Wild Onions, by Sarah Black
A tale of hope and heritage, as well as a gentle love story.
Story blurb: THE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.
Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.
He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.
There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.
Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.
The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”
Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”
The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”
Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”
The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.
Review by Gerry Burnie
And speaking of shared dreams (…as does the story of Wild Onions by Sarah Black) I believe she and I may have shared a couple of visions as well. My latest work-in-progress-novel deals with forgotten legends and unsettled spirits too, and so I read this story with particular interest,
It is a lovely story—a true romance—and somewhat unique inasmuch as it deals with love across cultural lines.
The story opens poignantly with Robert Mitchell visiting the cabin he frequently visited with his deceased lover, Val. The cabin goes way back in Val’s ancestry, but beset with medical bills Robert is now thinking of selling it to get out from under these. However, once he gets there and surrounded by memories, he has a change of thought.
Enter Cody Calling Eagle [my main character’s name is ‘Cory’], a Blackfoot descendent who is still as fresh-faced and unaffected as the wilderness around Salmon River, where he is employed as a conservation officer.
He is like a breath of fresh air that fans the embers of love within Robert, and Cody is open to it as well. Then, as mentioned above, they began experiencing visions of a disturbing past connected to the cabin and Val and Cody’s ancestry. These also begin to have an affect on their relationship, and so Robert has to work hard to overcome this.
At another level, Ms Black weaves into the storyline some of the history of the Piegan Blackfeet, i.e. the 1882 disappearance of the buffalo, and the ‘Winter of Starvation” (1883-84), during which 500 Blackfeet died of starvation.
Despite this it is a story of hope and dedication, as well as a gentle love story. Five bees.
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