Whirling Winds | By: LeRoy Bohrer | | Category: Short Story - Western Bookmark and Share

Whirling Winds

"Whirling Winds"



     He had traveled many miles since the shooting,

and he was certain Taggart contued to relentlessly

track him across the plains. It was late afternoon

and his main concern were the jagged, black clouds

that were forming in the southwest. It was spring

and and in the mid-west the threat of a violent

storm was a certainty. Hank Avery was hoping to

find shelter from the approaching storm when he

spotted the cave nestled in the boulders. He

dismounted, unsaddled his black mare and carried

the saddle along with the rest of his meager

belongings and laid thim inside the cave. He released

the mare knowing it would return to him after the

storm had passed.  He glanced to the north hoping

that Taggert had given up his pursuit, but that was

unlikly since he had see dust clouds in the distance

earlier in the day.


     The black ominous clouds moved toward him

with a continuous rumble of thunder as lightning

knifed across the darkening skies.


     The wind intensified, and in the distance, a black

funnel dropped out of the clouds and moved slowly

toward the ground. Hank crawled into the cave and

sat with his back against the rocky side. Outside

rain mixed with hail began to fall in torrents, and

with the continuous flashes of lightning, Hank

discovered he wasn't alone. There was a large

figure sitting in the rear of the cave. A few feet

in front of where the figure sat was a pile of orange

embers. Hank pulled his pistol out of it's holster and

stared into the darkness with bated breath.


     "Hello, back there," he said, "I didn't know the

cave was occupied."


     When he recieved no reply, he thought the figure

might be dead. He was suddenly distracted by a roar 

that sounded like a train as small pebbles, grass

and water were sucked into the cave. A minute

later, the roar subsided, the wind abated, but the

heavy rain, thunder and lightning continued.


      Hank looked toward the rear of the cave. "Are

you alive, friend?"


     "I am not your friend," a man said in a voice

that sounded like wheels grinding in gravel. "I was

here first."


     Hank swallowed hard as water trickled into the

cave. He wondered if the man was going to chase

him out into the storm.


     "I'll be leaving as soon as the rain stops."


     "Going to rain all night," the man said. "And

since you're here, I might as well get the fire going



     Hand heard the popping and cracking of bones

as the figure began to stir which was followed by

rustling sounds. The man laid some dried wood

on the embers and soon flames illuminated the

cave. The man who stood over the fire was an

aged Indian with which hair that flowed down his

back, and he had a deeply lined face, and was

bent forward at the waist.


     Hank holstered his pistol and moved further

back into the cave as smoke drifted toward the

opening. The old man wrapped a blanket around

him self and set back down.

  "Why are you so far from your people, old timer?"


  "Came here to die'"


  Hank nodded and stared at the fire."Quite a storm

out there tonight."


    "I was born on a night like this, and my parant's

named me Whirling Winds," the old man reflected.

"With the coming of the spring storms, I knew it was

time for the spirits ti take me, so I gathered my

few belongings, mounted my pony and came here.

We camped here many moons ago, so I remembered

the cave." He paused to catch his breath. "What

brings you to this place?"


     Hank took his stetson off and laid in on the 

ground and ran his hand over his beard and through

his black, shoulder length hair. "Name is  Hank Avery

and I was born and raised in the Dakota territory.

I took a job as a cowpuncher when I was a

teenager, and been doing it for some fifteen years.

When I get to town, I like to find a card game. I

got into this poker game, and everything seemed

to be going my way. One of the players, Joe

Taggert became enraged and accused me of

cheating. He pulled his pistol, and I dived behind

the bar. When he came after me, I killed him." He

paused to look at the cave entrance where the

heavy rain had been reduced to light showers.

"His older brother, Will, the town bully, a fast

gun. vowed to kill me, so I hightailed it out

of town, and I think he's been trailing me ever



     "Is this Taggert alone?"


     "I think so."


     Whirling Winds coughed and spit on the cave's 

floor. "Can't keep running. Sooner or later you

will have to face him."


      The old Indian picked up his bow and quiver

of arrows and held them at eye level, then he

laid they back down and picked up his tomahwk

and raised it above his head. "I was a brave

warrior in my youth." He laid the tomahawk

beise his bow and quiver and cocked his head

to one side as if he was trying to remember

something. "Then the white man came and

waged war aginst us and destroyed the buffalo

herds. I rode in many battles, and took many

scalps which I displayed on a pole outside my

teepee. Then the white man forced us onto

reservations where we became fat and soft."


     Hank gnashed his teeth and stared at the

fire as he recalled the day he had returned

from fished to find the cabin consumed in

flames, and his parant's had been murdered

by a small band of marauding Indians. He had

hated Indians ever since. He had never spoken

to one before, but he knew the frail old man

wouldn't harm him.


     "There was a lot of bloodshed in those days."

Hank said.


     "Yes, there was, and most of it was senseless."

Whirling Winds leaned his head against the

rocky wall and pulled the blanket tighter 

around him. "Now that I'm an old man, I'm

always cold." He closed his eyes. "I'm going to

get some  sleep."


     In no time the old Indian was snoring loudly.

Hank stood up and went to the cave opening and

peered out. Far to the south, stars were shining,

and the rain had been reduced to a light shower.

To the northwest, the storm continued to spend

it's wrath. He ducked back inside the cave and

sat down several feet from Whirling Winds so he

be bothered by the snowing. He streached out

and closed his eyes.


     It was light when he awakened . He leaped to 

his feet. The old Indian was still snoring loudly.

He left the cave, glanced around him and whistled.

A few seconds later he heard a whinny and the

mare trotted out from behind the boulders and

stopped beside him.


     "It don't look like you had a very bad night,"

he said, petting the horse on it's neck. He went

to the cave and retrieved his saddle and 

belongings.. He quickly saddled the horse,

kowing he had better be on his way.


     "When I saw your horse I knew you were

around here somewhere."


     Hank laid his hand on the butt of his pistol and

whirled around to find himself face to face with a

tall, muscular, black bearded man who had a

winchester rifle trained on him. His clothes 

were wet and his hair clung to his forhead. 

Taggart stepped out from behind the cover of

the rocks.


     "Your brother was coming after me," Hank

said as he raised his hands. "I only meant to

wound him, and I wasn't cheating."


     "The hell, you say," Taggart sneered. "I'm

going to kill you and enjoy doing it." He walked

up to Hank, slapped the mare on the flank and

watched as it trotted away. "Get down on your



     Hank dropped to his knees on the muddy

ground and bend his head forward as he waited

for the inevitable. Chuckling, Taggart stepped 

behind him. Hank knew he shouldn't have spent

so much time in the cave. Even with the 

approaching storm, he should have kept his 

horse heading south.


     There was a thud, a gurgling sound which 

was followed by  a splash. Taggart lay face down in 

the mud with an arrow in his back. Hank leaped

to his feet to see Whirling Winds, bow and quiver

in hand, struggling to crawl back into the cave.


       By the time Hank reached the old Indian, he

was lying just inside the cave. His bow lay across

his chest as Hank bent over him.


     "I don't remember that it tood so much

strength to pull the bow string," the old man



     "Thanks for saving my life."


     "He was going to shoot you in the back like

a coward." He sighed heavily. "The spirits will

take me soon."


     "Is there anything I can do?"


     "No, but thanks for keeping an old Indian

company in his final hours." He gasped for

breath, then closed his eyes as the bow slipped

off his chest.


     Hank remained beside the old Indian's still

body for a few minutes, then he left the cave.

He gathered some roc ks and sealed the opening

so the varmints wouldn't feast on his reains. Then

he drug Taggert's body behind the boulders,

whistled for his mare, and when it trotted up

to him, he mounted and continued on his way








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