Legacy of the Chief, Chapter 22:
"Cap Rescues Johnny at McCarthy - 1924"
pt 3, conclusion
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Cap viewed a mountainous panorama which included Fireweed Mountain,
Donohoe Peak, the Bonanza Ridge, and Mt. Blackburn. In front was the
light-colored loose rock which covered the ice-mound known as
Kennicott Glacier. It hovered over the railroad trestle and the
small town. To his left was the Mother Lode power plant with its
tall single stack. The bridge crossing next to the plant, along with
most of the creek, was hidden by the black spruce trees that grew
along the bluff just below his camp. He looked directly down on the
Row. It was right below his camp. The cabins showed no activity.
Beyond the Row stood several rows of taller buildings that made up
McCarthy. The entire town was only a few blocks wide. It ended very
suddenly at the edge of the vast wilderness of the Wrangells.
The sun was out now, but Cap needed to sleep. The party at the Row
cabin had lasted too long. Cap lay down in the thick grass next to
the log amidst the fireweed. He dozed off. His tin cup containing
the tea fell over. Cap did not awaked again until late. Then he
realized was not even under the canvas tent. Light raindrops hit his
face. He looked around. The fire pit was some distance away.
The fire had worked down to a few hot coals. The clothes were still
hanging on the brush, flapping gently to a light breeze. Johnny
remained asleep under the canvas, completely oblivious to the world.
The dog had moved under the canvas next to Johnny.
Cap pulled himself up off the ground so he could view the town. The
shadows in the valley below were long and black. He could see lights
coming from some of the buildings. The power plant downstream from
the Row was a dark, sleeping hulk.
Over the constant roar of McCarthy Creek he could hear the hum of
several small generators. Then he picked up the faint sounds of a
Cap watched as a two large men staggered out of the Golden holding
onto female escorts. They were Rose and Bubbles.
He pondered over the events of the last few days. He and Johnny
drank and partied with Rose and Bubbles until nothing else mattered
while they were waiting for work at the small copper mine near the
town. He thought about his people back home. Many had given up
everything they had for the bottle. It seemed easier than dealing
with the white man’s world--trying to compete under rules which they
did not make and did not understand. Cap was tempted to fall back
onto the liquor on several occasions, but he did not like what he
saw in those who had dropped out, never to return to the sober
world. His adventurous spirit was too strong to abandon the world to
Since he first started working with Johnny at Cascade, the two
sla’cheen had proved to be a good team who shared a strong yearning
for something beyond Chitina.
They were not sure what it was. They just knew they both wanted more
out of the world than existed in the village. They had grown up
together in Cap’s father’s household. Things always worked out well
for the both of them as long as they worked together. They were
rivals only in a sporting way.
Cap was a boxer and a wrestler. The only one who could stand up to
his power and skill was his sla’cheen, Johnny. Johnny was good, but
Cap was better. Much better. He boxed and wrestled until he had
developed quite a reputation. He wanted to be like the Chief Nicolai
of the old days. Everyone had feared Nicolai. He was a small, but
deadly man who never lost in a confrontation. He seldom had to fight
because of his fearsome wolverine-like reputation.
Cap wanted to explore his physical limits. So far, no one could beat
him. Johnny was fast, but Cap was deadly. The world of boxing seemed
to be the key. Cap was a natural at the sport. He had to travel to
Cordova and Valdez to find competition. A promoter at Cordova even
wanted to bring him to the states to fight professionally. Cap was
still considering it.
Johnny was an excellent scrapper and wrestler, but his true strength
was in his ability to read and write. He made sure that Cap read.
Johnny tutored him and did whatever was necessary to make sure that
Cap left school an educated man. Johnny never gave up on Cap. He
shamed him, if that’s what it took. He kept bothering him until Cap
did his homework. Cap learned well.
Grandfather Nicolai wanted them both to be educated. He insisted
that the two of them learn everything they could of the white-man
ways, while not losing themselves in the white-man world. Johnny had
done his part. Cap learned to read and appreciate novels. His math
skills were nearly as good, thanks to the tutoring of his sla’cheen.
He now felt that he was easily the equal of any of the white men who
came to the country to work for the mine or the railroad. It was his
education which gave him the confidence he needed--even more so than
his renowned boxing skills. Cap was second only to Johnny in both
reading and writing when he graduated from school. He owed a great
debt to Johnny for taking the time to ensure that Cap succeeded in
his school work.
Since he met Rose, Johnny had begun to change. It greatly bothered
Cap. Johnny was infatuated with Rose. Cap’s inner sense told him
that this was a doomed relationship regardless, but Johnny might
throw everything away for Rose. Cap had to get Johnny out of
McCarthy or Cap would have to return to Chitina alone. He was not
about to work in this rugged white man’s world way up this valley
without the backup he enjoyed with Johnny. He knew better. Indians
got picked off that way. Johnny had the best grasp of white man ways
that Cap had ever seen.
Cap wanted to see what might be in it for himself, just like Doc
Billum who never let ill-feelings about white men get in the way of
a good money-making deal, especially if there was a chance of
pulling one over on a white man. Johnny’s feelings for Rose
threatened all that.
The hollow sound of a distant steam whistle reverberated through the
Even Kay-yew-nee wined in reaction to the eerie sound.
The skies begin to dark as heavy clouds moved in. The wind picked
up. He felt more raindrops hit his face. Cap stood up and moved to
the cover of the canvas.
The air was chilly, but felt good. He stood up and walked over to
the pot on one of the large flat rocks surrounding the firepit. The
pot was still nearly full of water. He stirred the coals, moved the
wood around and resurrected the fire. Then he moved the pot
containing the Lipton’s tea closer to the heat.
Cap pulled his potlatch blanket tighter around himself. The breeze
and light rain was making him feel chilly. Finally the water in the
pot heated up. He poured a cup of the tea.
Cap laid back, wondering how simple it must have been in the days
before the prospectors and even before Lt. Allen. Soon he would be
dreaming about his childhood when he was out with his father, the
great Chief Goodlataw, on the trap line in the country only a few
miles south of McCarthy--the country no longer used by the Indians.
The Siberian Kay-yew-nee kept an uneasy vigil as both young men
slept under the canvas tent on the bank overlooking McCarthy.
Kay-yew-nee held his post, sitting between his two masters, guarding
them from bears and other predators of the night.
In the distance he heard that hollow sound again. It mimicked a
steam train whistle, but the dog knew the difference. A dog lives
not only in an intense world of sounds and smell, but also the world
of the spirits.
The Siberian moved closer to Cap. Something in the mere presence of
this Native who had already learned many of the skills of the
sleep-doctors was reassuring. Bears were one thing. Kay-yew-nee
could keep them away. The spirits were another. That was Cap’s
realm. Cap was the true successor to Nicolai and Goodlataw.
Kay-yew-nee knew when he had encountered a spirit. Whatever was out
there making that steam whistle sound was a powerful spirit.
Cap suddenly shifted, knocking over yet another cup of tea. He
seldom moved in his sleep. Kay-yew-nee sensed that Cap had connected
in his dreams with the spirits in his world of the
sleep-doctors--the spiritual leaders and healers of the Native
Johnny opened his eyes and looked at the dog between him and Cap.
“Kay-yew-nee, it’s just the spirit of Nicolai mimicking the white
man. Indian spirit power! Native way! Join us! Go to sleep!”
Johnny closed his eyes and was instantly asleep again. Kay-yew-nee
placed his head on his paws and dozed off, entering the same spirit
world as Cap and Johnny. The winds began to pick up, pounding at the
canvas, causing it to ripple. Below the bluff even the town had
grown silent and much darker. Overhead the skies opened up in a
torrent of rainfall as heavy clouds moved in to block whatever light
still remained. Under the four-foot high canvas, three peaceful
souls shared a common destination as they followed the railroad
tracks in the direction of the bright sunshine, working their way to
C’eyuuni Nicolai’s spirit-camp.
Chapter 23, "Cap Tells His Story"