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American Money
By Delmar B. Cooper  Place 1st

    The women must think I no longer have ears, or that I have become a child.  I heard them say that my granddaughter is marrying a white man.  When the pain goes away I will rise and kill them both.  It will be better for her to be dead, and it has been a long time since I have killed a white man.

    The French priest came by today.  He brought the medicine that makes me sleep. He reads to me from the black book and I sleep.  I do not think I ask for the medicine, but I am no longer sure.  I once was a man.  I do not know what I am now.  My belly grows like a woman with child.  I travail like a woman, and listen for the wagon that brings the priest, and the medicine.

    I have had a guest.  Crooked Nose came up from Ft. McLeod; this was a good sign.  It means I will not travail much longer.  He would not have come otherwise.  He propped me up in my bed and shooed the women from the room.  Crooked Nose was just a boy when his father and I rode with the Lakota.  His legs trouble him now, and he walks with a long stick, but he came up from Ft. McLeod to visit me.

    "Can you see?"  He raised the wick on the lamp until it smoked then lowered it a little.  He took a tobacco sack from  his vest pocket and shook something from it into my hand.

    "What is this?  What have you given me?"

    "It is a piece of money, but it is not  from Canada.  Look at it.  It is American money, it is new money, a new thing."

    I looked at it in the lamp light.  There was a buffalo on it.  I have not seen a
buffalo in many summers.  "In your father's time these covered the Earth, when the herds passed the dust put out the sun."

    "Yes, yes, I know all this.  It is a good thing, but the buffalo is not what I want you to see.  Turn the money over.  Tell me what you think."

    "It is an Indian. I think it is an Indian."

    "Look closer, look at this Indian."  Crooked Nose put his hand under mine, and pushed the coin back.

    "It cannot be." 

    "Look at him and tell me that!"  Crooked Nose ordered.

    He was older than I remembered.  His fierceness was mellowed by dignity, like those reservation Indians that stayed in America and posed for any photographer who had a drink of whiskey.  But, it was him. I was certain it was him.

    "It is Two Moons.  This Indian they have put on their money is Two Moons."

    His face broke into a wide toothless grin, and he began to laugh.  Crooked Nose held my hand and laughed until I forgot the fire in my belly.  I joined him, and for a little while I was once again a young man.  I felt the summer heat.  I heard the blood sing in my ears. I tasted the salt of battle in my mouth, and I saw.  I saw it all again as if it was this morning.  I saw the little hill that rose above the Lakota village on the Little Big Horn.  I saw the blue shirts, and the arrows.  I saw Two Moons, his arm raised high above his head, bloody to the elbow. I saw the yellow hair in his hand.

    "May I keep this?" I asked Crooked Nose.

    He put the money back into the tobacco sack and tied it around my neck with a thong.  It was a good sign that he came to see me.  I no longer think I asked the French priest for his medicine.  I do not think I have ever asked a white man for anything.

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