Follow Boone Tyler's adventures when, starting at age 12, he is cut loose from his mother and swears vengeance on his father for killing her. Along the way he comes to find many things are not as they seem.
“I snuck away, after my father took the army out for another patrol around the cliffs and wooded areas to make sure that the Kiowa weren’t preparing to war. My father’s name was General William Tyler, and he had been in the army too long. He took us first to Mississippi and Florida for Indian uprisings there, and then to Texas where Indians had fought with Mexicans against our kind at the Alamo. No, Father didn’t get to them in time. I heard tell he didn’t try. I didn’t like this place any better than the rest and I told Father I was nearly old enough now—16 going on 30—to decide when and if I’d move with him again.
“Lynelle, you will do only as I say until you are wed,” he lectured to me.
“Ah! He ordered me, like I was some kind of renegade soldier, to stay inside the fort for my own protection. And I tried, really, but the soldier guards teased and tormented me until I ran out for my sanity, while wondering if somehow I’d left it behind. I was the only girl in the fort. The only one! And they kept trying to remind me by … oh, yes.”
“Anyway, I begged Father to let my brothers protect me, but he only laughed at me. Said I’d have to pick one of them sooner or later. And he hoped it wasn’t later! I’d rather die.
“So he was gone for the day and I snuck off to the river because the heat of the day had already made me half crazy, with the soldiers doing the rest. Oh, that water looked so good! I took off my shoes and lifted my skirt. I stepped onto the rocks where the river wasn’t very deep but the rocks were slick and I landed on my rear, getting my dress soaked.
“Well, Father said never swim naked in the river but I was already wet. I walked further downstream to where the river widened and went still, a pond but it wasn’t yet over my head, I could tell. And inside a glistening breeze the cool water called me to come play. I ducked behind a tree and looked around. All those obscene drunken soldiers, I felt sure one of them could surely have followed me and was watching. Oh, let them. I unbuttoned my bodice and let the dress fall to a heap at my feet. My undergarment made me struggle and sweat and I heard it rip in as I removed it, but finally I had all my clothes neatly tucked at the base of the tree, and daring any soldier who might be watching I jumped into the water.
“Right into a school of fish. I found out why my father warned me not to swim naked. After I started to swim I had to stand again, to pry a fish from between my legs where it had entangled. I held it to my face. It gaped at her, gasping—wondering if I was a good girl or a bad one. I tossed it upward to flop down in the middle of the river. “A bad one,” I said with a laugh. “But good enough to fool ‘em.
“On my back in the gently flowing river, I executed a backstroke that was taught to me by the only man I’d ever loved, a soldier who was killed last year in a skirmish with hungry natives who wanted his cattle. “Give them one and they’ll leave you!” I screamed that at him over and over, as his poor bloody corpse lay at my feet all somber looking. She screamed at him that he was wrong—there were two sides to every story, not one, and I wouldn’t mourn him much longer because he never stopped to find out the right side.
“My parents always quarreled and I never took sides so I understood this so well. Finally my mother kicked my father out and he joined the army, dragging me kicking and screaming along with him. I did a lot of that around him, I guess.
“After a goodly distance with my backstroke I turned over to do a vigorous front stroke. At first I thought I’d hit my head on a rock. I gasped because I took in some water and stood, wiping my face. When I could finally see I tried to run backward. An Indian!”
“Mama, is this the story about how you met my daddy?”
Lynelle, sitting half in the water at the Arkansas River’s bank with her arm around her 10-year-old son Boone, looked out at the waving weeds on the other side of the river as though her past were happening at that moment. She talked on as though she couldn’t hear him because, where she was, he wasn’t born yet.
“I thought I was alone, but when I looked up, he was there. I screamed, but his face was kind and said some good English words to me. Still, I ran for the shore, and as he followed, and then I could see that he was naked, just like me. Oh.” She closed her eyes. “I never met a man, before or since, who was so gentle, so kind. I was only a child, a little girl next to him, and he could have taken advantage of me, but he did not. We only swam and tried to talk. I found out he didn’t know much English, but somehow we managed. And I saw him in secret every day for two months after that.”
“Did you love my Pa?”
Startled, she looked down at her hazel-eyed, half-Kiowa son. “With all my heart, and soul, too. I learned to understand his ways, and his people’s humor and generosity captured my heart. Oh, they could be cruel, too, but always with reason. When I found out I was carrying you, I married him. Not too much later…” Lynelle pulled Boone into her arms and sobbed. “Oh, you’re not old enough for this, my little tadpole.” She brushed his black hair out of his eyes and kissed his freckled nose. “So much like him, and yet not. Oh Boonie…”
“I have to hear the whole story, Mama, if you ever expect me to be a man.”
Her sigh was more a trembling gasp. “Your grandfather’s cavalry attacked our village, swarmed over it like so many locusts! Oh Boone, it was horrible! Women, children, bodies shot up who had been so innocently sleeping.” Her eyes closed as she forgot again that Boone was listening. “One child awoke with half a face. I had to knife her to stop her suffering. But they did not hurt me. Oh, no. I was dragged back to town, given back to my father who locked me in my room, and the Kiowa who still lived were chased far off.”
“What about my Pa?”
Startled, Lynelle looked at Boone, almost scolded him for pestering her, but then hugged him. “He had been hurt trying to protect us, but he had to stay with his people. He came to find me later, a soldier told me, but I let my grandfather take me far away. I left your father, because I could see the massacre happening over and over again. Before you were born, I had to decide which world would keep you safe. I chose the white world, far from the pain of what I knew would happen to him, to us, over and over and over…”