Grizzly Jim Hawthorn swaggered through Mountain Man Rendezvous, roaring “Nothing can beat this child, I’ll raise your hair, I’ll palaver you to the ground, I’m half-alligator, half-horse and all man.”
Re-enactors swarmed between hundreds of tepees and campfires, costumed in fur hats, buckskin leggings, moccasins, beards to their chests, muzzleloaders in hand and tomahawks on their hip.
Blue Rocky Mountains reared in the distance, while mountain men stooped over blankets covered with turquoise jewelry for sale, get your hand-hewn scalp poles and Arkansas toothpick knives.
Jim was happy.
In the skills competition, “Grizzly Jim” was champion. He loaded his rifle faster and threw his tomahawk closer to the target than any other mountain man.
Luckily for him, Jim didn’t begin guzzling tanglefoot whiskey–straight from his authentic earthenware jug–until he had thrown his last tomahawk and the sponsors presented his certificate of excellence.
He was Mountain Man of the Year.
Jim took a happy breath. This was the only place he felt at home and never wanted to leave.
From Monday through Friday, twelve months per year, Jim toiled at his desk in Cleveland, Ohio, at “We’ve Got Your Back” insurance agency.
Wife Kimberly had to commute further, so Jim got home first, fed the kids, plunked them in front of the TV and had dinner on the table when his wife walked in the door.
“Did you have a good day?” she asked him, nibbling Marie Callender’s (formerly frozen) lasagna.
“Well, I’m going to the gym. Can you put the kids to bed?”
“I’ll just help you with the dishes.”
“I can do them.”
Truth was, he wanted her to go.
The sooner she left, the faster he could pick up one of Louis L’Amour’s Sackett stories, the ones about mountain men.
Or pop a DVD in the player, watch old Grizzly Adams episodes and plan where he would practice shooting his muzzlerloader.
Vivid dreams, in which he was the star, swam through his nights.
There he was, saving the wagon train from Indians, guiding whites through the mountains, dodging hostiles.
When he woke, he sighed, stared at his face in the mirror while he tightened his tie and tried to imagine one good thing which could possibly happen to him.
Kimberly wanted him to take her on a cruise, or just anywhere, Hawaii for God’s sake, she said.
But Jim counted the hours and days until he could leave for the rendezvous: Alone.
Finally there (“Three Days of Rip–Snorting Fun”), in the middle of his brag about being half alligator, Jim suddenly felt annoyed.
The enemy danced on the other side of the rendezvous–dancing to restore the buffalo, dancing to banish White civilization, dancing to bring the tribes back, to bring vanquished warriors to life.
The Snake Indians, the Nez Perće, the Sioux and the Cheyenne were meeting for an inter-tribal pow wow.
He could hear the drum and see them stomping and swaying in their one hundred percent authentic buckskin shirts and leggings, the feather bonnets, their handcrafted buffalo-hide moccasins.
Nobody asked the redskins to the rendezvous, Jim grumbled.
Trying to make white men feel sorry for them, those welfare queens, got what they deserved, why don’t they stay on the reservations, and what about all the pretty white ladies who lost their hair?
If I’d been there, I could have saved the pioneers from the savages, Jim thought.
Buckskin gripped his muscles and his tomahawk swayed at his side.
He ought to tell those injuns a thing or two, he thought and strode toward the dancers, breaking them apart.
Tribal men stumbled back, staring at him. The drum stopped.
“Come on dude, what’d you doing!” an Indian asked him, a young man with braids.
“I’m laying down the law. I want you redskins out.”
Warriors began bunching toward him, dark eyes narrowing.
“Wait a minute, maybe he’s crazy and needs help,” the young man said, pushing the other Indians back with his arms.
“I’m the law west of the Pecos,” Jim roared, the joy of heroic combat filling his heart.
Jim reached for his knife and before the young man could dodge, he brought it down and slashed the Indian’s bare arm.
“What the hell,” the young man exclaimed, scuttling backward and clutching his bleeding arm.
Seeing the blood, Jim felt a lightning bolt of joy hit him, and he remembered he had never taken a scalp.
So Jim charged and grabbed the top of the young man’s hair.
Before he could slash at the Indian’s scalp, however, the other men grabbed Jim, punched him in the stomach and face, forced him to the ground and yelled, “9-11, 9-11, police, help.”
Later, when Jim tried to explain what happened, he couldn’t do it.
He didn’t know.
But he was so embarrassed.
He tried to scalp that injun when they were both standing up, when the only way to scalp an enemy is to knock them to the ground, make a cut on their scalp and rip the whole thing off.
What if the other mountain men saw him do something like that? They would think he didn’t know how to scalp someone.
They would think he was a fool.
He was never returning to the rendezvous, Jim thought, grateful the court let him use his credit card to post bond.