Born in Arizona about 1829, Geronimo became the youngest Mimbre Apache warrior. He battles the U.S. Army, is captured and taken to San Carlos Reservation in Arizona in 1880. He escapes and starts a reign of terror in New Mexico and Arizona.
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The Story Of Geronimo
by Jim Kjelgaard
First published in 1958
This edition published by Reading Essentials
Victoria, BC Canada with branch offices in the Czech Republic and Germany
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, except in the case of excerpts by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
THE STORY OF GERONIMO
Duel by Stallion
Geronimo crawled up the hill so carefully that no stalk of grass moved, and no bush quivered. A pair of crested quail, feeding on insects in the grass, merely glanced up when he passed and went on feeding. Geronimo reached the top of the hill and crouched down in the grass.
Beyond were more hills, the near ones low, rocky, and given more to shrubs and grass than to trees. Geronimo's eyes strayed across the Arizona landscape to the east. There lay No-doyohn Canyon, where Geronimo had been born in 1829, just twelve years earlier. There his father had died when Geronimo was five years old. In the far distance beyond the canyon, tall, pine-clad mountains rose.
Geronimo looked down the slope on a wickiup. This Apache house was built of poles thrust into the ground, with deer skin walls and a smoke hole in the center of the roof. It was the home of Delgadito, a mighty chief among the Mimbreno Apaches, the tribe to which Geronimo belonged. Delgadito was so mighty that only the great chief, Mangus Coloradus himself, outranked him.
Delgadito owned many horses. Most of them grazed by day in pastures far from the village. But his black war stallion, his nimble-footed gray hunting horse, and the mare that his wife rode were only absent from their picket ropes when a rider was using them.
Now the gray hunting horse was gone, which meant that Delgadito was out after deer. But the mare and the stallion were still there. Geronimo had come to steal the war horse. This, however, was not the time to do it.
The mare's presence proved that Delgadito's wife was home. If she saw Geronimo stealing the war horse she would tell her husband. The punishment sure to follow would be harsh and long remembered. Delgadito knew how to use a switch on headstrong boys. Geronimo crouched in his hiding place, waiting.
Soon Delgadito's wife came from the wickiup, mounted her mare, and rode away. Geronimo rose and walked swiftly down the hill.
The stallion raised its head and watched with eyes that were fearless and questioning. Geronimo grasped the buckskin tie rope, and was drawing the horse to him when—
"You leave my uncle's war horse alone!"
A girl had come from the wickiup. Geronimo was so interested in the horse that he did not even know she was near until she spoke. Her name was Alope, and she was Delgadito's niece. Geronimo thought she was so lovely that the most dazzling maidens of the Mimbreno or any other tribe were drab beside her. When grown, such a girl would be too good for any warrior. Only a chief would be worthy to have her as his wife.
Geronimo said, "I must have this stallion, Alope."
"Why?" Alope asked.
"I must fight a duel of stallions with Ponce, the son of Ponce, and the only stallion among my mother's horses is too old to fight," Geronimo said.
Alope asked, "Why must you fight such a duel with young Ponce?"
"He gave me the lie!" Geronimo said angrily. "I killed three deer with my bow and arrows. Ponce said I found them dead!"
"Twelve-year-old boys are not supposed to be able to kill deer," Alope said.
"I did!" Geronimo insisted.
"I believe you," Alope said. "But these duels are dangerous. You know the elders have forbidden them."
Geronimo patted the stallion's cheek.
"If the elders do not know a duel is being fought," he said, "they can do nothing."
"And if my uncle's war horse is killed," Alope told him, "he'll stake you out on an ant hill and let the ants devour you."
Geronimo said, "I'll gladly accept any punishment after I have fought this duel, but I must fight!"
"What if you are killed?" asked Alope.
"I won't be. Among all his father's horses, the son of Ponce shall find no stallion to equal this one, and I am a much better rider!"
Alope said, "My good sense bids me run and get my aunt, but my heart tells me to speed a warrior on his way. I'll not tell, but I'll tremble for what will happen to you should my uncle's war horse be killed or hurt."
Geronimo slipped the tether rope, grasped the rein, and vaulted happily to the back of the mighty horse. Though the stallion wanted to gallop and Geronimo burned to test the speed and fire of such a mount, he held him to a walk. There was a fight coming up. The stallion must go into it rested.
At the same time, it was a glorious feeling just to be on such a stallion. All Apaches could ride, but few were master horsemen. Geronimo had started riding the village colts when he was so small that it was necessary to lead his mount beside a boulder or stump from which he could scramble onto its back. He seemed born to ride. Not half a dozen men in the village could stay on the back of Delgadito's war horse. But Geronimo was riding him.
After twenty minutes the Indian boy looked down on the secluded swale where the duel would be fought. He and Ponce had chosen a battle ground far enough from the village so that the elders would be unlikely to interfere. Young Ponce was waiting there with one of his father's best horses, a fiery bay that had already slain a half dozen rivals.
Though the elders knew nothing of the duel, a crowd of boys ringed the chosen arena. They were tense with excitement, but they did not yell and shout as white boys would have. And all stood far enough away so that they could escape if either stallion charged toward them.
As Geronimo rode down the hill, Delgadito's war horse caught scent of the other stallion and screamed his challenge. Ponce's bay answered, and the two stallions rushed each other. Quickly Geronimo planned his battle.
Such duels were a common way for Apache boys to settle arguments. They often resulted in the death of a horse, a rider, or both. When they did, it was usually the rider's fault. Geronimo planned on using his riding skill to make a fool of Ponce, and he intended that nobody should get hurt.
Just as it seemed certain the two stallions must close with each other, Geronimo turned Delgadito's war horse so expertly that they passed within inches. At this wonderful display of riding skill, an excited murmur of admiration rose from the watching boys.
Geronimo turned back, this time wheeling right in front of Ponce's angry stallion. He swerved to come in to the side. Ponce's bay reared and pawed the air with skull-crushing front hoofs. The watching boys gasped. But just as it seemed certain that Geronimo would be killed, he leaned over and escaped by the width of a hair.
Suddenly, to Geronimo's vast surprise, Ponce wheeled his stallion and galloped away as fast as his bay could run. Deciding to chase him on Delgadito's war horse, Geronimo was even more astonished when a shrill whistle split the air.
The war horse whirled and trotted obediently to—Delgadito himself! For the first time Geronimo noticed that the watching boys had disappeared too. He alone had been so interested in the duel that he had failed to see Delgadito come. The chief's eyes blazed with anger.
"Why do you fight a duel of stallions?" he demanded.
"The son of Ponce gave me the lie!" said Geronimo, sitting erect on the war horse. "I killed three deer with my bow and arrows! Young Ponce said I found them dead!"
"Come with me!" commanded Delgadito.
He turned toward his gray hunting horse, which was rein-haltered near by and which had a buck strapped behind the saddle. Without a word or a backward glance the tall chief mounted and rode at a walk in the direction of his wickiup.
Though he shivered inwardly, Geronimo did his best not to show it as he followed. Nor was he sorry that he had stolen the war horse. He had acted as a warrior should; he would take his punishment like a warrior.
When they reached the wickiup, they dismounted and Delgadito tethered both horses. Then he removed his bow and quiver of arrows from the hunting horse, took a single arrow from the quiver, and gave the arrow and the bow to Geronimo.
"Killer of deer, I would see you shoot," the chief ordered.
Geronimo fingered the unfamiliar weapon. "What target?"
Delgadito nodded at a pine about twenty yards away. "The knothole."
Geronimo nocked the arrow, raised the bow, and needed every ounce of his strength to draw it. This was a man's weapon, with a much heavier pull than the bow he had made for himself. But he did not shoot until he knew he was on target.
The arrow's shaft quivered as its copper point bit deeply into the knothole.
Delgadito said, "I saw you ride, and now I have seen you shoot. You told no lies. When the sun has risen three times more, I will lead a raid against the Papagoes, for we should steal more horses. You will ride with us."
Delgadito turned and entered his wickiup to indicate that Geronimo was dismissed. But for a full two minutes the dazed youngster did not move. At last, at long last, his fondest dream was coming true.
He was to be a true warrior.
Raiding the Papagoes
Three days later, at sunrise, an excited Geronimo sat nervously on his mother's aging stallion and waited for the raiders to start. Besides Delgadito, who was the leader, and Geronimo, there were four braves named Nadeze, Sanchez, Tacon, and Chie.
The dome-shaped wickiups where the villagers lived were softly beautiful in the early morning light. Here and there the embers of last night's cooking fire—for in this fine spring weather the Apaches did most of their cooking out of doors—glowed like a star fallen to earth. But except for the sentries who had been up all night, and the raiders about to set forth, the village slept.
When all the raiders were mounted, Nadeze and Sanchez left the others. Presently they returned driving a dozen loose horses among which was a beautiful spotted apaloosa. This horse had belonged to a shaman, or medicine man, of the White Mountain Apaches and had been taken from him in a night raid.
It was always necessary to have extra horses when going into enemy country for any reason. They could serve as remounts. If there was no other food they could be eaten, or they could be traded if there were any opportunities for trading.
But Geronimo wondered why Nadeze and Sanchez had included the apaloosa. The spotted horse was famous throughout the land. Even the Papagoes and pueblo-dwelling Zuñi knew him, and whoever saw him would surely send winged words to the shaman.
"Then a war party from the White Mountain Apaches will come to rescue their medicine man's horse," Geronimo thought. But he asked no questions. Surely Delgadito knew what he was doing.
Nadeze and Sanchez drove the loose horses on at full gallop, for the sooner the animals were tired the sooner they would be willing to stay with the rest and the less trouble they would cause. The other raiders rode out from the village more slowly.
An hour later they overtook Nadeze and Sanchez, and the driven horses, now too tired to run. They fell in at the rear and seemed satisfied to stay there. Geronimo felt a rising anxiety.
He had always imagined raiding to be a stealthy business. These men laughed, shouted, and gaily mimicked a coyote that moaned from a nearby ridge.
Presently lithe, slim Tacon challenged fat Chie to a race. Whooping at the tops of their voices, they were off. Geronimo stopped worrying. Delgadito was too experienced a raider to do anything foolish. If he let the warriors act as though there were no enemies within twenty miles, then there were none.
That night they camped on top of a rocky hill from which they could see in all directions, and they were careful to put all fires out as soon as darkness fell.
"Fire may be seen for a long distance on a dark night," Geronimo said to himself. "That is why they were put out."
The next morning the raiders rode on, and not until midafternoon did they make the slightest attempt to hide themselves. But when they finally halted under a cloud-ridden sky, there was a change in every man.
This was desert country, and they stopped in a cluster of rocky hills. Delgadito and Chie dismounted and climbed the tallest hill to scout from its summit. Soon they returned and told the others to dismount too. Tether ropes were slipped about the necks of the loose horses, which were now led by the raiders as all went on quietly.
A half hour later the raiders made a second stop in a dry wash. The banks of this desert creek bed were about four feet high and rimmed by cactus and palo verde trees.
Sanchez and Delgadito felled one of these trees with copper hatchets, cut off two stout chunks, and tied either end of a long rawhide thong to them. Then they stretched the thong as far as it would reach, and buried the chunks in the earth, at the bottom of the creek bed. Careful to place a gentle horse between two quick-tempered mounts, they tied all animals to this picket line. This done, all got their weapons and started up over the wash.
Geronimo ran happily for his own bow and arrows and followed. Suddenly Delgadito turned, put the palm of his hand against the youngster's face, and pushed so hard that Geronimo found himself seated in the bottom of the wash.
"Stay here to watch the horses," the chief growled.
"But I'm a warrior too!" Geronimo protested.
Delgadito growled again, and amused smiles flitted over the lips of the others. The raiders melted into the desert.
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