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In the old days

When the country had just opened up 

And for the first time there were more white people

Than anyone else

Back when children were respectful and knew how to mind their elders

One woman

Who had fought the Texas Rangers as a young woman

Left her husband

Because he brought too many new wives home

Not that she was jealous

More that she was tired of breaking up fights

Between the younger wives

So she left

And she would not return no matter how hard he begged

Now this woman

Not only had grown children with children of their own

But two little daughters barely weaned

And her own two grandmothers

Living in her tent

One hoarded food under the edges of the pallet

That was her bed

Until the sides curled up

Leaving her to sleep in something like a boat

Both the old women were blind as two tree stumps

But the One woman wasn't defeated

she had been 

In turns

A warrior

A doctor during the smallpox epidemic

A midwife

And was now a professional gambler

Supporting them all

So she strung a rope

from her tent

Along carefully chosen level ground

 To a tree a good ways away from camp

So the old women could move their bowels

Without her keeping watch over them

When she had a thousand other things to do

Only more than once

She came from the other end of camp

To shouts of disgust

Because two bad little boys

Thought it would be high comedy

To fasten the end of her rope to a stake in the center of camp

And watch a pair of ancient ladies

Squat and raise their skirts in full view of the whole band

Once she caught one of the pair


Behind the flap of his mother's tent

And grabbing him by one braid

Pulled him out

Raking the knuckle of her free hand against the bridge of his nose

She cursed at him

"When you grow up you're gonna have two big fat wives

They're gonna be pretty

But they're both gonna beat you!"

They say he cried all night

But whether he was afraid

Or ashamed

No one knew

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