The horse had seen the color fading from the evening sky, not only on this night, but through eons, first a world of mesmerizing hues and intricacy and then the shadow world of blues and blacks.
The Indian cupped his hands and closed his eyes. He gestured to the boy, as if to show him some secret he held. The boy saw only creases and lines. Eighty winters of hardship and the written history of the Plains. He waited for the boy to look and then he opened his hands and released whatever he imagined he held there.
“The eyes of all horses speak to the coming of the night world and the time of the reckoning of men,” he said. “A horse can see the future. Any man who is willing can see that this is true. Any man who is willing to remember. In the creation myth of horses it is not God to whom credit belongs. There were no horses in Eden until the moment of the Fall.”
The Indian opened his eyes then and stared hard at the boy.
“Who will watch over us? Who will stand before us and show us our folly? The horse is the better half of men. You know this because you can hear them in your heart. A man does not speak to horses with the sounds from his mouth. The horse talks back with his eyes. But all this you have known. For you have been chosen.”
The Indian began to sing and the horse threw its head back. The boy did not understand the song because it was in Crow. But it was the song of horses. He could feel it inside him where the Indian said the two worlds meet – men and horses. The Sioux have their own song of communion for this. And it came back to him.
From other lands you have come, to show us humility
From other lands you have come, to complete us as men
The Great Spirit is wise and generous
For this gift we are ever-grateful
We pledge our live to the horses
We pledge our lives to horses.
When the Indian finished his song he fished into a pouch at his waist and withdrew a small bundle of tobacco secured in a swatch of red trade-cloth. He tied this to the horse’s mane.
“I will see you through these lands,” he said. “White horse-talker, take this as a token of passage.”
He removed an amulet from his neck, it was the upper portion of a set of false teeth that hung from a leather cord.
“I am the man who slew the Laughing General on the Two Forks. His yellow scalp hangs from my lance. My people know this.”
The boy held the teeth, tobacco-stained, worn bicuspids. They said he ate the hearts of his enemies but he knew that to be a lie. The old Indian placed his hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eye with his blue cataracts fairly glowing.
“I know who you are”, he said. “We’ve met once before. History cannot be changed but it can be atoned for. Remember, that when you doubt your purpose turn to the horse. Get very close to him and look into his eye. That is all the medicine I can give you.”
The boy mounted the black stallion and turned a last time to the Indian.
“Who are you?” he said.
“Turn to the horse for answers young Horse-talker. He will always tell you what you already know.”
Then he turned into the twilight grasses and vanished. The boy held the amulet, pressing the teeth into his palm.
o O o