The Prairie Fire by Larry Sweazy – Selection 4 of #DealMeIn2020

The Card: ♥Ace♥ of Hearts.

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for Books I picked up at the 2019 Holiday Author Fair a the Indiana History Center. This week’s selection is by one of the authors I met at the fair.

The Author: Larry Sweazy – see his web site page listing his short story output at http://www.larrydsweazy.com/short-stories.html He also had a story in the “Indy Writes Books” anthology that this blog was a proud “first edition sponsor” of a few years back.

The Story: “The Prairie Fire” from the anthology “The Trading Post and Other Frontier Stories.” Four from this anthology are in my Deal Me In 2020 plans. Sweazy was quoted in “Current Publishing” saying that “This story is the first frontier-based short story I’ve published in several years. This anthology features stories by some talented writers and good friends.”

BUT…what is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020. 

The Prairie Fire

“The burial would occur the next morning as the sun ate away at the darkness. It was The Between Time: when the sun, the moon, and the stars shared the sky with their wonder and knowledge. Naxke’s people believed it was an opening, a spirit path to travel safely.”

I like stories featuring Native Americans and especially so if those characters speak in an authentic way. How would I know what is an “authentic” way? I guess I don’t, so maybe what I mean is they’re speaking how I imagine they would. How I formed that imagination might be hard to track down. Probably from tv and movies, I’d have to admit…

This story begins with an Indian woman, Naxke, anxiously awaiting the return of her husband, Kitha, who was never late to an arranged meeting time with his wife. Her  sister, Seke, comes to comfort her (maybe?) and they speculate on what might have happened. None of the possibilities are good, however, and sure enough, the chief’s son Tu-Co-Han shows up with the news that Kitha is dead (or, as death is described in the story, “Kitha no longer walked in this world”), probably at the hands of a fur trader, Galligan, who has been captured.

Naxke is immediately suspicious of Tu-Co-Han, who is a rival of Kitha’s in regards to who will be the next chief.  That evening after “… night had completely fallen. The sky was full of silver beads on the black cloth of forever,” there is a council among the tribe to decide what to do – a kind of trial if you will – where, at first at least “…no one spoke a word, only the fire had a voice, and it only offered short snaps and pops from green wood.” When reading this passage, I have to tell you that I felt like I was in that wigwam, with the fire warming my feet and crossed legs as the arguments were made.

What will happen regarding the future of the tribe and the fate of Galligan – or Tu-Co-Han – I won’t betray for fear of writing “spoiler alert!” but the story has the feel that it’s not just the fate of the characters in the story at stake but the future course of the tribe’s way of life as the westward expansion of The White Man continues to put pressure on the native inhabitants. If you are interested in this anthology, it may be found at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Trading-Post-Other-Frontier-Stories/dp/1432845055

I enjoyed the story a lot and in particular some of the language I’ve quoted above.

(Below: I like when the author of a story in an anthology signs the title page of his particular story in the book instead of in the front… 🙂 )

What about you? Have you read any good “Frontier” stories or stories involving Native Americans? What are some of your favorites?

Next up in Deal Me In 2020: Ray Boomhower’s A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter) from Indiana Originals

♪♫♪♫ Personal Notes:

My prairie memories are from lengthy summer camping trips as a child, tv and movies and a College Ecology class multi-day field trip “in the 80s” where we visited the easternmost original prairie remnant in the United States. We also visited the Ridgetop Hill Preserve near Eureka College in Illinois (also notable as the alma mater of President Ronald Reagan). Then, in 2002, on a trip out West, I stopped in Hays, Kansas at the Fort Hays Historic Site that looked remarkably “Dances With Wolves-y” to me at the time.  Also, in 1978, my family camped one night at Prairie Dog State Park in Kansas. I only remember this because overnight the winds became so violent and strong that we ended up breaking down our pop-up camper and hitting the road at 4 a.m. in fear of it being blown over by the winds!

Below: Prairie Dog State Park and its rather desolate campground.

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Ridgetop Hill Nature Preserve in Illinois. Site of an overnight field trip in the Ancient (personal) History of this blogger!

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