The Wish Rock
Atchison, Kansas, 1854:
Lynelle Tyler, a poor
homesteader with southern roots and a threat to no one. As she worked her
garden the sound of galloping horse hooves sent her spiraling into fear.
“Please don’t let it be Boone’s father!” She waited, breath held and fingers
still embedded in dirt, until the sound of hooves died off again.
Life in Kansas had gotten more distressing to her with the arrival of the Missouri Regulators, as some called them. But she feared no one else the way she feared the Kiowa. Lynelle wanted to move young Boone far from this bloody border where the status of owning slaves could get anyone killed, and where Kae-gon, her Kiowa husband, could find her. But where would they go? She had not seen Kae-gon since she threatened him with death if he came anywhere near their son. But she could not erase her love for him from her heart.
The Atchison men were armed and even the Kiowa feared them, so an Indian war might start and Kae-gon could be killed. The thought filled her with blissful anxiety. She didn’t want to lose the man she both loved, and hated.
Boone Tyler knelt in his potato garden, not too far from his mama, watching her and feeling her fears. She didn’t seem to know he was there, feeling herself alone in her small garden world. Boone knew she loved his father. She told him the story once of how her father, General Tyler, attacked Kae-gon’s village to get her back, killing many in the process. “Let my father move in with us,” Boone told her over and over.
“He cannot leave his people,” she responded over and over.
Boone knew the story of how his parents met—knew it told with tears many times. “Oh, how I loved him. Oh, how gentle he was when we met in the river. I wore no clothes and to make me comfortable he took his off. But we just talked, Boone, because he knew some English and I knew some signing. He came to see me every day, and my father never knew. Then came the day I went to his village and never looked back. Until my father came to get me … and that terrible raid.” She did not like to talk about that day of the killings, except to remind Boone that he must never live with them, as if a litany, a fairy tale to be retold at bedtime. “You must always stay white. Your father’s people are doomed.”
Boone loved his mother and he believed her, while wondering if her love of his father drove her crazy. But he promised never to go with his father.
She knelt at the garden
again, still nervous and scared at the sound of the horse riders. That’s why
Boone was in a hurry to be a man, so she could feel safe again. He could feel
her tears as she dug into the dirt to harvest their bean and carrot crop,
watched her as she wiped her tears away with dirty hands.
She told Boone that Kae-gon’s world was too dangerous. They were a happy, contented people when left alone, but also a people torn by both desire and disdain for white world goods. She believed that alone would destroy them. But why did she shiver every time she talked about Kae-gon? Was that love or hate … or something else?
Lynelle put the small carrots, beans and squash into the basket, her shoulders slumping as she counted her meager harvest, and went back into the house.
Boone had beaten Lynelle inside. He had sprawled out on the dirt floor, picked up his etching stick, and appeared busy drawing pictures when she came in. His tousled black hair was still coated with the sand and sweat from the morning’s chore. “Where’s my vagabond mama been this time?” He took to calling her vagabond because lately she’d taken to wandering off for hours at a time.
She smiled at her lanky son deep in concentration, one foot kicking up small dry dust clouds behind him. “Boone Tyler, did you check your garden yet?” Boone looked like his father—except for the freckles on his small nose and flecks of green in his brown eyes. The whites called him a “half-breed,” and she feared he would grow to not know which side he belonged to. She was determined to keep him on the white side, whatever it took.
“Look, Mama, the horse is running free as the wind. And I drew me over here, so that it runs to me.”
Even with General Tyler dead, his paternal disapproval gone, his kind’s hatred of Kae-gon’s people would never die, and having a child as a blend of both would never change that. She often found one of her Shakespeare tales to fit every situation—the two of them would search long into the night to find something to make them sigh in understanding. She and Kae-gon were so Romeo & Juliet that she felt herself die a little more every time she remembered his arms around her.