Watching little Lundy go back to sleep, I wish I hadn’t told her about the Mound Builders to stop her crying, but I didn’t know she would see their eyes watching her in the dark. She was crying about a cat run down by a car—her cat, run down a year ago, only today poor Lundy figured it out. Lundy is turned too much like her momma. Ellen never worries because it takes her too long to catch the point of a thing, and Ellen doesn’t have any problem sleeping. I think my folks were a little too keen, but Lundy is her momma’s girl, not jumpy like my folks.
My grandfather always laid keenness on his Shawnee blood, his half-breed mother, but then he was hep on blood. He even had an oath to stop bleeding, but I don’t remember the words. He was a fair to sharp woodsman, and we all tried to slip up on him at one time or another. It was Ray at the sugar mill finally caught him, but he was an old man by then, and his mind wasn’t exactly right. Ray just came creeping up behind and laid a hand on his shoulder, and the old bird didn’t even turn around; he just wagged his head and said, “That’s Ray’s hand. He’s the first fellow ever slipped on me.” Ray could’ve done without that because the old man never played with a full deck again, and we couldn’t keep clothes on him before he died.
I turn out the lamp, see no eyes in Lundy’s room, then it comes to me why she was so scared. Yesterday I told her patches of stories about scalpings and murders, mixed up the Mound Builders with the Shawnee raids, and Lundy chained that with the burial mound in the back pasture. Tomorrow I’ll set her straight. The only surefire thing I know about Mound Builders is they must have believed in a god and hereafter or they never would have made such big graves.
* * *
I put on my jacket, go into the foggy night, walk toward town. Another hour till dawn, and both lanes of the Pike are empty, so I walk the yellow line running through the valley to Rock Camp. I keep thinking back to the summer me and my buddy Eddie tore that burial mound apart for arrowheads and copper beads gone green with rot. We were getting down to the good stuff, coming up with skulls galore, when of a sudden Grandad showed out of thin air and yelled, “Wah-pahnah-te-he.” He was waving his arms around, and I could see Eddie was about to shit the nest. I knew it was all part of the old man’s Injun act, so I stayed put, but Eddie sat down like he was ready to surrender.
Grandad kept on: “Wah-pah-nah-te-he. You evil. Make bad medicine here. Now put the goddamned bones back or I’ll take a switch to your young asses.” He watched us bury the bones, then scratched a picture of a man in the dust, a bow drawn, aimed at a crude sun. “Now go home.” He walked across the pasture.
Eddie said, “You Red Eagle. Me Black Hawk.” I knew he had bought the game for keeps. By then I couldn’t tell Eddie that if Grandad had a shot at the sixty-four-dollar question, he would have sold them on those Injun words: Wah-pah-nah-te-he—the fat of my ass.