Squaw Jim by Bill Nye
Story type: Essay
“Jim, you long-haired, backslidden Caucasian nomad, why don’t you say something? Brace up and tell us your experience. Were you kidnapped when you were a kid and run off into the wild wickyup of the forest, or how was it that you came to leave the Yankee reservation and eat the raw dog of the Sioux?”
We were all sitting around the roaring fat-pine fire at the foot of the canon, and above us the full moon was filling the bottom of the black notch in the mountains, where God began to engrave the gulch that grew wider and deeper till it reached the valley where we were.
Squaw Jim was tall, silent and grave. He was as dignified as the king of clubs, and as reticent as the private cemetery of a deaf and dumb asylum. He didn’t move when Dutch Joe spoke to him, but he noticed the remark, and after awhile got up in the firelight, and later on the silent savage made the longest speech of his life.
“Boys, you call me Squaw Jim, and you call my girl a half breed. I have no other name than Squaw Jim with the pale faced dude and the dyspeptic sky pilot who tells me of his God. You call me Squaw Jim because I’ve married a squaw and insist on living with her. If I had married Mist-of-the-Waterfall, and had lived in my tepee with her summers, and wintered at St. Louis with a wife who belonged to a tall peaked church, and who wore her war paint, and her false scalp-lock, and her false heart into God’s wigwam, I’d be all right, probably. They would have laughed about it a little among the boys, but it would have been “wayno” in the big stone lodges at the white man’s city.
“I loved a pale faced girl in Connecticut forty years ago. She said she did me, but she met with a change of heart and married a bare-back rider in a circus. Then she ran away with the sword swallower of the side show, and finally broke her neck trying to walk the tight rope. The jury said if the rope had been as tight as she was it might have saved her life.
“Since then I’ve been where the sun and the air and the soil were free. It kind of soothed me to wear moccasins and throw my biled shirt into the Missouri. It took the fever of jealousy and disappointment out of my soul to sleep in the great bosom of the unhoused night. Soon I learned how to parley-vous in the Indian language, and to wear the clothes of the red man. I married the squaw girl who saved me from the mountain fever and my foes. She did not yearn for the equestrian of the white man’s circus. She didn’t know how to raise XxYxZ to the nth power, but she was a wife worthy of the President of the United States. She was way off the trail in matters of etiquette, but she didn’t know what it was to envy and hate the pale faced squaw with the sealskin sacque and the torpid liver, and the high-priced throne of grace. She never sighed to go where they are filling up Connecticut’s celestial exhibit with girls who get mysteriously murdered and the young men who did it go out lecturing. You see I keep posted.
“Boys, you kind of pity me, I reckon, and say Squaw Jim might have been in Congress if he’d stayed with his people and wore night shirts and pared his claws, but you needn’t.
“My wife can’t knock the tar out of a symphony on the piano, but she can mop the dew off the grass with a burglar, and knock out a dude’s eyes at sixty yards rise.
“My wife is a little foggy on the winter style of salvation, and probably you’d stall her on how to drape a silk velvet overskirt so it wouldn’t hang one-sided, but she has a crude idea of an every day, all wool General Superintendent of the Universe and Father of all-Humanity, whether they live under a horse blanket tepee or a Gothic mortgage. She might look out of place before the cross, with her chilblains and her childlike confidence, among the Tom cat sealskin sacques of your camel’s hair Christianity, but if the world was supplied with Christians like my wife, purgatory would make an assignment, and the Salvation Army would go home and hoe corn. Sabe?”