Book One: Among the Nez Perce
The woman of the people cried out her silent dying prayer high into the heavens, and Eagle awoke from his endless slumber…Coyote grinned!!!
Born on the Pass, October 1950
Jonathan Knight paced the walls of the cabin with his two-year-old son Will in his arms. He was no doctor. He was concerned that his wife, Sara, was having a difficult time these last few hours. A decision had to be made. Although the baby wasn’t due for at least another week, they had planned to drive up to Grangeville three days ago. That was when this unexpected round of early storms blew in from the elevations. John was beginning to get worried. “That baby was ready to be born."
Hearing Sara’s scream, John quickly put Will into his cradle and ran to the loft where Sara lay. He looked down at her sweat soaked face and felt a rush of panic as he noticed her lap was immersed in liquid.
“Relax, John, my water just broke,” Sara said as she smiled up at him through a face full of pain. “Studebaker’s packed for the trip so let’s just take William over to Tom’s and get headed to Grangeville."
John looked at Sara with a worried expression and said, “Sara, with the weather outside it’ll be a difficult ride across the pass, and that baby looks like it wants to come now."
Thirty minutes later they had dropped off Little William at the neighbors and were headed northbound on US highway 95 out of Riggins. The winds were gusting, and snow fell steadily, but John knew that his snow tires were in sound condition, and he could feel them getting the traction needed to grip the asphalt.
John took a breath as they passed through the town of White Bird. His anxiety grew as the pass loomed ahead, and he knew this would be the most treacherous part of the trip. White Bird Pass on highway 95 was infamous for being possibly the most dangerous North-South piece of highway in America. He had traveled the pass many times in bad weather and knew the Studebaker was right for these roads.
As they rolled out of town, John quickly checked the back where Sara lay wrapped up in every blanket they owned. Although the temperature was below freezing, John knew she was wrapped warmly, and the truck camper provided protection from the weather outside. He was focusing his concentration so intently on the hairpin curves that he barely registered Sara’s scream. “Damn-Damn-Damn!” John bellowed as his mind raced. “Okay be calm,” he thought to himself. “Just pull off around the next curve." He knew there was a gravel pull out just up ahead.
Once he was safely off the road, he got out and jumped in the back. With a surge of trepidation, he noticed that Sara was white as a sheet. Beneath her wrappings, blood saturated the innermost blanket.
As John sat there almost in a state of shock, Sara’s hand reached out and grabbed his shoulder. He looked into her amazingly calm eyes as she said, “John I’m going to have this baby right here. You know what needs to be done."
John was an outdoorsman and had worked farms all his life. He had delivered many of his foals by his own hands, as well as sheep and cattle, through often-difficult births. His camper was well supplied for the necessary requirements. They camped out often as a couple and recently as a family. In ten minutes he had spread out the burlap awning behind the truck, forming a lean-to, and had water on the camp stove boiling. Once he began the process, the birth went amazingly well. Sara’s dilations seemed reasonable, and the baby was in the proper position. John had never witnessed a delivery go as smoothly. As he wrapped the baby in a small blanket and put him in his mother’s arms, he was able to staunch Sara’s blood flow as he carefully covered her snugly in the heavy blankets, concerned about the ashen pallor on his wife’s face.
Once again, Sara looked at him with those beautiful calm eyes as she said, “It’ll be alright, John. His name is Daniel and White Bird will be with him all the days of his life."
Although John did not understand what she meant, he did not have time to dwell on it. He nodded at her as he said, “I love you Sara” and quickly began packing everything back in the truck.
As he was Rolling up the tarp he distinctly heard a sharp “scream, cry, shriek?” high above that sounded eerily like the call of an eagle. His imagination must be working overtime, he considered, as he spied an enormous, very white bird circling above. “That could not possibly be an eagle!” John thought. “It must be snow-covered and has to be much lower than it appears." John knew that eagles were just not that large and were never completely white. “And flying out here in this kind of weather? It just makes no sense!” With an eerie abruptness, the wind died completely, and in the sudden calmness, the snow completely stopped falling. This too seemed an oddity to John, but he just shook his head gratefully and quickly packed the gear, wrapped his wife and child up warm, and pulled out for Grangeville.
John maneuvered the truck carefully onto the snow-packed road. Although the way was now clearly visible, the twists and winds were always treacherous. No wind or snow existed. As if the storm never happened. They soon hit the summit and started down the north side. The twists were less pronounced, and the road was protected well against blowing snow. The north side of the pass was actually on the west face of the mountain and was very timbered. Before long they would be off the pass and within a comfortable ride into Grangeville.
As he drove, his memories flew across time reflecting on his short life with Sara. He had only been married to her for just over a year, though they had known each other for much longer. He had met her during a forest fire he was helping to fight, that had been on the borders of old Tom Lincoln’s ranch. Little more than a child back then, she was magnificent on that horse the first time he saw her. He was a young man of twenty-two. Sara was only sixteen, and the great-granddaughter of Old Tom. In those early years, he spent much of his time on Old Tom’s ranch and became somewhat of a political student to him. They had recently been talking of John running for state office. Tom Robinson was becoming a person to be reckoned with in politics. When John’s first wife had passed away less than two years ago, he had gravitated quickly to Sara. It was a whirlwind romance, and they had married over the objections from Old Tom. The old man could never say no to his favorite granddaughter, however, and had eventually, sort of, come around.
As John pulled into the hospital emergency entrance, he realized that his reflections had kept panic and worry at bay during the drive. The baby boy had been uncharacteristically quiet during this time. John thought it almost eerie. The final drive had been nearly two hours long, and he had not heard a noise from him. As he looked into the back, he noticed the baby’s eyes were wide open and aware, as if he had not slept at all. Those knowledgeable, almost empathetic eyes now regarded him with open, calm sentience, uncommon in any newborn child.
He picked up Sara in his arms and passed her to an orderly with a gurney while a young nurse cradled his newborn son in her arms, and quickly took them inside the intensive care unit.
John paced the waiting room floor for seemingly an endless amount of time. His mind could not help but consider the event of the baby’s birth. It was a very troublesome memory, and John was struggling to come to grips with it. “Sara had said his name was Daniel."
His thoughts were interrupted when the doctor finally came into the room and approached John with unreadable eyes. As the doctor reassured him that Daniel was okay, John’s heart sank and his eyes filled with tears. “She’s gone isn’t she,” John whispered.
The doctor looked at John and quietly said, “I’m sorry. She just lost too much blood. She went peacefully."
As John regarded the doctor with quiet disbelief, his mind churned at the thought of all the years to come for him without his Sara being by his side. He thought of his newborn son brought into this world on White Bird Pass. He considered thoughtfully the last thing Sara had said to him. “White Bird will be with him all the days of his life.” It gave him chills.
As John kissed Sara good-by for the last time, he could not bring himself to look upon the baby, who seemed to be staring intently through the ceiling with those aware and understanding eyes. Those quiet knowing eyes that looked so much like Sara. With a last look at his son and a final good-bye to Sara, he gave them both to the nurse’s care and left the hospital.
Outside, high above, witnessed by no human, save possibly the inward eye of a newly born infant boy, a huge, very white Eagle lazily circled a calm, blue, cloudless sky.
Atop a hill nearby, a large, beautiful coyote looked up as he watched eagle circle. A sly amused grin and an intelligent gleam in his eyes gave him the appearance of laughter.