Welcome to Coffee Chat with Forrest, as we talk to two wonderful authors from Fresh Ink Group, Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun!
Take it away Marcha and Pete!
The Perfect Novel to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!
“The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits”
by Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun
“An exceptional novel complete with conspiracy, intrigue, and murder that will enthrall everyone who has an affinity for suspenseful thrillers with just a smidgen of the paranormal.” –Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review
Charlie Littlewolf knows there’s something suspicious about the accident that killed his best friend. Determined to solve the mystery, he must return to a way of life he’s shunned for decades. Will the Cheyenne grandfather spirits respond before a black ops team kills him, too?
In this scene Charlie conducts a sweat. Rocks the size of cantaloupes are heated for an hour and a half in a raging fire until they’re red-hot, then transported into the lodge and sprinkled with warm water to create steam. The ceremony’s purpose varies, but is always of a spiritual nature intended to cleanse both body and soul. Normally there are others to assist, but in this case he’s alone and must do everything himself.
Charlie stripped down, then wound the deerskin around him twice, covering him from waist to knees. He tied it in place, hung the eagle bone whistle around his neck by its sinew cord, then gathered up the badger hide and pipe bag from the kitchen table.
When he got to the sweat lodge he hesitated. A sweat represented returning to the womb, further emphasized by the shape of the lodge itself. In most cases sweats were community events when the tribe banded together to support one of its members in achieving a specific purpose.
As when he built it, once again he longed for home, surrounded by his Cheyenne brothers and sisters. He promised himself that as soon as whatever he was there to accomplish was complete, that he would return to the reservation.
He spread the badger hide on the roof over the door with the tobacco and pipe on top, bowl facing east. After securing the door open, he picked up the bucket by its wooden handle and set it inside, then went out again to start fetching the rocks.
Heat blasted his face as he carefully pushed aside the smoldering logs with the choke cherry branch. Rocks glowed among the embers like miniature suns. Sparks flew as he edged the branch’s fork under the initial stone, careful not to disturb the stack.
He lifted it slowly, flashbacks crackling as the fire. He turned and lowered it carefully to the ground where he rolled it in the dirt.
The first time he was fire keeper he’d forgotten, resulting in a cloud of ashes and debris riding the steam and irritating everyone’s eyes, himself included.
He never forgot again.
Or the soul-scorching look his mistake earned from Eaglefeathers.
When all the residue was removed, he took it inside and set it down on the east side of the pit. He repeated the process, moving clockwise until a red-hot stone resided in each of the cardinal directions, plus one in the center. By the time he knelt down, eyes closed, sweat already dribbled from his temples.
The rigors and memory-fraught emotional toll of setting everything up alone produced a dissonant hum that disturbed both mind and body. He breathed deeply, waiting, until stress yielded to the peace radiating from his grandfather’s stones.
He broke off a piece of sweet grass braid. Raised it high above his head in each of the cardinal directions. Lowered it in four steps, then placed it on the center stone. Blessed the others in similar fashion.
He smudged his body with the gathering smoke, directed it over the bucket, then throughout the lodge. Next, the eagle bone whistle and buffalo rattle each made four passes through the vapors. After a prayer of thanks to Maheo for the ways of his grandfather, he retrieved six more stones from the fire.
At last he closed the door and took his place to the left, sitting cross-legged on the man sage.
Where Eaglefeathers always sat.
A sultry red glow lit the lodge interior.
He closed his eyes to declare the sweat’s original purpose: To understand how he should avenge Bryan’s death.
The words refused to come.
Other thoughts flowed, their source outside himself.
All things, even tragedies, have a purpose. Maheo is the Creator, you are the created. His ways are not your ways. Maheo is truth. Walk with a prayer for patience, guidance, protection and wisdom. Your grandfather is a very strong medicine man with powerful prayers. Netsevoto, who you know as Eaglefeathers, was chosen by his grandfather as he has chosen you to have his medicine.
The words struck Charlie’s heart with the harsh sting of truth. No matter how much he tried to deny it, deep inside he always knew.
For the first time he not only understood, but felt how much his arrogance devastated the old man.
Did he die of a broken heart?
How much longer would he have lived if he’d been willing to listen?
To learn? Been more humble? Accepted the honor of being chosen?
Instead, he’d seen it as no more than a lot of trouble and bother, an intrusion on his life for something he wasn’t sure he believed in. Forced and trapped, his response was that of a cornered badger.
His heart ached as it split open and words flowed in Cheyenne.
“Maheo, I have forgotten who I am. I pray for your guidance to honor my grandfather’s spirit medicine. My heart is ready. Teach me. I stand before you, pleading for strength and courage to make it right with you.
“I present to you the purpose of this sweat: It is to purge my past and help me live as an honorable Tseteshestahese man, as my grandfather did.”
He dipped the buffalo horn cap in the bucket, then closed his eyes and prayed as he dribbled its contents over the rocks. Vapors issued forth, felt rather than seen, the pre-heated water producing softer steam that didn’t burn like the explosive effects of cold.
He lifted the eagle bone whistle to his lips and blew, inviting the grandfather spirits to join him, then picked up the rattle and sang the Grandfather Song in welcome. Four songs accompanied each round, chosen by the lodge keeper. The words sent moisture from the corners of his eyes, down his cheeks, and onto his chest.
After a time he exchanged the rattle for the man sage switch to coax the toxins from his mind and body, alternating between the two. He sang the Badger Song. Wolf Song. And Buffalo Song.
The rocks grew dark.
He got up to retrieve the next eleven, one by one. He banked the fire, got a drink, then went back inside and blessed the stones with sweet grass.
It took a few moments to get settled again. As the heavy cloak of seething humidity folded around him, he remembered savoring those breaks of fresh air and a drink when he was door keeper. This time he would have preferred his prayers to be uninterrupted.
Again he blew the whistle, repeated his purpose, then shook the rattle and began to sing.
MEET THE AUTHORS
Marcha Fox earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Utah State University in 1987, which facilitated a 20+ year career at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Her interests expand far beyond the world of aerospace and hard science, however. The esoteric realm of metaphysics and all things weird and wonderful hold her interest as well.
When her attempt to debunk astrology backfired, she pursued knowledge in that field. She graduated from the International Academy of Astrology’s professional development program in 2012 and is the sole proprietor of ValkyrieAstrology.com. Much of the popular website’s content can be found in “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology.”
Her previous fiction work includes her epic Star Trails Tetralogy series, which has been highly acclaimed for its family-oriented plot as well as its palatable and STEM-friendly science content described in detail on http://www.StarTrailsSaga.com.
Born in Peekskill, New York, she has lived in California, Utah, and Texas in the course of raising her family of six children, now grown. Besides writing, she pampers her two cats, maintains an active astrology practice of international clients, and tries to keep up with her home, yard, friends, and family.
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Pete Risingsun is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who has served as a spirit helper to medicine men in ceremonial sweat lodges. He’s a proud fifth generation descendant of Chief Iron Shirt, who was a lodge keeper and powerful medicine man.
Born in 1950, he was raised on a small ranch east of Busby, Montana. He attended Montana State University, then worked for Exxon in Billings, Montana for a year before returning home to the reservation as adult education director for the Northern Cheyenne tribe where he also raised black angus cattle and bred championship Quarter horses. He has served as a Tribal Council member and was the first Northern Cheyenne elected to serve as a Rosebud County Commissioner.He’s the proud father of one daughter and grandfather to two. Pete is currently retired, but in addition to co-writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits” he makes and sells sweet grass braids, a sacred plant used in various ceremonies.