I still remember many of the stories my mother told us about our pioneer ancestors and their many adventures as they trudged west on foot, in wagons and on horseback in search of freedom on the new frontier. One such story was recorded by Susanna White and published in the “Children’s Friend” magazine in 1943.
She said that one Sunday it became necessary for Mr. White to leave his young wife until the next day at the cabin near their sawmill in a remote part of the Utah wilds some fourteen miles from the nearest town. He disliked doing this because Indians were camped close by, and one was purported to be the meanest Indian in the country.
About two hours after Mr. White left, this very Indian came to the mill. “Where is your Mormon?” he demanded harshly. Susanna pretended that she wasn’t afraid and told the Indian that Mr. White was in town. The Indian said that he wanted to hunt above the mill and Susanna reluctantly told him to go ahead. He rode away, but reappeared late in the afternoon with two deer tied on his horse.
He again asked, “Where is your Mormon?” She told him that he was still in town. The Indian then asked to stay all night at the mill. Susanna gave him permission and instructed him to put his horse in the corral and to feed it. Before entering the cabin, the Indian cared for his horse and hung the deer in a nearby tree.
Susanna had supper ready when he came in and, after eating, they sat by the fireplace. As best they could, they discussed the news of the area while eating the pine nuts he produced from a well-worn little leather pouch. “You ‘fraid?” he asked. “No, I’m not afraid,” replied Susanna. “I can shoot as good as any Indian!” The reply amused the Indian and he laughingly replied, “You no shoot Indian.”
When the time came to retire, Susanna gave him some matches and said, “My Mormon always makes the fire in the morning.” She then gave him a quilt and some rugs to make himself a bed by the fire.
Susanna, thinking she would have to remain awake all night and watch him, just slipped off her shoes and crawled under the covers. When she looked around, she was amazed to see the Indian kneeling in prayer by the side of his bed.
Susanna had been terribly frightened all evening, but seeing the Indian now she said to herself, “I don’t need to be afraid of a praying Indian.” She went to sleep and slept soundly until the next morning. She was awakened by the Indian as he built a fire in the fireplace. He insisted on helping milk the cows, but she explained that the cows would be afraid of him. “But you can cut an armload of wood,” which he gladly did. In fact, he cut a large pile of firewood instead of just an armful.
After they had eaten breakfast, the Indian left. But before going, he cut two hind quarters off one of the deer and left them hanging in the tree for her.
The foregoing reminds me of a story told by an elderly woman who needed help to cross a busy city street. Three young men approached her and gave her a fright because of their appearance. They had spiked, multi-colored hair, rings in their ears, noses and tongues, and lots and lots of tattoos.
“Ma’am,” said one of the boys, “You look like you could use some help.” He gently took her elbow, waited for the light to change, and the three of them guided her safely across the street. They were most polite and attentive before bidding her adieu and going on their way. The lady was pleasantly surprised and decided that things—and people--are not always as they at first might appear.
Sam Walter Foss wrote, “Let me live in my house by the side of the road, It’s here the race of men go by—They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong, Wise, foolish—so am I. Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat, Or hurl the cynic’s ban? Let me live in my house by the side of the road And be a friend to man.”