times that night Tom woke to a deep humming sound. He thought it was coming from the direction of the family valley but he wasn't sure. The noise bothered him. He couldn't figure out what it was or exactly where it came from. Tom was up at dawn and cooked breakfast over his small fire. After he finished his meal he packed up and loaded his animals, then poured the remainder of his coffee on the glowing coals to put out the fire. Before he left he urinated in the fire pit and carefully placed the sod he removed the night before over the ashes.
When Tom got to the entrance to the valley he stopped. The entrance was a narrow cleft, almost a canyon between two taller hills. The way was tight and narrow for over 500 feet before opening out into his valley. There was a small stream running out of the cleft. A couple of times in the past Tom had seen a faint shimmering glowing patch extending side to side in the opening to the valley. Today the shimmer was more pronounced. It was difficult to see through it. There appeared to be a deep throbbing hum coming from the entrance.
Tom felt a clenching in his belly and an unreasonable surge of fear. He snorted and shook his head in disgust at himself. He looked around then urged his animals forward. The horse and mules did not want to enter the strange shimmer. Tom forced them forward demanding they move down the trail. As they entered the cut Tom felt strange. His body chilled and his vision blurred. The sun even seemed to dim for a moment. Tom felt a twisting sensation then they moved out of the shimmer and into the valley. It was just as beautiful and peaceful as he remembered. To his surprise however, Tom found himself surrounded by Indians dressed in old buckskin clothes. They carried bows and arrows, tomahawks and many belongings. There were horses pulling travois as well as some of the people pulling travois.
When he appeared in their midst, seemingly from nowhere, the Indians yelled as if in fear and pulled back with an uproar. The men moved toward Tom with arrows ready to fire. One of the men spoke in Cherokee and asked Tom who he was and how he got there without them seeing him.
Tom looked at the people in shock. Then he turned and looked back the way he came. He could not see the shimmer from this direction. He shook his head, turned back to the front and urged his animals forward until he got nearer the man who spoke to him.
Tom said, 'I am Tom Eagle. I came from Cherokee to camp here in my valley. Who are you people and what are you doing here?'
'We are the people. We come to camp here also. Why are you dressed so strangely? Are you a spirit come to visit with us?'
'What? Are you nuts? OH, ' Tom said catching on. He had come upon a group of re-enactors. Hell, he could play that game also. He continued almost without pause, 'Yes, I am a spirit from the happy hunting ground. I have come to be with you for a short time. Now I go to make my camp near the waterfall where I can work my magic, heal my soul, and rid myself of my sorrows and bad memories.'
The Indians within hearing murmured upon hearing Tom speak. Many of them moved a few steps back as they looked upon him in awe. The Indian who challenged Tom smiled and motioned Tom onward as he said, 'Pass in peace, Great One. May your journey be successful.'
Tom smiled, raised his hand in farewell, and rode on toward his usual camping spot. He decided not to make an issue of the group trespassing on his families land. The group of Indians opened a path for him and watched respectfully as he departed. After riding several feet past the still watching Indians, Tom turned to look at them once again. He again smiled as he thought what a hoot it would be to watch what he assumed were modern city people trying to play at being Indians. Tom chuckled to himself as he moved away from the small group. He hoped he gave the re-enactors something they could use in their games. He never noticed the deference and reverence they showed him as he left.
Tom decided the shimmer he had seen when he entered the valley was a result of some strange fog rising from the stream and the sun hitting it just right. The hum was probably the wind blowing through the cut and or some vegetation.
The valley seemed different somehow to Tom. The air seemed clearer, fresher and the vegetation seemed more robust. Tom moved down the valley to where the stream tumbled down from the upper hills. There was a small waterfall of perhaps twenty feet dropping into a deep pool filled with trout. Beside the pool was a beautiful little grassy area. There was a small cave opening to the grassy meadow in the limestone bluff over which the water fall flowed. The cave was perhaps ten feet wide and fifteen feet deep. It was really more of an undercut in the bluff than a cave. The opening was only about five feet wide. Tom could walk upright into the cave with only a couple of inches to spare over his head. At one time there had been a log enclosure, a three sided cabin, in front of the cave. It was long fallen down but the remains were still there on his last visit. This time the area was clear of any indication of construction. Once again Tom wondered what was going on. It had only been five years since he was here before and the remaining logs should have still been noticeable.
Tom mentally shrugged and pitched his tent on a level space in front of the cave. He stored his possessions inside the cave. He picketed his animals on the lush grass after he watered them. He removed his shirt and sat in the shade to relax. He watched the Indians make their camp far down the valley near the passage he rode through into the valley.
After resting for a while, Tom took his axe and moved out to cut wood for his fires. When he had his firewood cut for the next couple of days Tom got his fishing gear and moved to the pool to catch his supper and breakfast. In no time at all Tom caught four nice trout. He put the fish on his stringer and stopped fishing. Tom returned to his relaxing and watched the sun sink behind the western mountains before he prepared his evening meal of fried potatoes and onions, fried fish and pork and beans.
To Tom's surprise the next morning when he got up the Indian camp was gone. The only indication they had been there was the mashed down grass, some fire pits and ashes and a little refuse. They disappeared without a trace otherwise. It didn't seem worth it to Tom for them to play the Indian game and walk all this way just to camp for one night. He shrugged his shoulders and decided it was their business. The whole encounter had been strange. He still couldn't figure out why they insisted on speaking only Cherokee during their conversation. That was carrying realism too far in his opinion.
The next three days were perfect. Tom could feel the tension draining from his body. Every morning and evening he could see wild turkey and deer eating in the meadow. He decided early on the fourth morning he was going to poach a little game. He decided to get a turkey first and then a deer if he could.
Tom took his rifle and moved toward the spot he had picked out for his stand. He settled in just as dawn was breaking. There were no turkeys in sight so Tom decided to take a deer instead. Within a few minutes Tom saw the deer he wanted and took aim. Tom took a breath, let half out and squeezed the trigger. The deer dropped immediately and didn't move. Tom stood and began walking toward the deer when he saw three men dressed in buckskins move toward his deer also.
Tom moved a little faster toward his kill then stared at the men. They were dirty and rough looking with longer hair much as the group had been the day he arrived. They were also carrying wooden bows. From the looks of the men they came from the reservation and were full blood or nearly full blood Cherokee. It was not unknown to find Indians in the mountains, but it was rare to see them dressed in the old clothes and in his valley. He wondered if there was a convention of re-enactors or just why so many Indians seemed to be in the area. He was sure his parents would have told him if there was a Pow Wow scheduled for this week.
Tom walked toward the men only to see them suddenly turn toward him and raise their bows. Tom stopped and said, 'Whoa, there. What's the problem? Don't be pointing those bows at me.' To be safer Tom chambered a round in his rifle and got it in a better position to be used in a hurry.
The men looked at one another then back to Tom. The one in the front spoke to Tom in Cherokee. Tom was surprised, but answered in the same language. His Cherokee was rusty and the Indians were speaking in a strange variant of the language but Tom understood them as he had those he encountered the day he arrived in the valley.
The lead Indian said, 'Who are you and why are you in our valley? Why did you kill our game?'
'Whoa there, partner, ' Tom responded in Cherokee. 'This is my family's valley. We've owned it for almost 120 years now. I think you're lost if you think this is your valley.'
'No, this whole area belongs to the Cherokee and has for many moons. No one family can own this spot.'
Another Indian dressed as a shaman ran up to the group and insinuated himself between the men and Tom. He said, 'Oh, Great Spirit, you are still here. We come only to camp for a while if that is permissible. I spoke with the Shaman from the other tribe and he said you were here and friendly. Is it permissible for us to stay for a short while? I promise we will not interfere with your work, oh Great One.'
This did not make sense to Tom at all. None of the equipment the Indians carried looked right, or rather it all looked too right, too authentic. All their equipment looked handmade and was well worn but in good repair. Their buckskins and moccasins were obviously hand made from poorly tanned hides. He was beginning to think he had come across some people who were pretending to live in the old way. He felt as if the Indians were playing this charade way too authentically, however. It was almost as if they actually believed what they said. Tom laughed and said, 'Sure, no problem, but I expect you to honor my privacy and not trash up my valley.'
Tom heard a noise coming from the foot of the valley and turned that direction. He saw a larger group of Indians come through the cut and into the valley. There were a few horses but most of the people were walking. There were women, children, men, and dogs galore. Many of the people were pulling travois. They moved toward the opposite edge of the valley and quickly began setting up camp. Tom watched in fascination as they did so.
The man dressed as the shaman said, 'It shall be so, Great One.' He turned to the three men confronting Tom and began trying to get them to move on and leave Tom alone.
Finally Tom mentally shook himself and moved to cut the deer's throat then he gutted it. The Indians watched him for a moment then moved toward the forest obviously hunting more venison. Before he was done working on the deer a small cluster of children were standing around quietly talking among themselves while they watched him work.
Tom picked the deer up and walked toward the new camp. When he got there many of the men picked up their bows and arrows to watch him enter. Tom walked up to a large man that appeared to be in charge. He dropped the deer and held his hand out to shake. The man looked at the hand then at Tom.
Tom started talking in English but no one seemed to understand him. At least they acted as if they didn't understand. Finally in desperation, even slight anger, he switched to Cherokee once again. Faces lit up with understanding when they heard Cherokee and the men around him seemed to relax. The women and children returned to whatever they had been doing.
The man in charge motioned toward a spot in front of his dwelling and sat. Tom watched a moment. The Shaman gently guided Tom beside the Chief and motioned for him to sit, also. Tom took a seat beside the Chief and the Shaman sat across from Tom and the Chief. As the conversation continued Tom became more confused. The chief and men insisted they had never seen clothes such as Tom wore and weapons such as his rifle. They had seen a few whites, but very few. Many of the whites they saw were not friendly, either. They insisted they had been camping in this valley for years and wanted to know why Tom was there. Was he really there to make his magic and heal? If he was healing, what was wrong with him? He looked well.
Tom said, 'I have been across the sea and seen a great number of battles and much injury and death. I have healed those I could but now I need the peace and quiet I find here to heal my soul.' Tom was rather proud of that statement. He felt it fit in with the re-enactment they were obviously trying to have and yet it truly explained why he was here.
The men looked at one another and the Shaman asked, 'You are a great Medicine Man also? Can you heal for us if there is need?'
'Well, yes, but I'm not a doctor. I am a medic in the army. I'm just here on leave. I'll be happy to help if I can, though. Do you have someone injured right now?'
The men looked confused when Tom began talking but by the time he finished they seemed better. They heard him agree to heal and began nodding their heads and smiling.
A woman walked up and deferentially asked, 'What should we do with the Spirit's deer?' All the men looked at Tom.
Tom smiled and decided to stay in the role he cast for himself. He said, 'You may use my deer for the meal you are preparing. It will be my gift for you this day to welcome you to my valley.'
The woman almost bowed when Tom told her she could cook the deer. She rapidly left and got another woman to help her with the deer. It was almost full dark before Tom stood and returned to his camp. He didn't know what to make of his encounter with the Indians. On one hand he believed what they told him, but on the other it was impossible. They all seemed to have a great imagination and stayed in the roles they were playing very well. The next day Tom stayed in his camp except for a short trip to the meadow to shoot a turkey. He watched as the Indians took a couple turkeys and three more deer the next morning. They stayed in camp four days before, early on the fifth day, packing and moving off once again. Tom was again alone in his valley.
Much too soon the time to leave the peaceful valley and return to civilization arrived. Reluctantly, Tom packed his belongings and moved to the cut between the hills to leave his valley. He rode out of the cut and began moving toward his parent's home once again. The forest seemed different this time. The trees were larger and there was not as many open areas as he remembered. None of the trails and roads he remembered were present.
Tom rode all day and deep into the dusk. He should have been in sight of the little settlement and his parent's home by now. He had seen nothing. Not a vehicle, not a fence or road or building was present. Tom began worrying. In fact, Tom became scared, very scared. Finally, at almost full dark Tom arrived at the location he was positive should contain the store. There was nothing there at all except the small stream the store was built beside.
Tom gave up and pitched his tent for the night. The next morning Tom rose with the sun and began exploring. He found nothing familiar at all. Late that afternoon Tom came across an old man dressed in buckskins. He was carrying a flintlock rifle and had a pack on his back. Tom stared in surprise at the authenticity this re-enactor displayed in his dress and weapons. He was not sure, now, that he was even a re-enactor but the other possibility was too frightening to consider.
When Tom approached the man he was faced with suspicion. After Tom assured the man he was friendly the man said, 'You shore do look and talk strange there, Tom. 'Cept ver yore clothes ya looks like a Injin. Where 'bouts ya from?'
Tom explained he lived right there. The man looked around, spit, then said, 'Ya jus live here in tha trees? Doncha gots no cabin nor lean to?'
Tom sat and stared at the man. They continued talking as the afternoon wore on. Finally, Tom became convinced he was in real trouble. The man insisted that, to the best of his recollection, the year was 1833 and it was sometime in the mid-summer but he didn't know the month or day. He said, 'I left Charleston summer of '31, it was. I been moving ever since. This is the second summer since I left so I knows it be '33, but I just lost track of months and days, I have. I find a spot and sit a spell and when the mood strikes me I move off again. Sure don't see many folks out here in the woods 'cept for the injins. I seen them many times. Some is friendly but most ain't. Every so often I gets me a squaw for a while but they either mostly get used up or I sells 'em.'
Finally Tom and the old man went to sleep. When Tom woke the next morning the man was gone. Tom looked around for a moment then decided to return to his valley. This time when he made the trip there was only a very faint, almost unnoticeable shimmer in the entrance to the valley. This shimmer was like the ones Tom remembered from the past.
Tom moved into the valley and to his camping spot. Once again he set up camp and then fell into his bed in exhaustion. For the next several weeks Tom took almost weekly trips out of the valley to explore. He went to all the nearest places he remembered habitation. He found no buildings or evidence of civilization in all his trips. He even returned twice to where Cherokee would be built in the future. He never saw another white man and only a few Indians. Tom was gaining a reputation as a Shaman and 'Spirit' so the encounters were friendly albeit the Indians were hesitant to meet with Tom. He was also strange enough to the Indians that they feared him as a crazy man.
Mornings were beginning to be cool and Tom knew he had to do something. He decided to cut trees and rebuild the three sided cabin in front of the cave. Tom spent the next three weeks building the cabin, chinking the logs and preparing for a long stay. He also decided he needed to prepare for the winter and began smoking and drying meat to last through the cold spell. He carefully set aside five pounds of the beans to plant in the spring and even some of the grain he had not yet fed to his stock. If he couldn't get home he would have to grind his own flour and corn meal in years to come, if he could grow the grain.
One morning Tom woke and walked outside his small home to find frost on the ground. This was a day to hunt so he took the mule and moved down valley to find a deer. The deer were restless this morning. The strange hum was back and it seemed to bother them. Tom had already looked at the cut out of the valley and couldn't see the shimmer so he returned to his blind to continue his hunt. He was just getting ready to fire when he saw a horseman seem to appear at the end of the cut. He knew he just came out of the cut in the hills and entered the valley but it almost seemed as if one moment he wasn't there and another he was. Of course, the deer saw the same thing and took off running.
Tom cursed his luck and stood. He walked slowly toward the horseman. When the horseman saw Tom he turned toward him and kicked the horse into a trot. There was a pack horse behind that also began trotting.
When the horse and rider were about fifteen feet from Tom he heard a scream, 'TOM! What are you DOING here? Why didn't you come home? What's the matter with you? Where have you been all summer?'
Tom looked closer and saw Song Wolf jump from the horse and run toward him. When she reached him she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. Finally she stepped back and said, 'We were so worried about you. Why didn't you come home? The Army's been calling for you and hunting you. They say you're AWOL and have a warrant out for your arrest.' She was sniffling and took time to wipe tears from her cheeks.