The Road West.

By Lloyd Vancil
On the hill outside of town a grizzled old oak stands looking down on the interstate.  I fell asleep out there once.  A gray headed old Indian sat cross legged beside me, our backs leaning against the old bark.  Below the interstate had been replaced by a sea of buffalo.
"My people.. " he said softly.
"The buffalo?"
He pointed with a buffalo hair tipped staff.  I noticed a group of Indian women working over the carcass of a fallen bull.  His staff swung and I saw a couple of young men disguised with buffalo robes crouching within bow shot of the herd.
Another wave of the staff pointed my view to a village below.  A blanket clad chieftain stood at the head of a gathering facing a mounted conquistador.  "We had been eating the horses, until the horsemen came. "
I looked over at the chief standing where the old man had sat.  His war bonnet whispered softly as the feathers brushed against each other in the breeze from the plain.  He swept his war staff across the scene and it changed.  In place of the great herd a village spread across the plains.
Mounted warriors played like jousting knights.
On the horizon a single conestoga labored behind a team of four great oxen.  As it came the land changed.  Behind the wagon gravestones appeared and vanished with each turn of its great wheels. On the plain, the village became a ghost town.  A few teepees near the trail were still occupied, their buffalo hide coverings dried, cracked and faded, their sad occupants were huddled around smoky fires.  Beside me the proud chief became a sickly, stooped old man.
"My people were part of this place." he said sadly.
Standing nearby a man clad in homespun stood, spade in one hand, rifle in the other.
"Dirty, savages." He said.
"My people.." The old Indian said.
"Your people?" the settler said.  On the hill behind us a sod shack became a clap-board house.  "Your people were dirty, uneducated savages.  We had a right to settle..  A God given right."  the settler, clad in black, waved a tattered book.
The plains below became a sea of waving grain broken only by a gravel road rutted by the wheels of  wagons and horse-less carriages.
The old Indian's ghost shimmered in the shade of the old oak. "Your God, is a machine." he said as he faded from sight.
On the plains below telegraph poles marched next to the road that changed as they changed with the coming of the telephone and Ready Kilowatt.  Waves of change.
"Machines." I said. The old chief's ghost replaced the settler.
"Machines." it said.
"No, we came to this land as conquerors and like all conquerors, we became a part of this place."
"Then, as a part of this place, you must remember us." the old chief's shade charged.
"I do," I said.  " I remember."

Copyright L. Vancil, 1998  All rights reserved





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