Saturday, October 4, 2008
Ride the Wind
Title: Ride the Wind
Author: Lucia St. Clair Robson
Date Finished: October 4, 2008
When I found out that this was the next book my IRL book club was going to be reading, I was needless to say, less than thrilled. I honestly cannot tell you the last time I read a book that dealt with American Indians or even that time period. I learned about Quanah Parker while I was in school, but never really knew anything about his family. So, I sucked it up, opened the book and started reading. The first part of the book, had me furious and almost in tears. Lucia St. Clair Robson starts the book off with a raid on the Parker family stead and is quite graphic. I remember making a comment the next morning about how awful the Indians were to the whites and how I just did not understand their savage like qualities. But, I kept reading.
It took me a day or two to really stop and think, reorient my brain to how things were back then, to really understand and sympathize with the Indians. Before white man came over, they were free to roam the plains, feed their families, and live life as all those before them had. When the white man came over, with them came diseases, new weapons, and a whole new way of life. The Indians respected Mother Earth and were always careful to not destroy her, where as when the whites came over, they were harvesting and building houses and towns on top of what used to be acres up acres of rolling plains.
Lucia St. Clair Robson is a beautiful writer. Her descriptions are picturesque and so detail oriented that I felt like I could close my eyes and be standing there right beside them seeing the same things they were seeing. Her words were hypnotic and once I really got into the storyline, I could not put the book down. You really get to know the main characters and I found myself cheering them on, and worrying for their safety while they were on raids, or hunting for food in the winter for their families.
The prologue ends with "Not much happened in 1836," but for the Parker family, this was where their story really began. Cynthia Ann Parker was nine years old when she was taken from her white family by a young Comanche Warrior named Nocona "Wanderer." She was taken to replace the child that Sunrise and Takes Down the Lodge had lost, and they loved her like she was their own. Upon her arrival into their camp, she became immediate friends with Star Name, another girl fairly close to her age. Star Name was very patient and would pronounce every item she touched for Cynthia to repeat and answered all the questions she could. Cynthia's brother John was also taken captive and ended up living with another band, under Old Owl, whom her family wintered with.
Wanderer, true to his name, came and went from Cynthia's band, often rejoining his father, Iron Shirt's band. Cynthia who was named, Naduah "Keeps Warm With Us" was taught the importance of names from her Grandmother, Medicine Woman. Each of the warriors were named as a child, and then after they had their vision, they were given a new name in regards to their medicine, or spirit. As she grew up Naduah grew to love Wanderer and was always happier when he returned. She had a special way with his horse and he knew that she was something special. After getting a horse of her own, she learned how to communicate with her horse without vocal commands. The Indians were great riders and Wanderer, being the best, taught her how to teach her horse to give her signs, and to react to commands she gave with her legs to keep her hands free to protect herself. Learning how to mount a horse from different angles gave them more flexibility when engaging in raids, or when being attacked.
Eventually, when she is old enough, Wanderer comes to buy his bride with 100 horses. This was a huge statement of his love for her, since the people of his father's time had purchased their brides with two horses and some blankets. The majority of the War Chiefs had several wives to help with all the chores and also to allow some of them to join their man on raids. Wanderer, however, only wanted Naduah. Some of the other women gave her a hard time and told her that he didn't love her enough if he wasn't willing to marry others to help her with the chores. Naduah and Wanderer never saw it that way, and were quite happy with the way things were. After having Quanah, it was five years before they had another child. After giving him a second son, Pecan, she would have one more child, a daughter nicknamed Flower.
As families died off from cholera or small pox, those left behind were taken in by the remaining ones. Not only were a large percentage of their People dying from diseases they had never seen before, but as more people migrated to Texas and then on to California, the white men were killing off the buffalo's with their new gun and after skinning them, leaving them to rot in the fields. The "People" were very resourceful with the buffalo and every part was of significance to them. It became impossible for them to provide food for their families, because the guns were scaring off the remaining buffalo and those that were killed were wasted rotting in the elements.
There is a great amount of character development throughout the book that made it very enjoyable. I am very glad that I read this book and would recommend it to everyone. Even though it was not my usual cup of tea, it was very enjoyable and somewhat educational. I enjoyed Lucia St. Clair Robson's style and plan to pick up another book by her in the future.