Continuing my series on “learning history through songs” I just knew I had to include this “series” of songs by one of my favorite songwriters/balladeers, the incomparable Marty Robbins. This isn’t specific history, but these songs give us an idea of how life was for this particular gunfighter, then for his love, Feleena, and then how a modern-day man feels such a connection to it all. I love that there is “history” as we think of it, and then the modern-day connection to it all to “complete the circle.”
How many songs do you know that had sequels to them? Remember “back in the day” when recording artists would sometimes “answer” a song with one of their own? Well, if you love Marty Robbins like I do, you’ll know that his song El Paso had not only one sequel, but two, and he was working on a third sequel when he died in 1982! I think that’s a “record” for musical sequels, don’t you? I love ballads, or story-songs, and to find out that there were sequels to my all-time favorite one was pure pleasure!
El Paso was written and originally recorded by Marty Robbins, and was released in September 1959 (I was two years old at the time, but Marty was my man from the minute I heard this song!) Though it was originally released on the album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, within a month it was released as a single and immediately became a hit on both the country and pop music charts, reaching NUMBER 1 IN BOTH at the start of 1960! But that wasn’t the end of it at all—it also won the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording in 1961, and with good reason. It still remains Robbins’ best-known song, all these years later.
Wikipedia states: It is widely considered a genre classic for its gripping narrative which ends in the death of its protagonist, its shift from past to present tense, haunting harmonies by vocalists Bobby Sykes and Jim Glaser (of the Glaser Brothers) and the eloquent and varied Spanish guitar accompaniment by Grady Martin that lends the recording a distinctive Tex-Mex feel. The name of the character Feleena was based upon a schoolmate of Robbins in the fifth grade; Fidelina Martinez.
The storyline is this: The song is a first-person narrative told by a cowboy in El Paso, Texas, in the days of the Wild West. The singer recalls how he frequented “Rosa’s Cantina”, where he became smitten with a young Mexican dancer named Feleena. When the singer notices another cowboy sharing a drink with “wicked Feleena”, out of jealousy he challenges the newcomer to a gunfight. The singer kills the newcomer, then flees El Paso for fear of being hanged for murder or killed in revenge by his victim’s friends. In the act of escaping, the singer commits the additional and potentially hanging offense of horse theft (“I caught a good one, it looked like it could run”), further sealing his fate in El Paso. Departing the town, the singer hides out in the “badlands of New Mexico.”
The song then fast-forwards to an undisclosed time later – the lyrics at this point change from past to present tense – when the singer describes the yearning for Feleena that drives him to return, without regard for his own life, to El Paso. He states that his “love is stronger than [his] fear of death.” Upon arriving, the singer races for the cantina, but is chased and fatally wounded by a posse. At the end of the song, the singer recounts how Feleena has come to his side and he dies in her arms after “one little kiss”.
Robbins wrote two songs that are explicit sequels to “El Paso”, one in 1966, one in 1976. Robbins intended to do one more sequel, “The Mystery of Old El Paso”, but he died in late 1982 before he could finish the final song.
Feleena (From El Paso) (FIRST SEQUEL TO EL PASO)
In 1966, Robbins recorded “Feleena (From El Paso)”, telling the life story of Feleena, the “Mexican girl” from “El Paso”, in a third-person narrative. This track was over eight minutes long, but what a story it tells!
Born in a desert shack in New Mexico during a thunderstorm, Feleena runs away from home at 17, living off her charms for a year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, before moving to the brighter lights of El Paso to become a paid dancer. After another year, the narrator of “El Paso” arrives, the first man she did not have contempt for. He spends six weeks romancing her and then, in a retelling of the key moment in the original song, beset by “insane jealousy”, he shoots another man with whom she was flirting.
Her lover’s return to El Paso comes only a day after his flight (the original song suggests a longer time frame before his return) and as she goes to run to him, the cowboy motions to her to stay out of the line of fire and is shot; immediately after his dying kiss, Feleena shoots herself with his gun. Their ghosts are heard to this day in the wind blowing around El Paso: “It’s only the young cowboy showing Feleena the town”.
In 1976 Robbins released another reworking, “El Paso City”, in which the present-day singer is a passenger on a flight over El Paso, which reminds him of a song he had heard “long ago”, proceeding to summarize the original “El Paso” story. “I don’t recall who sang the song,” he sings, but he feels a supernatural connection to the story: “Could it be that I could be the cowboy in this mystery…,” he asks, suggesting a past life. This song reached No. 1 on the country charts. The arrangement includes riffs and themes from the previous two El Paso songs. Robbins wrote it while flying over El Paso in, he reported, the same amount of time it takes to sing–four minutes and 14 seconds. It was only the second time that ever happened to him; the first time was when he composed the original “El Paso” as fast as he could write it down.
Though there have been many cover versions of the original “El Paso” song, Marty Robbins put out more than one version of it, himself. There have actually been three versions of Robbins’ original recording of “El Paso”: the original full-length version, the edited version, and the abbreviated version, which is an alternate take in stereo that can be found on the Gunfighter Ballads album. The original version, released on a 45 single record, is in mono and is around 4 minutes and 38 seconds in duration, far longer than most contemporary singles at the time, especially in the country genre. Robbins’ longtime record company, Columbia Records, was unsure whether radio stations would play such a long song, so it released two versions of the song on a promo 45—the full-length version on one side, and an edited version on the other which was nearer to the three-minute mark. This version omitted a verse describing the cowboy’s remorse over the “foul evil deed [he] had done” before his flight from El Paso. The record-buying public, as well as most disc jockeys, overwhelmingly preferred the full-length version.
I can’t tell you how many times I played my 45 record of El Paso on my little portable record player as a little girl. As a country and western song, this has to qualify as my all-time favorite, and my husband even managed to record and adapt the ringtone for me on my iPhone, so when my phone rings it plays the opening words to EL PASO. This has been a huge embarrassment for my kids when they were teens and had to be with me in public, but also was a source of amazement for them when other people actually smiled and said, “Hey! Marty Robbins!
Now THAT recognition is the mark of endurance—a song that is still beloved by so many after over sixty years!
I’m offering a free copy of The Devil and Miss Julia Jackson to one lucky commenter today (USA only)–so don’t forget to leave a comment and your contact info!
What’s your favorite classic country & western song? Is there a sequel to it?
When my husband and I went to the National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought I’d find pictures and stories about working cowgirls, rodeo queens, and maybe some famous cowgirl actresses, like Dale Evans. What I didn’t expect was an extensive display of posters and memorabilia from Wild West shows, especially Buffalo Bill’s show. Luckily, we took our camera and got some great pics (those shown here).
Touring the exhibits, I learned many historians believe what we know as our western genre sprang from the late nineteenth century touring companies, calling themselves Wild West shows or rodeos. In particular, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show helped to shape both the substance of an American national identity and the way it was disseminated in our culture. Buffalo Bill brilliantly established the thesis that the true American identity was founded in the West. Thus, the entire western genre owes its continuing popularity to the basics set out in the Wild West Show. Thousands of books, movies, and television shows are the stirring “progeny” of these shows.
Buffalo Bill or William F. Cody was the real thing. Born in a log cabin in Iowa in 1846, Cody grew up in Kansas. Young Cody worked as an ox-team driver, as a messenger for the pony express, and on numerous wagon trains. He prospected for gold and went on trapping expeditions, becoming a good hunter. During the Civil War he served as an army scout and guide. The U.S. Army was Cody’s most important employer in the decade after the Civil War. He worked on short-term contracts as a civilian scout, guiding troops through unmapped terrain, hunting for meat, carrying messages, tracking Native Americans, and participating in military encounters.
After “putting on a show” for several well-heeled Eastern and European sportsmen wanting to hunt buffalo and big game, along with a stint in vaudeville, Cody came up with the idea for the Wild West show. Though based loosely on the traveling venue of circuses of the era, Cody strived for the ultimate “western” realism in his shows. With Nate Salsbury as the general manager, and the show’s publicist, John Burke, who employed innovative techniques such as celebrity endorsements, press kits, publicity stunts, billboards, and product licensing, Buffalo Bill’s show was the most successful Wild West show of its time.
Along with the most famous female entertainer of the era, sharpshooter Annie Oakley (a headliner in Buffalo Bill’s show), Wild West shows employed dozens of female athletes who could rope, trick ride, sharpshoot, wrestle steers, and ride broncs. Cowgirls carved an identity for themselves that allowed them to live in both the male and female spheres. While performing athletic feats, they adhered to those things that made them acceptable as females, such as an ability to cook, sew, and clean. In fact, most of the performers sewed parts of their own costumes, like special beading or western motifs. From these roots, historians believe our concept evolved of what a cowgirl is, just as the western genre was portrayed by the Wild West shows.
Since actresses and show business people of the time were deemed to have “susceptible” morals, most female Wild West show entertainers went to great lengths to portray themselves as “ladies.” This duality for the female performers is most easily observed in their dress and manner.
The challenging environment of being a female entertainer in a Wild West show captured my imagination, and the heroine for “Kurt” sprang to life. But Kurt, the hero, who was the baby in my story, “Zach,” had been born and reared in rural Texas. See how I bring together these two characters to fall in love in my new release from the Cupids & Cowboys series, Book 11, “Kurt.”
Please comment and enter a random drawing for a digital copy of “Kurt,” my new release, along with “Zach,” the previously-related book. If you already have both or either of these books, please feel free to pick any digital book(s) at my Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Hebby-Roman/e/B001KI1L0O//a?tag=pettpist-20. In addition, the lucky winner will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card.
What do you think the hardest part would be for a cowgirl in a Wild West Show?
Hebby Roman is a New York traditionally published, small-press published, and Indie published #1 Amazon best-selling author of both historical and contemporary romances. Her book, BORDER HEAT, was a Los Angeles Times Book Festival selection. She has been a RONE Finalist four times and in three different categories.
When I’ve talked about that book, I’ve mostly focused on the hero, Falcon Hunt.
The hero in this one is extra fun in two ways.
One, to me, the big one, Amnesia. Very interesting and tricky to write.
Two, he’s a Tennessee Mountain Man in 1870.
I played around a LOT with his accent, trying to catch that southern and mountain cadence that’s not really a western cowboy voice.
So anyway, those two things made writing Falcon Hunt really fun. But I haven’t spent nearly as much time talking about Cheyenne. The heroine. And I should because Cheyenne is the kind of character I just love to write. Tough western women who take care of themselves and everyone around them.
That’s Sophie McClellen from Petticoat Ranch. That’s Belle Tanner from The Husband Tree. That’s allllllllllllllll of Sophie’s Daughters. That’s Callie Kincaid from Over the Edge. That’s Ruthy MacNeil from Swept Away. That’s Mel (Don’t call me Melanie) Blake from Too Far Down, Bailey Wilde from Fire and Ice. Oh I could go on and on. In every three book series I can’t seem to control myself from making at least one of my hero a feisty lady rancher.
In the Brothers in Arms series, book #1, Braced for Love, the heroine. Win. is a sweet natured school marm with a fancy finishing school education. And in book #3 Love on the Range the heroine Molly, is a smart, quiet, intense little fairy princess. But book #2, A Man with a Past, Cheyenne Brewster, is a feisty lady rancher.
I really believe that probably, most women of the west were like this. I think when you lived a long way out, a lot of the rules and behaviors expected of women got shoved aside for the practical. Side-saddles? Maybe sometimes, mostly not. Hoop skirts? No, more like riding skirts if they didn’t just outright wear pants. I’ll bet those women were wearing long woolen underwear and had their hair tied back in a no nonsense braid…if they didn’t just plain cut it short.
So here comes Cheyenne Brewster, the toughest lady yet. And why does she fall for the guy who’s inherited her ranch right out from under her? How does this tough lady face off against a very tough man she can’t steamroll?
Well, she admires strength. She admires his tracking ability. She ultimately trusts him and that is huge for Cheyenne who was so badly betrayed by her stepfather, not just in his will, but all of his life.
Cheyenne Brewster has been wandering in the wilderness trying to get over her killing fury since the beginning of book #1. She vanished from that story–I’m hoping that story was interesting enough that no one paid much attention to the fact that both Cheyenne and Falcon vanished. Now, she’s met up with her friend in the woods and both of the invading ‘surprise’ Hunt brothers, Kevin and Falcon. Cheyenne has some catching up to do.
She was honestly shocked to see Kevin holding Win’s hand and pulling her away from all this death.
“What is going on with you two?” Cheyenne stood, her eyes shifting between the two of them and their clasped hands.
“Uh…” Win looked at Kevin, then smiled. “We’re married.”
“What?” Cheyenne shoved the hood all the way off her head.
The rain had stopped and that was a shame. She could use a solid dousing to clear her muddled thoughts.
“Yep, well and truly married.” Kevin put his arm around Win.
Cheyenne considered knocking the arm off. Especially when Kevin smiled. Then Win snuggled closer like a brainless sheep, and Cheyenne figured attacking Kevin wasn’t going to go well with her friend.
“You’re married. Falcon here has been wandering in the woods for days. Armed gunmen hunting you.” Cheyenne flung her arms wide, “I can’t leave any of you alone for a minute or trouble comes flooding.
“This one’s dead, too.” Falcon knelt by the man he’d killed. He tossed him onto his stomach and retrieved his knife.
Win said, “We were going to be kicked out of the ramrod’s house with Baker coming home. I guess we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
“What in tarnation is a ramrod?” Falcon wiped the blood off his knife and stuck it in his sheath.
Cheyenne couldn’t help but admire the man’s style.
Cheyenne led the way home.
She had a lot of questions and mostly they were answered. Win being married, that just didn’t make a lick of sense. But what about Cheyenne’s life did?
And Falcon Hunt. That’s who she’d been tracking. Despite hating these two men fiercely, she had to admit a deep respect for Falcon.
They hiked for hours. She was the only one in good shape. And the only one who knew where they were going.
Do you have a favorite character type in a book? Do you like tough women? Damsels in Distress? Spies with near superpowers? Cowboys of any type, any time?
Leave a comment about a favorite character type to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of A Man with a Past.
I love stepping back in time. Through the pages of a book, the visual delight of a period movie or television series, looking at old pictures, digging into research, or even working on a craft that has been practiced for hundreds of years. There is something about the past that is just so romantic and enticing to me.
It probably comes as no surprise, then, that when my daughter and I met up in Waco for a girl’s weekend a few months ago, we spent our time stepping through as many time portals as we could. In a previous post I shared about the Waco Suspension Bridge that was built to allow cattle to be driven over the Brazos (you can find that post here), but today, I’d like to share some photos from my favorite visit of the the day – The East Terrace House Museum.
The tour started off in perfect style when the door was opened by our docent who was dressed in period costume. She is a history student from Baylor working on her master’s degree, and she was the perfect hostess.
The first room we toured was the library, which of course became one of my favorites. Reading by a fire with plenty of natural light in what was probably the quietest room of the house.
Passing through the doorway with our guide, we came to the ladies sitting room. A larger space with more furniture to allow one to sit with friends and family while plying a needle or writing some letters. It is hard to tell from this photograph, but the desk and chair in the corner that belonged to Mrs. Mann seemed better suited to a child. She was such a tiny woman, that even with the full skirts of her day, her chairs were more comparable to those for children than adults.
Next we came to the elaborate dining room. The table is set with the family china, and each place setting has its own salt cellar. They preserved so many family heirlooms in this marvelous home.
The next set of rooms we came to were large, open double parlors that could be used for all manner of entertaining. These were matched on the second story with a long ballroom. But on the main floor, the highlight was the nook on the far end that created a music room with Cemira’s harp and piano.
At the back of the house was the kitchen. When the home was originally built, the kitchen would have been detached from the house, but as time passed and things were modernized, it joined with the main house.
At the back of the kitchen were a set of stairs, and at the top of these stairs was the bathroom that would serve the family whose bedrooms were situated on this second floor. The Mann home was the first to have running water in Waco, although initially, the water only ran one direction–out. Water would still have to be heated on the kitchen stove and carted upstairs, but when the bath was over, the water would drain out. Not too much longer, the Waco Waterworks were built right across the street from East Terrace, allowing full-service plumbing.
This bedroom was a guest suite situated off of the ballroom. Ladies could use it as a retiring room to rest or repair their hair or dress. Or if the party lasted long into the night, it could serve as an overnight respite. It is not visible in this photo, but there was also a Murphey bed along the wall on the left. When put up, it looked like a fancy wood panel with a full-length mirror attached. But if called upon, it could be lowered to allow more space for guests to sleep.
I saved my favorite place in the house for last. This staircase let up to the tower room that offered magnificent views of the Brazos and surrounding areas. But it is this nook tucked beneath the staircase that captured my heart. A small little sewing nook with natural lighting and trunk to hold supplies. I would love to convert this into a cozy reading nook with shelves full of my favorite historical novels close at hand. I think I’ll keep the sewing machine, though, for ambiance.
Do you enjoy touring historic homes or perhaps collecting antiques? Which room shown above would you choose to incorporate into your own home?
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.