It took a few months, but Elijah managed to get a modest dogtrot cabin built. It wasn’t much, but would be sufficient living space for he and his brothers, who he would be meeting with in the fall.
Most everything, Elijah built by hand using lumber he cut down himself. Anything he couldn’t build himself, he got from the trading post, eleven miles to the south.
Elijah had planned on building a barn, but he didn’t have enough lumber to build much more than a small shed, which for now would have to do. Elijah didn’t want to clear out anymore trees than he absolutely had to.
On the weekends Elijah would go visit his neighbors. Elijah had a standing invitation to join Coy for dinner every Saturday. Coy often took Elijah to the barn to show off his latest horses. The Harris Ranch was strictly a horse ranch. They had a few cattle which they used for their own food and to feed some of the nearby tribes. It was horses and land where Coy Harris made his money.
Elijah still had not made up his mind about Coy. The older man was nice and charming, but seemed a bit too focused on material things and money. He was very proud of the fact that he was the richest man in Chickasaw Nation. However despite his monetary success, Coy did use some of his monetary gain to help the local villages out a bit. Coy claimed to be a philanthropist for his people. Their benefactor. Elijah still wasn’t so sure about that.
Elijah much preferred spending his time with Coy’s daughter Ann. Ann was something else all together. Like her father she had a love for horses, but she seemed a lot more interested in the animal’s spiritual attributes than their monetary worth.
Holly, Elijah’s buckskin mare, had taken a shine to the young Chickasaw woman. Ann would caress the horses side and softly whisper to the animal in her native tongue, then tell Elijah what the horse was telling her.
Elijah wasn’t sure what to think about it. Was it just a game or did Ann really have the ability to talk and understand an animals language?
“She’s happy here.” Ann said. “In the territory I mean. However she is lonesome, she misses her companion.”
“Yeah she and my brother’s horse, Jock were good buddies.” Elijah said.
“What is buddy?” Anne asked.
Anne like her father had a good grasp of English, but there were some words she was unfamiliar with.
“A buddy is like a friend.” Elijah said.
“No..they were not buddies.” Ann said. “They were mates….lovers. She misses him. She is also with child.”
“She is pregnant?” Elijah asked a bit shocked. He wasn’t sure why.
“Yes.” Ann said. “she is three months.”
“Must have happened right before I left Sunset Valley then.” Elijah said.
Ann turned her attention to Elijah.
“You are happy here too?” Ann asked.
“Very happy.” Elijah said. “Beautiful country, and good people.”
“I am happy you are here too.” Ann said. “I get along okay with my people, but they are not happy with my father. For good reason, but I sometimes get…what’s the word…assoc..asso.”
“Associated?” Elijah asked.
“Yes.” Anne said. “I am Harris and people don’t like my father and sometimes don’t like me too.”
“There problem, not yours.” Elijah said. “They are missing out knowing a special person.”
“You think me special?” Anne asked.
“Of course.” Elijah said. “Holly and I both are very fond of you.”
“That is nice.” Anne said. “So I am like your buddy?”
Elijah smiled broadly. He wasn’t sure but he didn’t think he saw Anne as a buddy. She had a special kind of beauty. A beauty he found quiet alluring. Elijah decided it was best not to say so though, he didn’t want to confuse the poor girl.
“Yes.” Elijah lied. “Just like a buddy.”
On Sunday’s Elijah would visit the village. The first time he came, after he had moved onto the Harris Property, Shanafila didn’t say two words to him. His wife Ohoyo was a lot more friendly.
However after his second visit, Elijah and Shanafila started to bond a bit. Shanafila started calling Elijah, “Hairy Face”. At first this annoyed Elijah, until Ohoyo explained it was a subtle sign of endearment. Ohoyo told Elijah her husband wouldn’t admit it, but he was developing a reluctant respect for Elijah. Shanafila thought Elijah was a hard worker, and he helped out his fellow man. Elijah usually hunted extra game on Saturdays, before he went to the Harris Ranch, so he could provide some of the Sunday meal Ohoyo would prepare.
“I hear you and Coy’s girl are getting along well.” Ohoyo said.
“Ah Hairy Face has his eye on Hanan.” Shanafila teased.
Hanan was Anne’s Chicksaw name which meant Small Eagle.
“I don’t have an eye on her.” Elijah said. “We are just friends.”
“Sure. sure.” Shanafila said. “I heard you two were “buddies”.”
“Yeah, which is another word that means friends. You can rest easy Shanafila.” Elijah said. “We won’t be anything more.”
“You want to be with Hanan, I have no problem.” Shanafila said seriously. “She is good woman, you are…a decent man.”
“What’s this?” Elijah asked. “Shanafila is giving me his blessings to court one of his own?”
“No.” Shanafila said without emotion. “I said you can be with Hanan. She is a good woman, but her blood is already tainted. Her old man is a half breed.”
“Be that as it may, I am not looking for a wife.” Elijah said. “At least not now.”
“That does not matter.” Ohoyo said. “Just ask Shanafila. He did not want a wife either, but when a Chickasaw woman find love, we will get our man, and Hanan, has found love.”
That night Elijah tossed and turned. Try as he might he could not get Ann off his mind. Why did Shanafila and Ohoyo have to put that idea in his head? Elijah had noticed and appreciated Anne’s beauty, he found her interesting and he enjoyed her company. Until this afternoon though, he never really entertained any real ideas on being with her. Should he even consider it?
It was a complicated situation. He was leasing his land from her father. On top of that a white man marrying anyone in Indian Territory might make people think Elijah is only interested in the marriage for the land, and Elijah was not that sleazy.
How did Elijah really feel about Ann?
Elijah knew he was not kidding himself, nor anyone around him. He was smitten.
“Well fuck.” Elijah said to himself. “Now what the hell do I do?”