Well, it was on this las’ trip over t’ Stockton that I guess I come to’ the answer I was lookin’ fer about the strange people out o’ the future you know, them huckadoo bummer writers, an’ Sam Clamhands? Well I reckon I could put a few things together after this lil’ experience.
Like I says, I was headed t’ Stockton, an’ this time it was t’ buy me more o’ my supplies— I needed more lard an’ flar, an’ eff I could find any, an egg er two, an’ I needed terbacky an’ cigartee papers an’ possibly I could use some store bought whisky, stead o’ that copper-rust-enfewsed Fugitive Justice o’ Jamjob’s.It was in a little box gulley offa Goose Crick not too far outta El Dorado an’ I set me down t’ make a far an’ hopefully git some victuals in me. My pinto Sackagrool were there, an’ I strung him up t’ a small cottonwood, an’ he were set, since he also hed a feed bag and I slipped et on him fer a couple ares.
I was rustling about fer tinder an’ kindling, when I seen ‘im. I mean, like right outta nowar, there he wuz. An Injun! I figgered he were some type big cheese from the marks on his arms, but he weren’t dressed up like no chief, but then he looks et me.
“Truckee,” he said.
I says nodding, “Truckee you too. Howdy doo?”
“Me good. You good too.”
“Yep, I’m gittin’ along here.”
“Me know you’re not normal white man.”
“Oh I’m normal alright and if I weren’t I’d be settin in the calaboose.”
“No— I can tell from your eyes. You not like other white men. You onnist, no hate.”
“Eh, I gots my dislikes. I don’t hate Injuns though. I don’t hate nobody but people gots hate in their heart.”
“That what I mean. You no hate Injun. Not normal for white man. What you do here?”
“You mean, what am I doing here? This place?”
“I’m headed t’ Stockton fer stockin’ up my cabin. We’re gonna have another feeroshus winter.”
“You not know this place?”
“Nope. Should I?”
“This very special place. I am guardian of Hukish Kaishtish. Sacred spot, hita tushtak hatakt’gi at’getak, “Place Where Time Ends.”
“I’ll be danged.”
“Maybe you be danged anyway. My job, keep place holy. You must not tell, this is door from one spirit world to another. You see anybody come this way?”
“Eh, can’t say.”
“I know place has been used. I find many tracks lead off, some each direction. Maybe white man figure out secret of Spirit Door, some day in future. He come by here. You sure you see nobody?”
It still didn’t hit me thet he were maybe talkin’ about them writer boys.
“No, I seen nobody. Jes’ on my way down to Stockton.”
“My name Hutchne’ash Tatamnu’ish... Runs Walking. I am chief, say white man anyway, from Mokelumne tribe. I not chief. I just have this job, job from my father and his father’s father, from the ancestors. We watch Spirit Door. If there are evil spirits, evil people use this door then we...”
He drew a line acrosst his neck, an’ there were no doubting what thet meant none.
“But you not evil. And you not use Spirit Door?”
“No, I reckon I not use Spirit Door. Can’t think of nothin’ I needs it fer.”
Unless, I thinks later, eff I could jes git me a ten cent egg!
Runs Walking, like most o’ his tribe, looked like a perpetually hungry dog, an’ so I made a double batch o’ everthin I was eatin’ an’ invited him to set an’ get him some grub in him too. This I am sure made him very grateful. I tells him who I am, an’ how I comes from Judas Gulch, an’ how sorry I is that he as a Free Citizen o’ the Great State of California cain’t vote, cuz he are a Injun. This made him smile, an’ thoughtfully, he continewed t’ tell me the story o’ “This Place, Hukish Kaishtish” as he called it.
“Many many snows ago, far back when the Creator made the world, there were four Sister Goddesses responsible for holding the great clock of the stars. Manch-Gitko-P’na was goddess of Time Passed. Tankt Gatpannapkshme was goddess of Time Not-Yet-Come. Atu Hatkt-Gi was goddess of Present Moment. Atu Kayutch-Tata was goddess of Time Never-Ever Come. Of course, Atu Htkt-Gi of Present Moment was full of pride, for she felt she was most powerful of these four Sisters. Mach-Gitko-P’na, Time Passed, she was always sad, for she was always feeling like her time come and gone. Tankt Gatpannapkshme of Time Not-Yet-Come was jealous of both of them, for she would never come into her power, she felt, and Time Never-Ever Come, she thought, was always holding her back from everthing.”
“One day, then, Time Not-Yet-Come she had a plan. What if she can go back to Time Passed and get her to trick Present Moment into thinking she was Time Never-Ever Come? Maybe then she would slip her power, and Time Not-Yet-Come could gather some of that power for herself.”
“So she decided she would do this. She would trick Present Moment. The place she chose for her ambush, it was right here, where Spirit Door— Hukish Kaishtish— now is.”
“That’s all intersting. But how did the Spirit Door git har?”
“Me tell you next. Be patient, Sardo Pat.” He shifted a bit an’ as he did, embirs flew up from the fire as tho riven aside by a ghost.
“Time Not-Yet-Come went to her sister Time Never-Ever Come and asked her a favor. Time Never-Ever saw her approaching, think, “Here come my weakling sister, always complaining about her Time Not-Yet-Come, she not even like her name. She weakest Sister of all of us!”
“She hold out a pipe for Not-Yet, and Not-Yet smoke with her then ask her big favor she came for.”
“Make me a door, Time Never-Ever, so I can catch Present Moment and trick her to think she really Time Passed. Put door in this spot. When I call her, Present Moment will come, and will remember Time Passed, and door will catch her, and she will have to hold door open.”
I begun to see his point. The goddess o’ the Present Moment keeps holding the door open fer Not-Yet-Come, so thet Never-Ever will send Present Moment inta Time Passed.
“When Man come to Planet, Man walk through door and not even know it. But Creator say “Present Moment cannot keep holding door open all the time. Present Moment must be free, she has other business to do.” But once in a while Man must come through door, to learn lessons. These lessons, though, can be Evil for the Wrong People to learn them. The People must guard the Spirit Door to make sure the ones who go through Hukish Kaishtish to Time Passed will be only good people— or otherwise, Evil will come to Time Not-Yet-Come.”
“Many times, Time No-Yet-Come arrive at Hukish Kaishtish and think she fool one sister or the other. But always Present Moment and Never-Ever come trick her back. Never-Ever she make things so human beings can use door. If human beings Never-Ever meet Not-Yet-Come, then world will keep its Sacred Circle, and rain will follow snow, and light will follow Winter, and Winter will be Spring, and then Spring Summer. Always Present Moment rules, even though Not-Yet-Come has hope door is staying open. When human beings come to Spirit Door, most not even know it. Some think they can get past Present Moment and slip past Not-Yet-Come. But most often, they run back into Time Passed. It very hard to make good for Time Not-Yet-Come so she let human beings go see future. Maybe Never-Ever help her, but our job, is to work for Never-Ever and the Creator, make sure, all evil spirits fly away with Never-Ever. In this way, the birds come back in spring, and frog grows out of mud again, snow become river, and acorn fall from tree.”
“Some human beings, they think that if they go back to Time Passed, that they can make changes happen to Present Moment. But Present Moment is not enamored of that sister. She shun her, make her all finished, washed up. When Human beings land in Time Passed, maybe they get back to Present Moment, but if Present Moment not like them she send them to Never-Ever, too. You sabe?”
I nodded to him. I thought agin about ole Sam Clamhands an’ eff he were evil er not. Maybe he war an’ maybe he warn’t. I could not dismiss that possibility, seein’ as he were a Copperhead, a darn tarnation tarnished Copperhead if I never seen one. Later on en life I figures maybe he larned somethin’, but when I runned acrost him, he were jes’ as spiteful as Suthrun about my feelings about Mr. Starr King, and all. Still, a man has a right t’ his pinions, stupid though they might be, an’ he mighta been a prideful cuss, but somethin’ about Clamhands made me think well, he might be OK. And maybe Time Not Yet Come seen somethin’ in him worth saving him fer. I dunno. So agin, I says nothin’, an’ thunk some about them other fellers.
Them might have been strange but they wasn’t no evils neither. About the only people truly evil around these parts is the Pikes. A Pike will strangle his Injun guide, girrott his Chinaman with his pigtails, an’ sharpen his knife on a Chillyman’s belt buckle eff you tell ‘im thar’s gold en it fer him. I gets so tuckered out o’ these Pikes, specially the ones come here with no woman, an’ ain’t no Nesters, an’ ain’t good for nothin’ but jumpin’ claims, stealin’ hosses, an’ livin’ off the keno table. This type of man I agrees for Tankt Gatpannapkshme’s sake, should never come to Spirit Door...
I tells Runs Walking that longs as I live, ain’t no way I’se gone tell no Pikes about Hukish Kaishtish, an’ maybe nobody else (sept you settin har readin’ what I gots to say!) I didn’t want no evil t’ come to Not-Yet-Come myself, after hearin’ all this, myself. So as I was about t’ turn in, an’ Runs Walking stayed awake by the far, I am sure, keepin’ his lookout fer evil men, then I says t’ myself, “None of them boys was evil, I reckon Runs Walking don’t really even need t’ know about them.” an’ I goes to sleep.
When I wakes up o’ coarse, there ain’t no sign o’ Runs Walking an’ there ain’t no way o’ even knowing war the Hukish Kaishtish were, as he had not even told me. But I knew et were “someplace around here.” So I made me a mental note o’ it so one day, maybe, eff the hankerin’ gets too bad, I can come back here an’ see eff I can head myself up to Time-Not-Yet-Come, an’ give her a big kiss an’ a howdy, an’ see eff she won’t give me no prospects on a ten cent egg.
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