"I know what I heard! A dog howled
all night long. We both know what that means." The woman stamped
her high heeled, fringed leather boot causing her dyed black pageboy
to swing over her shoulders. Sawdust flurried around her and her
companion. "Someone's going to die!"
Deputy Tempe Crabtree stared curiously
at the two women. Despite the fact the last statement had been shouted,
she was surprised none of the many people milling around the crowded
fairgrounds took any notice. The Indians, the majority dressed in
Native American clothing, were busy preparing for the opening ceremonies
of the Pow Wow. Those who had come to observe the gala event were
too entranced by the huge colorful gathering to pay attention to
two women arguing.
Sergeant Guthrie had given Tempe
the special assignment of keeping the peace at the Pow Wow. He hadn't
put it into words, but she knew it was because of her own Yanduchi
heritage. The Pow Wow was the first to be held in Dennison, the
nearest city to her own small community of Bear Creek. The event
had attracted not only the Indian population from Dennison and the
nearby reservation, but from far away as well. The parking lot was
filled with vehicles with license plates from many other states.
Tempe re-tucked the back of her sharply
creased tan uniform shirt into her trousers and stepped closer to
the arguing women. The older of the two shook a plump finger near
the nose of the other.
"Katherine Davelos, you have no idea
what you're talking about! What you heard was probably just a bunch
of coyotes. Only an Indian can recognize such a sign...and may I
remind you that you are only married to an Indian. You are not one
yourself!" The woman spoke sternly but didn't raise her voice. Though
acquainted with the speaker, Tempe only knew that her name was Violet
Celso and that she was revered as a leader by the local Indians.
Full blooded Yanduchi, with her round, weathered face and short,
plump body, Violet reminded Tempe of pictures she had of her grandmother.
Tempe guessed Violet was in her late
thirties. Her dark brown hair had been lightly permed, and she wore
it in a simple style brushed back from her broad forehead. She wore
a traditional buckskin dress, decorated with leather fringe on the
bodice, sleeves and hem.
"You're just afraid my Linda is going
to win the Princess contest!" The angry Katherine puckered her deeply
tanned and overly made-up face into an ugly sneer before spinning
on her heels and marching away, kicking up another cloud of sawdust.
Tempe stepped nearer to Violet. "What
was that all about?"
Violet smiled. "Hi, Deputy Crabtree,
heard you were going to be here. What do you think about all this?"
She gestured at the milling crowd. People were beginning to fill
the bleachers surrounding the arena, while those in Indian garb
seemed to be gathering together near tables that had been set up
at the entrance.
"Quite impressive. Had no idea the
Pow Wow would attract so many people. Who is that gal?" Tempe nodded
toward the woman moving away from them, her tight jean-encased hips
"Katherine Davelos is a wannabe in
the worst sense of the word. She lives on the reservation with her
husband and daughter. We've never gotten along too well, but ever
since her daughter entered the Princess contest Katherine has been
impossible. You'd think she and I were competing against each other
instead of my Marella and her Linda."
"What was that about someone dying?"
Tempe automatically touched the silver barrette securing her long
braid to the back of her head to make sure it was still in place.
"She probably meant that as a threat.
When a dog howls all night for no reason, it may mean a death is
imminent. She probably read that in a book. Pay no attention to
Katherine. She's certainly irritating the way she prances around,
pretending to be Indian. But she's harmless...harmless to everyone
but that poor girl of hers."
Tempe raised a black eyebrow. "How
do you mean?"
"She pushes Linda constantly. I doubt
if the child even wanted to be in the contest."
"I'm afraid I don't know anything
about this Princess business. Is it a beauty pageant?"
Violet chuckled. "Goodness no. If
it were, my Marella would win easily, even if I do say so myself.
The winner is the one who sells the most tickets for the drawing,
so it's whoever works the hardest."
"Is there any reward besides the
recognition?" Tempe asked.
"The recognition is the most important
because the Princess becomes a role model for other young Indian
women. She'll represent Dennison at a variety of events and speaking
engagements all over California, including other Pow Wows.
At the ceremony to present the new Princess, she'll receive a shawl,
a jacket and a sash, and a beautiful beaded crown, along with a
percentage of the ticket sales."
Tempe shook her head. "I had no idea
there was so much involved with the Pow Wow."
"Yes, I've heard you don't know much
about your heritage," Violet said.
"Who told you that?"
"Nick Two John."
Two John lived in Bear Creek. He'd
been charged with murder earlier in the year, and Tempe had proven
his innocence. Throughout her investigation, Two John had berated
her for her lack of knowledge about the Yanduchi.
"I should have guessed," Tempe said.
"He organized this whole Pow Wow,
"No, I didn't know. It looks like
a lot of work."
"Most certainly. But a Pow Wow does
a lot for our people. It's a way to teach our young folks about
their culture and to portray a positive image to outsiders." Violet
touched Tempe's arm. "I'd like to explain what's going to happen
but I don't have time. I've got to give the blessing to the dancers
While they'd been speaking, the crowd
around the tables near the entrance to the arena had grown larger.
Tempe watched as Violet moved among the costumed figures. She seemed
to be waving smoke toward each individual. Tempe marveled at the
diversity of the raiment. Though many were dressed in various versions
of the traditional fringed buckskin dress and leggings, every kind
of material imaginable from cotton, satin, and velvet had been fashioned
into Indian garb and decorated with ribbons, beading, and feathers.
Because he was taller than most,
Tempe noticed Nick Two John above the crowd. The handsome Indian
busily answered questions, waving his muscular arms; obviously in
charge. As usual, he wore his long ebony hair parted in the middle
and combed into two braids. Though she couldn't see much more than
his shoulders, he seemed to be wearing a vest of some sort over
his naked, broad chest.
The sound of a familiar female voice
raised in anger caused Tempe to whirl around. Near the many booths
where Indian crafts, memorabilia, and souvenirs were being sold,
four young women stood. Katherine Davelos vehemently scolded one
Straight brown hair falling from
turquoise and coral studded barrettes hid the face of the object
of the harangue, as the plump girl kept her head lowered. She wore
a green satin dress with white fringe and white knee high leather
The most beautiful of the group put
her arm around the one Tempe knew must belong to Katherine, and
said soothingly, "But it's time for all of us to line up for the
processional, Mrs. Davelos."
"Of course you'd say that, Marella.
You just want more time to sell your tickets without any competition
from Linda." Katherine's blue eyes flashed hatred directed at Marella
"Mother, please." Linda protested
weakly without lifting her head.
Violet was right, if the contest
had been judged on beauty alone her daughter most certainly would
have won. Marella's mahogany, hip-length hair had a freshly brushed
sheen. Her large, nearly black eyes were filled with sympathy for
Linda. The white gown with a colorfully beaded top, emphasized her
The other two Princess contestants
uncomfortably shifted their moccasined feet in the sawdust.
Retaining her composure and keeping
her arm around Linda, Marella said, "That's not so, Mrs. Davelos.
My mother is already doing the smoke blessing. It's time for us
to get in line. You don't want Linda to miss being in the processional
and not be seen by everyone in the grandstand, do you?"
Marella had obviously said the right
thing. Katherine yanked her daughter from Marella's embrace and
rubbed at an invisible smudge on her daughter's flat cheek. "The
minute you're done with that folderol, you get yourself into circulation.
Go back through the grandstands to sell your tickets."
"Come on, let's hurry," one of the
other girls said, her braids thickened by ribbons, their bright
ends trailing against the back of her midnight blue velvet gown.
She started to run. The others followed quickly with Marella looking
back and holding out a hand to encourage Linda to follow.
Katherine made shooing motions to
hurry her daughter along.
Deciding to get closer in order to
see what was going to happen in the arena, Tempe began edging her
way around the assembled dancers and behind the tables. She wished
she'd encouraged her son to come, but Blair hadn't shown much interest
when she'd mentioned where she'd be spending her entire Saturday.
Tempe had raised her son alone after
her highway patrolman husband was killed while chasing a suspect.
Bringing her then two-year-old son with her, she'd returned to the
tiny mountain community where she'd been raised. She and Blair made
their home in a small cottage beside Bear Creek. In June, they'd
been joined by Tempe's new husband, Hutch Hutchinson, the pastor
of Bear Creek Community Church.
A senior in high school, Blair, had
welcomed having another male in the family. Because Tempe usually
worked evenings, Hutch and Blair saw more of each other than she
did either of them.
As she made her way near the arena
she could see that groups of men, young and old, were gathered around
large drums situated at intervals around the inside perimeter with
one drum in the center. Some of the men were dressed in regalia,
others were more plainly attired in every day clothing.
"Deputy Crabtree. Saw you mixing
with the crowd a bit ago." Nick Two John stuck out his hand and
grasped hers tightly. "How's the new marriage working out?"
"Wonderfully. Thought you and Claudia
might be joining our ranks soon." Nick lived with his employer,
Claudia Donato, who owned the Bear Creek Inn.
Nick shook his head, his dark eyes
twinkling. "Why mess up something that's working great just the
way it is. What do you think of the Pow Wow so far?"
"I've never seen so many Native Americans
gathered in one place. This must have been quite an undertaking."
"A lot of work," Nick said. "When
I was getting all the permits your Sergeant Guthrie told me that
even though we have our own security I had to have a deputy on the
grounds. I asked that you be given the job. Thought it might do
you some good." He almost smiled.
"H'mmm, I owe the Sergeant an apology.
I figured he gave me the assignment just because I'm part Yanduchi."
"Frankly, Tempe, we don't need a
deputy. We have two men specially chosen to control and maintain
order." He pointed out the stern faced men and identified them.
One was small and wiry Jake Celso, Violet's husband and Marella's
father; the other, barrel-chested Abel Contreras.
"Anytime you have thousands of people
gathered in one place like this there's potential for trouble,"
Tempe said, glancing around.
"There won't be any trouble, Deputy.
We don't allow any drinking or drugs. And we don't tolerate profanity
or rude behavior." Nick crossed his muscular arms over his chest.
"A pow wow is a spiritual time. It's a celebration to give thanks,
to honor our friends and elders, a time of music and dance."
The drums began to beat. Expectancy
and eagerness crackled through the crowd as it slowly quieted. On
the small grandstand, the master-of-ceremonies, an older Indian,
wearing well-worn jeans, scuffed cowboy boots, a denim shirt and
leather vest stepped up to the microphone.
After a short welcome, he went over
the etiquette of the Pow Wow in a solemn manner. To those who came
just to observe, he said, "The chairs in the arena are reserved
for the judges. Before taking a picture of someone, permission must
be granted. Do not enter the arena to take pictures. Do not touch
anyone's dance regalia without asking first."
He then addressed the Indians participating
in the ceremony. "Only those with permission from the Lead Singer
may sit at the Drum. If you aren't wearing traditional regalia,
you may only dance during the social songs.
"Singers, report to your drums. We
will begin with the Gourd dance."
The drum beat became steady and louder.
Though Tempe hadn't noticed them enter, a large group of men now
sat in a big circle inside the arena. They were dressed similarly,
with red and blue cloth around their necks or draped over the right
shoulders, with bandoleers of mescal beans worn over the left shoulder.
Unable to see exactly what they were, she noticed decorations fastened
to the middle of the red and blue blankets centered in the back.
Some looked like military medals and ribbons.
Velvet sashes of either red or blue
with fringe and beadwork on the ends encircled their waists. Each
dancer held a gourd rattle in one hand and a feather fan in the
The drum beat continued, and a singer
began. The men remained seated, shaking their rattles and feathers
in time to the song. The dancers rose in unison and began moving
in place, shaking the rattles and flexing their knees in time with
Jake Celso shoved his way through
those waiting in the front of the line. A murmur of protest rose.
Violet reached out toward her husband. "For goodness sake, Jake,
what are you..."
Ignoring her, he darted around the
end of the bleachers. Fearing trouble, Tempe quickly excused her
way through the crowd. When she was free, she broke into a run in
an attempt to catch up with Jake.
She found him standing at the other
end of the bleachers, scratching his head. "What's going on?" she
"I thought I saw someone who's got
no business being here," Jake said, a frown creasing his wide brow.
"Anyone I know?"
"Probably. Grant Whitcomb."
Whitcomb's ranch bordered the reservation.
He had an on-going feud with the reservation Indians, always accusing
them of breaking down his fences, stealing his cattle and horses,
and starting fires. Sometimes his accusations were justified, more
often they were not.
"As much as he hates Indians, I can't
imagine Mr. Whitcomb wanting anything to do with the Pow Wow," Tempe
"Obviously you don't know him very
well, Deputy. He's a mean, vicious old man. He'd do anything to
hurt me or my family." Jake's eyes narrowed and the crease deepened.
He sighed, glancing all around once again. "If it was him, he's
managed to find some place to hide. Might as well go back."
The dancers had left the circle and
rejoined those waiting in line at the entrance to the arena by the
time Tempe returned. The master-of-ceremonies once again stepped
to the mike. "Everyone stand for the grand entry and remain standing
for the entire ceremony."
At the head of the line were the
elders. The men wore huge double bustles at their necks and backs,
traditional dress, and red and black, double feathered headdress.
With a slow, halting double step,
the older people regally entered the arena first. The previous year's
Princess followed, wearing a beautifully decorated shawl over a
buckskin dress and a beaded crown perched atop a modern short hairdo.
The Princess hopefuls were in line
behind her. They lifted their feet higher, swaying gracefully. Linda
Davelos' spirits seemed to have risen with the beat of the drum.
She held her head high; a smile brightened her plain face.
Some of the younger men hopped with
a lively step, bowing and dipping in time with the rhythm as
they entered the arena. One youth had cowbells circling his ankles,
adding the discordant clanging to the drum beat and voice of the
The children danced with as much
exuberance as their older counterparts. A few of the young mothers
carried their children on their backs in modern versions of the
Some of the participants didn't look
like Indians at all except for their clothing. Tempe decided they
might be part Indian but like Blair, it just didn't show.
All those dressed in regalia carried
a feather of some sort--just one, or a fan of turkey, dyed chicken
feathers, or a more spectacular spray of eagle feathers.
As she watched, amazed by the differences
in the outfits, she noticed one young man who stood out from the
rest. He danced more exuberantly--and with less grace--passing the
others. His dark shoulder length hair flowed freely from a headband
with beading, ribbon streamers, and white beaded loops circling
his black, deep set eyes. Feathers covered his shoulders, leaving
his torso bare. Low slung deerskin breeches covered muscular legs.
His moccasins pounded against the sawdust as he moved past people
making his way towards the front of the line.
He appeared rude, or at least unmindful
of those around him, as he circled and dipped around one dancer,
Though he continued to lift his knees
high in perfect rhythm with the drum, he slipped in beside the Princess
The beaded loops cast a shadow on
the young man's upper face, making him appear fierce and threatening.
Tempe could imagine him as a warrior of long ago, preparing himself
Marella noticed him for the first
time. She missed a beat of the rhythm, almost stumbling. Her mouth
opened as though she was going to say something to him and she frowned.
From the distance, Tempe couldn't be sure if her expression showed
anger--or was it fear?
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