Remember the Bravery
By Jay B Gaskill
On this Memorial Day 2014, I want to take a moment to reflect on a great tradition. In my newly released novel, that tradition is an important subtext, as is the covert nature of evil, understood as an actual, palpable affliction of the human condition.
My new book, Gabriel’s Stand, is a epic story about how one Native American man, Gabriel Standing Bear, husband, father, US Senator, takes a dangerous stand against a powerful manifestation of evil that was largely invisible in his time. Gabriel will risk everything, family, career, even life itself.
His time is our time.
I point out in an Author’s Note, that US Native American men and women are “disproportionately”, even strikingly prominent in our military services (in that more of them serve by any population-weighted measure, than any other ethnic subpopulation). This is usually attributed to their “warrior culture.”
I respectfully disagree.
Their great tradition, instead, is one that honors and cultivates bravery. Not all bravery manifests in on the killing fields of wars. The Native American bravery tradition is a model for all of us who are still capable of recognizing evil for what is represents.
Gabriel’s Stand takes place the day after tomorrow. In part it is a father daughter story – Gabriel Standing Bear, the senator, and Helen Snowfeather, the student activist daughter.
In the scene excerpted here, Snowfeather’s activism has gotten her in deeply over her head, and she finds herself reflecting a certain Memorial Day with her father…
SHE RAN ON, MOUNTING THE STEPS LIKE A FRIGHTENED DEER. Quickly reaching the top level, she pushed her way to an isolated spot near the prow. She stood near the railing, panting, hiding her face. Tears stung.
Then Snowfeather began to weep uncontrollably, wrapping her arms tight about her chest to restrain the wracking sobs. She so desperately wanted to call her parents, to say she was so wrong, so sorry. But now she was really in deep trouble. Did she dare even use a phone?
The ferry trip was underway. Gray waters roiled under gray skies, and the wind blew her tears away. The green island fell away to the rear, the thrum of engines and the rush of waves parting two stories below.
Nothing to do right now but ride…ride the ferry.
The ferry trip from Shaw Island to Seattle would be all too brief. She would need every minute. Snowfeather ignored the chill and let the wind blow at her face while the slate sky and dark water mirrored her bleak mood. As soon as possible, she would call her Dad. As soon as I am safely away from this damn place. I feel so lost.
“We must never forget.” It was her father’s voice, the Standing Bear from several years before. The hard years. She and Gabriel had made their mutual Memorial Day pilgrimage to his father’s grave in Northern Idaho. It had been a hard time for Gabriel, who just been appointed to the Senate with an election looming. This time, Alice, exhausted from the campaign, had begged off the trip. “You two need this time.”
As Snowfeather stood on the deck of the ferry, the Idaho scene lived in her memory, still vivid, brilliant and chill. Traces of May snow were scattered in the brown grass. The wind was blowing then as now, but much colder. They were a few miles out of Sandpoint, on a hill in the sage at the edge of a forest. The unpretentious grave was marked by a simple black basalt rock, with a brass plaque:
Sven Tall Bear Lindstrom
Gabriel had placed a hand-picked bunch of flowers along the grass in front of the rock, and arranged the colored pebbles just so. “We must never forget,” he had said, ever so softly. “Who we are. Where we came from. What…”
Then that damn headphone of his had chirped. “Sorry,” he had muttered. “That vote was not supposed to happen so soon,” he said with annoyance, walking away, his back to his father’s grave. Her eyes followed him. “When?” His tone was strained. “Then I’ll just have to drive to Spokane and catch the first flight.” He turned back, returning to kneel briefly at the grave, but the spell was broken.
“So,” he said standing. “Is it still George Washington this fall?”
“You know I hate D.C. so.” Her father’s face had brightened a bit, still braced for disappointment. “Mother does too,” she added.
“That is true,” he said smiling.
“You know Alice wanted you closer.”
“I know. But it’s time for some distance.”
He hadn’t answered right away, but his eyes had glistened with tears. “I know,” he said. “But I don’t have to like it…”
Time for some distance? Damn… Snowfeather recovered from this memory as the ferry rolled through the gray water and fog like a ghost ship, the distance lights of Anacortes still cloaked…
Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law
Gabriel’s Stand is available for purchase as a 400 page trade paperback (released a few days ago by Central Avenue Publishing) through Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and also is an e-book sold by those two vendors and by iTunes Books.
Jay Gaskill is a California attorney with strong ties to Idaho.
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