Smoky Mountains

Act 2: Danger, fear.... by Steve Hart

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The sense of danger overwhelmed Timpoochee like a gathering darkness.

He quickly surveyed the trees, the moss, the shrubs around him; the rocks that yielded the great oaks, the silverbell and basswood around him.

His fear urged him to dash up the mountain, to the safety of the spruce and the hemlock.

But the water called him back. That clear, flowing stream, refreshing and life giving. The creatures within it, fish and frogs and salamanders.

In an eddy at the bank’s edge Timpoochee peered into the crystal reflection of the sun spirit dancing on the surface of the long man...

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Act 3: Something isn't right... by Steve Hart

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Timpochee’s image on the water surface moved as he moved, opened its mouth as he opened his.

With a start, another image appeared. That of his brother, Cornstalk, who had been fishing only a few hands upstream.

“Why are you watching me?” whispered Cornstalk. "Am I doing something wrong?”

“You don’t seem concerned the fish seem to be moving upstream faster than usual,” Timpoochee said.

“I didn’t notice,” answered Cornstalk. “But, then, I’m not as quick as Timpoochee.”

“Quiet,” said Timpochee. “This is no time for a fight. Something is not right here.”

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Act 4: You're imagining... by Steve Hart

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"You are imagining things again, brother." 

"I am imagining nothing," Timpooche retorted, briskly. "This is no time to pretend. I am fearful, Cornstalk. Not in the same way as when suli flies overhead but everything on the water and in the trees cries of some danger." 

A wood duck fishing near the edge of the stream suddenly took flight maybe 30 hands from the boys. It appeared as if the water was holding it, would not let it go. 

"Look, Cornstalk!" whispered an agitated Timpoochee as he pointed to a stone-shaped object rising only slightly above the surface of the water. 

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Act 5: Elaqua... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee stepped up higher on the river bank to get a better view.

“What it is?,” asked Cornstalk.

“I can see a twisting shape behind the stone, like long grass in the water,” Timpoochee said.

Suddenly, he froze, as if he’d discovered tlvdatsi on a tree limb above him.

“Elaqua,” Timpoochee said calmly but alert. “Rattlesnake. I don’t know if it means us harm. We’ve done nothing to bring its wrath.”

The boys already knew, from stories of their elders, to avoid offending any of the creatures with great power. Elaqua was one of those creatures.

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Act 6: Sloppy fishing... by Steve Hart

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Still holding his net, Timpochee thought to himself: “If I don’t let go of my net Elaqua will attack. If I let go I will be a laughing stock.”

The snake moved closer.

“They are swift swimmers, Elaqua, even without fins or wings or arms or legs. If I don’t let go will be get fangs for sure, just like Round Lake only two days ago.”

Timpochee gave in, letting go of the net with Elaqua only a few hands away. He jumped up the bank and ran upstream a few steps where Cornstalk was still holding on to his net.

Timpoochee’s fish became entangled in his now free floating net. Elaqua ignored them. But not Tsiya, who swooped from the underbrush like an eagle, swatted away Elaqua, grabbed two fish and darted back into the woods.

“Very sloppy fishing, Timpoochee,” laughed Cornstalk. “That will make a great story around meal fire tonight."

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Act 7: The special one... by Steve Hart

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“It was not my fault, Cornstalk,” replied the defensive Timpoochee. “Elaqua was coming right at me. I had no choice but to let go of the net and fish.”

“You are a very quick thinker, Timpoochee. Maybe you can use that talent at meal to explain why we have fewer fish and one less net.”

“Did you not see the snake? It swam without wings or fins. Do you not know what that means? Would you have just waited for Elaqua to put his fangs into you? Sometimes I wonder why you have not already passed to the lower world in all your thoughtless ways.”

Goosebumps popped up on Timpoochee’s arms. Fear and anger.

“I am the special one,” replied the defiant Cornstalk. “I am the one over whom Unetlanvhi watches. I am the eldest son of Duweuwewanidatsi. The one chosen to lead one day. As long as my heart remains pure I will be protected.”

Cornstalk stood up, gathering his net, expanding his skinny chest as a way of boasting.

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Act 8: No matter for your conceit... by Steve Hart

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“Your heart is not in your head,” Timpoochee countered his brother and returned to the creek bank.

“Your heart cannot see what is around you and warn you of danger just as my head did now.”

Timpoochee sat down on the creek bank. He watched his brother pull in the net filled with fish.

Cornstalk was well named. His lanky arms and legs seemed as a crane’s legs as the elder brother pulled his catch onto the bank.

“No matter your conceit, Cornstalk, I still say something is wrong here today. Elaqua only proved it. I have been feeling it all morning. The fish swim too swiftly upstream. The birds are unusually silent. The frogs long ago ceased their bark.”

“It is that wonderful mind of yours, Timpoochee, that warns you of no danger at all."

Cornstalk gathered his fish, pretending to pay no attention to his brother’s musing.

“Heed my warnings, Cornstalk. There is something in the air. The flavor of the forest today is not the same as yesterday.”

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Act 9: Whiff of danger... by Steve Hart

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“Oh, my brother, said Cornstalk, chuckling. “Is this the same flavor, the same aroma which kept us tracking an injured bear for three days to find it was only a fox who stumbled into a den of dili?”

“I have apologized for the skunk fox,” said Timpoochee. “I’m sorry for taking us on that wild chase. But you must admit it was great fun.”

“Fun for you, perhaps,” snorted Cornstalk. “I returned with so many bug bites and bruises from following you through the forest I may never long for a hunt again.”

“Cornstalk, I am in earnest. Something is wrong here today,” Timpoochee insisted. “I think we should return to town.”

“I see nothing to warn us of any danger,” replied Cornstalk, casting his net back into the glimmering water. “You would like to make me feel foolish. Today it will not work. My catch is too good.”

Timpoochee scanned the river and woods for some clue that would help him solve the mystery his senses told him was all around.

“It is that aroma, Cornstalk.”

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Act 10: The water thrashed fiercely... by Steve Hart

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“Quiet yourself, Timpoochee,” demanded Cornstalk. “I’m trying to concentrate on my fishing.”

“That odor,” Timpoochee insisted, ignoring his brother. “It doesn’t belong to Long Man. Something is here and it doesn’t belong.”

“Maybe the evening meal has already begun to cook in gaduhv.” Cornstalk replied, hoping to quiet his brother’s curiosity.

“The wind is still blowing down the mountain. We cannot smell town from here. It is downwind,” Timpoochee said. “No, this odor is foul, ugly. It’s like spoiled fruit or the hunter too long with a dead ganatlai.”

“Timpoochee, you should stop being such a warrior and start being more of a fisherman.”

But just as the words came from his mouth Cornstalk stopped short.

“Brother, that aroma. Is it foul like an injured ballplayer or a dead bear?”

“That’s it, Cornstalk. It’s becoming stronger. You smell it now?”

“Yes. And I don’t like it. We should leave.”

“You are right, as always, Cornstalk,” replied Timpoochee with a sarcastic note.

But before the boys could collect Cornstalk’s net the water downstream thrashed fiercely. A covey of white cranes and ducks flew frantically upstream, squawking loudly.

“It is Utkena!” screamed Cornstalk. “We are going to die!”

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Act 11: It is not of us... by Steve Hart

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“Look!” Cornstalk shouted and jabbed a finger into the air in the direction of the commotion.

The harsh glare of the river was broken by a large, dark object moving slowly up the river.

Timpoochee gasped.

Peering through the glare he saw the huge darkness reaching up toward the sky. Thunder tore through the water.

“It is not of us!” Timpoochee yelled. “It is not of Long Man!”

Cornstalk reached for his bow and instinctively squared up to fight.

“Wait!” shouted Timpoochee. “Wait...we don’t know what this could mean. It’s bigger than both of us and will kill us. We must run, quickly, back to Duweuwewanidatsi to warn him!”

Snatching what fish they could the boys scrambled back toward town, to their father.

Jumping rocks and ferns, roots and fallen trees they darted between low hanging branches. The forest floor, covered with pine needles and moss-covered stones, gave the boys a quiet track onto which they pounded feet in their haste.

Small rodents and reptiles darted out of their way, surprised as well by the river’s commotion and the bounding humans.

“Quickly!” Timpoochee shouted. “I think it’s gaining on us!”

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Act 12: "Is it from the upper world?" by Steve Hart

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The dense forest gave way to a moist clearing of grass, small bushes and gentle ferns along the river.

The clearing was sloped gently toward Long Man and protected by a wall of tall pine trees which reached to the sky and shielded the community from all but the foulest weather.

The town itself formed a giant circle surrounding the tcokofa, or townhouse, a plaza and chungke yard. The plaza and tcokofa served as a gathering place, particularly for important community meetings.

It was to the tcokfa that Timpoochee and Cornstalk dashed directly - only to find their news had already preceded them.

People were scurrying about as if preparing for a celebration - or battle. The designated warriors were running from their houses armed with spears and arrows. Women and small children were hurrying from the cornfields, all arms filled with sweet white corn.

Timpoochee spotted his father, the leader who the people called, Yufala, maching toward the town’s river landing. He was decorated in the mantles beholding his station in the town - a breechcloth of bright blue like the thief-bird, a coat of fox fur and the ceremonial head dress of eagle feathers.

The town’s soldiers fell in line behind him as the boys came running to catch up.

“What is it, father?” Timpoochee shouted. “Is it from the upper world? Is it Utkena? Do we have to fight?”

Wiser from talks with others around Shaconage, Yufala suspected he knew exactly what it was and also knew his community would have to face it sooner or later.

“It is human made,” Yufala said. “It is a boat. It will be white men. From a different world.”

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Act 13: Their number increasing... by Steve Hart

“Not in many seasons have we seen them,” Yufala explained to his younger son. “But I’ve heard stories of their number increasing and of them venturing closer.

“Sometimes they can be friendly and generous. Sometimes they bring death.”

The people formed a procession behind Yufala and marched through the chungke yard and past the council house to the river landing.

The small town was not unaccustomed to visitors, usually people from other towns but is was not a central gathering place for Tsalagi, the fire people, as they referred to themselves.

Runners from Iroquois cousins to the north or Creek cousins to the south brought news of white men and their increasing numbers.

Tsalagi had, of course, visited other regions and knew - somehow deep in their hearts - the paradise of Shaconage would eventually lure the white people if they continued to grow their presence in the world.

The white people had already subsumed much of the northern mountains and coast of Tsalagi relatives. They seemed to often want to wage war over land, even among themselves.

The large boat move up Long Man and into view of the town’s landing.  

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Act 14: The color of blood, the sky, the sand... by Steve Hart

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The reddish-brown bulk of the vessel plowed the water as long oars stretched from its gunnels and propelled it forward.

Useless sails flapped loudly as the white men scrambled to furl them against the disagreeable wind. Long man was easily 30 canoes wide at the landing and the boat took up nearly half that distance across.

“That odor again,” Timpoochee murmured to himself, realizing how it violated the delightful domestic smells of the town.

It was much worse than fish after sitting in the sun. It smelled unclean, a little like decaying bread.

A brightly colored pennant flew from the top of the ship. It was the color of blood, the sky and the sand all at the same time and was crossed by lines of color from its corners.

The people gathered around the party of elders as the ship moved closer; women with small children at their breasts; older children stood bravely beside the adults.

Standing his ground beside Yufala, Timpoochee could not find Cornstalk anywhere in the crowd.

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Act 15: They want to trade... by Steve Hart

The men riding atop the huge boat were very pale, almost shiny, Timpoochee thought. They wore colorless garb which covered most of their bodies.

“Why do these white men wear so much clothing on a such a warm day,” he asked Yufala.

He got no response. His father watched the scene intently.

Other men rowed the giant craft; black men, like wood after it has been burned by the fire.

“Look,” said one of the elders standing near Yufala. “The men rowing, the men like the bear. They are working, not the white ones. Remember what runners from the north have said about white men making others do their work for them.”

Yufala said nothing, absorbed in the vision of the large ship, a vision he’d seen before, a ship such as this coming up Long Man to their community.

Timpoochee spotted another man standing near the bow of the ship, one more familiar to him. Timpoochee recognized the man as being of the Muscogee people.

“Enhesse!” shouted the man, suddenly. “Friend!”

Yufala smiled. He recognized the tongue.

Although different from his own people, Muscogee spoke a similar language. They could understand each other. They could easily talk.

Timpoochee stuck close to Yufala as a crew from the ship worked calmly to unfasten a smaller boat from the side of the ship and lower it into the water. Others climbed down and onto the smaller boat. They rowed toward the town landing.

“I am Chekilli,” shouted the Muscogee man as the party made its way closer to the shore.

“I bring white traders from the land of Britain. They have come a great distance to talk to you. They want to trade.”

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Act 16: Filled with treasure... by Steve Hart

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“I have heard of these people,” responded Yufala to Chekilli’s greeting.  

Most of Yufala’s towns people put away their bows and galuyasdi.

“You are welcome. Just as Long Man connects all water so shall the blood of my people be connected to your blood in friendship.”

“Thank you, Laha,” Chekilli said, turning and gesturing toward the white men.

“May I introduce Capt. John Wills of HMS Weymouth, commander of the Third Battery of of Royal Artillery. He has come from their settlement very far away, in their town called Pensacola at Amequohi.”

The captain was dress in a rich blue coat decorated with medals and spangled with brass buttons and bright, shiny attachments. Timpoochee could barely behold his glint in the sun.

“And may I also introduce the Right Reverend Paul Winfield, Rector of the Church of England.”

A dour, solemn looking man, dressed in all black, the priest extended his hand to Yufala as was the custom of Yonega and retreated immediately as if frightened by the gentle leader.

“Yours is beautiful, magnificent territory,” Capt. Wills said to Yufala and waited for Chekilli to interpret.

He did not extend his hand to Yufala as had the grim man in black.

“I’m quite sure it is filled with much treasure.”

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Act 17: These days have been grave... by Steve Hart

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“How is alisi?” Timpoochee asked as he entered the house to apply the medicine prepared for the old woman.

“She is resting well, son,” replied Swift Deer in her gentle voice. “The medicine relieves the pain of her body but I don’t know any medicine to relieve the pain of her heart.”

“I know,” Timpoochee said solemnly. “These days have been grave. But the sun is brighter now. We have begun a fire. The village has cleansed itself in Long Man. We will endure this. I only hope Grandmother Ama will also endure.”

Expertly he prepared the medicine, just as he had been taught. The bark of elm and dogwood, mixed with woman’s thumb, branch lettuce, dodder and buckeye made a soothing poultice for the old woman’s wounds. For extra comfort Timpoochee mixed a bit of oswego tea for a restfull sleep and the heal-all, ganifuikski.

“The treatment will ease the swelling and pain of alisi’s bruises and give her rest and sleep,” Timpoochee pronounced as if he had been in the medicine for many seasons.

Swift Deer watched his procedure with pride and wonder. He was growing into a man, rapidly. In a strange way, the events of the preceding days brought her closer to her younger son. For as long as she could remember she seemed more concerned with Cornstalk. Timpoochee resented that. She could tell.  

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Act 18: It's because of your birth... by Steve Hart

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It was not that Swift Deer treated Timpoochee badly. Cornstalk simply required more attention.

She had seen the boys differently, though, since the shaking earth.

“Timpoochee,” Swift Deer called out quietly. “How would you like to spend the rest of the day fishing instead of tending to Grandmother Ama? She is getting better and you’ve been working hard and have been very attentive. You deserve some time for play.”

“I would like that very much,” Timpoochee said.

He finished dressing Grandmother’s arms and scampered out the door and across the town common to the sand river bank. He was suddenly full of energy and self-confidence from the lessons he learned of the medicine.

“I truly am proud of you, my younger son,” Swift Deer said softly to herself. “Although I wish you had not come into life as you did. It’s because of your birth that I cannot be sure your life will be meaningful.”

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Act 19: He will not waiver... by Steve Hart

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Grandmother Ama stirred.

“Oh,” she grunted and rolled over on her side. “Is the young one gone?”

“I sent him to the river to fish,” Swift Deer replied. “Don’t move too quickly, Grandmother, you are still weak.”

“I will become like death itself it it will help the young one grow into manhood,” Grandmother spoke with a clear but still weakened voice. “I told you these days would show the difference in your sons.

“Timpoochee is the leader. He is the one whose spirit walks with the sky. Cornstalk is a coward, too easily led by others.”

“I wish I could be sure,” Swift Deer said, still watching Timpoochee scamper toward Long Man.

“You can be sure,” Grandmother’s voice lifted. “You will see. He will attend my wounds as long as he thinks I require it. He will not waiver.”

“It’s just that I see those bad sings in him as he grows older,” said Swift Deer. “His hair is the same black and his eyes are deep in his head, like the greatest leaders and warriors. But his skin is lighter and his nose is sharp, like the Yonega nose, not flat like Cornstalk’s.”

“You are grasping at straws, woman,” insisted Grandmother. “You will see that Cornstalk can not grow with the others. You will have to let him go on his own. Don’t be worried about Timpoochee’s birth. It will make him a great leader someday.”

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Act 20: He cannot lead the people... by Steve Hart

“But Cornstalk stands in line before Timpoochee,” Swift Deer turned and faced Grandmother Ama. “He is older. He will become Duweuwewanidatsi when Yufala can no longer stand.”

“I will tell you no more,” the old woman responded, her voice heavy and burdened. “Cornstalk’s mind is impure. He cannot lead the people.”

Swift Deer had to admit Timpoochee had the greater potential of the two boys. He is always curious, always asking questions and seeking to understand why the world is as it is. He was mild mannered, respectful of others in the town and always eager to help where he could.

She enjoyed watching him play on the water. On Long Man he was in his world, expertly piloting the canoe up and down the river, at home along its banks and with its animals.

In his youth he developed his skills as a fisherman, both with the net and with the bow. From the time he was a small boy he could shoot u-ga and other utusti with seemingly little effort.

One of his favorite games was to wait on the river bank for a school of u-ga to come along. He would wait and catch them with his arrows as they leaped above the water surface. He always returned to town with a good catch.

With his eyes he could follow them in the clear waters as they made their way upstream. He could tell when they were about to jump by the way the dipped. His marksmanship made him stand out among the other young boys.

But still there was the matter of his physical appearance. As he grew older it became more and more a topic of conversation among the older women.

But no one could really deny the heritage of Swift Deer and Yufala’s younger son. Swift Deer would not allow it.

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Act 21: Always a mystery... by Steve Hart

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“You don’t need to worry about your son’s acceptance,” Grandmother Ama spoke up again.

She seemed to always know what Swift Deer was thinking.

“You and your sons were accepted long ago into Anisahoni, our Blue Clan,” Grandmother said. “When Yufala made you his wife, the wife of a Wolf Clan leader, any thoughts vanished that you might not be of our people.”

Swift Deer was always a mystery to many of the town’s people.

The legend said she came from, was once a part of, the Anigusa people in the lower lands, a beloved woman in one of the towns along the Anigusa Long Man. She was said to have fled her town after her husband was killed by British soldiers on a scouting mission.

It was also said Cornstalk was the son of her Anigusa husband and Timpoochee the son of a white trader with whom Swift Deer lived for a while after fleeing her town and dead husband.

No one knew for sure.

All the town’s people really knew was that while still a young man Yufala ventured south on a very long hunting trip to the lowlands and that when he returned he was not alone. He returned with Swift Deer and her very young sons. Timpoochee still a baby.

“He left a boy,” the town’s people used to say. “But returned a man - with a family.”

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