Inspiration

A tale of the old west
By Charles Towne
Writing as
Hawk Lassiter

The date was June 24th, 1876, a significant date in the history of the west when the Sioux nation was coming together at a place in Montana called, The Little Bighorn.

Phineas  Buckman or, “Buck” as he was known to his friends, was a 17-year-old private in the U.S. Army.
He was part of a contingent of cavalry, two companies to be exact, sent west to help settle the Indian affair in as expeditious a manner as possible.
At the moment he was riding front for the small, eleven-man cavalry patrol.
The Major in charge, a stern man in his mid-forties had sent Buck to check the terrain ahead.
The Major, Indicating a tall rocky hill some three miles to their front said, “Private Buckman, I want you to ride ahead and glass the area on the opposite side of that hill.  Be careful not to skyline yourself and take care that you don’t raise any dust.  We should reach you shortly and you can report when next we see you.”
Following this brief exchange, the Major threw the young soldier a faint smile as he said in a low voice, “and private, be very careful.  We know there are hostiles about and I can’t afford to lose a man, even if he is a green private!”
Phineas Buckman, private, grinned as he snapped a parade perfect salute at his Major, and with a respectful “Yes sir!” he reined his horse around and began cantering toward the distant objective.
Anyone not familiar with the situation or the relationship between the Major and the young private would have had to miss the similarity in the two men’s appearances not to understand the veiled meaning in the Major’s words and his smile. Both men were lithe, of medium height, with dark, almost black hair except for a hint of red.  Each of them had piercing blue eyes that seemed to flash with a fire and life quite disconcerting to some.
The Major’s name was Magellan Buckman and he was the young private’s father. Nobody called him Magellan or Buck, just “Major” with a “sir” attached.
Understanding his son’s passion to follow his father’s lead in the military the Major had arranged for Buck to join him on the frontier.
This would be a good experience for his son and it would not hurt his chances for advancement once he was enrolled in officer candidate school at the military academy at West Point.
Now, knowing that the various tribes could erupt into open warfare at any time, he was having misgivings.  He would never forgive himself, nor would the boy’s mother if anything were to happen to her darling.
“Oh well, it’s too late now.”  He thought, “We’ll just have to avoid trouble if at all possible.”
He knew that if they were to have the misfortune to run into a large war party about the only thing they could do would be to either run for it or hunker down and hold
them off and hope that help would arrive, and as thin as their forces were that might take days.
During his time on the frontier, he had learned a lot about the enemy and he had come to respect them, not just as a people, but and as damned good, if not exceptional, fighting men.
The generals such as Custer were badly mistaken if they thought they could run roughshod over the Indians.
As he sat there on his horse watching his son’s back as he rode away he thought of that damned fool Custer who at that very moment was moving toward the Little Bighorn with the idea that he could eradicate the Indian problem with a force of a couple hundred men.  Yes, Custer was a fool with his golden hair and his hopes of glory.  If he wasn’t careful that long hair of his could possibly decorate some warrior’s lodge.
When the Major had been given his orders they were simple, “scout the area, avoid trouble and report back in one piece!”
Well, they were scouting the area.  The big question was whether they could get back in one piece to give that report.
Just that day they had crossed the trails of several large bands of Indians, all traveling in the same general direction, North and North West, toward the Little Big Horn River
Young Phineas Buckman rode warily.
He had learned enough about the country to know that though the ground might seem flat and level there were arroyos and swales, dry river courses and even canyons that were not evident until suddenly you were looking down into them, each of them large enough to conceal a sizable war party.
Buck loved the country and he had, after listening to his father formed an opinion of the Indian based on great respect.
He had left the patrol far behind.  When he glanced back they appeared small in the distance.
As much as possible he followed a straight line only deviating from his course when he dropped down into the occasional dry creek or arroyo.
His destination, the “hill” that dominated the terrain was actually more a small mountain that what one would generally call a hill.  Unlike the Rockies in the west, it was similar to those ancient mountains he had seen in Georgia and Tennessee.
He moved forward and eventually reached the base of the “hill” and started to climb.  It was easy going for his horse and the well-behaved animal moved forward only
occasionally deviating from his destination when a house size boulder obstructed his path.
Nearing the top Buck dismounted and tied the reins to a low bush and drawing his Spencer carbine from its boot he checked its action and then began climbing toward the summit a short distance ahead.
He was close.  Once he stopped, his senses alert.  He thought he had heard something, perhaps a rolling stone.  Ever vigilant, he listened.  He heard a dove in the distance, a very natural sound, then, silence again.
He had heard that the Indians at times imitated bird and animal sounds as a means of communicating but he
was sure the dove was in simply that, a dove.
Cautiously he approached a large boulder on his hands and knees, and then, silently, he lowered himself to the ground and belly crawled forward, the carbine across his arms.
His intent was to look to the other side from the very base of the boulder.
Buck knew enough from hunting mule deer to never simply rise up and look over a hill.
That is what the captain meant when he had told him not to skyline himself. Any sort of movement on a ridge or a hill could be seen for a long distance.
Buck was smiling, thinking about his father, the captain as he raised his head and got the surprise of his life.
There, no more than an arm’s length ahead of him, staring into his eyes, as surprised as himself, was the painted face of an Indian warrior.
The two men, each a soldier, enemies, stared at each other, unmoving.
Buck could see that the Indian was roughly his own age and he also noticed in sharp detail that the war lance was poised, ready to plunge into Bucks’ chest.
As Buck had moved forward to his vantage point at the base of the boulder he had brought the barrel of his Spencer forward until now, quite inadvertently, it was pointed into the Indian’s face.
All it would take would be for one of them to move and there would be blood. They lay like that for what seemed like the longest time. At such times seconds can seem like hours and minutes become days.
Unmoving, they watched each other.
Strangely, Buck had never felt so alive than as at that moment, and yet he felt the proximity of death almost as a living breathing entity.
He could kill or be killed and in the great scheme of life what would it matter?
He could look over to the other side of the hill and there, down below, was a war party of perhaps a dozen warriors.
While Buck was looking at the war party down below the brave could look in the distance and see the approaching cavalrymen.
They looked back at each other and then Buck did something totally uncalled for, even a bit strange under the circumstances, he smiled.
For a moment the brave’s eyes grew large in surprise, and then he grinned.
The young Indian slowly took his right hand from his spear shaft and pushed it toward Buck, palm forward.
Buck recognized the gesture.
Without a spoken word, the Indian was declaring peace.
Buck continued to smile as he raised his right hand, palm, outward toward the other man in that sign so familiar to him.
The brave, moving slowly, reached to his waist and pulled forth a sheathed knife, the sheath beautifully decorated with porcupine quills.  While he was doing this he never took his eyes from Buck’s face, never stopped smiling.
He pushed the sheathed knife toward Buck handle first, and then with his other hand, he pointed at the knife and then at Buck.  A gift!
Buck hesitated only for a moment and then he reached to his own waist and removed the hunting knife that his father had given him for his birthday.
Taking his knife by it’s sheathe he offered it to the Indian.
The young man’s face lit up with pleasure at the gift.
Buck glanced back toward the patrol and then at the Indian and then with a last smile he began to slide back down the hill the way he had come.
“Well private, do you have anything to report?”  His father, the Major, asked when he rejoined the patrol.
“Yes sir, a band of Indians, perhaps fifty of them sir, two, maybe three miles distant.  They are traveling North West sir, toward the Little Big Horn”
“Hmm, that many?”  Mused the captain. “Well, we better not lock horns with a group that large.  I believe that we have found out what we need to know. Good work private.”  And then as an aside to his son, he said,  “unless I miss my guess, General George Armstrong Custer is about to have that moment of glory he’s been searching for.”
As the patrol turned and headed back to the fort Buck glanced back one last time, back at the top of the hill, wondering if he had done the right thing, but in his heart, he knew he had.


Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.

30 COMMENTS

  1. A great story, Hawk Lassiter! Who doesn’t love the wild wild west? I’m up late tonight, catching up on some things, and I’m the first to comment on your writings this Sunday, lol. Take care Hawk!

  2. Well Mama Mia, I am some glad that you enjoyed the story. If you like this one you will really appreciate my rollicking western, HORSES WITH NO NAMES! It is is at the publisher right now. I have written that under my pseudonym Hawk Lassiter also. Blessings on you dear lady, Chaz

  3. Such an enjoyable tale of good will when there is very little to go around.
    Also happy to hear your story is at the publishers..Congrats Charles! You are an inspiration to all of us.

  4. Yes NH, I am happy with it all except for the fact that the traditional publishing route is so slow. Just knowing that it has been accepted and is in the works is great. Keep writing, never give up. It aint over till its over! Blessings on you all. Chaz

  5. Thanks Donnie, this short story is unrelated to my western that is at the publishers. That will be a trilogy of which my book, HORSES WITH NO NAMES will be the first. Going the traditional publishing route is definitely more difficult but will pay off with great dividends in the end. Blessings my friend, Chaz

  6. Wonderful! You are a great story teller. You write beautifully. I always either learn or reinforce something I already knew in you articles. Keep them coming.

  7. My friend Herb, thanks so very much for the kind words. I have to give credit where credit is due, “All good things come from God so if my gift is in any way good it must come from Him. Life is so very good! Blessings on you and yours pal, Chaz

  8. Is this story true or true to should-be-human life? Either way, it’s a story of human discovery. Somehow when we face our enemy up close we often see a mirror of our own self. Sometime its another 19 year old anxious o show he’s worthy and caught in a game run by old men called war. One of the most compelling reflections on war by a warrior is McNamara in The Fog of War.
    Cheering you on, Ernie

  9. Ernie, it is one of those “could be” stories, with just enough truth to make us reflect. Many time I have asked myself, “What if” or have said, “it could happen,” and at that point I have to ask, “if it did happen what would be the results?” Imagine that our young friend, Phineas, or Buck, kills the young Indian and runs back to the cavalry patrol and gives his report. They advance and wipe out the indian braves in pitched battle. One of the indians is a principle war chief whose presence is needed at The Little Bighorn and the battle never happens. What would have been the result? There are a lot of “what if” moments in life aren’t there? Sort of makes me think of the butterfly effect? Chaz

  10. It’s apparent that you enjoy slipping into the scenes and characters you describe and tales you tell, vicariously living multiple lives – an ability that ear-marks a good writer. When do you think Horses with No Names will ready for marketing?

  11. You are a creative writer, always engaging us in your words. I am happy for you that your works are finally being published!
    God bless all your endeavors.

  12. Judith, your observation is accurate. writing creatively allows one to occasionally slip in to another, an alternate dimension, or reality. We hear of actors living a part so thoroughly that they deceive themselves and become that character, usually to their long term detriment. I have known of those that tell a lie over and over again until, as the bible tells us, “and they believe a lie.” I find it enjoyable taking those brief sojourns into fantasy, but then I must remember to return into reality. Never forget, that the escape is temporary, but…with some can almost serve as their drug of choice. Ahh, and now you know my secret. As to, HORSES WITH NO NAMES, traditional publishishing is agonizingly slow, therefore I don’t expect to see anything in print for at least another year, and that is reality. Praise God that it is happening. Thanks for the observation. Blessings dear one, Chaz

  13. Dear CSG, your words are high praise indeed. The thing is, I have a fatal disease. It is called, Hypergraphia, or, as the Roman poet Juvenal called it, “the midnight disease.” It reveals itself by an insatiable desire to write. In other words, I cannot NOT write, so if some of it comes across as legible, praise Papa God. May you have a blessed life with Jesus in it. Always your friend, Chaz

  14. George, I am glad you enjoyed my tale. I hope that there will be many more of them, and there will be if Papa God is willing and the creek don’t rise. You take care pal, Chaz

  15. Hi Hawk, I really enjoyed this story. 🙂 Felt like I was right there with Buck and the young Indian. An uplifting tale. I’m guessing there have been moment in human encounters like this, or at least I like to think so. As you probably do, too. Like your other readers, I am looking forward to the publishing of your book.

  16. Ahh, Kristin my dear, nobody is looking forward to seeing my work in published form more than yours truly. I believe there have been many similar moments, more than we can imagine. Papa God has His people that are faithful to His calling. Blessings my friend, “Hawk” Chaz

  17. Charles, I love your pen name Hawk Lassiter. This story was a great example/sample of yet another type of writing you are gifted with. And true to your form, it has a love story imbedded within it! Not sure I spelled that correctly. Keep up the good work and creativity. 🙂

  18. Nicole, you are too generous in your approbation. “Hawk” just seems like a good name for a writer and the fact that you like it is proof positive that I chose well. May our Holy friend hold you and keep you close is my prayer. Your friend, Hawk Lassiter

  19. Great story from the man with many names (Charles, Chuck, Chaz and now Hawk). I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and look forward to reading your book. Keep those creative juices lubricated with midnight oil flowing. Papa God has blessed you with a talent that you obviously do not intend to waste.

  20. Mike, another couple of names you forgot is “Hey you!” and when my mama was carrying me she prayed for a little boy just like Mark Twain’s notorious character, Huckleberry Finn, therefore and ever-more I was called “Huck,” also, “Hucky.” And remember, another derivative of Charles is “Charlie.” thanks for the encouragement, your pal, Old whats his face. P.S. What’s my name?

  21. I love your pen name, Hawk! Very fitting! A hawk sees things that not many others see or see but don’t comprehend any real significance in what they saw. I was right there with baited breath when the youngsters surprised each other! Even if it was not something that actually happened it easily could have. And teaches the adults in the room that war has to be taught. Children aren’t normally aggressive!

    Thanks, again for the lessons you teach through the gift Our Heavenly Father has given you!

    Scripture says to those who have been given much, much will be required, which seems like you have and continue to fulfill. But along with the admonition is the encouragement, the one that uses wisely what they are given will be given more! That’s from the parable of the talents.

    Your niece, Linda

  22. Dear Linda, all he is, just an old bird! I am pleased that you enjoyed the story. You take care and may Papa God bless you and yours, Chaz

  23. A heart warming story my friend! A shining example of when humanity trumps animosity, it reminds me of “the christmas miracle” of WW I, more proof that the Holy Spirit can change hearts in an instant! Also, speaking of Little Big Horn, I just read an article about Annie Oakley which said that Sitting Bull saw her shoot and was so impressed by her skill, he adopted her and gave her the Sioux name “Watanya Cecilia” which means, “little sure shot!”. Anyway, thanks for the story, keep them coming, and tell Hawk to let us know when the book comes out!

  24. Rick, I will be sure to mention your request to Hawk. What I can tell you is that I wish a pox on all editors that think they can walk on water! You take care pal, Chaz

  25. Charles, Once again your story has brought to life the reality of what we must all face as we go through life. We often set out on scouting parties only to find ourselves face to face with what we think will be a “kill or be killed” situation, only to find that there is commonality in our “enemy” and given the opportunity, we might make a friend if we don’t get trigger happy. Also, the image of both camps being oblivious to the events unfolding says much about our family and friends… not intentionally, but just unaware as we are often out of sight at the greatest time of need. I am so thankful for our Heavenly Father and His Son that are always watchful over us, even when we don’t see or feel them. Peace be with you my Brother!!

  26. Mark my friend, most of us don’t see because we are not looking. We blunder through life as blind men, not blind in the sense of not seeing with our eyes, but a blindness bought on by indifference. God bless you and yours pal, Chaz

  27. Don ol’ pal ol’ buddy ol’ chum, It is so nice seeing your comment! Are you staying warm out there in Kansas? Blessings on you and yours, Chaz

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