Charlie Banes found out his real name was Feather in Hat, son of the great chief of the Shoshone tribe, One Blue Hat and son of a woman rescued by him when she was a very young girl and kept at his side until she was of marriage age of 17 when they celebrated their joining, a night of noise and fire at the tribal location in the Memory Hills, which had six names in its last two centuries.
In the meantime, young Charlie Banes was found by a husband and wife out in the hills looking for their lost dog, Barrier, who had chased off a coyote sniffing too close to a small child, apparently lost from his tribe. He was dressed like a young king.
“Why’s he all duded up, Charlie?” Mollie Banes asker her husband.
“From what it looks to me, I’d say he’s a son of a chief. The only chief around here is One Blue Hat, a Shoshone great one, which tells me we ought to get out of here with the kid now and hope Barrier makes it on his own.”
For many months, they kept their secret, passing off little Charlie as her own proper son. Thus it was that Charlie didn’t know about his real father, and One Blue Hat didn’t know about his own son. But in some manner, each had a feeling for the other after many discussions and settlements out of the ordinary.
So, began the life of the current sheriff of Elmo Falls, a small after-thought of a town near the edge of the Memory Hills, its closets full of those secrets. Young Banes, plied with noble blood and a natural yearn for fair practice among people, started early by breaking up saloon fights, settling land disputes, even running a crooked card player clean out of town, handing out the gambler’s money to the most needing folks and earning a name and a reputation that grew in accordance with his nature.
His name was the only name mentioned when town fathers decided a sheriff was needed, and, at 18, was appointed sheriff and a badge pinned on his chest. His career started with a bang, as they say, when another traveling card player pulled a gun on him and Charlie shot him dead in the dust of Elmo Falls’ lone road in and out of town, on which tales began to move to local hinter lands about the young sheriff, drawing its own curious crowd of peek-a-boos and other interested parties.
When Kit Winsdor was killed from behind by a sniper, Charlie chased after the sniper for 30-40 miles and brought him back, strapped onto his horse, for a legal hanging, the young sheriff’s reputation of Elmo Falls swiveled upwards for miles atop miles of western towns, drawing decent folks as well as the curious folk, some wanting to share in the infamy one way or another.
None of those new folks, and hardly any of the original settlers, knew Charlie Banes was the son of One Blue Hat, still the head of the Shoshone tribe, and its only spokesman, and who continued to wear the hat of a fallen officer of an army regiment stationed in the territory.
As it soon showed, One Blue Hat knew many things about the young sheriff; how straight he was, diligent, quick to act, dispensing an artful and truthful justice in all his decisions. Some of us call it favoritism, or jealousy, or, even in some quarters, as “Don’t step on his toes no way if you can help it, and be damned quick about it, lest it cost you more than you bargained for in the first place.”
But jealousy often settles on acceptance from the outset as we see in some cases of hostility, rivalry and discord, or its absolute opposites. But nothing of this nature ever rose up between our young sheriff and the Shoshone chief; respect, instead, rising to heady appreciation for each other, and never a whisper from the beginning, like, from the supposed mother, Mollie Baines, ‘Mum’ being the word on her mind, and tickling her no end.
When a wandering murderer by name of Tree Adamly killed a Shoshone brave at the edge of Elmo Falls, a favored nephew of One Blue Hat, the prairie seemed to burst into fire, an old war coming back to life. One Blue Hat saw Sheriff Charlie Baines get on his trail, catch up to him, bind him in ropes and bring him so bound, not to the jail in Elmo Falls, but delivered him to One Blue Hat, it precluded the re-ignition of an old war, a highly favored result for both our main characters on the open prairie.
One Blue Hat held a trial on the open prairie, strangers and passers-by allowed to watch the proceedings, until Tree Adamly was convicted of murder and hanged by his feet until he died, that horrible death, enough pain to pay back the family’s loss by Shoshone standards.
Charlie Baines watched it all from start to end, mesmerized by a sense of familiarity with things so done and so counted.
Still, in spite of these conditions and activities, both principles. Charlie and One Blue Hat, managed to accept the outcomes to the guilty, Charlie at length saying, “It served him right,” and One Blue Hat saying, “We are paid once more for these sour impositions.” They each continued to learn and accept what satisfied the other, highlighting it for broadcast on the wind, for deep sharing all around.
Father and son, we see, getting closer to the truth, closer to sharing, no matter the spread of grass between them, the thousand years or more of contentions, results, messages left on stone etchings, carried in the air of social broadcast; “D’you hear about the new hanging out on the grass?”