Thunder Rolling in the Mountains

Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O’Dell Read Free Book Online

Book: Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O’Dell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Scott O’Dell
him and took careful aim and shot him in the face. Then she sank to the ground and died.
    My father lurched from his bed and ran outside. He thrust my baby sister into my arms. The air was filled with shouts and war whoops and the cries of children, cut through by the sound of shooting. Bullets tore through the camp like hailstones. Fires burned along the shore from one tipi to another. Women with children clutching their skirts and babies on their
backs ran out of the tipis screaming. My father told them to leave the stream and hide on the hillside in the brush. By this time all the tipis were burning. My mother ran out with her braided hair on fire.
    Some of the women tried to hide in the stream, but it was too shallow and their heads stuck out of the water. Soldiers shot at their heads and killed all except a child who was able to crawl along the bottom and grasp some willows along the shore.
    Our warriors drove the soldiers back across the stream and through the willows. Then Looking Glass gathered our warriors and scattered them through the bottom between the stream and the far hills. They dug pits, set up carbines, and built rock walls high enough to shoot over and not to be shot at by the soldiers.
    Their guns were not new, and their soft bullets got stuck in the barrels and the barrels exploded. They had no food and it was hard to reach the stream without being shot. Yet from the hour Looking Glass put them in the pits, they fought until the gun barrels melted.
    At nightfall Chief Joseph went to the dirt pits and counted. He found thirty-one of our people dead and twenty-six badly wounded. Most of the dead and wounded were women, old men, and children. Some had been shot as they slept, still rolled in their blankets. Some had been clubbed by the soldiers when they charged the camp at dawn. We lost twelve warriors. Red Moccasin Tops was dead, killed by a bullet that struck him in the throat. Of the Red Coats, only Swan Necklace lived.
    My father could not count the enemy soldiers who were slain and wounded in the hills, but our warriors said that the Blue Coats lay thick upon the ground. Lean Elk, who had joined us only a few suns before, fought valiantly. He led a group that seized the soldiers' cannon, broke it, and pushed it into the swamp. They captured enough bullets to fight many battles. Yet we had taken a loss we dared not suffer another day.
    Fighting stopped when the night hawks began to fly. Swan Necklace and I held hands and talked about the day we would be married and live once more in beautiful Wallowa. We watched two girls combing their wet hair. They had spent most of the day in the stream, swimming in the shallows and coming up to breathe.
    Then I went to help with the wounded. My mother had been hit as she ran for the stream, her hair in flames. We fought for her life all night there by the water. My father held her in his arms, away from the smoldering camp and the starlit sky, to the world beyond. When she died, my father said, "Will this hatred ever end? It sickens my heart. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. Yet we shoot one another down like animals."

Eleven
    W ITH SICK HEARTS , we packed in the dark to leave. Four of our best warriors lay dead. Besides Wah-lit-its and Red Moccasin Tops, we had lost Rainbow and Five Wounds. Only a few families were not mourning a lost relative. The Blue Coats were pinned in rifle pits among the trees and could not see our camp. A dozen of our warriors kept them busy fighting so we could get away.
    My father was in charge of our escape. He rounded up the horses and we got ready to go. We pulled down the tipis that had not burned and used the poles to make travois for the badly wounded. With my baby sister on my back, I helped put Fair Land, Ollokot's wife, on a travois. She was near death, but Ollokot was still fighting and could not be with her.
    Those whose wounds were not dangerous, we tied onto ponies. I helped White Feather onto her horse. She

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