Lakota People's Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859
So many people to try to help! I probably shouldn’t be repeating a charity, but I am anyway. This is one I promoted on a previous Charity Sunday, on last September 22nd, when the Lakota tribes and others were defending their lands and water sources against the Keystone XL oil pipelines. They still are, in fact, although they’ve won some delays, but now they’re facing another threat. It’s the same one we’re all facing, the coronavirus, but with much fewer medical or supply defenses than most of us have. The virus is spreading fast on the reservations, and on the Navajo lands to the south, where access to clean water is extremely limited. I’ve already sent a contribution there, and now I’m going to contribute again to the Lakota cause, $2 for every viewer of this blog, and $3 for every comment.
I used my only vaguely appropriate story already on that September blog, so the best I can do is offer an excerpt from near the beginning of another story that at least takes place in a similar setting, Montana. It’s actually a ghost story, but I won’t get into much of the complicated part. And I’m not even going toinclude any explicit sex, although there’s some further on in the story. So here goes.
Excerpt from “Spirit Horse Ranch” in my collection Wild Rides and Other Lesbian Erotic Adventures (Dirt Road Books)
Spirit Horse Ranch
A bark and a high-pitched whine came up from the root cellar. Emmaline went to the top of the steps. “Get your furry butt up here,” she yelled, beginning to lower the trapdoor. Chinook, not wanting to be shut below, left off whatever she was doing and bounded up into the kitchen.
“If you haven’t caught ‘em yet, you won’t, not without tearing up my spuds and onions!” The scolding was mostly to keep her own voice steady. “Wait for Sigri to get home!”
At the sound of that name, the dog padded hopefully to the screen door and looked out at the empty, dusty road connecting the ranch to the rest of the world. For all her devotion to Emmaline, Chinook looked to Sigri as her one true goddess.
No argument there, Emmaline thought. To see Sigri riding against the backdrop of the mountains, lithe, strong, the herd of horses running with her for the pure joy of it, any passing stranger might think Montana was as close to heaven as earth could get. At night, in ways no passerby could imagine, Emmaline knew for sure she’d found her own personal paradise. The thought rekindled the anticipatory heat she’d felt when she thought it was Sigri behind her.
But what was she going to tell Sigri? That she’d freaked out in the root cellar, panicked about ghosts, when it might be just rats? Even in the familiar normalcy of the kitchen, she couldn’t really believe that. Whatever she decided, it would go better after supper, and there wouldn’t be any supper if she didn’t get on with it.
For now, there was plenty left of the big kettle of chili Sigri cooked once a week. Emmaline could whip up a batch of cornbread and pull some greens from the autumn garden. Sigri wouldn’t object, having pretty much lived on nothing else in the years she’d ranched here alone.
A tensing of the dog’s back, a perking of ears, brought Emmaline to the screen door. Dust puffed in the distance, where the road was no more than a crease in grasslands tinted gold by the afternoon light. Beyond, blue mountains streaked with early snow rose in jagged ranges; the Absarokee and Beartooth to the south, the Crazies to the west. To Emmaline they were guardians, shielding her against where she’d come from, who she’d had to be; but even their grandeur dimmed behind the glint of sunlight on the approaching truck.
Chinook’s whines rose to a frantic pitch. It didn’t take the dog’s quivering rump, ready to break out into a fit of wagging, to tell Emmaline that the truck was Sigri’s. She knew, as surely as the dog, and she understood the impulse to race to meet the loved one, but Chinook, for all her size, was barely out of puppyhood and still needed her training reinforced. Her job, her sacred charge, was to stay close to Emmaline every minute.
Sigri had swapped the stud service of her Appaloosa stallion for the pick of a neighbor’s litter of pups. “Folks around here are pretty much decent, mind-their-own-business types, whatever their beliefs,” she’d said, “but punks can sprout up anywhere, even Montana. A good dog can make ‘em think twice about trying to get at…well, at a woman out here alone.”
No need to spell it out. It wasn’t just being a woman alone. What had happened down in Laramie to that boy Matthew Shepard was on both their minds. Sigri, when she’d lived alone, hadn’t worried; nearly everybody within fifty miles was related to her, or owned horses she’d trained. She was one of their own. Emmaline, for all her farm-girl background, wasn’t.
The red truck was close enough now for her to make out the familiar lines. Where the road dipped down to ford the tree-lined creek, green-gold leaves hid it for a moment; this was when Emmaline would generally head out to open the gate in the stock fence. Right now she wasn’t sure her legs would take her that far without some wobbling Sigri was sure to notice.
“Stay!” She pressed her hand down hard on Chinook’s wriggling shoulders. Sigri reached the gate, got out to open it herself, looked searchingly up at the house, and got back in. Emmaline waited until the truck stopped between the barn and the house and then, finally, let Chinook out.
Sigri stood, stretched her rangy body after the bumpy ride, pushed back her Stetson until straw-pale cropped hair showed above her tanned forehead, and looked again toward the house. Glimpsing Emmaline inside the doorway, she flashed a boyish grin that would never grow old, no matter how many lines time and weather etched on her face.
The dog pranced around her legs in frantic welcome. Weanling fillies along the paddock fence whickered in greeting. Emmaline, aching to be there too, watched as each animal got its moment of affection. When Sigri finally hauled sacks of groceries out of the truck and strode toward the house, Emmaline barely had time to tie on her apron, pour flour and corn meal into a bowl, and get enough on herself to look like she’d been in the middle of mixing.
The screen door swung open and shut. As soon as the bags and a banded bundle of mail were safely on the kitchen table, and the Stetson tossed onto its hook, Emmaline proceeded to wipe her hands on the blue-checked dishtowel and rush to grab a big hug.
Sigri’d noticed something, though. “You okay, babe?” She stroked the loose tangle of hair Emmaline had forgotten to tidy. Fear came surging back.
With her arms around Sigri’s lean body and her head nestled against a firm shoulder, Emmaline managed to say, “Sure I’m okay. How’d it go in Bozeman?”
“Not too bad.” Sigri tried to get a look at Emmaline’s face. “I dropped off your baked goods at the café. Claire wrote a check for last week and this week too, so we’re all square there. And Rogers at the bank seemed pretty sure we can get an extension on the loan. He knows I’m owed enough by the horse trek outfitters to cover it.”
Emmaline burrowed a little closer, then tilted her head back for a kiss. Chinook, firmly trained not to interrupt such proceedings, lay down with her head between her paws, and then, impatient, went to nose around the edges of the trapdoor.
Emmaline became vaguely aware of the rattle of some small object being pushed around the floor behind her. Sigri, looking past her shoulder, broke the clinch. “What’s that dratted dog got? Chicken bone?”
“Not from my kitchen…” Emmaline stopped. Chinook was offering her prize to to Sigri. Held tenderly, in jaws trained to pick up eggs without breaking them, was a four-inch sticklike object. Not, they both knew, a stick. Bone, or two bones hitched together, but not chicken bone. Chickens don’t have fingers.
Sigri knelt. “Good girl,” she said, ruffling the dog’s ears. She took the bone and inspected it. “Not fresh, at least. Old. Real old, I’d say, but not prehistoric. Where’d you get that?” She looked up. “Where’s she been?”
Emmaline managed to yank a chair out from the table and slump into it. “Just here, in the house, or right beside me outdoors. And…down in the root cellar. I was putting up some more shelves.”
Sigri’s long body straightened. She hauled out a chair, straddled it backwards, and surveyed Emmaline keenly. “Down in the dugout? Guess you must have been hammering up some storm to get yourself so bedraggled.”
“Well, I was.” Emmaline steadied herself with pure stubbornness. “I built a good strong set of shelves. And maybe shook a little dirt lose from the wall, but I swear there wasn’t any crack big enough for…for a rat.”
“What’s a rat got to do with it?”
“Nothing!” Emmaline fastened her hair back tight with the rubber band from the bundle of mail. A couple of magazines unfurled to show covers she wouldn’t have wanted the local postmistress to see, which, along with the occasional specialty mail order delivery, was why they kept a post office box in the university town of Bozeman.
That’s all, for now. Links to other folks’ blogs on this Charity Sunday are below.