Wenona stood behind the tree watching as Matoskah [mah-too-skah] spoke to the white man. The white man had first come two moons ago, and had returned frequently. He was friends with Kohana [ko-hah-nah] and had finally been persuaded by him to come and visit and meet the tribe.
Everyone in the village liked this man despite their past experience with the white men. And the man seemed to be comfortable and fit right into the tribe.
Wenona was fascinated by him, but at the same time scared of him. In the two moons that he had been around she had yet to ever speak with him.
"NONA!" Chumani called.
Wenona turned to look over her shoulder at her mother.
"I thought I told you to bring water?" Chumani said exasperated as she approached her daughter. Nona sighed and suppressed a groan at the reprimand.
"Well?" Chumani asked looking at her daughter and motioning to the nearby waterskins.
Nona again suppressed a groan as she stooped to pick up the skins. She glanced quickly in the direction of Matoskah and the man before heading to the creek.
"And don't stop to play this time," Chumani called after her as she left. She shook her head as she watched Nona go. There is no taming that child, she thought with a smile.
In the fifteen summers that had passed since she had given birth to Wenona, the girl and grown as wild as the wind itself blowing across the prairie. She had a fierce spirit and was the most stubborn person Chumani knew. Once Nona made up her mind there was no changing it.
Chumani sighed. Nona should be choosing a husband and starting a family now. But she was more interested in learning to hunt and track. There was a protective streak in her that made her want to provide and take care of those she loved. Perhaps things would be different if she had grown up with a father Chumani thought.
Maybe someday Nona would change her ways. Chumani laughed to herself at that thought, knowing that would never happen.
Nona's mind wandered as she walked to the creek. She thought of nothing in particular, except how much she hated doing chores. As she squatted to fill the waterskins, she spied the tracks of a rabbit near the water's edge.
The waterskins were once again forgotten as her eyes followed the trail back to the grass behind her. She stood and started tracking the animal, eager to hone her skills.
Nona was starting to get frustrated as she knelt by the tracks left in the soft earth. She had been tracking the rabbit for half an hour now and was getting nowhere. She let out a irritated breath and concentrated on the tracks again.
"He's back trackin'," a voice to her left said.
Nona looked up into the bright blue eyes of the white man. The man couldn't hide his shocked expression as he noticed the color of Nona's eyes. Nona frowned, so intent on the hunt that she forgot to be nervous.
"How do you know?" she asked.
"See here," the man said, squatting next to her and pointing to the tracks, "this print here has toes on both sides. I don't know of any rabbits with feet like that" he said grinning.
Nona peered closely at the imprint.
"It's tricks the little fellers use to fool ya," the man said. "See if you can figure out which way he went from here" he added.
Nona studied the trail. As she did so, the man studied her. He noticed that her skin, while still the coppery tone of her people, was a lighter shade. And there was no mistaking that her eyes were not a common shade of the native people. This girl had white blood in her. He wondered about this, knowing about the attack fifteen years ago.
"That way," Nona said suddenly pointing.
"Good" the man said. "Now let's see if you can git yerself a rabbit" he added smiling.
He fell in behind Nona as she moved off following the trail.
"SHOOT!" she cursed as she startled the rabbit hiding nearby. The man chuckled.
"That's yer first lesson," he said. Nona looked at him puzzled. The man say this and explained.
"Ya see, rabbits are tricky little fellers. They like to back-track and run back and forth all over their own tracks to confuse ya. Then they dive for some nearby cover and freeze. Most people walk right past 'em followin' the wrong trail," he told her.
Nona huffed exasperated. She would NEVER get good at this if she kept missing tip offs like this. It was then that Nona looked at the man in front of her and felt her nervousness return.
She looked at her feet not knowing what to do or say now. The man noticed her unease.
"I'm Vin" he said to her bending down slightly to look into her face. Nona continued to look at her feet.
"Well," Vin said standing up straight again, "Do you have a name?"
Nona looked up at him, and seeing his lazy grin answered him.
"Wenona, but everyone calls me Nona," she said.
"Nona huh? Well it's nice to meet you Nona," Vin said, smiling warmly at her.
Nona smiled brightly, her nervousness gone. Vin noticed what a pretty girl see was suddenly.
Nona flinched at the sound of her mother's voice suddenly remembering the water she was supposed to have brought long ago. Chumani was less than pleased as she approached Vin and Nona carrying the waterskins Nona had abandoned at the creek.
"I can see you once again got sidetracked," Chumani said, handing Nona the waterskins.
"Oh...that was my fault Ma'am," Vin answered quickly before Nona could speak. "I was lookin' for Kohana and Nona here was helpin me out."
Chumani looked at Nona suspiciously.
"Well....I guess it is all right then," Chumani said. "Come now," she said to Nona, turning to go.
As Nona fell in behind her mother, she looked over her shoulder and smiled brightly at Vin. Vin tipped his hat in return then turned in the other direction.
Nona listened in rapt attention as the men planned the hunt. She loved going on hunting trips and wished she could join in the actual hunt instead of just the butchering.
She was also thrilled that Vin was coming along with the tribe.
It had been a moon since he had been to the village and had given her the
tip on tracking rabbits, although she hadn't been able to put the knowledge
to use yet. The tribe was busy preparing for the coming winter and
most of her time had been spent helping to stock up on food and supplies
to see the tribe through the season. Now with that done, the tribe
was preparing to secure meat and furs for themselves by hunting the buffalo.
But Nona had managed in that time to find out as much as she could about Vin. And what she had learned about him had quickly turned her fascination with him into a case of hero-worship.
Nona had been told by Matoska, their chief, that Vin was a buffalo hunter, but not the kind who killed then wasted. That he was an honorable man who only took what he needed from the land. And that he was also a skilled hunter, tracker, and an excellent marksman.
Nona has listened to Matoskah's words intently, absorbing everything. And she had hardly been able to contain her excitement when Matoskah had told her Vin would be coming on the buffalo hunt and wintering with them.
Nona was pulled from her musings when she saw Vin notice her standing at the edge of the group. He smiled and tipped his hat to her which caused Nona to smile widely in return.
As the meeting broke up Vin approached her.
"Catch any rabbits lately?" he asked grinning. Nona returned his grin.
"No....I'm still not very good at tracking" she admitted.
"Well....I'll tell ya what. Why don't you and me go up on the plain and I'll teach ya a few tricks to catch the little fellers" Vin said. Nona beamed.
"Okay!" she said. "I'll be right back!" she called turning and running to her dwelling.
Vin chuckled at her enthusiasm as he watched her go.
Nona burst through the opening of her and Chumani's tent, startling her mother as she packed for the hunting trip.
"Mother! Vin is going to teach me to track rabbits!!" she said excitedly, rummaging through her already packed belongs.
"Calm down" Chumani said walking over to Nona, She couldn't help but smile at her daughter's excitement.
"I have to hurry! I told Vin I'd be right back!" Nona said as she grabbed her knife.
"He won't go anywhere without you," Chumani said, picking up the items Nona had tossed aside in her search.
Once Nona had secured her knife to her belt she darted out of the tent. Chumani followed her and watched as Nona ran to Vin and the two walked off in the direction of the plains.
Chumani stood watching with a small frown on her face. She knew Vin was a good man and trusted him, but she couldn't help worrying about Nona being with a white man.
Nona knew her father was white, but Chumani hadn't told her what had really happened. She didn't want Nona to dislike Vin, but she wanted her to use caution. Chumani knew Nona had developed a strong attachment to Vin.
Perhaps it is time to tell her, Chumani thought.
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