CHICA BRAVA

  Great-Basin-Rifle-in-situ CONTRAST 1-TRIANGLE-1

CHICA BRAVA

When I read that a weathered 132-year-old Winchester repeating rifle had been discovered propped up against a juniper tree, just as it had been left when it was abandoned, I wrote to the archaeologist, Eva Jensen, who had come upon the rifle, telling her a story passed down as told to my grandfather.

 

– Nanten Guerrero, February 2015

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        I followed her a thousand miles.  She was the last of Geronimo’s renegade raiders.  The Mexicans had begun to call her Chica Brava.

        I am Bedonkohe Apache like Geronimo.  The White Eyes called me Sergeant Skippy.  I had become one of their scouts to keep what remained of my freedom.  I was not ashamed.  There was nothing left to die for.

        Except for the one the Mexicans called Chica Brava.

        In the beginning, when Colonel José María Carrasco had killed the young Geronimo’s family, the Mexicans also had killed the medicine man Ba’cho.  Ba’cho had claimed an orphan girl as his apprentice.  Ba’cho devilishly had named the girl Golízhi Mushka (Skunk Pussy) but Skunk Pussy survived Carrasco’s raid and she became a vicious warrior in Geronimo’s decades of revenge.

        At first I wanted Skunk Pussy for my wife but she mocked me.  She wanted Canwakan, a better warrior.  One night she sat on my face as I slept.  When I cried awake the others laughed at me.  She said she had cast a love spell on me.

        In 1880 the Mexicans killed half of our band at the Battle of Tres Castillos and took many prisoners for slaves.

        I fought beside Geronimo in the revenge taken at Chocolate Pass two years later.  A Mexican commander from that Battle of Tres Castillos, Juan Mata Ortiz, was stationed at the garrison of the town of Galena with twenty soldiers.

        Skunk Pussy had the idea to sneak into town and steal horses, knowing the garrison would give chase.  She led the raid.

        We ambushed the Mexicans outside the town at Chocolate Pass.  Geronimo had told us not to kill Ortiz.  The Mexicans realized that they were surrounded and took the high ground to hope for reinforcements I am sure.  We picked them off one by one.  Skunk Pussy fought with only a knife.  She sneaked in and out of the wide Mexican skirmish line, silently killing.

        Finally there was left only Ortiz and one other soldier.  We allowed the soldier to escape after he was made to witness the terrible vengeance taken upon Ortiz.

        Canwakan, the better warrior that Skunk Pussy had wanted, had been killed in the fight.  They gave to her his rifle.

        It was Skunk Pussy’s idea to burn Ortiz alive in a pit.  It was she, not Geronimo, who said, “No bullet, no arrow, no lance, but fire.”

        Years after that I negotiated my surrender and I agreed to help hunt the remains of Geronimo’s band.

        I followed Skunk Pussy north a thousand miles.  I finally had become long separated from the troops I was guiding.  Skunk Pussy had shot at me in ambush several times.  At night I slept upon my horse so she could not surprise me without alerting my nervous horse.

        Once I dreamed that she sat on my face and pulled me into her body.  I awoke and startled my horse who nearly cast me off.  I heard coyotes laughing.

        At last one day I came upon Canawakan’s rifle placed carefully against a tree.  I took cover and I searched nervously for Skunk Pussy.

        It was there that I lost her trail.

        I did not touch Canawakan’s rifle.

        I camped there with a strange melancholy.  I had no desire to go forward or back.  I had no purpose.

        That night I saw a coyote outside my campfire light watching me.  My horse became agitated.

        Suddenly Skunk Pussy appeared into the light of my campfire.  I was paralyzed: I was afraid, I was glad to see her, and I did not care if she killed me.

        Skunk Pussy laughed, “I told you that I cast a love spell on you.”

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        And so, my beautiful grandchildren, I tell you this story to warn you that you must never disobey your grandmother again.

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