The wind, a soft breeze for once instead of the usual gale, carry the sound of hoofbeats over Laconee. We gatherers—women, children, and older men—draw together on the canyon floor, waiting for the onslaught of terrified bison to come cascading over the edge of the canyon. Tumbling terror that would bring us food, shelter, warmth, tools, even music.
The children and infirm remain sheltered in caverns as the rest of us prepare. We tend fires, make sure our implements are ready to do the hard work of harvesting the useful parts of the bison, mostly pray for the safety of our people and give thanks for the bison’s sacrifice. And we wait.
I know that, as a woman, my role is to do the work after the bison fall into Laconee, after the men drag their bodies to our work areas. I don’t mind, not really. And yet…
And yet, my spirit craves to be on the plains, to feel the wind sweep over the land and against me, to feel it skim over the rim of the canyon. In my heart, I am as fierce as any brave, as ready to ride my pony and herd the bison forward, forward, then over the edge. My voice cracks as I speak my prayers. I want to raise the cry, to whoop along with my fellow braves, to cheer as we work together to ensure our supplies for the winter. I want to hunt, to source, not only to gather and process the proceeds of the braves’ work.
There is no shame in the work done on the floor of Laconee. But my body, my soul belongs on the open land, with nothing but sky above me.
The sound of hooves grows louder, punctuated by fearsome and fearful roars from the bison and staccato screeches from the braves urging them to go faster, to run to what seems to be safety but is in fact their death and their unknowing sacrifice for our survival.
I’m irritable as I tend the fire. Ilesh, only seven years old, is playing brave. He seeks rock outcroppings and then whoops and yells as he turns toward the edge, mimicking the braves up on the plains. Once he even got Banahe, our black dog, to run in from of him as he herded Banahe over the edge in triumph. Having dropped only a short distance, Banahe was fine, but Ilesh was exhultant. His high-pitched child’s cries bear little resemblance to the sounds we hear echoing from above Laconee.
“Ilesh,” I hiss, stop that. “My voice is more of a brave’s than yours.”
Ilesh stares at me for a moment, then tosses his head as he replies, “But Anoahi, my voice will grow and soon I will take part in the hunt. You know you will never be a brave.”
And there it is. His spite is my truth. I want to retaliate, but I can’t. He speaks the undeniable truth. I have no retort.
Mother elbows me as I stare at Ilesh. “Do not wish for what cannot be, Keep your eyes on your path, daughter.” She nodded toward the other women. “Do you imagine you are the only one of us who believes we could ride herd? Do you imagine that we would choose to be here in the canyon instead?” With a curt thrust of her head, Mother directs me to where my sisters are gathered. “Do you imagine you have more skill than they do?”
Although I know she doesn’t seek an answer, my words pour out. “No, Mother. But I do have more desire. Different desire. My soul seeks the wind.”