Followed by Little Wolf, David herded two large oxen down the path past the last cabins of Coossawattee Town as they headed toward home. “Now I have this problem,” he said half to himself. Little Wolf looked up at his father, but didn’t say anything.
“How do I tell your mother that I spent most of a year’s income on these oxen?” They walked on for a while in silence, only the swishing of the oxen tails and the clop of their hooves making any sound to compete with the midsummer locusts. “Do you suppose it will help to tell her that I bought them from Samuel Lattamore? That’s her clan brother who’s married to your aunt Rachel, even if we don’t see much of them.” Little Wolf just kicked a little dust in reply.
“I suppose we’ll know soon enough if she minds my buying them. I could take them back if I can’t persuade her that we’ll need them, but I hope that I can.”
A small outcropping of limestone, typical of the region along the lower river, gave way to the clearing where their first field showed the corn in full tassel, and the squash and bean vines growing abundantly between the stalks.
“Just a little bit farther and I’ll have my answer.”
Not far from their house David saw Allie standing in the small cotton patch, inspecting the blossoms. He called to her. “I think you’ll have a good crop of cotton,” he called as soon as he thought she would see him.
“Where’d you get those?” she answered. “I don’t remember talking about buying a team of oxen.
“You’re right. We didn’t. I saw Sam Lattamore in town. He delivered a new wagon to John Martin. He drove it all the way from the Hiwassee River in McMinn County, and I was admiring this pair of oxen. He said he’d sell them, too, since he’d raised them, and didn’t need them himself, and Judge Martin already had ten good teams. So I offered him thirty dollars, and we settled at forty. But if you don’t think we should buy them, I’ll take them back.”
Allie pursed her lips and began to examine them, as she thought about it. She rubbed her hands over their flanks and examined their mouths and teeth. “No, I think you did all right. I’d been wondering how we would move our stuff when the time came, and a good working team will help us in the field wherever we are. So you are safe this time. But I don’t want you to get used to spending our money without talking to me. This time I agree that you did well in buying them when you did.”
David breathed a visible sigh of relief and gave Little Wolf an open-eyed look and a wink. “Little John helped me make the decision. He’s going to be a bargainer like his Grandpa, I think.”
“I suppose so,” was all that she said. “Did you hear any news?”
“Sam says your clan relatives are all as well as can be expected. They heard from Arkansas. Your mother Ruth is strong as ever. She is herding more cattle. They heard from your aunt-mother Nancy Starr. They are prospering with their mill and holdings there at Evansville. They said they are ready for more of their family to join them and hoping it will be soon.”
Allie answered, “It’s already been ten summers since Nancy and Caleb moved out there. I didn’t dream we would even consider going there. It’s been hard to have the family so far apart.”
David continued, “The people are getting ready for the Green Corn Festival. There are special preparations at New Echota, the largest festival ever, they say, a full week of stomp dancing, fasting and fresh corn feasting, stick ball, scratching ceremonies, everything. I suppose we should plan to go.”
“Hmmph. I don’t think I want to leave Old Coosawattee Town this year. We should prepare a gayugi[iii] to take care of old Deaf Nancy’s fields, and it seems strange to me to leave Old Coosawattee when it may be the last time we get to celebrate here. There has been a green corn festival here for as long as anyone can remember. The old people would surely miss it if everyone went to New Echota instead.”
David stepped close to her and wrapped his arms around her. “I’m glad you feel that way. I’d rather be here myself, and, you’re right, Deaf Nancy could use our help. That should come first. We can get a dozen or so to form a gayugi for her, and then we can celebrate in the old style, even if most of the town goes away. Besides, even with the ban on liquor, someone will sneak it in when the crowd gathers at New Echota. Someone is always spoiling the old ways.” Then he and Allie shared a strong kiss, even while Little Wolf stood silently looking at them.
“One other piece of interesting news, though I don’t know what it means. Sam said that his brother-in-law James Starr, and another of your clan brothers, John Walker, Jr., are in Washington with Andrew Ross, trying to negotiate a plan with Andrew Jackson.”[iv]
“They can’t do that!” Allie protested. “They don’t have any authority. They can only get into trouble with the people!”
“My feelings exactly. But that is what he said, and that is what I heard from the four winds as well, though less politely.”
“It’s already being talked about, then. This will be awful for them. “Allie paused for a moment before she continued. “We should name them Cain and Abel.”
“What?” David asked, confused.
“The oxen. We should call them Cain and Abel, because of the division growing among the Ani Yun’wiya.[v]” She then sat down with Little Wolf and explained to him the bible story that gave the oxen their names.
[iii] A gayugi was a communal show of support.
[iv] John Ehle, Trail of Tears, p.266
[v] The Ani Yun’wiya are the Principal People, the traditional self-designation of the Cherokee Nation. The name “Tsa’ lagi” (brought into English as Cherokee) is of uncertain origin and meaning.