YAPC would like to welcome J Drew Brumbaugh to the blog today. He is here to share some info and an excerpt of his book War Party. If this looks like something you would like to read, please go pick up a copy! War Party is on sale for $1.99 (Reg. $4.99) until November 7th!
A terrorist plot is underway on American soil. There are clues but the FBI remains several steps behind the sleeper cell. A determined journalist has clues too but can’t zero in on where or when the terrorists will strike. The only one who knows what is about to happen is a Native American high school boy who saw it in a vision. Who will believe him? What can he do?
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Paiute Reservation, Utah, Thursday the 9th, Early Evening
Tommy Galiwee gripped the horse’s ribs firmly with his knees and raised himself up high enough to scan the landscape ahead. His dark eyes burned with fire, his long black ponytail swished in the hot, dry breeze that kissed his dark cheeks, cheeks that already bore traces of weather lines. Legends of Geronimo filled his head. For the moment, Tommy envisioned himself as a proud warrior contemplating his enemy and the ensuing battle. Somewhere hiding among the rocks up the dry wash the white cavalry waited in ambush. An adrenaline rush surged through Tommy’s veins. The thrill of battle seized him as it did every time he fought the enemy in Cavalry Canyon.
Glancing behind him at the imaginary war party waiting for his signal, he raised his right arm high, holding his bow proudly overhead. With a loud war whoop, he dug his heels into Chief’s flanks and the dusty tan, old mustang charged down the dry riverbed. The horse still had some spunk in him and, drawing intensity from his youthful rider, was momentarily transformed into the warhorse of Tommy’s fantasies. While his body rose and fell in tune with the galloping horse, Tommy deftly brought his bow down to ready position. Expertly he pulled an arrow out of his handmade deerskin waist pouch and nocked it in his well-used Bear 60-lb compound bow. He drew back ready to fire on the first white soldier he saw.
Griping the modern bow, Tommy wondered whether the Apaches could have held off the white onslaught a bit longer if they had had bows like this.
Down the deepening draw they flew, the walls climbing up around them. Interspersed between the gray, dried scrub brush, black boulders of volcanic rock littered the dry riverbed forming a natural obstacle course. Tommy loved to race through the twists and turns on Chief’s back. The pair dashed down the center of the wash, gliding left then right as they weaved around the bigger rocks. Chief flowed over smaller rocks in the middle of their path, sailing over them as if he could fly. The faithful horse drew strength from somewhere; his old bones always seemed to grow younger when Tommy took him out for war games. Maybe the horse, too, dreamed of battle.
Fifty yards down the draw, the arroyo took a hard right turn. Hidden around the corner by the high dirt walls, the floor of the dry riverbed sloped upward. Even though he couldn’t see them, Tommy knew the white soldiers waited around that bend, knew because he’d put the tumbleweed-stuffed shirt-and-pant dummies there. To Tommy, that seemed like the best place for an ambush, where you could catch your enemy unaware. He didn’t want his targets to be too obvious.
At the turn Chief slipped like a wraith around the tight corner, his chipped and splintered, unshod hooves landing firmly, digging into the dusty red and yellow-tan earth for traction. Tommy leaned with the horse as if they were one being. Chief knew the run so well Tommy didn’t have to guide the horse. As they flew past the last huge boulder that marked the end of the turn, Tommy sighted down the arrow, anticipating that first target. The ghost of Geronimo rode beside him.
Horse and rider swept around the last curve in a blur. To his left Tommy spotted the first weed-filled cavalryman valiantly holding his ground. The tattered blue flannel shirt was stuffed with springy dry tumbleweeds making a barrel chest, the arms of the shirt spotted with tufts of broken straw-colored weeds sticking out of previous arrow holes. Golden strands poked out from the end of the sleeves to form skeletal hands. Tommy aimed, and then at full gallop, let the arrow fly. With a thunk it pierced the breast of the first target, cutting easily through what was left of the tattered shirt, sending a puff of crispy twig fragments into the still air.
Almost immediately Tommy had a second arrow out of the quiver, nocked and ready. He zeroed in on the second target, this one to his right, and sent the arrow into it. Then a third, but this time Tommy heard the arrow chink hard into solid stone and guessed he’d missed, and worse, had probably broken the arrow. No time to think about it. Horse and rider charged ahead, racing down the zigzag course of the dry canyon turning right then left, all the way to the end of the draw. Almost too fast for the eye to follow, Tommy drew and fired, sending arrows swiftly into one stuffed soldier after another. At the far end of the arroyo, Tommy reined in Chief and paused to tally his performance. The horse obediently came to a halt, breathing hard. Tommy’s mental count was out of twenty soldier targets, nineteen had been wounded or killed and only one had gotten away cleanly. One missed shot out of twenty. Pretty good, he thought, but he’d done better.
He brought Chief around using his knees and started back down the arroyo the way he’d come. He kept Chief at a walk. A good run, he thought, nineteen hits, twelve fatal and only one miss. He was getting better, so much better that his friends had quit coming out to the dry riverbed to ride and shoot. They never were better than 50-50 with bow and arrow, and Tommy had insisted “no guns.” Might as well be a white man if you were going to use a gun.
His friends had all kinds of excuses, even called Tommy a flake, claiming it was a kids’ game. A game that they constantly reminded him had to end sooner or later. Even though they had few plans for themselves, they were quick to advise Tommy that he needed to be realistic. Shooting arrows at dummies wasn’t going to get him anywhere. Tommy didn’t care.
Besides, Tommy told himself, few of the boys his age on the reservation had any idea what they would do after high school graduation. Most of them, including Tommy, didn’t see any options anyway, so from Tommy’s perspective, why not run Cavalry Canyon?
There was always an exception, thought Tommy. Chester Hopping-Hawk was one young Indian who had a plan. He’d taken to learning the old ways of farming, Paiute ways without modern pesticides and fertilizers. Though the tribal council wasn’t necessarily in favor of using tribal land for farming, they hadn’t voted it down yet either. And with the growing market for organic produce, Chester saw a chance to become a successful organic farmer. Chester was the exception.
Some of the others were apathetic about their future and grudgingly accepted their fate, complacently planning to remain on the reservation to live out their days. There was always talk about moving to the city, getting a job. Tommy doubted any would actually follow through and he knew he wasn’t any better. Dreaming of being a warrior wasn’t any more realistic.
But now the light was fading, reminding Tommy of the hour. He raised his gaze to the West and noticed the sun had become a fiery orange disc resting on the canyon rim, its last rays casting long, gray shadows down the arroyo. Time to go home. Father demanded that Tommy be home for supper, after which he’d have the pleasure of helping his mother with the dishes. From his perspective it was a chore beneath him. He did it because Father said so. Tommy wanted to be a warrior like the Apache, not a reservation Paiute. Tommy’s father discouraged that kind of thinking as a childish fantasy.
And right now, Tommy knew his father would have little patience if he was late, even worse if his father caught him riding Chief back from Cavalry Canyon. Father called it foolishness. He forbid it. Rather than bring down his father’s wrath, Tommy headed home. It was time to turn back into a reservation Indian, with little hope and few choices.
He slid off Chief and walked along the gulch. The horse obediently shuffled behind him, the vigor gone now that the battle was over. Tommy retrieved his arrows, pushing the stuffed soldiers back upright if they’d fallen over, noting the condition of each dummy as he went. It had been a long time since he’d re-packed the soldiers with weeds. Some of the targets had been hit so many times that they were coming apart. Tattered holes let so much of the brittle tumbleweed spill out that soon his arrows would be hitting straight into the rocks. He needed to go down to the abandoned irrigation canal where he usually gathered tumbleweeds. The end of that rock-lined channel acted like a dam that collected the windblown branches making it easy for Tommy to get stuffing material.
And it wasn’t only the stuffing that needed attention. The dummies’ clothing needed repair or replacement, too. Before long he’d have to get new shirts and pants for his target army or bring a needle and thread and patch them up. Not today.
Once Tommy had retrieved all his arrows, he whipped his right leg up and over the horse’s back and settled Chief into a slow trot for the ride home. He rode over low, rolling hills to the Santa Clara River and followed the shallow trickle that was the summer water flow until he reached the knee-deep pool at the base of the bluff behind his house. Here the riverbed had cut a steep bank into the hillside, carved in the past during high water, and gouged away the bottom to form a small reservoir. Scattered cottonwood trees and bushy willows outlined the pool, clinging to the moisture the river provided. It was cooler in their shade offering some relief from the sweltering heat. Out of sight above him lay the reservation houses that made up the Paiute settlement.
Tommy paused a moment, letting his thoughts return briefly to his latest war game, bringing a sense of satisfaction, short-lived as it was.
Splashing across the shallow pool to the grassy flat on the other side, Tommy brought Chief to a halt. He slipped down off the horse’s back and led it over to the remnants of the morning’s bale of hay that lay scattered under the trees. He hobbled Chief, patted him on the rump and started for the steeper slope that led up to his house. Years ago, Tommy used to take Chief up the dirt cliff to stay behind the house. Now it was too difficult a climb, and besides, the pool and shade were better for the horse.
Tommy slung his bow over his shoulder and scrambled up the loose dirt on his hands and knees until he reached the top of the slope. Stepping onto the broad flat hilltop, Tommy could see most of the government-issue pre-fab houses that made up the Shivwits town. They were all white, small, cut from one mold. Here and there some had carports and sheds added. Otherwise they were stiflingly identical. A couple of leafy cottonwood trees stood like sentinels on either side of Tommy’s house. He was glad to note that his father’s pickup was not parked by the house.
Tommy walked across the short stretch of open ground that separated the edge of the cliff from the dead-end, blacktopped road that was his street. Pebbles, dry loose dirt crunched under foot and clumps of cheat grass swished against his pants as he walked toward the pavement. Once Tommy got to the blacktop he stepped up the pace. It was only a couple of hundred feet to the front of his house and he quickly reached what passed for his yard. He cut off the road and angled in behind the house. Tommy went straight to the weathered shed that stood like an abandoned outpost behind his house. He pulled open the graying, splintering wooden door and stashed the bow and quiver of arrows above the toolbox in the topmost shelf. Since his father had not yet returned from Cedar City, Tommy felt confident that his war party had gone unnoticed.
About the Author: J Drew Brumbaugh lives in northeast Ohio where he spends his time writing sci-fi, fantasy and suspense novels, teaching and training at the karate dojo he and his wife founded, building a Japanese garden in his back yard, and taking walks in the woods with his wife, Carolyn, and their husky, Blue. He has three novels in print, a collection of short stories, and a co-authored children’s book. He continues to work on his next book and seems to always have several stories in various stages of completion.
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