Happy Tuesday! Before I get into the blog today, would like y’all to know that THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF and also RED HAWK’S WOMAN are on sale for $.99 cents for a short time. THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF is #2 in the series The Lost Clan and RED HAWK’S WOMAN is #3.
It’s a series of four books and each is related, but is a stand alone book.
THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF was a book written around and about the 200th year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark exposition. And so, in honor of that exposition, I wrote a little about the game played at that time on all the Plains and by every tribe on the Plains — the game of Cos-coo, a game of chance and a game of war.
Sacagawea was won by the French trapper and trader, Charbonneau in a game of chance. Charbonneau had been playing the game with a man who had five (I believe) wives. Sacagawea was his youngest wife. Interesting how this game of chance was to influence events that helped to found our country, isn’t it?
Cos-soo is a game played only by the men and it is played sometimes within one’s own tribe, but mostly it is played by men from enemy tribes. It is a game of war. No one is killed. However, once embarked upon, the game is played until one or the other of the players is ruined utterly. It can go on for days, breaking only to eat (not to sleep). And, unless agreed upon before the game is begun, it is played until one player loses everything: his lodge, his horses, his gun, his knives, his clothes and even his WIFE. This is what happened in the life of Sacagawea.
And so, let me leave you with an excerpt from the book where the two players (one is the hero of the story) is playing in a desperate game of Cos-soo.
THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF
The end of a curse hides behind a riddle—and the final clue in the heart of a woman.
The Lost Clan, Book 2
Grey Coyote stands on the knife edge of desperation. An ancient curse dooms his people to a half-life in the mists, neither living nor dead—unless he can solve a deceptively simple riddle. As time runs short, he’s sure the answer lies in beating a white trapper in a game of chance.
Among the trapper’s possessions, though, is a prize he never expected: A golden-haired woman as beautiful, delicate and stubborn as a prairie rose.
One moment Marietta Welsford is wondering how long it will take her hired guide to finish his game so she can hurry home to Rosemead, the English estate to which she hopes to lay claim. The next, she is abandoned with a man whose magnetism tugs at her body and soul, and makes her heart out-thunder the storm.
With so little time to lift the enchantment, Grey Coyote at first views Marietta as a trickster-sent distraction. But as sure as the star that guides him, it soon becomes clear she is the clue that could ultimately free his people…and capture his heart.
THE GAME OF Cos-soo
Cos-soo, sometimes called the game of the Bowl, was a common game known to the Indians on the plains—all tribes. A game of chance, it was played only by men, and the stakes were often desperate.
The rules of Cos-soo were as follows: Players used a wooden bowl slightly less than a foot long, highly polished with a rim of about two inches. The “dice” were not dice as we might think of them, but were instead common objects on the plains at this time. These small objects were assigned certain values.
The highest value went to the large crow’s claw—there was only one per game—which was painted red on one side and black on the other. When after a throw it was standing, it counted for twenty-five points (or sticks). The count was kept by sticks. It also counted for five on its side if the red side was up—and so a total of thirty points would go to the large claw, if it were standing. No points were given if the black side was up. If it wasn’t standing, it counted for only five.
Next were four small crow’s claws, also painted red on one side and black on the other. They counted for five if landed on the red side, and nothing if on the black.
Next there were five plum stones. These were white on one side and black on the other. If the black side was up, it counted four; if the white side was up, it counted for nothing.
Then there were five pieces of blue china—they were small and round. Blue side up was worth three points; white side counted as nothing.
Farther down the line were five buttons. The eye side up counted for two each, the smooth side for nothing.
And last there were five brass tack heads. The sunken side counted for one, the raised side as nothing.
Each man kept his opponent’s score, not his own, by means of handing his opponent a number of sticks equal to his throw. The sticks were kept in view so that all could see them. In the early 1800s Edwin Thompson Denig (a trader married to an Assiniboine woman) noted: “It has been observed in these pages in reference to their gambling that it is much fairer in its nature than the same as carried on by the whites and this is worthy of attention, inasmuch as it shows how the loser is propitiated so that the game may not result in quarrel or bloodshed…”
The game was often kept up for forty-eight to seventy-two hours without a break except for meals. And it was usually played until one or the other of the players was ruined totally.
Horses, guns, weapons, clothing and women were all stakes in these games. Again, Edwin Thompson Denig observed, “We have known Indians to lose everything—horses, dogs, cooking utensils, lodge, wife, even to his wearing apparel…”
The Minnetaree Village
A Permanent Indian Village of mud huts on the Knife River
Upper Missouri Territory—in what is today the State of North Dakota
From the corner of his eye Grey Coyote watched the white man sneak a stick into line beside those that were already present, giving the white man eleven sticks instead of the ten he had won fairly.
So, the white man has no honor.
Grey Coyote raised a single eyebrow and cast a glance across the few feet that separated him from the white man, the man the Minnetaree Indians called the scout, LaCroix. LaCroix was French, as were many of the white men in this country. His face was pale and bearded, his hair long, dark and scraggly. His breath stank of the white man’s whisky, and his body smelled of dirt and grime.
None of this bothered Grey Coyote. In truth, he was smiling at the man, although the expression could hardly be called one of good humor. After a moment, Grey Coyote said, “Darkness has fallen again. We have been playing for longer than a full day now.”
“As you know, we are both guests here, in my friend’s lodge, in the Minnetaree village,” continued Grey Coyote. “And I would hardly be the cause of a fight if I could avoid it, for it would bring shame to our host, Big Eagle.”
Grunting again, LaCroix looked away. His gaze shifted from one object in the room to another, not centering on anything in particular, not even on the lovely white woman who reposed on one of their host’s beds in a corner of the hut.
As discreetly as possible, Grey Coyote let his gaze rest on that golden-haired beauty. He had never before seen a white woman, and to say that Grey Coyote was surprised at her appearance would have been an understatement.
He would have assumed the white man’s woman would be as unkempt and perhaps as hairy as her male counterpart. But this simply was not so. The woman was uncommonly pretty. Slim, small and curvy, with tawny hair that reached well to her waist, the woman’s coloring reminded him of a pale sunset—luminous, translucent, mysterious.
Her eyes were as tawny as her hair, like those of a mountain lion’s. Even at this distance, and despite the ever-growing darkness in the one-room hut, Grey Coyote could discern their color. It was a rare shade to be found here on the plains, where the eye colors of dark brown and black dominated.
Warming to his subject, he noted thoughtfully that the white woman’s skin was also quite fair, unblemished. Her cheeks were glowing, as pale and pink as the prairie rose. To his eye, she was a beautiful sight.
But she paid no heed to the people sharing this hut, not sparing so much as a glance at another being, except perhaps the Indian maid who appeared to serve her. In truth, the white woman seemed lost in her own thoughts.
Maybe this was best. From the looks of her, she might prove to be more than a mere distraction to him if he took a liking to her, something Grey Coyote could ill afford.
Slowly, Grey Coyote returned his attention to the matter at hand. The game of Cos-soo had been started a day ago, Grey Coyote being more than ready to gamble with this particular white man.
After all, LaCroix fit the description of the white man whom he sought. Perhaps this was the chance Grey Coyote awaited.
But to find the man cheating?
Clearing his throat, Grey Coyote spoke again. “I admit it is dark, growing ever darker as we sit here. I concede, too, that a good many hours have passed since we decided to begin this game, but do not think that because of this my eyes are so tired that they do not see.”
“What? What is it that monsieur insinuates?” asked LaCroix, his look incredulous.
Grey Coyote nodded toward LaCroix’s sticks with his forehead. “I am keeping track of the number of your sticks.” Grey Coyote raised one of his eyebrows. “There should be ten sticks that you hold, for as you see, you received ten points for your roll. Remember, you had lost all of your other sticks in the previous roll.”
“That is not true. I kept one stick that was left over from before. I should have eleven sticks, not ten.”
Grey Coyote’s stare was bold. “You lost the last bet.”
LaCroix’s eyes grew round, though he could still not match Grey Coyote’s direct gaze. “Is it true? I thought that… Oui, oui,” he blurted out, his words accompanied by a chuckle. “Ye are right. What was I thinking? I do not know how this other stick came to be here, for I had taken all my sticks away. Perhaps two sticks stuck together. Oui, I am sure that is it.”
“Hau, hau,” said Grey Coyote, using the Assiniboine word for “yes”. “Let us hope that no other sticks see fit to stick together.” Grey Coyote once more nodded toward LaCroix, and reaching across the playing space handed LaCroix fifty sticks. “These are for my last roll.”
“Oui, oui.” LaCroix accepted the twigs and commenced to set them out along the ground beside the two men.
Grey Coyote carefully watched the man at his work, not fooled by LaCroix’s attempt at sleight of hand. “Scout LaCroix, I gave you fifty sticks, the amount of my throw. But you have only set out twenty.”
“But, monsieur, I have done this because it is the number of sticks that is appropriate for your roll. Do ye see? Ye rolled five burnt sides, which is four points each, or twenty.”
Grey Coyote narrowed his brow. “You should look closely at the bowl. Do you not see that the big claw stands on end, red side up? As you and I know, that is worth thirty.”
“Is it standing? Surely you jest, monsieur, for I do not see the big claw stand on end.” LaCroix leaned over, as though to more carefully peer into the polished wooden bowl that was used to throw the dice. The man came so close to his target that he bumped into it, though it was surely no accident. The big claw—the one dice that garnered the highest points—fell to a different position. “Monsieur, you make a mistake. You see, the claw, it does not appear to be on end. However, if ye insist, I will take yer word that it landed that way, and will set out the extra thirty sticks.” His eyes didn’t quite meet Grey Coyote’s.
“Do not bother,” Grey Coyote spoke after a long pause. Though LaCroix’s actions more than alarmed him, Grey Coyote trained his features into a bland expression. He would let the incident pass. After all, it was not in his mind that he had to win everything that this man owned. All he needed was the possession, the one thing that would help Grey Coyote solve the riddle, though at present what that particular possession was escaped him. He said evenly, “We must both pay more attention in the future.”
“Oui, oui, monsieur. And now, if ye insist, ye may have another turn, since ye believed that the big claw stood on end.”
Grey Coyote shrugged. “It is not necessary. I will give you the next roll.”
“Oui, oui,” uttered LaCroix, and after picking up the bowl with four fingers placed inside its immaculately polished rim, he threw the dice up by striking the bowl on the ground.
Well, that’s all for today. Please do leave a comment. That’s all you need to do to enter into the drawing for a free e-book of your choice. I look forward to hearing from y’all.