Book I:

The Awakening

 

 

Dawn topped the wilderness mesa, effusing a golden glow over Stand-in-Skins. The body-painted old warrior was overlooking an immense alpine valley in the northern wilderness of the newly-named California. With his arms outstretched and his head back, he chanted over the expanse:       “Warriors of the Eagle,

Come to me,

Leave time behind,

No man can follow.

Warriors of the Eagle,

Come to me!”

 

His call was met by the sounds of muskets and Army carbines in the plain below. He could actually see the puffs emerge and float off before the reports reached his perch.

Stand-in-Skins turned away from the edge as three warriors crested the cliff from different paths, approached him, and converged in a tight circle. Also in skins and paints, each clutched an eagle-wing medicine bundle in the right fist, and a weapon in the left hand.

The Chief continued to address his charges:

“Father, brother, son and daughter:

Heart and soul,

We are One.”

Stands-in-Skins placed his hand on the shoulder of his brother, Muskrat Bone, to his right, and recited: “This is the first principle of the Eagle: You are a spiritual being.”

Muskrat Bone pivoted right to grasp the shoulder of Tai Ying, his sworn Chinese brother, and chanted:

“Brother to brother,

Under the sun,

Heart and soul,

We are One.”

Stands-in-Skins continued: “This is the second principle of the Eagle: You are a son of the Universe.”

The Chinese warrior then turned to face the beefy woman Yana, a shaman-warrior, and chanted:

“Man to wife,

Sun to sun,

Heart and soul,

We are One.”

Once again the Chief instructed, “This is the third law of the Eagle: The entire Universe is your home.”

Yana finally turned to the old man to indicate her own understanding:

“Brother to brother,

Son to son,

Daughter to Father:

Heart and soul—“

A volley of rifle fire, much closer now, interrupted the woman’s recitation.

“…We are One,” she concluded.

The old patriarch wound up the ceremony: “This is the final law of the Eagle: Live well, knowing that each is born to the other, with each Child becoming father to the newborn Warrior. Die well, knowing that your death is a certainty, as is your life following. This is our Circle of Understanding. This is the Circle of Understanding for Warriors of the Eagle.”

All four thrust their medicine wings to the center of the sacred circle to form spokes, crying in unison: “Hunnheyy!” 

An eagle answered with its own scream directly above, and all four men peered skyward.

     The Bald Eagle scanned the quickly-receding small circle of men below. The huge creature banked and soared west over a valley ringed by a snowy mountain range beyond.

Air rushed past the eagle’s ear holes, competing with the distant squawks from a mile-long marsh below with thousands of nesting migratory fowl—ducks, coots, grebes, geese, Sandhill Cranes. Several streams meandered between expansive woodlands of juniper and ponderosa pine. A long string of Canada geese in V-formation, honking constant alerts, passed in front of the eagle a hundred yards off. Tribal structures were strung along the Fall River. Mt. Shasta loomed westward to the right, Mt. Lassen on the left about 100 miles to the south, with a host of smaller Cascade volcanoes punctuating the compass points.

The eagle glided between the peaks, over the ridge, and into the next valley, following the shape of the land. Terrain and vegetation changed from alpine to evergreens mixed with hardwoods, and finally to valley thickets of California oaks, bay trees, and madrone. Gradually descending to within 100 yards above tree tops, the eagle matched the pace of a running  boy, about 12 years old. The boy breathed deeply as he ran between trees and dodges rocks, his footfalls crunching on the oak leaves.

The eagle swooped down to within a few feet above the boy to scream sharply, visibly shaking him as he ran on. The boy jerked his head, glancing over his shoulder toward the sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Ishi Kwok was alone in a land teeming with half a million suffering souls. Half Celestial, half Native American—certainly a savage, uncivilized heathen—at least to the hordes of white settlers of northern California in the 1860’s. Definitely an odd stone rolling down Gold Mountain, trying not to bump into trouble. Ishi knew he needed help if he were to survive past his 12th birthday.

          His father had provided him with the key to his next rice bowl: a letter to the Head Abbot at the White Lotus Temple, enshrouded on a misty Cliffside in the turbulent Trinity Mountains, some 75 miles to the northwest. Ishi’s father, Tai Ying, was one of the tens of thousands of Chinese from southern China to immigrate to America in the second half of the 19th Century.

          Ishi’s deerskin poncho felt mighty welcome as he wrapped up among a black oak thicket on a darkening valley floor. With a meal of pounded acorn mash and dried fish shaken out from his gourd canteen, his belly was appeased for the night.

        Just before dawn’s first light he carefully picked his way down to the stream called Battle Creek by the round-eyes. It was one of the many rain-sheds from the leeward sides of the high range known as the Trinity Mountains by the conquering Americans. His own people (or, more accurately, his mother’s tribe, the Chumawei) referred to the wildlife-laden stream as Home of the Sacred Red Fish. This was a tributary of what his mother called the “Great Valley Water Mother of the Valley,” later re-named as the Sacramento River.

       He splashed a Chilly wake-up into his face and filled his water gourd. Back at the stand of oaks, Ishi looked up to see the first blush of light on the eastern faces of those Alps of the Trinities, and immediately slipped into “High Seat on the Horse” stance training for 20 minutes.

       His father’s loving face floated before his mind’s eye several times during the meditation. Tai Ying’s advice on the

eve of Ishi’s journey rang forth as well: “Those mountains are overrun with drunken, murderous whites driven mad with greed for gold. Don’t be fooled by them or lose focus on your objective.”

       Ishi finished a shortened morning session of training, and set off west at a jog, hoping to skirt the round-eye settlement of Whiskeytown before nightfall.

         

                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

As he trekked through the day, Ishi mused over his father, Tai Ying, and his long family history. This was merely a given, a mark of filial respect that he pay special attention to his roots.

Not only was his father able to afford passage to Gold Mountain (as California was known then throughout China), he had enough left over for expenses until he got settled.

          Settling in proved to be more mettlesome for Tai-Ying than saying goodbye to his kung fu brothers, the only family left to him. Trouble swarmed around him as soon as his ship bumped up against the Embarcadero docks of San Francisco that July of 1852. The U.S. Immigration officers boarded the four-masted clipper and demanded proper identification and paperwork before the 150 Chinese “Celestials” were allowed to disembark for further processing.

          Ying-Ying hurried below into the steerage area to bundle his belongings and papers, only to find one of the ship’s mates rifling through his kit.

              *             *             *            

One of the more striking, very private pieces of personal history that Ying-Ying shared with his son gave an added dimension to the meaning of “family,” beyond even the usual level of Chinese reverence. The Guo clan (as they were known in their homeland) had migrated south from northwestern Shanxi Province several centuries before, following the ancient by-way of the Silk Road as it passed into China from Tibet and India. The southern Cantonese peoples were extremely suspicious of strangers, so the northern migrants found it necessary to form a protective brotherhood in order to survive as newcomers.

          By the mid-19th Century, the Chiu Chao Brotherhood of the Guo clan had combined with one of the wide-flung factions of the anti-Manchu secret societies of the legendary and heroic Shaolin monks. Chiu Chao had become one of China’s most powerful tongs by the time Ying-Ying sailed for Gold Mountain.

              *             *             *

          That Irish swab going through Ying’s-Ying’s property was in for a surprise. Ying-Ying was also known as “Hong Kun” or “Red Stick” among the Brotherhood, a nickname bestowed after seeing him wade through a small group of tough Javanese pirates hitting the alleys of Canton for a good time. After that he occupied the rank of First Enforcer for the Chiu Chao.

          The sailor was busily bent over the bundles when Ying-Ying walked up behind him and simply thumped the man’s butt with a solid heel kick. That sent the thief sailing a short

distance to test the strength of the ship’s closest hull-rib with his head and shoulders. The hull passed muster, and the unconscious man slumped heavily to the rough planks of the deck.

He had a comrade-in-arms hiding nearby who thought it a lucky chance to take on Ying-Ying from the rear. “This be kinda like reinin’ a wild lass,” he grunted as he grabbed Ying-Ying in a bear hug, pinning both arms. It was some time after that before he was able to put a full sentence together again.

          Ying-Ying jerked his head back to hear a satisfying crunch of hitting the bridge of the sailor’s nose. Full release of the grab came with the follow-up buttocks strike into the man’s belly. Ying-Ying immediately reached down through his own legs to grab the man’s closest ankle, and jerked forward briskly to can him.

          Maintaining his grip on the ankle, he rose up to deliver a rear stomp to the opened groin. Still holding the same leg, and facing away from the sailor, he dropped his center of gravity by sinking low into a “Horse-Riding” posture as he jerked the leg up to snap the knee joint. The whole incident took about nine seconds—just enough time for a man to feel good about a job well done. But when Tai Ying turned around, his satisfaction turned sour.

          The ship’s Second Mate stood before him, with two of the crew’s bullyboys beside him.

 “Seize that coolie! Drag his sorry ass top-side, and make sure he stands before the Government’s officer!” barked the Mate.

Tai Ying was abruptly cuffed and bumped up the stairs to the deck. The Immigration Officer was pretty bored with his usual assessments of bland peasants, so it was with some relish that he interrogated this trouble-maker.

“Can any of you men substantiate this coolie’s claim that he was robbed?” he asked the ship’s crew gathered around. He paused only for dramatic effect, as he damn well knew that by that time, Ying’s-Ying’s papers and purse had most certainly mysteriously disappeared. And no one was about to save this yellow hide from whatever delectable punishment they held in their minds. But the Official thought of himself as a thorough man.

“Or that he acted in self-defense? No?” With that, he leaned forward into Tai Ying’s face to sneer. “No papers, no money, no good-ee. Take this ‘Kwok’ or whatever he calls hisself, and toss him into the holding tank for savages and heathen at Sailors Prison.”

Tai Ying was quickly flanked and escorted down the gangplank, and onto the Embarcadero. Two Chinese peasants in queues and baggy pants were on deck watching the situation

unfold. One leans over to the other to ask, “What is Sailors Prison?”

“Eeyah! You never heard of that? You must be from a very small village, brother! It is known throughout the world’s scummiest ports as a den for advanced studies for affliction of cruelty!” came the response.

“Buddha’s turtle-droppings!”

“Yes, a seething hole of vipers, notorious for especially deadly varieties of murderers, cutthroats, sodomists, and mutineers!”

“Oh, it sounds terrible!”

“Brother, those are just the employed guards I was talking about!”

His countryman sucked in his breath, shook his head in disbelief. “I don’t see how Brother Guo will survive such a place!”

              *             *             *

     The impatient desk Sergeant at Sailors Prison, only a short distance from the Embarcadero wharf of the foggy city, fared no better with the Guo name than did the US Immigration Office. He entered the tall Chinese into his logbook as “Ted Kwok.”

     “Sounds like a duck’s fart,” he guffawed, scrawling into the ledger.

     When the heavy iron gates and bolts chunked heavily into place, seemingly shutting him off forever from his dreams, Tai Ying never would have believed that this stifling sinkhole was where he would fall in love—and with a fierce native warrior at that.

 

      

             

    

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

  Livingston Lowe sat by the side of the crudely cut road in the low Sierras, waiting for his next meal ticket to walk by. He reminisced, scratched his body lice in several places, spat a few times at pebbles in the dust, and just generally bided his time as he waited for a Chinese coolie with a fat purse to amble his way into the raw mining of Mormon’s Island, some three miles off. Livingston hadn’t bothered to conceal neither his hide, hair, nor intent, but just sat, scratched, and ruminated about his current ill state of affairs and disappointments.

              *             *             *

Livingston Lowe was born in Bangor, Maine, in 1828. The fifth generation of Lowe people in this country, his family first seeded the Atlantic shores with Edward Lowe, a barrister who arrived from England in 1630.             

Livingston’s father Manson was the first in the clan to diverge from mercantilism. Consequently he became the scourge of the clan’s wags as printer and then newspaper editor of Somerville, Mass. Harriet Lowe, the obvious matriarchal engine of the family, counted Livingston lucky in that, on reaching the age of seven, she steered the family into nearby Boston and back into buying and selling. “Where we belong,” she sniffed. “Besides, your sisters and I are in dreadful need of proper fashion.”

       Harriet encouraged Livingston as best she could, and coolly arranged family connections to apprentice him to a large Boston mercantile and export firm by his 14th birthday.

       Livingston was a diligent, intelligent worker, and after serving his apprenticeship, he was assigned to assist in keeping the firm’s export accounts in order. With such excellent prospects, any of the other, more sensible family members would have stayed on with the company, reined in wayward, untamed notions of ventures outside the tried-and-true, and consequently risen to a head office to carry on his family’s proper position of privilege.

       But this was 1849, and the California Gold Rush fever had reached clear across the continent to stir the young merchant’s

level of grasping acquisitiveness beyond the understanding of even this family of intent profiteers.

              *             *             *

     The two young men were stripped to their suit vests, with shirtsleeves rolled up, clutching cue-sticks. They were playing snookers in the back part of the Lowe household, a favorite hangout for the gentlemen of the clan. In the background three middle-aged, impeccably dressed businessmen cradled snifters and gingerly fingered expensive cigars. Livingston leaned over the table to cue the ball.

“Gold mining in California does have a ring of imprudence about it, Livingston,” mused Uncle Akron as he waited his turn.

“Indeed, nephew, this venture of yours smacks of dereliction of the Lowe family obligations,” agreed Uncle Harold between sips.

“Dear uncles, I assure you…” began Livingston, then he banked a ball off a center post to make a corner shot. He straightened his back, smiled and continued: “…that I realize there is no prospect in remaining in such a far-off and savage hinter-land.”

“I should say not,” rejoined Akron. “That is to say, being so far removed from the proper concerns of business.”

“But that is precisely the point, don’t you see,” rationalized Livingston. “I just want to quickly reap my profits from that empty land, then—“ He was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Come!”

A Negro servant in livery entered and bowed. “Master Livingston, sir, your father and mother are asking for you in the library. They say, right now, sir.”

Livingston leaned his cue-stick against the table, sauntered toward the door, saying “That, after all, gentlemen, is the tried and true American way. By your leave, I’m off to pay penance and receive absolution.”

The men chuckled indulgently, and lifted their snifters in adieu.

Livingston was quite correct: This, after all, was the tried and true American way, the way of five generations of Lowe’s, and the path that his people had followed for countless centuries before. It was a matter of pride to him that he demonstrate his inherited skill and acumen in such an aggressive business venture: an All-American lad joining a flood of hundreds of thousands of other such ruddy lads rushing West.

          Sea otters, beaver, and longhorn cattle had magnetized California for exploitation by Europeans in the previous two centuries. Now gold was the new lodestone for the Americans.

          Livingston’s father and mother were, surprisingly, his greatest support in preparing for the journey—but in an unexpected manner that did not sit well with him at all.

Livingston paused at the door, and nervously straightened his clothes before tapping on the door. Both parents were comfortably ensconced in large leather chairs only slightly more antique than themselves.

“Oh, Livingston do sit down, over here,” Harriet directed. We are saddened to see you trifle off like this, you know.”

Livingston chose to sidle up to the small blaze in the fireplace. ”Mother, we have been over this so often that surely you have my response memorized by now?”

 “Yes, yes—testing your mettle, and all that. Still, your father and I worry about your neglecting your position here

at home.”

           “Yes, well, ahem—Son,” began Manson, his father, setting aside his newspaper. “You’re about to place yourself in an unsavory social ambience, with which you have no experience—“

“You may thank the Lord and your parents for that,” Harriet interjected.

“In fact, Livingston, we Lowe’s have maintained our status by embracing our obligations,” began Manson, his father, “rather than all this flitting about the countryside.” Manson paused to clear his throat importantly. “Our Founding Fathers… “

Livingston knew he was in for a tedious lecture. He groaned audibly, and sunk into a deeply-pouched seat of a leather chair.

Manson continued with his soliloquy: “--the Fathers were right on the mark when they declared all men equal--that is, of course, free men--Are you listening, Livingston?”

That a “man” was defined as a freeman of property, position, and influence (i.e. a productive, influential member of their governing class) was as implicit between them as bedrock.

Harriet piped in here, as was her wont, reiterating her husband and family’s class position: “Those poor souls not blessed by our Creator with station and wealth are not our equal, and never shall be,” she sniffed.

          “But—but—.“ Livingston was trying to muster a weak reply, not out of conviction of protest, but rather out of

knowledge that an interruption of their soliloquies was expected of him—just as he had obediently memorized passages from dialogues of the classical Greeks. “How can we be sure of such a permanent state for any human being? Might a man not rise up to unforeseen circumstance by virtue of his own diligence and skill? Or even by the Grace of God?” Livingston was proud of his correctly formed rebuttal.

          “Still indulging in that, that liberalism, Livingston?” she Chided. “Dear boy, it is not for us to meddle in the appointments of God. Oh, perhaps San Francisco is a fitting destination...”

Manson rumbled his throat as a preamble once more. “The fact remains that our family—you—owe the underclass nothing, for they have not entered the heaven-granted status of ‘man.”

          Livingston was incredulous; this was too much, not in its content, but in the frankness of his father’s speech. “What? You can’t mean not human?”

“Why yes—that is exactly what I mean,” Manson said, meaning to shore up his trespass of good manners. “They have not acquired, by birth or by decree, neither the freedom of citizenry nor the right to pursue happiness through property and influence.”

Harriet surprised him even further when she informed him that, “They are chattel, dear. And it is your privilege—nay, it is your family and class duty—to offer them the opportunity to

support you in your exaltations throughout your life.”

To himself Livingston wondered if their explicit speech could be attributed to their nightly fireside nightcaps of Madeira and laudanum. Their oft-recited dialogs were neither unique nor unfamiliar, and almost proverbial in tone as well a theme.

But this familiar paradigm of the privileged gave him pause in its naked state of overt verbalization. It was nearly embarrassing. He hadn’t previously processed the ideas consciously because there had been no need: the position of privilege was in his bones, put there by birth-right and by countless thousands of interactions with commoners who lowed and submitted on command. But aloud he only said, “Why, yes, I see, father. I think I understand you, mother.”

“And I am quite certain that you do not,” Harriet snapped. She leaned forward to lock his son’s eyes. “This duty of the underclass must be enforced by the instruments of government. Conversely, it is your duty as a loyal and propertied citizen—“

“Please, Mother, I—“ Livingston started to protest.

“Do not,” Manson said firmly, “under any circumstances, allow the vagaries of a weakened resolve tempt you into a sympathy for those not enfranchised by God. Such thoughts are unholy, seditious, and disloyal to the family.” He leaned back to indicate he felt his point to be well-cinched.

Harriet blitzed Livingston further: “It exhibits an embarrassing impotence of character, Livingston. That is why your father and I have decided to send you off with scarcely more funds than necessary to—“

“What? Not giving me more money? You are placing me in

harm’s way, Mother!”

“It is you who is placing yourself in harm’s way in this

foolish venture” admonished Manson. “We do not wish to appear to condone this—this whimsy of yours.”

Livingston started to protest again, but Harriet interrupted.

“You have your passage already, correct? Our method will help fortify your lack of strength in character. Be resolute and

diligent in pursuing God’s golden path, dear. Go pack your

trunk now, that’s a good boy.”

Livingston was stunned; his legs no longer had any strength, but somehow he found himself on his feet, moving towards the door.

“And Livingston—“ began his father.

Livingston paused, hand on the door, not even bothering to turn his head. “Sir?”

“Godspeed,” offered Manson. “Be sure you return with your head straight and new accounts in hand.”

“And do write occasionally, dear,” said his mother, resuming her place in a novel.

The next morning, March 18, 1849, Livingston Lowe bade his family and friends goodbye and sailed from the safety of Boston harbor and his family’s lap on a multi-canvas four-master toward the fantastic wilds of the Darien Gap.

             

         

Chapter Four

 

There was no railroad yet in Panama Territory, so when the ship’s dinghy scrunched to the beach at the mouth of the Chagres River, Livingston thought of paddling—until he saw the swift, swollen waters.

A chunky, shockingly casi desnudo black sporting a huge derby and equally oversize penis-sheath as unassailable symbols of his leadership, walked over to Livingston as he stood bewildered with a few chums and their trunks and baggage. Easy pickin’s.

The city boys found themselves being herded into native dugouts and paddled upstream by a team of heavily-muscled Blacks. It was slow going. After an hour in the choppy water, Mr. Derby-with-sheath barked an order above the wind, and the three canoes tacked to a bank.

“No good, you wait,” Derby-sheath ordered the white men, then called out to a nearby hut. Six derbied men came out to help rob the Americans of all their valuable property. By the time the blacks paddled away, the city boys were left with only the clothes on their back. Livingston was a little better off, with his federal notes hidden in his shoes. They struck out towards the Continental Divide.

     Two days later at the pueblo of Cruces, the young men discovered that the pack mules they had paid for in Boston were nowhere to be found. Livingston’s past survival techniques of the past—rational analysis, extensive discussion, and pushing paper invoices—hadn’t prepared him for a world unordered by discourse and logic, with unrelenting physical exertion in torrential rain, high temps and humidity. His skin took priority over thinking, as it literally bubbled and pricked with thousands of needle-like sensations. He existed minute-to-minute in pure suffering, and his mind couldn’t help.

The group proceeded to trudge across the Isthmus to the Pacific coast on foot. It was clear that their pink hands and soft muscles couldn’t have managed to pack the gear and kits stolen from them. 

A week later in Chagres town, weary, weakened and footsore Livingston and his companions found that their troubles were just getting used to them and wanted to hang out with the young men some more. The tickets they’d purchased in Boston for passage from Panama to San Francisco had come at a premium price, sold to them by a government contract agency. The agents had deliberately overbooked the three new steamers built with government aid—easy money easy to come by, as thousands of frenzied gold-seekers frantically struggled towards California from NYC, Philly and Boston.

There was nothing for Livingston and the hundreds of others presently in Chagres to do but wait. Days and weeks passed, with Livingston’s money belt getting thinner and thinner, as they waited for the steamer Panama, the third vessel to leave New York for California gold mines, as it made its way around the Horn.

Livingston did write once to his mother—no shortage of steamers and barques headed towards the eastern seaboard. “Speculation in tickets is very active in these days, and are sold at enormous prices. We are told that steerage tickets on the Panama have been sold as high as from $375 to $400. I fear that I shall have to sleep on deck, as a common passenger, for that ‘incident’ has depleted most funds.” After queuing up from 4 a.m. at the ticketing office, Livingston counted himself fortunate to purchase sleeping space on deck, though he found it necessary to sell his unused morning and frock suits. He was only able to

The Panama arrived on February 23, 1849, where more than 1200 passengers, all bound for California gold mines, were waiting to board her. He would not communicate to his family that humiliating experience as the commonest of passengers, wearing second-hand garments bought in Chagres from those headed home.

He wished he had packed food aboard for the length of the journey. “The potatoes gave out in three days,” he later wrote. “No fresh bread, and the ship’s biscuit was old, rotten, and wormy; the cooks had to put it in the oven every day to kill the insects. The fish stunk, oranges were available only at the bar for 12 ½ cents each, and soda water (the only water not brackish available to us) was sold at 50Ë a glass.”

A stop was made in San Juan del Sur, a small bay in southern Nicaragua, to replenish the water, but unaccountably very little in food stores. He recounted bitterly to his mother that, “No beef was taken in, there being still some half-putrid cows on board! Eight dozen Chickens were laid in, but within three days from this port, matters and things became so woeful that nothing but the fact of passengers having a turkey, a pig, and some ducks as freight on board saved us from positive starvation.”

~     

     When the PANAMA finally hove to Yerba Buena point, Livingston Lowe was already in awe. He had been around ships and the roughness of port life much of his life, but nothing had prepared him for the excesses of northern California of 1850.

From the time the Farallones Islands came to view when the ship dropped anchor opposite Commercial Street in San Francisco, Livingston counted several hundred sails. He figured there to be close to a thousand vessels—ocean schooners, bay riggers, coastal cutters, paddle-wheelers—plying the Bay or sitting at anchor. That was more traffic than Boston harbor might see in several months of Atlantic commerce.

Livingston had been in transit for eight months, instead of the 120 days he had so meticulously planned for. Surprisingly, he didn’t think it was time wasted. He felt that the delay in Central America was profitable in a way that he couldn’t have fathomed in Boston: he fancied himself to have hardened somewhat since his departure from the attachments of his family. He strutted his new self-image before his internal mirror and decided it fit pretty good: A man of the world.

Nothing in the world could have prepared Livingston for the rankness and offal-ness that was San Francisco. It was without peer throughout the world’s labyrinths of vile human societies. Our lad was about to get fleeced, and fleeced good. But at least it was by the best in the business.

Livingston stepped from the dinghy that plied him onto Long Wharf, actually the bottom of Commercial Street, into a river of humanity that was running two directions at once. The City’s scenes were turbulent with the thousands of men funneling into the mining camps in the Sierra Madre mountains a hundred miles to the east.

And as it was a Saturday, in the middle of a rainy season, most work was suspended on californio ranches and in the placer mines. So the idle miners and farm-hands flowed from the mountains and the cow counties to spend their money in San Francisco.

The Barbary Coast obligingly offered to entertain all of those innocents with its complete entourage of jay-hawkers, short-card sharps, rounders, pickpockets, prostitutes and pimps.

Livingston experienced a lot of “firsts” that day, before he had even gotten off Long Wharf. He saw his first Chinese, coolies trotting with heavy burdens on the ends of bamboo poles balanced on their shoulders. Other Chinese, with long queues hanging far down their backs, and clad in exotic costumes of a far-off oriental land, dodged through the crowds, as if in a hurry to be somewhere else. Then he had to make way for a file of small Hindus, coal-black, wiry men with straight black hair, black eyes and angular bone features carrying huge baskets of dried shrimp on their heads.

He dodged between the dozens of mounds of ox-hides and the heaps of beaver and otter pelts, each higher than a man’s head, and the scores of stacks of redwood planks headed into Sacramento City, then elbowed his way off the Wharf to turn up Commercial.

Of necessity, Commercial was the first of the City’s ‘streets’—really nothing more than a leveled dirt byway, lined with liveries, saloons, 25-cent flop-houses and puteros. Hand-organs, flutes, pianos, bagpipes, banjos, guitars, violins, brass instruments and accordions mingled their notes from dark entryways lining both sides of the street.

Livingston wasn’t merely curious: he was intrigued, and suddenly comfortable. The long voyage south, the other-world of his jungle experiences, the spartan lack of his accustomed creature comforts while aboard ship seemed like hazy periods of discontent. He felt—strangely enough—strengthened bumping along the bottom of that current with the rest of the human debris.

He decided he was ravenous, but the red-faced Irish frowzies shark-glancing at him from inside their den-like “dead-falls” were hungrier. And when the Californio putas flowed towards him like a dark liquid in their solemn black dresses, rebozos wrapped up to their eyes, flitting quietly past as they fixed a flashing, silent inquiry into his face, he felt caught up, like a pebble bumping along the bottom of a flow much greater than he.

He was surprised at the excitement that their raunchy attention aroused in him. It wasn’t a sexual response. The predation made him feel, well, important. It was exhilarating, and something was born in him that he hadn’t realized in himself. He felt more alive among the bottom feeders of society than ever before in his protected and privileged Boston existence. Livingston had unearthed a taste for the peregrine, the allure of the exotic and deliciously forbidden.

The street sharks immediately sensed a tender chum in the current, and angled towards Livingston, separating him from the pod of gawking greenhorns within the first hundred paces ashore.

 “Whudja come from, a cutter outna Bay?”

Livingston turned around to set his eyes on a filthy, whey-faced, stooped teenaged boy, wrinkled well before his time.

“Just in from Boston, and—“

“Gimme a doller.” The boy-thing clutched Livingston’s kitbag, but didn’t get any farther.

Two men in their 20’s, only slightly less destitute than Livingston’s molester, magically appeared from Livingston’s rear to swoop in, lift the creature by both armpits, and toss him like a rag.

“Bugger off, John,” the taller of the two yelled, “straight away now, no tellin’ ye twicet!”

“Gotta keep a sharp ojo out for those bummers,” the shorter one warned. They both could have passed for pirates from Algiers with their olive skin color, sharp noses and sharper eyes. They didn’t even lack blades, as each had a short sword stuck in his waistband.

“From Boston as well, be ye?” pressed the first.

“Why, yes, how’d you know that?” Livingston innocently asked.

“Well, not hard to tell a lad from me own haam now, is it?” the taller one responded. “Thad’s me nome, this here’s Rass.”

That doesn’t sound like eastern seaboard English, thought Livingston, but he was glad for just the possibility of a contact from home. “You lads just in from Panama too?”

“Aye, spent a loong time getting’ outta that sweaty infierno, too. ‘Ow ‘bout yew?” put in the other.

“Seemed like an eternity, that’s for sure,” joined Livingston. “This place was worth the wait, though,” he marveled.

“Hey noo, mebbe we can help each other out, all of us bein greenhorns and all.”

“I don’t know, maybe.” Livingston was finally a bit cautious. “How long you been here, you two?”

“A week noo, waitin fer the paddleboat to Sacto City,” the other fished.

“You going East, too?”

“Yeh, that’s what we’re doing tomorrow, me ‘n my pard here.”

“Godssakes, I must get on that same vessel! Where’s the billet office?”

“C’mon noo, we kin take ya there straight away.”

And the three marched over to the offices of American River Paddler on Stockton street, just a couple blocks away. Livingston got his receipt, and stepped aside for the others to purchase their passage, but Thad and Ross begged off, saying theirs was already settled.

“You fellows know of a safe place to pallet for the night,” Livingston queried, suddenly tiring from the unaccustomed stability of being on land again. “Maybe with decent fare?”

“Sure, anyt’ing you want here,” Thad offered. “Wudja got in mind?”

“Just safe and cheap will suit me just fine.”

“Whacha tink, Rass: the Golden Rooster?”

“Dat’ll feel de beel, Tad.”

The Golden Rooster was just another “deadfall,” as the subterraneous beer halls were known, that lined every street of ‘the Coast.’ The name was appropriate enough.

The last things Livingston remembered of the night were the bagpipes, guitars, and accordions blasting as he wolfed down his second beer.

He woke up the next morning lying in the gutter without his kit, shoes or new friends. Livingston had shown some moxie, however, in preparation for just such an event: he had strapped a small purse containing emergency funds to his upper thigh, beneath his trousers. He retired to a handy alleyway to pull down his pants, frantically wondering if the purse had been found. He sighed with relief to see it still there, ripped it free, and glancing around furtively, re-pants himself.

Livingston wasn’t taking any more chances getting fleeced. He headed down to Long Wharf to see what passage he could afford. The paddleboat fare all the way to Sacramento City was beyond his meager means, but there was a steamer that plied between the east Bay and Long Wharf. He gratefully joined the flood of similarly hopeful and destitute young men and boys towards the promised land.

The steamer chugged only a few short miles towards the Strait of Carquinez, where the channel is little more than a mile wide, and at which place are. The hopefuls poured out of the boats after, nosed into the landing shared with a government dock-yard and naval stores. Nearby the sparse Livingston trudged the first hill (the sparse remnant of the once grand rancho of General Mariano Vallejo), and was dismayed at what he saw from the top. Stretched out from Benecia Bay as far as he could see, were the other thousands of hopefuls, each walking the whole way to his own promised land.

It took the recently de-urbanized Livingston nearly two weeks to trudge, wade, ford and ferry his way into Saints Island, the site of one of the initial gold finds some 18 months previous.

        *             *             *

The gold-strike site of Saints Island was discovered about 25 miles east of Sutter’s Fort, by two men who happened to be Mormons. Dutifully they reported their strike to their spiritual mentor in California, Stake president Sam Brenalt. Brenalt claimed the whole region in the name of the Church, and issued a decree that whomever extracted the ore must pay him 1/3 part as a royalty fee. This worked well for him, and (at times) for the Church, so long as the Mormons constituted the majority of those miners.

In fact, it worked so well for Brenalt that he managed to exact a personal fortune that provided the backbone of his fledgling hardware company, the same company that eventually outfitted 90% of all miners, farmers, and ranchers in northern California. This was no small matter.

But as Saints Island was one of the richest placer diggings in California, it attracted many non-Mormons who didn’t give a whiskey-rasp hoot about tithing to the Church’s quasi-religious taxman. Talk of the “takings” there spread faster than corn shucker’s jelly over cracked hands. The floor fell out of the royalty scheme.

Within six months of the claim, a town of more than 2,500 people, several stores and hotels, an express office, two stage-lines, numerous restaurants, saloons, gambling and cat houses had all burst into a frenetic, albeit short snort of energy. the town offered eight saloons, five hotels, three lodging houses, two dry goods stores, two grocery stores, two breweries, two livery stables, two churches, a barbershop, a blacksmith, a butcher, a baker, a school, a post office, and daily stage and freighting service to all points out.

With gold dust, nuggets and cash money abundant and flowing faster’n religious tracts, Saints Island town lived lusty, fast, and hot. Extravagances and extremes were the rule, and moderation was considered downright un-American. The rapid boomtown growth meant that everything short of social excess and mayhem had to be hauled in from Sutter’s Fort by horse or mule teams over rough narrow roads with mud or dust near axle-deep. So naturally, as the population swelled and heaved, prices soared sky-high.

Lumber was especially scarce—having to be hauled in from the Mendocino coast—and therefore particularly costly, so that a number of the stores, cafes and saloon were started in tents, most with dirt floors. (In fact, a bordello might’ve been rightly called a “cat tent,” with a floor that made a cat box redundant.)

It was into this over-inflated cauldron of mixed-bag humanity that Livingston Lowe trudged that sweaty August night, a little too late to hit it rich easily, and too poor to struggle back to ‘Frisco.

Oh, he did give ‘er a go on the banks of Lobo Crick for a spell. But by the time he had arrived on the scene, the best claims and the easy pickin’s were long gone. He had to ply up and down the Crick for a day before he found someone who’d take him on for day at better than Chinee wages. Didn’t exactly agree with him, getting down and dirty in the gold fields like that.

        *             *             *

Gold mining was truly hard labor. Most of the pure, granulated nuggets and dust found easily in riverbeds was soon gone, leaving the rest encapsulated in rocks. Under the burning sun of the Sierra summer, prospectors worked like men possessed--digging, shoveling, swinging a pick, lifting sand, gravel, and rocks in search of bedrock, walking for miles humping heavy loads of quartz into town, and heavier loads of supplies back.

If a family member could see him, the prodigal son would scarcely be recognized, with his beard, reddened face, new muscles, and raggedy, unwashed outfit of denim trousers, cotton pull over shirt, crushed hat and sturdy workman shoes. He hardly recognized himself.

Breakfast and supper were usually salt pork and beans, coffee, maybe a hard biscuit or two. Who had the time or energy to hunt and fish? Besides the bottle and whores, companions included lice, ticks, gnats, flies, mosquitoes, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, tarantulas, scorpions, lizards, and rattlesnakes.

A guy learned to shake out his bedroll quick enough before easing his weary butt down onto the ground, to gaze at the stars a minute or two, wondering What the hell? before passing into weary oblivion.

They toiled on into the winter, spending most of the day knee deep in ice-cold waters—panning, sluicing, rocking cradles—until the freezing winds, rain, and snow of winter were too much to humanly bear.  They would reluctantly leave for town, afraid someone more desperate than they would deplete their abandoned dreams into a more pitiful state.

In town the miner’s life was hardly improved, as all necessities were scarce and insanely inflated. Sure, it took supplies several days to be shipped by barque from San Francisco, then packed in over rough trail from Sacramento or Marysville or Bakersfield. But did that mean a potato or onion was really worth a buck, or a simple wool shirt $50, or sugar $4 a pound, or boots and shoes $25 to $150 a pair?

You bet, a guy heard a lot of stories about how easy it was to strike it rich, that gold would just show up when you weren’t even looking. Why, he heard of a miner by name of Jim Crow, caught a trout weighing real heavy, between twelve and fourteen pounds, and after cooking it that night for supper, they found gold in the bottom of the skillet.

And then the old timers used to talk up the talents of the Chickens of Diamond Springs as being accomplished miners, always hunting and pecking at small nuggets. One Sunday morning, a local Chicken was caught and fried up for the afternoon’s dinner. When the lucky cook later panned out the Chicken’s gizzard, he supposedly netted about $12 in gold. Livingston heard this one told maybe 50 times.

The reality was, a guy was broke again soon enough after a brief, drunken respite in town for a couple weeks. Nothin’ to it but high-tail it back up to the claims soon as the weather allowed.

        *             *             *

After a few weeks of scratching dirt, Livingston decided he’d had enough, and did what many red-blooded American would do: he planned to way-lay the first non-citizen (read: heathen, Chinee, Mex-greaser Californio, non-white) toting a purse that looked to be swollen more ‘n a healthy-sized bull’s scrotum.

Our lad was handicapped beyond the ken of his adopted peers in the same situation, however: he had awakened the classical internal queries in his previous life as a well-cultured man in a “civilized” society. He had even pitched those same classics to his parents some ten months previous.

But the demands of reality sternly convexed and re-constituted his elemental questions: How can we be sure of a permanent state of grace and privilege for any human being? Might a man descend to unforeseen degradation by virtue of pressures beyond his influence and background, or even through the damnation of Heaven?

He kept telling himself that he wasn’t a social deviant, that his was a temporary problem with a solution acceptable in the Sierra foothills, a wilderness full of “poor white trash from the frontier slave states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas,” as he later put it in a letter back home.

At least these men/other refugees won’t condemn me, he allowed. But he was in agony, for all that.

 

 

Chapter Five

  

Ishi trotted out from the last sunburned south slope of the Trinities and away from most of the chaparral. Ahead, on the moister, north-facing hills, lived the ponderosa pines with only scattered individual oaks. The pineries were actually dense islands growing on terraces left after rivers of glacial ice cut the canyons. Lush riparian forest lined the banks of the river named Trinity by Anglos, after the mountains (which they also designated) it sliced through.

   Ishi moved quietly and with good speed alongside the Trinity—that is, until he came up on a forest trail forking down to his own. It was the sound of mule hooves thudding the upper track close-by that made him plunge into the nearest thicket cover. He was close enough to see where the two trails merged, close enough to realize his narrow escape, close enough to smell the three laden mules, and more powerfully, the two whites on horses, one at each end. The men looked like just what they were: trail scruffs headed to town with their bounty after weeks in the hills. The rear man yelled and advanced quickly up the column.

“Hey, goddam! Hold on!”

The point man coaxed his mules: “Whoa, whoa! You jackaninny pieces of bear shit, stop!” He halted the string, and turned his mount around. “What the hell, man—is it them packs agin?”

His partner answered with a flurry of chew spit, stepped down quickly out of the saddle next to the rear mule, and started pushing and re-arranging the pack.

“Whatcha gonna do? Start havin’ a dis-cussin’ with ‘em?” the point Chided. “Yer worsen a twitface marm the way ya carry on about them sacks.”

Ishi remained concealed and still, but he was curious about the animal string and the bulging gunny packs, and started craning his neck this way and that to check things out.

“Five bucks is five bucks,” growled the man pushing on the pack.

Ishi was suddenly horrified at what was happening in front of him. The white man was pushing a head, a human head, an Indian head back into the gunnysack on the mule. Ishi felt a rush of energy that made his belly lurch, then another rush to his heart that saddened him, and finally a third wave to his brain that brought anger and fear. Ishi had heard stories that the White Man’s government was offering bounties for the skulls of Indian men, women, Children. What he didn’t know was that even small towns, such as nearby Shasta City, offered $5- rewards for scalps or heads. This was a substantial sum, one that brought head-hunters from all over the State. Ishi grew perfectly still as the white handled his grisly prizes.

“And you jes might hep me ‘n check the others, too.”

“Chrissakes, leave ‘em be, would ya. We’re only a couple miles outta Whiskeytown.”

Ishi watched as the rear guard mounted up, and the string continued to trudge along the river trail. Ishi stayed hidden, actually flattened to the ground, until they all snaked around the next bend, out of sight. He didn’t move until the sharp sounds of hooves striking rocks subsided. He arose, still shaking with rage and trembling with relief; when he took off again, it was on an upper trail that paralleled the lower river.

             *             *             *

The first signs of Whiskeytown, gouged out from the red hillside, came up on Ishi quicker than he had anticipated. Rough cut lumber, board shutters, and plank roofs characterized most of these ramshacks with their little sheds out back. Ishi moved in the shadows of the tree-line slowly, taking in some of the normal town-life that seemed so unusual for him: a woman scrubbing in a washtub, a man hauling bricks in a truckwagon, two small Children playing tag.

Continuing his furtive tour, Ishi decided to start skirting well-back of the structures, yet he didn’t want to get too far from the Trinity, his Chief water and food source. As he moved parallel to the town, the structures got more and more substantial, with the center boasting several multi-storied edifices. The brick had been hauled in by muleteers from Sutter’s Fort 175 miles north to Starvation Hill on the nearby central valley floor, a focal point for the exchange of capital and goods in the North state.

From there the terrain westward into the Trinities was steep enough and the by-ways murderous enough that Whiskeytown merchants relied a great deal on the mules of rough-riders and the backs of indentured Chinese and “civilized” Indians.

Whiskeytown’s ideas of viable enterprises with enough commercial merit for such imported building materials included the city government headquarters, two hotels, four whorehouses, and six saloons. That seems like a lot of recreational centers for a town of under 500, you might observe, but in all fairness a person should ‘unnerstan thet this sit-chi-ashun suited the local tempermints jes’ fine, thank ya’-- the “sit-Chi-ashun” being that Whiskeytown served as cultural center for 1,000 other, similarly-disposed mountain rednecks, Euro-trash, thieves, and outlaws that composed the usual population of an American frontier.

As was the custom of Americans, the citizens had scalped the town’s limits, making it devoid of trees for the ease of building construction. This had an unsettling effect on Ishi, who thought it eerie that anyone would want to separate himself from the life of the forest.

Ishi’s attempt at detour and concealment was blown when he was rousted by a small, nervous terrier nosing around the tree-line surrounding the town. Unfortunately the dog was companion to a gang of boys playing Pitch-and-Stretch with a knife in an alley between the Grand Hotel and one of the liveries.

One of the boys gave pause long enough to wonder out loud, “What’s yer dawg gittin on about, Jed?”

“Beats me, but I wisht he’d shut his yap,” the boy Jed answered as he leaned into a long throw. But the terrier was insistent, so Jed ordered “C’mon fellas, let’s see what Mazy’s got cornered.” The gang of boys loped after Jed toward the tree line to investigate.

Unfortunately Ishi was still trying to pacify the dog while remaining hidden, and didn’t see the boys until they were within 20 yards and circling him, cutting off a retreat into the woods.

“Say, whadda we have here—a Chink kid,” the largest one announced.

“Naw, he’s a injun,” another came back with.

“Lemme see,” broke in Jed as he came toward Ishi. “I wanna see how he stinks. Ifn he stinks like fish, he’s a Chink. Ifn he stinks like fish shit, he’s injun.”

Ishi didn’t know English, but he wasn’t about to stick around to see how this came out. Remembering Ying’s-Ying’s admonition to avoid trouble whenever possible (“Evasion is honorable, and reflects intelligence”), Ishi broke into a run through the biggest hole in the circle. Unfortunately, that opening brought him toward the alley, but at least it was downhill and his surprise burst had gained him a few feet head start.

“Haw! Must be a haf-breed. Runs like Chicken-shit!” one howled at Ishi as they tumbled after him.

Turning the corner past a fence, Ishi quickly flattened himself against the rough planks. It was the joker who came through the alley’s funnel first—actually headfirst, after Ishi grabbed an arm and wrist, gripping hard to keep the boy running in a tight circle to smack hard into the fence. Maintaining his hold, Ishi reversed the motion to spin him into the next boy through. They cracked heads and both dropped on the spot.

Two to go, Ishi thought, as one boy came up on the left side to grab Ishi’s wrist. “Time to bend the branch,” Ishi shouted in Chumawei. His free hand arced inwardly to strike the boy’s left temple, then it kept slanting down in the same arc to grab the boy’s wrist. Ishi twisted the wrist to gain control of the boy’s whole arm. Ishi’s newly-freed arm rose and fell like a hammer onto his adversary’s elbow. Another Crack! resounded.

Jed was last; he growled, lowered his head, and charged like a miniature torino. Ishi soon found himself being propelled backwards, in the grips of a frontal bear hug. Jed had made a mistake, though: he had left Ishi’s arms free.

At last gaining a foothold, Ishi managed to whip both palms forcefully against the sides of the boy’s head, smack against the ears. Predictably, Jed dropped his arms. Ishi then grabbed the kid’s hair, stepped to the rear with one foot and pivoted as he pulled on the hair. The boy’s neck was now stretched out, and Ishi slowly raised his sword-hand, cocked to deliver the final coup.

Ishi paused at the apex, took a deep breath, and growled in Cantonese, “Who’s the Chicken now, huh?” He could take the boy’s head off, all trussed up like that. Instead he lowered his hand, and delivered a romping Whack! to the boy’s protruding buttocks before turning to spring for the forest depths.

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

Ying-Ying remained standing in front of the just-closed holding tank door. As the echoes of iron-on-iron faded, there was a heavy silence. He turned to survey the room rapidly, flicking his eyes over fellow denizens of Sailors Prison: a couple heavy Pacific Islanders in the far corners, and along one wall were wiry, nasty-looking Javanese pirates. He had seen these types before in Canton, but the majority of inhabitants in view were Ying’s-Ying’s fellow ex-pats. They all rose as one to bow deeply in greeting; Ying-Ying waved them down and continued his survey.

The room had a partition wall, and as he glanced into the separated area, he paused to take in some different kind of humans: a few Native Americans, the first this Chinese had ever laid eyes on. The oldest Indian stared at Ying’s-Ying’s arms. Ying-Ying lowered his own eyes in respect.

Among the Chinese, Ying-Ying enjoyed a position of prestige due to his membership and post in the Chiu Chao Tong. His Tong i.d., given during the lengthy initiation ceremony, was two very visible tattoos, stretching from both shoulders down to his elbows. The left arm depicted an Eagle grasping a flaming sword, the right featured two tigers locked in combat.

As Ying-Ying raised his eyes, one of the younger Indians started to rise menacingly. The older man checked his brave with a slight head movement. Ying-Ying shuffled on toward the Chinese group, stirring the straw litter as he went.

All the Chinese started talking at once in excited tones. One rose to bow in front of Hing-Hing. “First Enforcer! We had not expected to see you here with us gathering ghost-farts!”

Ying-Ying bowed in return. “I wish we weren’t, Little Brother. Better that we were sharing sweet bao on Sister Jade’s pillow, hmm?”

The Chinese men guffawed, but the first speaker scowled at the others, who cringed with embarrassment. “First Enforcer, as officer in the benevolent Chiu Chao, you must have some information about how our problems will be solved.”

        *             *             *

Perhaps the greatest themes running throughout Chinese history are those of fighting hunger and fighting oppression. Not much a man can do about Nature’s onslaughts that leave you with dust or mud to farm. But oppression: now there’s a bone that the Chinese can pick clean, and then use it to whack tyrants; leave it to them to devise some devilishly difficult martial style with the same bone.

Chinese culture reflects how important resistance is to them.  In fact those who resist have always won the hearts of the people, who (sometimes mistakenly) thought those who rebelled were expressing loyalty and honor. More important social values don’t exist inside a traditional Chinese skin.

It’s an easy matter to understand how you might have a deep respect for a man who suddenly intervenes to rescue you from a sword-wielding gang howling for your blood or your property. And if this man had a reputation for not only defending the weak, but pursuing and vanquishing a powerful, deadly common enemy—well, then, such a man surely must be exhibiting a praiseful loyalty to the cause of the people. Such a champion of the underdog surely must have a great deal of honor within. Such a man in the traditional China of the 1800’s would have been a martial artist, more specifically, a Shaolin boxer.

What is not so easy for a Westerner to grasp is the profundity of the Chinese peoples’ respect of, adoration for, and sheer inspirational dependence on that kung fu folk hero. The culture even canonized a general—and his bodyguard! Yep, made ‘em the patron saints of Kung Fu practitioners for their expression of Mo Duk, or “martial virtues” of loyally and honorably protecting the people.

Social values more important than loyalty, honor and courage don’t exist inside a traditional Chinese skin. (Well, if you don’t count the usual human preoccupations with love of money and satisfying carnal desires…) And those who have demonstrated these qualities through rebellion against overwhelming oppressors have always won the hearts of the people.

If we combine the social importance of those virtues with a continuous history of heroic sagas covering 3,000 years, we might come to appreciate the sheer weight of responsibility a gifted fighter might have to bear. Being a hero could get a man down and out, permanently. Luckily, there were always your brothers you could count on for shelter and refuge.

Sometimes it was only a safe house in a crowded city, or the back room of a kung fu school that would succor you through to better times. But sometimes it was an entire monastery, with hundreds of fighting monks, who would harbor, feed, and train you even further in the arts of rebellion against oppressors of virtue.

     By the time  the Ming Dynasty ended in 1644,  Buddhist monasteries had been the focal points for learning for  twelve hundred years. Of course other educational venues existed, notably academies for the study of Confucius’ works, Taoist retreats, respected painters and literary figures. But no single institution approached the holism and breadth of Buddhist curriculums.

Comparable to universities, Shaolin masters offered structured curriculum not only in martial arts, but in herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, philosophy, and sacred literature. Add that to the social relief and medical services regularly offered to the lay population surrounding the temples, and you start to have an inkling of the popular base of support they enjoyed. Eventually China boasted five main and dozens of smaller Buddhist learning centers throughout China, that could—and did—offer judicious use of force against injustice. And then the Manchus stormed the Wall.

Led by the Ching family, the invaders from Manchurian ended China’s Golden era, and the Ming Dynasty. Slowly, brutally, methodically the Manchus moved over the countryside to bring the Han to their knees, forcing them to pay tribute in specie, goods, and service to the state. Once again in her history, many Han Chinese nobles, warriors and commoners were forced underground as the Manchus slaughtered all those who did not conform to the imposed state rule.

The Shaolin monasteries initially only offered passive resistance against the invaders, seeking to remain above the political matters, but in keeping with their core mission canon, they did offer refuge to any who sought it, be he mystic or bandit. Naturally, all kinds of rascals showed up at the temple gates to foment change and revolution in the Ching’s top-knots.

But finally the lethal mixture of betrayal and large amounts of Ching loyal troops armed with cannons, destroyed the Honan temple of Shaolin in 1647 AD, and slaughtered all but a handful of monks. Those who survived fled to the Fukien Temple and for 30 years continued their resistance and support of resistance fighters. This led to the destruction of the Fukien temple, the remaining major temples and most of the lesser temples. Again, very few survived, and fewer still passed on their martial skills or their virtue.

From this time onwards Shaolin monks were homeless outlaws, with any practice of Shaolin Kung Fu punishable by death. Much was lost, including most of the priceless scrolls of Shaolin Kung Fu teachings and many other written treasures of knowledge and wisdom. Only about thirty people, monks and lay-followers escaped the temple, scattering southward. Shaolin monks continued to teach Kung Fu, but they were forced to be extremely secretive.

A monk had to not only disguise his persona, it was extremely critical to be selective in choosing a new student, the place where they trained, and when they trained. It was more than just being caught practicing a forbidden skill; for master and student alike, it meant instant death for you and all of your family, going five generations back.

Every Shaolin ch’uan fa kung fu school has three things posted on its walls: A painting of General Kuan, a picture of the teacher, and a rendering of the founder. Every traditional school opens with a prayer of thanks for the masters who endured such persecution and yet passed on their art and their martial virtue in the face of death.

For the sake of utmost security, most southern styles were passed down through different families and developed only within the family and close friends. You just didn’t get a chance to learn these high level modes of survival unless you were born into it, or had a connection to get past the front door.

The displaced Celestial peasants on Gold Mountain were extremely hopeful when Tai Ying showed up. Perhaps things would change, perhaps finally the Han could live in peace, at least in their Chinatown ghetto, if not in California.

 

        *             *             *

 

Ying-Ying sat down next to his countrymen in the cell. “Brothers, I’m certain it will all be taken care of soon. After all, that is the function of our association, to smooth out these misunderstandings. But we must have patience.”

“Aiee!” cried the second peasant. “How much patience can a man have? I have nearly run out of bugs!”

“I don’t understand, Brother.”

All of the Chinese started to speak at once, excited as they twisted around picking body lice off themselves and counting their catches.

“Quiet, you lice-mothers!” admonished the first peasant. He turned to Ying-Ying. “It is a wagering game they play to pass the time.”

“Called ‘Catch & Squish!’ I am champion of most Captured,” cried one man.

“I am King of Biggest Tick! And Chen here wins ‘Most’ and ‘Loudest’ each time he goes to the honey bucket! effused another man.

The diminutive Chen bowed his head in modesty, and everyone laughed.

“Alright, let’s hear how your families are doing in your villages,” Ying-Ying said. “Maybe we have mutual relatives!” The men gathered in a small circle and quietly started talking simultaneously.

Some hours later, the holding tank filled with the sound of men in troubled sleep. Ying’s-Ying’s eyes popped open; he looked down. A tip of a feather slowly traced his left tattoo. Ying-Ying looked up into the eyes of the menacing young Indian brave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

   Some 20,000 years ago, the Pacific was lapping the California coastline 25 miles west of its modern location. The last great glacier to visit the region had finished grinding down several grandiose valleys to fashion the slopes of those raw mountain ranges later known as the High Sierras.

Even before the ice had ground to a halt, it had begun its own far-reaching transformation. The melt-off started a process that eventually created a chain of wetlands that stretched the greater part of the huge Central Valley. Five hundred miles long, it protected and nurtured tens of thousands of animal and plant species. No similar womb of life was in evidence anywhere else on the continent.

Herds of mammoths shared the cool, wet countryside with giant ground sloths, camels, saber-toothed cats. Marshes and redwood forests covered the land. As the receding glaciers continued to melt, oceans rose again and salt water once more claimed its share of the California landscape. The climate grew hotter and drier, and the southern deserts began to develop. Many animals and some of the plant species such as the redwoods, rhododendrons, and ferns were forced to retreat into tiny, isolated and specialized communities of forest life.

The ocean continued its movement eastward, and about 10,000 years ago it started slowly flooding a north-south valley in the Coast Range to create the San Francisco Bay.

When Livingston Lowe and his Anglo-European predecessors first rounded the off-shore islands, and tacked into the horseshoe of the Bay, to say that they were impressed by the vitality of that estuary would have been understating the level of their astonishment. For the San Francisco Bay wasn’t merely the largest estuary on the entire western coastline of all of the Americas: its imposing presence defined the whole region as it entered the State at its navel, and was fed through the cords of thousands of nutrient-rich streams, lakes, and rivers.  “The Bay sustains life, commerce, and sense of place,” as the frontier Americans became fond of saying.

The Bay’s interconnecting web of plankton, insects, invertebrates, fish, birds, and mammals depended on the seasonal intermingling of freshwater rivers, saltwater ocean tides, and the wetland marshes, bogs and pools. The wetlands absorbed flood waters, filtered pollutants running off the land, provided shelter and feeding grounds for fish and wildlife. Some 400 species of wildlife made human life possible in the greater Bay region: king salmon were there, as well as the grizzly, gray wolf, beaver, river otters, whales, curlews, herons, swans, smelt, geese and ducks, pronghorn, kit fox. The evidence of abundance was boggling, even to world voyagers.

          *             *             *

     The earliest ancestors of the Eagle Clan had slipped over substantial portions of the Bering Sea to arrive at that fecund land 15,000 years ago. When they first settled the Coast Ranges and their small valleys, the great estuary at the State’s navel did not exist. The Eagles had related to their homelands before many of its sea cliffs, harbors, forests, grasslands and deserts had appeared. The Eagles had life because of the land and the waters.

These early people understood that they came from and, in turn, became the roots that ran deep. Indeed, they knew that they never left home. Their bodies, their blood, their bones melded back into the topsoil from which they had spring, and so helped sustain the dramas of life on the upper stage. This they remembered, and this they often recalled as oral history of their people.

*             *             *

     Ying-Ying and the brave slowly rose to their feet together, eyes locked. The brave half-turned, still maintaining eye contact, and cocked his head slightly for Ying-Ying to follow. Turning the corner after the brave, Ying-Ying was startled to see “Prolific” Chen seated next to the older Chief in the next room. Ying-Ying half-bowed to his countryman, and offered the Chief a martial salute of one warrior to another. The Chief gestured for Ying-Ying to sit.

     Looking at the older man’s long sinew-strength, Ying-Ying judged him to still be active as a fighter. But Ying-Ying remained somewhat confused as to why he and Chen had been singled out for conversation. As the Chief spoke, Chen leaned towards Ying-Ying to translate.

     “Muskrat Bone is my name. My father is warrior of Eagle’s Tree, his father too. And me.” The Chief pulled his shirt back to reveal a large dippled representation of an eagle, reaching from his chest up to one side of his lower neck.

     “I’m ‘Great Eagle,’” Ying-Ying replied through Chen. ”My father was also called Eagle, and my grandfather.”

     Both men had stayed seated during the required introductions. Ying-Ying ducked his head and lowered his eyes appropriately; Muskrat Bone kept his head straight up and gazed piercingly at Ying-Ying, also appropriately enough.

     Muskrat Bone nodded, and pointed to Ying’s-Ying’s tattoo. He began speaking rapidly, with Chen cutting in to bring the meaning.

     “The Chief says he knows why you have come to this country. He says that warriors of the Eagle are linked by the Eagle where they live and throughout all moments of the Earth, past and present.”

     The Chief spoke again, and Chen turned back to Ying-Ying with a look of confusion. “He says that you have come to help your brothers of the Eagle in their struggle for the earth’s life.”

              *             *             *

     Muskrat Bone first heard the Anglo mouth bark English in 1845. It was from a US Army Lieutenant’s command voice ricocheting from wall-to-wall at the roust of Mexican General Vallejo from his compound in Sonoma out in the northern Bay marshlands. Muskrat Bone characterized the gutturals as “coyote wind.” He sometimes referred to the Lieutenant’s woman as “coyote’s second wind.”

     He watched the white man (mostly Europeans until 1855) flood into his ancestral homelands, never asking pardon, taking by virtue of their soldiers’ guns, denying his people’s rights to travel across the earth, limiting access to water and land, removing ancient rights to be considered equal and fully human.

     In centuries past, it was the Mexican Californio ranchers and Spanish Catholic priests who had kept native people as slaves for generations. Now the Americans were forcibly removing Native Children away from parents to distant places to teach them everything but native culture, ceremony, language. He saw the effect, and it burdened his heart: Children were changed from “natural people” into trained servants for merchants, missionaries, and military. Or they were simply bought from the government or other brokers by American ranchers needing slaves.

     His own grandmother and Children, gathering food and fishing in their own homeland streams, were rousted as trespassers. His tribal hunters still stalked game, but the Americans claimed all the land, and if hunters entered meadows, they were “trespassing.”

     “We had no right even to walk along a rutted road, being treated as if our life has no purpose,” Chief Muskrat Bone recounted. “We were ‘in the way of progress,’ as the Coyote’s Wind told us so many times. So Grandmother was hungry, and had to charge food at the white man’s store.”

     But since the Americans wouldn’t give her jobs, she couldn’t pay the five-dollar debt on time, so the Indian Affairs agent withdrew her right to her 40-acre allotment, and issued the title to the owner of the store.

     To the Native Peoples, the whites dreamed and acted only as always taking, claiming, possessing, coveting. And the “coyote’s women” were a choppy-lake reflection of him: always contrary, unpredictable, vindictive, not worthy of trust, wielding fear-driven power.

     “Grandmother put it well,” the Chief said. “`Coyotes have inherited the power to change things, but they never acquired the power to create. Like her father, the daughter of coyote slips across the earth, insisting on being satisfied, or there will be war!’

     “Grandmother said that the spirit of the coyote within each of us was the reason we developed our Chema-ha long ago. Our Chema-ha burning ceremony is a symbol of coyote’s destructive nature and a lesson to young people to not be possessive, to not love self to the harm of others, nor to covet, but instead to accept only those things that are naturally yours,” the old Muskrat concluded in a low, clear voice.

Tai Ying wasn’t sure why he as being told these matters, but he was glad of it: his understanding of these brown peoples had begun. And The Muskrat had made it his business to recruit a brother-in-arms.

         

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

Muskrat sighed inwardly; so much blood on his people’s trail since the whites came, first from Spain, then the Mexicans, and now the Americans. They call us different names, each of those invaders, he thought, but when it came down to it, the outcome was always the same: they wanted to be the masters, and masters needed slaves. Even the holy men of the white Spaniards, the padres.

For the Spanish, the basis for colonization in Alta California was the five missions established along the coast between 1775 and 1825. they were intent on subjugating a remarkably diverse population, with estimates ranging from 300,000 to 750,000, divided into separate tribal structures. It’s possible that no area of comparable size in the world contained the variety of languages and cultures as did California.

The Franciscans who operated the upper California missions collected all of the Indians they could find. Each of these hinterland outposts had its own fields, cattle herds, vegetable gardens and orchards. The “neophyte” Indians, as they were referred to by the Church, were pressed into service to tend flocks and gardens, build irrigation systems, weave fabric, construct stone buildings—all in the name of the whites’ God and the Papal directive granting Spain “All lands of the Indies” and so obliging the state-sponsored conquerors to Christianize the natives.

In exchange for their involuntary servitude, blood, sweat, and tears, the Indians received the word of God. To the padres, the mission system was just what the Indians needed.

The first Native rebellion against the mission system came in 1775. An estimated 800 pissed-off brown people swooped down on the crude Mission San Diego, seizing the resident padre and a Spanish carpenter. Father Luis Jaime was dispatched slowly and rather rudely, left bleeding to death with his detached scrotum and penis tied under his Chin. The crude necklace lay atop his beads and crucifix.

“Since he has been so interested in our women, people should know what it is that he worships,” announced the leader of the Eagle raiding party.

The Eagles kept the carpenter intact; he was big, strong, with no animosity for the Eagles, so he was kept alive. Him, they had other plans for—at least the women did.

(Muskrat remembered this, as he remembered all the record of his family: the carpenter was his grandfather.)

And this was just the beginning of the pan-tribal resistance begun by the Eagles against the whites. It had been easy enough to muster such a large contingent of rebels in the south: the mild climate fostered the densest population of the entire Alta region.  But it was even easier in the central area, for about 3/5 of all natives lived here, comprising 18 major tribelets along the central coast and throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, enjoying existence in a climate which afforded abundant plant and animal life.

*             *             *

     The Muskrat sighed again. Hunger had not existed there: acorn, waterfowl, berries and seeds, fish and deer were there for the taking. And they continued to be there, he thought, because we didn’t take more than we needed.

     We Indian people don’t even wear many clothes most of the time, he mused. What need, except when it was truly cold? Our homes aren’t so huge, heavy and stiff because we don’t need to separate ourselves from the Mother. I have lived in several homes in just my youth alone. Depending on the weather, we make simple reeds-and-sticks for sun shelter to earth-banked caves for warmth during winter snows.

     And our women, he smiled: our maidens maybe would wrap very short skirts of fibers around them, but just to announce their availability, not to tease or hide.

     He remembered when warfare was a rare occurrence, usually caused by repeated trespassing by another tribe, and mostly resulting in light casualties.

     My people are peaceful, sedentary—following The Road anciently set forth by our Creator Gods, the path of deep respect and stewardship for the land. What are the Earth and Gods telling us? What went wrong? he questioned himself.

              *             *             *

After moving across the top of the world, from one continent to the, you’d think the Eagle Clan to be in the mood for a place to call home for their restless bones. It wasn’t to be however: the Eagles carried with them a skill, a gift within their very marrow that they shared with all tribes and clans trooping their way into the New World from Asia.

It was puzzling, when you came to consider that these people were the first humans to make an appearance on that huge land mass of the Americas. Truly, there were none who came before them, and none who came after could truthfully make the same claim, or that “the land was empty.”

So the Eagles were able, in effect, to make claim on any of that part of the earth that suited their purposes. But this they did not do. They established no set territory, but not because they were unable to defend it. They found no pressing need: their defense and attack capabilities were so much superior to the other peoples who lived throughout the region that they could move and live anywhere with impunity.

The Eagles had a deeper understanding of the reason for a compelling nomadic life, however. They intuited that to stay in any one place too long was a burden on their Creator Gods who manifested in nature around them.

As did all of these newly-arrived humans, the Eagle People followed the dictum from the Gods and Powers which created them and afforded them portions of Themselves—plants, animals, water, air, fire—to sustain them. The Eagles were given the charge—as were all the peoples—to take care of their homelands and to remember that if they did not, they would destroy That Which Sustained them, and then they would disappear from that land.

The Creators were adamant about this: There would be no second chance for the human beings. It was up to them to live in harmony with the Gods around them--or die if the Life-Force were abused.

             

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

Tai Ying watched as the heavy memories passed like dark storms over his friend’s face. He didn’t inquire, or interrupt the dark reverie: it was not the way of his ancient Kazakh roots, from whom the Guo Clan had emerged.

No, as it was passed down from his Tai-Tai, his grandfather, the way of his people was to swallow other people’s bitterness, eat your own misery, and desire nothing.

Tai-Tai was good at helping a young boy get through some jolts and bruises of growing up. It was Tai-Tai who got the six-year old Tai Ying started on his formal martial training. But especially helpful and diverting were Tai-Tai’s endless stories about the Great Ancestor Lien-Ying, nicknamed the “Desert Eagle.”

It seemed that the Desert Eagle had endless escapades accounted to his lively and sometimes dangerous lifestyle, for Lien-Ying was a strong and skilled swordsman, a professional guard of wealthy treasure-laden caravans moving west through the gates of old China into Mongolian pastures, deep valleys of the Hindu Kush and even up to the very door of the Persian Empire. Such memories can keep a man sane while locked up.

              *             *             *

Life in Foshan village meandered along as it had for the last thousand or so years. This delta region of the Pearl River was blessed with an abundance of marine life, wild fruit, fertile rice paddies. Women tended smoky cooking fires, fishermen fussed over their gear, groups of Children ran between the fish drying on racks, the wood-carver Chipped away, the silk-spinners’ bent over tiny filaments, and everybody tended their tiny, intensive gardens.

The old men gathered in the village square around mid-day, talking, smoking and playing mah-jongg. Wispy-bearded Grandfather Tai-Tai would spend hours clacking the tiles with his old friends, swapping a thousand stories that a young boy would remember for the next thousand years.

It was dusk, and Tai-Tai leaned out of a hut to call Tai Ying in. The boy loved old Tai-Tai as he might have loved his parents, had they survived the flood two years before. So Tai-Tai only had to call once, and Tai Ying ran immediately into the hut to his wispy-bearded Grandfather and curled up into his lap.

He looked up at Grandfather, waiting for the ritual bedtime talk-story. They were sitting on a short kang bed. The old man sipped tea time-to-time. Throw nets, ropes and gaffs hung from the hut’s tentative walls.

Tai Ying knew what was required of him: “Is it true, Grandfather? Is there really such a place?”

“Indeed, it is true, Tai Ying. Our clan comes from south of the Heavenly Mountains, near Turpan, at the fringes of the

Kashgar Desert.” And Tai Ying would smile, sigh, and snuggle closer, comforted because that was how grandfather always began.

Family legend, Tai-Tai would always continue, says that our ancestors were light-skinned and moved with herds of horses, camels, yaks.

We are proud that our family helped early travelers (for we think of visitors as sacred messengers) along the Northern Silk Road. We acted as guards and escorts for caravans for centuries, and we thrived because our services rendered towards their safety.

But it is not only the weight of this history of our family’s intertwining with the Emperor’s Silk Road that makes this story intriguing, my little. Even during the time of the Tang Dynasty, the palaces of Anxi rang with the sound of music from the Turk, dancers in costume from lands even beyond him, markets hummed with multitudes of foreign merchants, and offered many exotic goods. For a thousand years, monasteries housed scholarly monks bent over translations of scriptures.

From the West came China’s first grape vines, and the art of wine-making, as well as the skills of glass-making and glazing (both of immense value to our clan, it turned out). The Turk brought us oils of frankincense and myrrh, horses, indigo dyes, walnuts and peaches. From India came cotton, pepper and fragrant sandalwood.

But it was as the conveyor of wisdom that the Silk Road most transformed both East and West—including the most sacred treasure within our clan. In those days of our early wandering people, we were driven from grazing lands by cruel tribes. Even the Emperors, at war with the barbarian Khan peoples, had to keep military outposts at its imperial pastures. Bartering silk and tea for herds of horses was a dangerous livelihood in those days.

So it came that we became attached to the Emperor’s Guard. He needed good fighters for his caravans. Back then Anxi was situated at the very heart of all Asia. Caravans bound for the Black Sea followed the Road just north of the Heavenly Mountains. Then west to Yining and on into the lands of the white Czar to Lake Issiku.

Caravans for Kashgar wound south from Anxi to Dunhuang, where merchants exchanged horses for camels and purchased supplies. They faced the impassable sand dunes of the waterless Taklamakan Desert. Even birds cannot fly over this Desert. So the Silk Road forked.

The Southern Silk Road headed out into the desert for 30 days, where you must go for a day and a night before finding water. It is said that while on the desert, men hear spirit voices of those who left the beaten track and were lost. It is said that you can hear men of arms clash together, and musical instruments—and yet see nothing, even by daylight.

That desert is stony in places, with small lizards scurrying about wind-driven sand piles at the base of camelthorn bushes. Then as the sand is gradually whipped by dust-devils, whirl-winds and twirling funnels, the huge dunes start rippling and moving with drum-rolls of sweeping wind. The Turk has a name for this desert that means “To enter is to never leave.”

The Northern Silk Road winds around a rich land of rivers, marshes, dense thickets, and is home to wild boar, bactrian camels and even red deer, while starlings, woodpeckers, owls and sparrows cry in the reeds and poplars. Such is our ancestral homelands, Smallest-of-the-Small. It is so immense and virgin, my son—larger than much of the Round-eye’s Europe. It is a land of contrasting beauty, with pine-laden mountain pastures, searing deserts, giant glacial slopes, deep blue lakes at the edge of mountain ranges so long and rugged that they divide us Khan horse people from the Czar.

“But honorable Tai-Tai,” Tai Ying would invariably interject at this point, “while it is very good to hear of the birds and desert and mountains, what is this precious family jewel you spoke of?”

And the old man would just as unswervingly respond, “Treasure, my grandson, is not necessarily a jewel in your pocket. It can be an open hand, an empty mind, and a full heart. This is the ‘Triple Jewel’ of the Guo clan, and here is the story of how this treasure came to us.

          *             *             *

Ancient ancestor Guo Lien-Ying was on foot, lagging far behind the last caravan camel, his 12-pound broadsword thumping between his shoulder blades. An unusual position for the Chief of the escort guard, some might even say a dangerous place to be. He moved erratically down the dusty track, seemingly drunk. A fool asking for a quick reincarnation, some might say.

Well, those would be damned fool amateurs to say that, and you wouldn’t find any of the pros, the armed escorts, attaching any such descriptions to the “Desert Eagle.” The professionals knew too many facts and stories about the Eagle to make such a mistake. When truly gifted men-of-arms gathered to speak of great skills and outstanding training methods, the name of Guo Lien-Ying was always passed around the camel dung campfire. The Desert Eagle enjoyed the unusual posture of being a living legend among his peers.

Even now, far behind the caravan, Guo was unwittingly adding to his stable of unbelievable training feats. First of all, he gave no thought to his laggardly position, as the first camel was but a half-mile from the protective city gates of Urumqi. And secondly, he wasn’t even half-drunk. A mite tired, perhaps—but who wouldn’t be after executing two miles of “prairie Chicken” without pause.

“Prairie Chicken” was, well, challenging shall we say, for the merely skilled fighter. It looks something like a Chicken opening one wing and stretching it upward, after which the practitioner hops forward on one foot as the other foot strikes forward. At the same time the stretched “wing” strikes directly forward with a spear-hand.

The Desert Eagle had hopped and kicked and thrust first 30 times on the right side, and then 30 times using his left arm and foot as principals—for two miles. Then he ran to take his place at the head of the column as the laden camels entered the gates.

The dusty mediaeval Central Asian bazaar of Urumqi slammed into Lien-Ying’s nostrils even before he had seen the city walls. Once a week the sleep towns along the Kashgar highway were transformed as floods of peasants with donkey carts careening with produce, established themselves along alleys and streets in preparation for the day’s trading.

Carefully balancing piles of golden, sweet apricots, figs, and bunches of Mare’s Nipple grapes around their spread shawl and rugs, they squatted and gossiped and bawled loudly with neighbors to each side. Many of the vendors were women, all veiled in brown and green and red shawls. And all disposed of sales proceeds in the same way: hitch up dress, stuff notes into top of garter stocking, cast eyes coquettishly—as if this glimpse of forbidden fruit were part of the pitch for the next customer.

Indeed, the competition was keen and the sales pitches aggressive for the many wares. A trader could haggle for newly-worked plowshares, sheep skin clothing, yak water bladders, loose-leaf mounds of herbal medicines, felt rugs, bags of wool—full of sticks, burrs, and rock—needing cleaning and carding, tasseled harnesses, brightly painted baby cradles for back and saddle, and lots of leather goods—hides, boots, saddlebags, trunks for camel-backs, pants, quivers, sword cases.

After 20 days of the company of men, dromedaries, heat, dust, and flies, Lien-Ying had a hunger or two that needed satisfying. Food first, though that still wouldn’t divest him of the flies and dust as close companions.

Seeking relief from the heat as well as food, Lien-Ying pulled his lieutenant Isek with him into a side alley. They approached an open-air “café,” half-roofed with colorful fabric stretching from the alley wall.

“Ah, Isek—shade and food: half of a working man’s daily needs.”

Isek nudged Lien-Ying and nodded toward the pretty woman who sweating and stirring over the cookery as she tended customers. ”And with just a small bit of luck from the gods, Hazut will provide the other half.”

The two squatted on the soiled rug courteously placed over the bare dirt by the cook, busily sweating over two huge cauldrons and a hot-rock “pan.”

Lien-Ying folded one foot atop the opposite thigh and cocked an eyebrow at the cook. “Whatcha got special today, Hazut?”

The woman remained looking into the pot, head down, not missing a stroke. But she found it difficult to keep from smiling perceptibly. This was a familiar cue from an old dance.

“Just a cold bun too crusty for an eagle’s beak,” she countered. “Welcome back, Eagle-Man. Been on the road long?”

“So long that your stuffed dumpling and spicy sauces came to me in dreams,” Lien-Ying closed the familiar dialog.

The woman’s other customers, merchants and men-at-arms, broke out into raucous guffaws.

“What’s the news from the West, Honorable Guardian?” inquired one of the men, bowing his head slightly.

Lien-Ying needed no introduction among these men. Nor did the inquisitive Akbar al-Yallah need one. The Eagle knew that the question was not all it appeared to be, very casual on the surface. But a man needs to be careful about what he says, and to whom—especially to the point scout of a difficult Uygur Chief. It was a query needing time, effort, and thought for adequate response.

So Lien-Ying paid the man respect with the appropriate, “My empty stomach is providing so little for my head that I beg you to wait until my full belly can feed full answers to your questions, sir.”

Lien-Ying had several local delicacies to choose from as Hazut rattled off the menu: boiled sheep’s head, barbequed mutton, horse-and-onion pies, boiled dumplings stuffed with goat meat, fatty lung with hot sauce, wheat pilaf with flecks of local white fish, bowls of fresh goat yoghurt, cold translucent bean noodles.

The Eagle ordered several dishes, and Hazut threw in several shapes of aromatic nan, the freshly baked flat bread from her deep oven mounds. Hot green tea was brought to counter-point the solids and to aid digestion. Strains of Persian, Uygur, and Chinese folk songs from several locales  accompanied his meal.

At last, well-satisfied and replete, the Eagle belched his appreciation courteously, loudly. He hefted his mug of the cooling medicinal drink of mulberry leaf, mint and pomegranate juice, and ruminated about how much to reveal about the fabulous treasures and incredible events of his latest “journey to the West.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10

 

The prisoners paused their conversations, cautious as the holding tank door swung open and the newest additions to their ranks came stumbling in, dragging iron fetters from their ankles. Tai Ying was curious about Muskrat Bone’s suddenly-stiffened spine and hard glance at one of the new prisoners. Muskrat Bone coughed and shifted his butt in an effort to minimize the attention, but this just created the opposite effect in Tai Ying, who followed the Chief’s glancing line of sight.

     Ying-Ying almost choked with surprise at what the both of them gazed upon.

              *             *             *

     Over much of the mid-19th Century California, the word “tribe” was not appropriate for Native American groups. Isolated by geographical barriers and limitations of ecosystems, California natives generally organized themselves into small political units. Originally many small off-shoots of large distinct groups settled localities, but natural barriers eventually isolated these splinters or tribelets.

     So it came to be that the powers of land ownership, sovereignty and cohesive action resided in these small, independent groups. Tribelets contained from about a hundred to several thousand related persons, encompassing anywhere from several to a dozen or more villages. The scope of their territories (ranging from 50 to 6,000 square miles) depended on what the land offered.

     Every tribelet was bound by a formal authority structure, with the Chief presiding usually by virtue of titled inheritance. Assisted by family and ritual leaders, he presided over harvesting, food storage, exchange of resources, and warfare. Second in power to the Chief, the shaman served as the principal spiritual leader. He also performed medical “miracles” for all to see. But his greatest influence occurred during times of crisis, when he became the undisputed “Eyes-and-Ears-of-the-Winds,” as well as the head advisor to the Chief.

     Sometimes an exceptional human occupied both positions within a tribelet. It was such a Warrior-Priest Tai Ying found himself facing soon after being dumped into Sailors Prison. It was none other than Yana, infamous guerilla fighter of the Chumawei tribe and secular-spiritual leader of the Eagle Clan.

     The Chumawei had lived for many thousands of years at Maacoatche, or “Place Where Eagles Dwell,” just off the peaks of power the Anglos called Mt. Lassen. Their unique tradition of being able to consciously combine strong spiritual medicine with martial prowess was legendary among the 11 tribes sharing the region. And now Yana, the warrior who most often burned a history of memorable feats into native consciousness, was thrown ignobly into the filthy holding cells.

     Yani was a muscular, battle-hardened warrior, a woman with much tamakomi medicine power. Her personal strengths and spiritual powers were recognized by virtually all of the resistance groups, including the cut-and-run Eagle’s Tree band of the Chumawei tribe, headed by Muskrat Bone.

              *             *             *

     Tai Ying was startled because he immediately suspected Yana to be a woman: no larynx protrusion, a silky coordination, lack of body hair.

     Muskrat Bone jerked involuntarily for a different reason: Yana had inherited the skills of the warrior through the best teachers of the northern Indian tribes, and she had sat at the feet of one of the finest knife-fighter and wrestlers known, Weiveiwu the Dream-Catcher, of the fierce Mohave peoples. The Muskrat just didn’t believe it possible for her to be caught by anyone.

Ya te hut soh matei wa, Yana ya fei seh watu mei!” Yana mumbled.

Lee chuckled furtively, then leaned over to Tai Ying. “She says: Curse these irons, Yana curses these white soldiers who gobble coyote shit for breakfast!”

Tai Ying nods with appreciation as he looks her up and down: no hips, tall, muscular arms, thick thighs with hard calves to match, almost no breasts visible—definitely not cute, and passable as a man.

Tai Ying shared his thoughts with his countrymen: “This is not one who hides in the inner courtyard behind scented panels. No, this is my kind of woman: first she would fight you, then she’d fuck you!”

The Chinese started to guffaw until Yana looked their way with a scowl. The laughter froze in their throats.

“You know her?” Tai Ying queried Muskrat Bone, softly. Tai Ying wasn’t yet won over. In China, girls were considered less profitable to raise than geese; they were “maggots in the rice.”  “Who is she?” he asked again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

 

     As she was pushed through the holding tank cell door, once again Yana was thanking Silver Fox, the Creator God, for her prodigious size and great strength. Also—and a first for her—she found herself sincerely grateful for her plain features and lack of a female’s curves, with all the coy allure that comes with the territory. She’d tried to talk herself into not feeling pangs of regret about being physically unattractive to boys and young men on her way to becoming a young woman. But now the rush of realization of self-acceptance was genuine.

     She still had on her war-trail face markings to hide behind; that and her leather breeches with deerskin short-waist vest showed her to be fierce and muscular. Very unladylike in the physical power that radiated from her being.

     After all, she’d fought like a man, with a man’s skills, height and muscles, so there was no reason why Capt. John Fremont shouldn’t have treated her like a male prisoner. That error kept her alive, instead of being beaten unconscious, gang-raped, and left for dead by the American rancher-militia. But more important to her at this point was that both leaders of the Eagles raiding party were together again.

     “Curse these irons and these white soldiers who gobble coyote shit for sustenance,” Yana mumbled after being pushed into the Sailors cell. She stood quietly for a minute, taking in the two large stone-floored rooms, the one small, heavily barred window, and made inventory of the men standing, pacing, squatting on haunches.

     “White Otter, Muskrat Bone, Raven Head…,” all in all she counted 15 of the Eagles scattered between the rooms. Good, she thought, they’re staying apart from each other. She also noted the others—blacks, Chinese, Islanders—especially that tall Chinese with both arms brilliantly tattooed. But she couldn’t make the marks out from her angle.

Her furtive studies were cut short by a large Polynesian who moved from the gloom of one corner to bar her way, his arms folded. Yana glanced around the large body planted in front of her to Muskrat Bone, who shrugged slightly.

The Polynesian reached out rather slowly to grab her amulet necklace. She calmly moved his arm aside with a soft parry. He reached forward again, this time very rapidly with the other arm.

Yana was quicker, and blocked with one hand, at the same time delivering a heel blow to his Chin with her other hand. The big man’s head snapped back; he’s off-balance, and begins to lift one leg as he falls back. She assisted by lifting his leg and tossed him on his back, hard.

Yana took a step to launch herself high above him, coming down with all her weight to land butt-first on his chest. Her legs were pointing towards his head; she slipped the chain under the man’s head, crossed her feet, and rolled twice to choke the man out.

Yana arose to shuffle—carefully, slowly, with fetters dragging—across the floor to one far corner of the second room. There she turned to face the men, and gave them something to carefully ponder: she lifted one foot off the floor as far as was possible (considering the leg irons), about 10 inches up. She put her mind into the sanctuary of her inner self while her body stood on one leg in a damp, cold corner of a prison cell. Her consciousness flowed out of the present and stretched both backward and into future space simultaneously.

              *             *             *

     Yana’s parents, Star-in-Moon and Looks-at-Bear, sat shoulder to shoulder on the lip of the cliffside, taking in the sun setting almost directly between the two sacred mountains, Tschastas and Oshmewis rising to their left and right.

In front of them lay the grand panorama of Big Valley in the region of what their Chumawei tribe knew as “Lake of the Eagle’s Medicine.” They were in northeastern California, east of the Cascade Range, across the immense central valley of the State, and on upwards into a vast elevated plateau.

     The homelands of the Chumawei were particularly blessed with abundant seasonal foodstuffs and awesome eternal vistas to nourish their spirits. Timber-clad slopes of lesser peaks surrounded their tribe’s valley. Huge, voluminous springs from distant lava beds—--evidence of just how temperamental those ancient and revered mountains could be--provided the Great Valley with crystal-clear sources for year-round flows for many creeks. One river, particularly deep and silent-running, meandered through the huge timber stands of cedar, fir, pine and on into their grassy meadows, to provide a maze of waterways that extended for many north-south miles.

     The Chumawei were known as “River People,” and these people of the waterways were of course united by a common language and distinctive culture. But it was their native homelands that truly defined who they were.  The Chumawei had the immense fortune on this great earth to be able to range the 100 miles between the Mother Goddess Mt. Tschastas, and Mt. Oshemewis, the Brother of Tschastas. And  from the Lake of the Eagle’s Medicine they could hunt and gather directly east along the River of the Pits into the country of the Paiute. During the summers, if they felt like it (and only then, because they seldom lacked for sustenance closer to home), they might head northeastward to the Lake of Geese Beyond Counting, close to Oregon.

     Looks-at-Bear pointed out an osprey in the distance, not with his finger but with a subtle inclining gesture of his Chin. The fish hawk was catching grief from two, much smaller blackbirds chasing him around a huge marsh. Several solitary sentries of great blue heron and its smaller cousin, the white egret, were poised at water’s edges in rushes and reeds, unmoving and intent with their focused and silent strike modes. Canada and snow geese, mallards, teal, pin-tail ducks, pelicans, and cormorants floated in noisy family groups that became increasingly connected by larger and larger golden hues diffusing the water as reflections of a setting sun. The surface of the water were starting to be repeatedly broken by trout and steelhead, their large splashings radiating outwards in literally hundreds of circles.

     The couple’s restful reverie was noisily shattered when four year-old Yana suddenly burst from the ferns and azalea cover behind them to leap onto father Bear’s back.

     “Got you!” Yana cried as her parents turned to scold her.

     “Little Person! You could have fallen!” they cried.

     Looks-at-Bear moved back from the edge to pry the young sucker off with tickles to the ribs. The little girl tittered and sprinted off, peals of laughter showing her trail as she high-tailed it back to their camp.

     “I thought she was napping!” said her mother. “I don’t know how she escapes that harness.”

     “Your daughter should be called ‘Galling Whirlwind,” her father grumbled, trotting after the recalcitrant little girl, already long-gone into the trees.

              *             *             *

It was late spring in the pine forest on the lower slopes of the mountain god where the Chumawei lived. Yana was running as fast as her fat little six year-old legs would take her from the group of women. Her mother and the other women were gathering manzanita blossoms for tea, as well as roots and leaves from wild allium, rhubarb, dandelions and thistles.

     “Where are you going, Little Person?” Star-in-Moon yelled.

     “To find my father!” Yana returned, dodging logs and rocks as she skipped down the hill. “Here you are!” she said, rounding a turn to smack right into her father’s sturdy legs. Looks-at-Bear was showing a small boy how to set a snare for small game on the trail.

     “Ho! Little Person!” Looks-at-Bear cried. “You almost knocked us over! What are you doing, why aren’t you with your mother?”

     “I dunno,” Yana answered, going all coy and unsure of herself.

     “Are you where you want to be?” Looks-at-Bear prompted.

     “Yes, father. I want to be a boy with you!” Yana enthused with joy emanating from her chubby face.

     It became evident to the Chief that he had a different kind of daughter on his hands when he gave her the end of a snare line to hold, with instructions to stay well-hidden until a squirrel came to fetch the grain bait he’d salted the loop-end with. The little girl had stayed put for an hour and a half.

     Yana and her father made their way back through the forest to the Chumawei encampment just before the midday meal. Neither one said a word as they walked up to their hearth in front of the branch wickiup that served their family. Looks-at-Bear brought three squirrels and two grouse from his hunting pouch.

     “Nice, fat ones, Bear. You did well for our supper,” Star-in-Moon praised her husband.

     “No, my woman—she did well,” and he cast his eyes proudly in the direction of his chunky daughter.

     Star-in-Moon sucked in her breath when she heard this, thinking: So it has started already. But out loud she said only, “Little Person, could this be so? Are you such a bold hunter now?”

     The small girl just beamed, nodding and holding onto her father’s thigh, unable to speak the large happiness in her throat.

     “Come, Little Person, I will show you how a hunter cleans his kill,” said Looks-at-Bear, taking the girl’s tiny hand in his rough warrior’s paw.

     Star-in-Moon watched the two walk away, as unlikely a pair as could be seen. But she had knowledge other than the apparent, and had been expecting an unusual metamorphosis from the Child. It just seems so early! she thought. Who could argue with the visions and directives from the Creator Gods, though?

As shaman for the Chumawei it was her Chief duty to use her tamakomi correctly, making sure that her people kept in tune with the Way of the World. Not only did this keep the Creators satisfied, it also made sure that her people served to renew or maintain the natural world, and so perpetuated abundance for the most important root, seed, and fish harvests—and thus for themselves in return.

And so the medicine wheel turns, spins, and repeats, she sighed. I just wonder how my Little Person will figure in this Way of Harmony.

          *             *             *

As Yana grew through Childhood, the medicine woman attempted to interest her in some of the arts of healing, using herbal infusions and salves to treat injuries, open wounds, sprains, torn ligaments. But the Child had little patience for hanging around the Women’s Circle when she could be running, wrestling, fishing, hunting, often in company of her father, and always with boys.

Finally Star-in-Moon accepted the inevitable signs: the young girl marked her entry into maidenhood, her Blood of the Moon, by knocking out the largest boy in the clan because she though he had injured her groin while wrestling. Yana then marched into the lodge of Night Fox to demand entry into the junior warrior’s society. And how could the old instructor refuse? The 12 year-old girl stood there, blood streaming down both inner thighs, and the need for blood-sport shooting sparks from her eyes. Oh, it was enough to make any grizzled fighter’s heart swell.

Later on the same day, Star-in-Moon and Looks-at-Bear began preparations for the puberty ceremony. Among the Chumawei, a boy’s coming-of-age event would last for a day, but females were expected to be celebrated for 4 days. It took Yana’s mother and father two days to gather the food necessary. It was a girl’s chance to shine, and Yana feasted most of the daylight, and then (as expected by custom) ran off into the bushes for hours every night with any young male at hand. It was an adolescent boy’s dream. “Another buck well-spent,” she would remark to her mother repeatedly throughout the four nights.

Over the years Star-in-Moon watched her small, chubby girl morph into a large, chunky woman, and the mother wondered at the inner change of her daughter. If only I can get her to balance her selves within, she thought. Could Yana move again from the hard and strong, back to the yielding and compassionate? As medicine woman, she knew that many could not, and these poor beings ended up warring with themselves, with their bodies, and with other humans stuck in the Underworld of Angry Gods.

          *             *             *

Being born a woman gave no great comfort to Yana. She felt no special, “supported” role of a female who revels in socio-legal structures and institutions which allow women to be lazy and grasping. She didn’t depend on her vagina to give her a free ride through life.

Among the Chumawei a woman was usually revered as gatherer of foods, as designer and producer of containers and clothing. Her importance was affirmed with each season, from the  beginning of spring with the collecting of roots, tubers, and bulbs on the tablelands surrounding canyons, on the borders of plains, and from marshy lowlands. Later in the season women and Children brought in salmon berries, bear berries, juniper berries, wild plum, and wild buckwheat from the highlands. A woman’s efforts in the gathering and subsequent drying of these foodstuffs were critical for the tribe’s survival through the long winter—food stored in vessels that she would style and construct.

The Chumawei woman did not operate within parameters of male-dominated, male-maintained institutions. Both sexes lived according to natural law, not that of industrial commerce. It was not only impossible for a beautiful woman or exceptionally intelligent or very strong person to live off the efforts of others, it was unthinkable. All resources were shared among all the tribe. No one was richer than anyone else.

Likewise, the fact of her gender compelled Yana early on to establish herself as a significant contributor to her society. The tribe allowed considerable latitude in just how that was accomplished, individual-to-individual. It was obvious early on that her own talents lay in hunting and hand-to-hand scrapping. Her short, burly father, a respected fighting man in his own right, made sure that his daughter developed those combat talents. This he approached obliquely, developing her courage through hunting. Over the years, her favorite prey became black bear, renegade man-eating cougar, and, as she grew into her late teen-age years, murderous men of any color.

In one particularly challenging training session, Yana was “in the circle” surrounded by other warrior novices and going one-on-one with a particularly lanky boy of 17 years. The boy was Crane’s Cry, a wily fighter standing about 5/10”, a good enough fighter to be assistant to Night Fox, the master combat instructor of the Eagles.

The two fighters were given several problems to solve in the case of being grabbed by an adversary from behind, with each taking turns being attacker and defender. Crane’s Cry assumed the attack position with a two-handed choke from the rear.

Night Fox had just demonstrated the response he was after from the two novices: it called for Yana to grab both of the boy’s wrists as she dipped her head, then to pivot all the way around to face him. But she couldn’t spin because the boy’s grip on her neck was excessively tight, even cruel.

Yana stopped struggling, then burst forward when Crane’s Cry relaxed, and turned to face him. “I told you that was too tight!” she complained, rubbing her neck to ease the pain.

A large grizzled warrior, Night Fox, elbowed his way into the center. “Crane’s Cry, save it for the real thing. Now try it again.”

Crane’s Cry snickered; Yana glared. She turned to assume the position once more. Yana grimaced as she tried the first spin-out, then clenched her jaw for another try. She spun as she held his wrists, and the fighters were then face-to-face, with the boy’s forearms crossed in her grip. She carried through the maneuver by simulating a kick to his ribs; without setting that foot down she then kicked to his knee, stopping one inch away from his cap.

The technique was completed, and both trainees dropped their guard. Yana then stepped forward with pay-back. She crashed her right elbow against the side of his head, followed immediately with a left one to the other side of the skull. 

Crane’s Cry collapsed, unconscious, among a huge of outrage and challenge from the group. Two of Crane’s Cry buddies jumped from the circle, maneuvering for attack.

“You didn’t have to do that!” growled the one on the left.

“Oh, yes I did!” corrected Yana. “And now I get to do it again!”

The two boys stepped carefully around Yana, one fading to the rear, while the other planned to occupy her attention from the front. But the front boy paused too long; Yana kicked to his stomach, grabbed his hair with both hands, pulled, and fell backwards, thrusting both feet into his gut. That threw the kid into his pal to the rear. Yana growled low as she beckoned for them to get it on. “C’mon, I’m not done with you two yet.”

The boys sprang up with a snarl and circled warily again, while the group yelled encouragement. The rear boy rushed to pin her with a high bear hug; the front boy grabbed her shirt with one hand as his other fist slammed into her face.

He dropped his grip to hit her again, but that was a mistake. She managed to wriggle one forearm up to divert the punch to the boy’s face behind. Her forearm block became an elbow smash to the front boy’s head. She then spun to send a reverse elbow to the hugger’s face, followed by a chop to the neck with the other arm. She grabbed his head and drove a knee to his stomach. Without setting that foot down she delivered a rear heel kick to his partner. Both boys are doubled over in pain, done already.

But Yana was still full of fight, bouncing around. She dropped her guard, threw the two a haughty look of contempt, and marched up to the Night Fox. The other boys backed off in respect.

“I think I am ready for the society of warriors, Night Fox.”

“You fight well, indeed,” he replied. “Has your medicine spirit revealed itself?”

“I will arrange it with the medicine woman,” she answered, made a rude gesture with her butt and hand towards the rest of the group, and marched off.

Night Fox decided that the lesson was well-learned. It wasn’t long after that Yana was invited to join the elite group of the fighting Eagle Society.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12

 

     Livingston Lowe was putting as much distance as he could from the small, lifeless Chinaman. But it was hard to run and retch at the same time. He sobbed, glanced back at the crumpled body only once, then dug in and sprinted as hard as he could, tightly grasping the large leather “possibles” bag he had pried from the little man’s fist.

     He ran most of the way into Mormon Island, keeping to the road from the river. At first he averted his eyes when passing other Chinese, but by the time he reached the town’s first buildings, he had screwed up enough of a kind of defiant courage.

“Think you can take work away from me? Goddam yellow

 

animals, stay in China where you belong! Fucking foreigners!

 

He spat the word out at their backs as they passed by.

 

     A few minutes later Livingston was examining placards

 

outside the New Albion Hotel proclaiming “Hot Water in

 

Bonnyfide Metul Tubs!” He allowed that his first duty was to

 

get properly scrubbed and shaved, so he ducked in.

     Livingston thumped the bag of booty on the desk in front

 

of the clerk.  The clerk hefted the pouch, and turned it over

 

to notice a big blue “B” stenciled on the leather.

 

“Well, now. This be a goodly amount ‘a ore, mister. Ya

 

can buy the whole damn hotel with this here, ifn ya a mind

 

to.”

 

“Just a receipt and a towel will do, if you don’t mind,”

 

Livingston retorted impatiently.

 

“Ya sure? Even throw in a couple hard-workin’ coolie

 

miners fer ya.”

 

Livingston blanched as the clerk watched closely for the

 

impact of his words. Slewing his eyes at Livingston, the clerk

 

parted a curtain and yelled through it. “Hong! Washee guest

 

chop-chop. Iddy-wah ship sho!”

 

“Hong’ll take ya back to the tub. That’s a dollar, cash

 

money, or if ya druther, I’ll take dust or a nugget.”

 

Livingston fumbled in his pants, flipped the man a silver dollar. Livingston got a receipt Chit for his deposit, and lingered long enough to watch the man tag it and put it away in the vault behind the counter.

The Chinese attendant entered then and bowed. Livingston

almost swallowed his tongue on seeing the man, as they all seemed to look alike to him.

It can’t be, he whimpered to himself. I put a rock to that man’s head so many times. It just couldn’t be!

And it wasn’t, for Livingston had murdered efficiently enough. The diminutive man in front of him just stared, and gestured for Livingston to follow him through the canvas curtain to the rear bath.

This Livingston didn’t need at the moment, actually interacting with a Chinese; he couldn’t get a word out past the tight constriction in his neck until his early training in dealing with the underclass rescued him.

The attendant bowed and gestured toward the huge iron claw-foot tub. ”I bring water.”

“Do not forget the soap and razor, Livingston ordered.

“And some brandy and cigars.”

“No,” the man responded calmly.

“No?” Livingston was properly incensed and feeling more himself. “You will do as I say, right now, if you know what’s

good for you, heathen.”

“No bran-dee. Jus’ whis-kee,” the attendant pleaded.

“Well, what are you dallying here for?” Livingston harrumphed. “Get on with it, coo-lee.”

The man retreated behind a heavier canvas portal. Livingston disrobed and stood there naked, shivering, pasty-white—except where his hands and neck poked out of his clothes. “That’s what the yellows are here for: to serve me,” he said aloud, but no one was listening.  

 

 

Chapter 13

 

Livingston Lowe prided himself on being able to blend his conservative business acumen with a downright, reality-based savvy. So he spent two weeks at Mormon Island doing nothing more than watching the flow of walk-by customer traffic as they frequented various business establishments. And it boiled down to a few, a very few choices necessary for him to ponder at all.

The culture was so basic, so very base, that any man offering the fundamentals of life prospered. A shrewd businessman, he mused, would of course offer a sound product or service with near-limitless consumptive qualities. Well, there was only one of each—hard liquor and harder women—that met such standards, and these men seemed to be insatiable satyrs in their consumption levels of both.

He reasoned that, while a wise businessman should appear to keep up with the demanding appetites of the be-whiskered ones, one would keep from filling their demands too completely or too quickly. It wouldn’t do to have supply-and-demand factors decided entirely by a free market—nope, wouldn’t do at all.

But then the prospect of explaining such a venture as running a saloon cum bordello to his family and kin in Boston overwhelmed him. The image of being proprietor led him through mental contortions and agonies to the delicious conundrum often felt by the ethically-challenged. It was exhilarating, that heightened rush between gluttony and greed and the suppressions of his guilt and accumulated shames.

Well, nothing to do about it but ponder a bit more, while taking a refreshment in the Hotel Grande California, Mormon Island’s finest, where all could appreciate his up-scale livery. It had become his custom these past few weeks to imbibe a brandy or two before retiring in that same establishment for the evening.

He moved through the swinging doors carefully, and strode up to the bar. At 70 feet it was one of the longest bars in California, fashioned from a single sawed piece of Giant Sequoia. Suspended from the ceiling by iron rods was a platform with a piano and chairs for the musicians who played for the dances held in the saloon. It was a safety measure, as patrons could turn ugly and start tossing things. Often did, matter of fact. Upstairs were various “short-timers” rooms for those who wanted to pay-and-play.  The corner room was reserved on Tuesday nights for the Masons and on Wednesdays for the Court of Sessions.

Livingston felt amiable that evening, and decided to actually start up a conversation with the roughnecks congregating at one end. He did admire the way these men just seemed to move their bodies without a care. It seemed to him that they didn’t consider the consequences of their actions, speech and thoughts at all: they just opened their mouths and talked. And very loudly at that, as if it didn’t matter that no one near them could hear anything else.

Livingston moved in close as he dared to the three men, one of whom was thumping the bar and bellowing laughter at his partners. Livingston ordered a brandy from the barkeep, and that got the attention he wanted from the group of local color.

“Brandy?!” guffawed the short one in the middle. His huge handlebar mustache was overflowing with beer foam, which he kind of launched at anyone within yelling range. “Why doncha wishkey up like a real hombre? Here, take a shot of this here rye, and foller it real quick-like with my beer!”

“I think not, my good man, but—“ Livingston tried to excuse himself.

“`Good man’! Hell’s bells Charley, he thinks you’re his man!” yelled one of the others.

“Well if’n I ere, mebbe he’s a woman and should climb into my pants with me!” Charley came back.

“I do believe he could, Charley—y’all got more ballroom in those pants than this here big hotel!”

“Hey, ‘my good man,’” Charley continued, “ifn ya don’t wanna get into my pants with me, mebbe you’ll go huntin’ with us, whaddaya say?”

“Thank you, but I don’t like to shoot animals.”

     The room fell deathly quiet. Charley was incredulous, the wind nearly knocked clean out of his britches. He had to swallow twice before growling a response.

“Whaddaya mean, doncha like to eat meat?”

“Of course I do,” Livingston replied.

“Whaddaya waitin fer then—them to take their own lives?” said Charley, and all three men thumped the bar and hooted with self-appreciation.

This brand of repartee seemed peculiar to Livingston, so he decided to excuse himself and retire to his usual solitary table in a far corner. He gestured for the barkeep to approach so that he might take his nightly coffee at the table. But before he could catch himself, he placed an order given a thousand times in his favorite public house in Boston.

“I’d like a French roast with a lemon twist, sir,” Livingston relayed. He cringed as soon as the words left his mouth.

Charley spewed suds and small chunks of pigs feet when he heard that order, and then he yelled, “What’s that—some kinda fancy Yore-o-peen sex-you-all position?” More hooting and thumping followed this, and the whole room joined in the fun.

Livingston awkwardly reached into his pocket to pay his tab, glancing behind the bar at a sign nailed above the mirror: “SPECIAL MENU FOR OLD TIMERS: PRE-CHEWED STEAK.”

Hopeless, Livingston muttered to himself, tossing down a bill. He eased himself into an empty chair at the small table. The wick in the oil lamp burned a low, steady flame. The bartender brought his coffee, and while carefully sipping, he tried to guess which men were miners and which were of other calling. Of course, except for the professional ladies, all were men, and all were Anglos. At least half European flotsam and jetsam, half rednecks from the south, he estimated.

Livingston had finished the coffee and was about to scoot his chair back to retire upstairs for the evening, when a tall man he recognized came through the swinging doors. It was Sam Brenalt himself, and he seemed to have something on his mind as he caught Livingston’s eye.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 14

 

Ishi was tired of waiting. He had been left alone, sitting outside the walls of White Lotus Monastery atop Cloud Mountain for almost two days and nights. Even for an 11 year-old with some training and sense of discipline under his belt, this was a heavy load.

His father, Ying-Ying, had warned him that this task was the first hurdle in gaining an audience with the resident Abbot and ultimate acceptance into the community of monks. So he knocked at the Temple door, presented the attending monk with the note addressed to the Abbot, and sat down to wait.

Just getting to the Monastery’s grounds had presented new challenges for the boy.

          *             *             *

After leaving Whiskeytown, Ishi had been forced to travel by night, in order to avoid the traffic of the area, commercially centered as it was in servicing the new Anglo settlers of northern portions of the State and remnants of the Argonauts still plying the Oregon Trail.

After two full nights of running the forest trails, Ishi was able to spy Cloud Mountain in the distance through the low clouds of early morning, where the Monastery nestled on the summit. He rested until the late afternoon, and then set out trotting toward the base of the mountain. He was fortunate in that the going wasn’t so rugged now that he was into the alpine areas—not like the scrabble-rock approaches from the valley floor in the five previous days.

But he groaned in dismay when, at last half-circling the mountain on barely-worn paths, he came upon a series of tiers, stone-slag steps cutting  sharp zigzags up the steep faces. On each side of the slag steps poured clear, Chilly headwater streams. Ishi craned his neck up and up, first one direction, then the other, but he couldn’t see any end to the path; it just gradually faded into the Mountain’s nebulous fogs. He knew he was in for a hard passage.

Ishi leaned into the slow climb, passing in and out of sunlight as he maneuvered beneath rock overhangs, into brief stands of evergreens, up worn and rain-slippery steps—many carved directly out of cliff-faces. Luckily the architects of that challenge provided respite for the weary travelers of the rock stairs, by building several small temple-pavilions at strategic locations about a quarter-mile apart. Ishi counted 8 of the rest-stops until, at last, just a couple hundred yards from the Monastery grounds, he came upon the last pavilion.

That last resting point for the weary marked where the two streams diverged, as the force of the one current leaped in a high and constant spray off a giant rock in the path of the stream. To Ishi the rock looked just like a giant heart organ that brought the one current, cascading into a high spray and constant mist, into two surges from the same source.

From that last pavilion, the final carved steps brought him to a waterfall cascading down a cliff.

There was no way Ishi was going to pass up an opportunity like that. Ishi got naked quick as he could and waded out to the fall. He let the water splash his head, neck, back and outstretched arms. The mountain stream careened off him and the boulder below, casting a constant spray that threw down a veil over the pool below. The water scrubbed the soreness and the dirt from his long journey, leaving him lighter in mind and body. He waded back to his clothes.

The path leveled and widened as he approached the pond. Stepping stones crossed the pond to a willow caressing the water’s edge. Under the willow’s canopy arched a brilliant red, arched footbridge. Ishi craned his neck but couldn’t yet see what lay beyond the small fawn sipping tentatively under the bridge. Ishi approached the edge of the pond and started across the first couple steps.

     To his left an old stone stele rose two feet off the surface. Heavy with lichen, it had several Chinese characters inscribed. Balance and Focus Are the Keys, Ishi read. That works for me here.

To his right another was another short stone pillar with more characters: Fire Below, Dragon Above. Ishi looked down to see stones, water, a sky without dragons, and his own reflection.

He finished picking to his way across, ducked through the willow canopy lapping the other shore, and started up the footbridge.

From the top of the bridge Ishi spied a huge arched gate of carved beams. He could easily make out the large ideographs on the arch: White Lotus Monastery. The ideographs were painted red; large gold and green dragons flanked the characters.

Ishi walked in wonder through a huge archway of beams carved with rococo floral patterns, and approached the entry portal. His small fist pounded the massive oak door a dozen times, slowly and doggedly. Deep echoes reverberated.

Slowly the door opened: a huge, orange-robed monk with shaven head, scowling face and angry eyes stared down at him. Ishi startled and stumbled back a pace or two. Regaining his composure, he bowed deeply.

     “What is it? Quickly now!” the monk insisted.

Ishi opened his mouth, but he was too tense and nothing came forth. He dove into his kit for the note, handed it to the monk. The monk didn’t read it, didn’t open it, said nothing as he continued to glare at Ishi. He abruptly slammed the door, leaving Ishi alone.

Ishi slowly turned and shuffled dejectedly back through the archway, a small boy once again alone in the world.

          *             *             *

Tai Ying had warned his son that he would have to prove his patience, and that was correct: two dawns came and went before the same giant monk creaked open the heavy wooden doors once more. “You are to come with me,” was the laconic instruction.

The two walked through the arch, up the steps, and entered the portal. Ishi turned and stopped dead in his tracks: facing him on each side of the walk-way was an eight-foot statue of a scowling Warrior Guardian in martial pose. Ishi nervously skips forward to scoot into the close comfort of the big monk. They ascended the grey slag steps to enter the door of the Main Hall.

Ishi grabbed quick furtive looks around as they hurried through an open passageway, a covered corridor supported by gold-colored columns every 25 feet, with lotus blossoms carved at their feet and clouds at their apices. Oak beams provided horizontal support every five feet, and the center of each depicted ancient figures in strange, flowing robes meditating, standing on a mountaintop, or flying through the air on clouds.

Ishi became so engrossed he almost misses the monk’s left turn. He scampered to catch up the monk disappearing around the corner. The monk was already standing by an open door, waiting for the boy. He gestured for Ishi to get the hell in.

“Do nothing,” he instructed, and closed the door, leaving Ishi alone in the chamber. The room was bare of furnishings of any sort, except for a wooden candelabra which was not lighted. Ishi took a phosphorous from his kit and put it to the candle. He dropped his kit down on the stone tiles and slowly sunk down cross-legged on the hard stone to wait it out some more.

A couple hours later Ishi was twisting his torso this way and that, trying to loosen stiff muscles and get the blood flowing again in his legs. He rose, stretched and started to pace the room. The door opened quickly, slicing the room with light shafts.

     “What is it you were instructed?” the same scowling monk demanded.

“To sit and do nothing, sir, but—“

“Then accomplish that! Now!” The shaven head and saffron robes left abruptly.

Ishi slowly returned to his spot to sit back down with a heavy plop. At least I have something to think about now, Ishi mused: How can a person accomplish nothing, and why is it so uncomfortable?

A couple hours later the door slowly cracked open, and the shaven head of a boy peeked through. The boy broke into a wide smile as he entered. A loose, grey jacket and trousers to match hung off his small frame. Black cotton leggings bound his lower legs from knee to ankle. His black cotton shoes had a thick, soft white cotton sole, making footsteps almost inaudible. Ishi stood and the two boys bowed formally to each other.

“And who are you?” Ishi asked.

“I am Chung, an acolyte, not yet accepted into the sacred

community of White Lotus—kind of on probation. And what is your honorable family name?”          

“I am called Ishi Kwok. I am here to become a fighting monk to avenge my family and my people.”

“Oh! your father and mother are dead?” Chung queried.

“I think so -- by white soldiers.”

“We share the same fate, brother,” Chung empathized. “But do not say such things to the Abbot or to Master Peng—about wanting revenge, I mean.”

“I don’t know Peng,” Ishi said.

“Well he knows you pretty good. He has been watching you since you crossed the bridge. He opened the gates for you.”

Ishi’s blood stopped flowing for a second at that: What does that demon-face want with me? / That demon-face has been watching me?

“Anyway,  both of them want you now, and I am to lead you there” Chung informed Ishi as he bowed.

Ishi got up, bowed in return, and followed his new friend. The two boys padded through the ante-chambers before coming to a large hall used for prayer, meditation, and the occasional gathering of the greater community of monks, fighting monks, and laity-in-service.

They passed immediately to the right rear of the hall, and approached the same large, saffron-robed monk Ishi had met previously. He was standing in front of a long stairway, arms folded and scowling slightly. Does this demon have any other face? Ishi wondered.

Chung bowed and said, “Honorable Martial Master Pan,” in presenting Ishi, then promptly spun on his heel to disappear back through the candle-lit rooms. In a hurry to get outta here, thought Ishi, though I can’t blame him: This man may not be any fun at all.

Master Pan looked down on Ishi with obvious disdain, and then proclaimed how, if it were up to him, the order wouldn’t have anything to do with such novices who appeared as if freshly-squirted out the back end of a tadpole. “If it were up to me, the order wouldn’t have anything to do with such novices who appeared as if freshly-squirted out the back end of a tadpole,” he announced.

“However, the Abbot does grant you an audience at this time, and you are to follow me up to his chamber,” the muscular monk concluded as they started up the staircase. A muffled voice responded to Pan’s knock.

Abbot Channa Dah Moh was standing at his desk, standing because it was the correct postural attitude in orthodox practice of calligraphy. A roll of white rice paper draped across the table, with the excess curling down to rest at his feet. In his right hand, with tips of each finger gripping firmly but relaxed, the calligraphy brush was poised above the paper perfectly vertical. His whole body swayed and turned with the requirements of each stroke as the characters just seemed to flow directly from hand to paper. Ishi watched in amazement; this was nothing like how he had seen people pen words to paper before.

The Abbot paused, carefully laid his fine-haired wedged brush on its rest, then turned to inspect the boy carefully. He smiled slightly and bowed. “Amitabha’s blessings, Kwok Ishi,” he began; but Ishi was already bowing deeply, with eyes diverted downward. And there he might have remained, except for the Abbot’s gentle pull on his shoulder to straighten him up.

Ishi looked up to gaze into the deepest, most serene eyes he had ever known. Those eyes were “Dragon Eyes,” as his father used to say of the gaze of the spiritually advanced.

“Venerable Abbot,” Ishi sputtered, “I am sorry I did not stay seated in the chamber.”

“No need for apologies or regrets of the past, Little Brother,” the old Abbot responded. “Neither one will assist you in the present. Besides, you are the first candidate in 10 months to wait the required time outside our walls. Tell me, do you know why you are here, Kwok Ishi?” The Abbot used the Chinese method of referring to a person by virtue of placing the family name first.

Ishi knew it would be impossible to lie to this man, and even if he wee able to blurt out a falsehood, all chance of gaining acceptance would end abruptly there. However, he did want to please this kind and wise old man, so he said, “To learn about Buddha!”

“I see,” said the Abbot. “We do sometimes study what The Awakened One taught, but only as a means to learn about our real nature. Now then, why don’t you tell me why you are really here.”

So Ishi owned up to his desire, in spite of the warning from Chung: “To learn to fight the evil White Ghosts and avenge my people!”

“You are right that some men are possessed by evil. However, we are not here to fight them; but we are here to learn to become harmonious,” Abbot Channa informed.

“But Venerable Abbot, what about the fighting monks?” Ishi asked in a surprised tone.

“Those men use their martial training for several effects, and none has to do with attacking another man. What we combat are illnesses of our bodies and our minds. Better health increases our own inner powers and potential. Do you understand so far? Good. This proper care of mind and body then

It is true that we have such men here, men who use martial

arts to achieve great health. Better health then increases

our power and potential. Do you understand so far, Ishi?

“Yes, but how long does it take to get such powers, Master?”

“Are you in a hurry, Little Brother?”

“Well, I think so.”

“How fast do you think you need to go, Little Brother?”

Ishi paused, scratched his head thoughtfully and replied brightly, “About twice as fast as normal, I think.”

“Then I think it will take you about twice as long to get there.” The Abbot paused here as the boy’s face seemed to sink in despair. “Remember this well, Kwok Ishi: This is not a race. It will take you time to recover from what you have suffered. Let go of thoughts of vengeance, for that only

brings more pain and suffering.

“We are here to put ourselves in proper harmony with universal energies so that we can ourselves instruments of our own will. And that takes time. Make haste slowly,” the Abbot counseled finally.

“Master Pan, please show this new Acolyte Kwok to the novices’ barracks.” And with that Abbot Channa bowed and turned back to his calligraphy.

Acolyte! Ishi broke into a broad grin. His feet seemed to lift him off the ground as he strutted behind the burly Pan to the barracks which were to be his quarters until he emerged a young man.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 15

 

“Akbar al-Yallah,” Desert Eagle began, “of course you recall that Heaven shook in the last year of the Horse, eighth day of the eighth moon?” He took advantage of his friend’s thoughtful pause to stretch legs from his food-taking crouch, waiting for his repast to regenerate a body depleted by five months of wind, sand, and cold on the caravan route.

     The old merchant Akbar al-Yallah pulled on his long, pointy goatee thoughtfully for several strokes before answering brightly, “Of course! Heaven’s Son of the glorious Tang allowed himself to be rescued by 13 fighting monks of the Shaolin Temple! A most glorious end to an indelicate and difficult predicament.”

     “And you do recall where the Emperor ‘allowed’ his glorious self to be brought to safety, do you not?”

     “Desert Eagle, I know this, and more. I know that the Emperor was overseeing his Western Outer Territories, that he had established his Court in Changan, and that he was receiving Chiefs from the troublesome Uygur and Shati. And don’t I also remember,” Akbar ruminated, pulling on an ear-lobe pierced with several heavy golden loops, “that you were in Changan at the time? I always wondered how you were present in a town 1,000 li from your caravan base,” Akbar remarked, casting a sideways look.

     “Ha! Your memory is inceptive, as always, Old One! Let me address this directly: I was on leave from the service of Good Fortune Camels and Caravan—pass me a coal for this hookah bowl—“

     “Here you go. If that’s jin chu and tobacco, I’ll take a turn with the tube.”

     “Thanks. I was -– puff-puff-puff -- on the way -– puff-suck-suck -- home to see my family. Hadn’t paid respects to my honorable father for two years.” With each aspirate a small cloud peeped from Desert Eagle’s lips and the stem of the waterpipe.

     Where the Tian Shan Heavenly Mountains rise the highest, Lien-Ying recounted, and the foliage becomes the lushest, there a branch of the Emperor’s Road cuts through to the emerald-green Ili Valley, traditional Kazakh grazing land of the mild seasons.

     Lien-Ying rode through grassy meadows ringed by and interspersed with flowering bluebells and red-rods. He passed by several waterfalls falling from steep sides of forested ridges on either side of the trail.

     His was the usual horse cut from the great equinal gene pool of Central Asia: short in height and length, but barrel-chested with skinny forelegs. But also as usual, appearance often belies essence—perhaps more so in matters equine (hmm—with women too, he mused). This was an animal with great endurance, decent speed, and sharp intelligence. The horse knew—while the Guo family yurt was still a far-off speck—it knew at precisely the moment Lien-Ying did, that the Eagle would lean forward and hold the reins up in expectation of a good run home.

     And so both horse and man leaned into the wind, the long and fine-haired mane of the horse flowing back to nearly brush the long handlebar mustache plastered against Lien-Ying’s cheeks. The two moved with the same intent, a one-pointed focus on the joy of effortless motion.

     The hide-covered yurt was pitched in the midst of a meadow oasis of the stubby grasses around Celestial Lake, where immortals were said to feast on ripe peaches. No human could remember when this was not the Guo clan’s traditionally favorite pasture.

There on the high grasslands of summer and early fall, the Kazakh clan grazed their horses, yaks, sheep, goats and bactrians. The blue waters of the lake, over a mile high, were surrounded by forests of blue fir and dragon-emerald spruce. On the surrounding slopes grew the snow lotus, blooming for two short weeks during the period of greatest sun, and said to bring back souls on the verge of death—when prepared properly, that is.

     It was yet early afternoon, and Yugta was busy cooking over an open pit outside the front of the yurt, using a wok oiled with the seed of the sesame. After plopping in a small, palm-sized lump of dough, she slid the balls back and forth on the heated metal until a golden brown patina glowed from their skin, and then scooped them into a waiting basket. Water was heating in a kettle for tea, a mix of black tea leaves, butter, sheep’s milk. She paused with a dollop of dough in her hands, thinking she had heard far-off galloping.

     Curious she craned her neck for a better look, but her hands continued to shape the balls. Finally, the moment came when should make out the colors of the rider’s clothing and the traits of the horse. She then carefully put aside her cooking and went running forward, skirts billowing, arms spread wide, yelling “Little Eagle! Little Eagle!” and then, turning her head toward the yurt, she called “He’s back, he’s back!”

     Lien-Ying and his horse had ridden hard all the way up to the cooking fire where, keeping the pace steady, Desert Eagle leaned far to the side and little forward, with one arm out to scoop up his diminutive mother and deposit her behind him in one smooth flow. Two small Children had tumbled out of the yurt, and they ran behind giggling and yelling, trailing a dog barking behind the riders. Both mother and son laughed and laughed as they galloped over the nearest knoll, then back down the Lake’s edge, finally to circuit the yurt again and again as the Children and dog tried to keep up.

     “Let me down! That’s enough or you won’t get your midday meal!” she said breathily through titters of excitement and pleasure.

     “Alright, old woman, can’t take it anymore, huh?” Lien-Ying Chided as he slid off the saddle to give her a hand down. “Anyway, I’ve been ready for a taste of home for months! Where’s father? Is he coming in?”

     “No, eldest jewel of my heart, he has too many of the nasty, smelly, slobber-faced ones to account for,” Yugta laughed, referring to the camels. “I think they wander off on purpose. They see the grey in your father’s beard and they just like to test him, that’s what I believe. So—you’re hungry? Here—meat-filled bao and strong chai!”

     The rest of the family trickled in shortly, hungry and excited by Lien-Ying’s arrival. They all plied him with a hundred questions about his travels, prices of commodities dear to their hearts and survival, strange and exotic sights they had never seen, and news of turmoil that might affect the clan’s traditional movements between pastures and markets.

     Lien-Ying satisfied many of their questions, but kept the darker news of upheaval within the Celestial Kingdom to himself—at least, until he could share it with his father.

“Enough questions and talk for now!” he announced to his brother Shan-Ying and wife Najda. “Let me accompany you Shan, back into the meadows to watch the herds and keep an eye out for father.”

              *             *             *

     The two men rode out together, counting head as they meandered over the rises, letting the animals know they were being cared for.

     As the afternoon wore on and the sun came to rest just off the western edge of the highest mountain, the brothers were relieved with they spied the old man ambling over the hills, driving four camels before his pony. As the bactrians grew closer, the last light of day fell directly behind them, a glow so intense that neither man nor animal was distinguishable. Even squinting his eyes, Lien-Ying could only make out flickers of movement in the sun’s rays at first. But gradually more and more distinctions—a leg or two, long necks, huge heads—seemed to birth right out of the solar mass.

     Lien-Ying laid down in his saddle and hid behind Shan-Ying as his father drew near.

     “One eagle can’t fool another!” the old man called. “Especially when his tail-feathers stick up!”

     “Father! I am truly happy to see you,” Lien bowed his head when both men alighted from their horses.

     “Come here,” replied Lao-Ying, “since when do we stand on such ceremony, hey? You have been in the company of perfumed men too often!” And the son and father kissed and hugged and slapped one another on the backs warmly.

     “It’s time for humans to protect themselves,” the old man said. Sure enough, with the last of the sun of late spring, the cold descended on the men with a sinking heaviness so palpable that it hurt the top of Lien-Ying’s skull, even through his thick sheepskin and felt headwear.

     The men tugged open the single wooden door that served as entrance to the yurt, and immediately rushed to seal the inner warmth against the severe cold and rising wind. The closeness of their extended family warmed their hearts, and the flesh of their sons, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and wives warmed their flesh as they all customarily greeted each other with hugs and backslaps.

     “Whew! A man could lose his precious jewels in such cold and not miss them until he changed his pants,” exclaimed the Patriarch.

     “Speaking of which, Old Eagle,” cut in Yugta, “do everyone a favor and do just that. Those chaps smell like the camels!.”

     “That’s because the camels wouldn’t come with me until I took off my outer pants so they could roll on ‘em, those mischievous merchants of mucous, those kings of cud, those foulest of fart-fathers!” Lao-Ying ranted, while everyone in the yurt cracked up.

     “Well, if you would but follow my advice, father,” put in Shan-Ying, “you need not suffer their jokes.”

     “What do you mean, brother?” Lien-Ying asked.

     Shan-Ying was laughing too hard to continue, so Yugta took up the challenge: “We think the camels miss the young Eagle, before he became Old Eagle, before his feathers turned grey. We keep telling him to appease those cantankerous bactrians by dyeing his head and beard red-brown again. Those camels think he’s one of them, and now he’s gone and changed the color of his hide—without their permission!” The yurt vibrated with renewed peals of laughter and head shaking.

     Yugta moved to the center cooking fire to ladle up the hearty supper of stuffed dumplings in a broth boiled with sour cabbage and mutton. The smoke rose steadily through the three foot opening at the yurt’s apex as she fed additional sheep and camel dung-Chips into the fire as needed. Shan-Ying’s wife Najda tended the Children’s plates, whacking the steaming meat from the bones with a short knife and delivering small tidbits to the little ones. Much lip-smacking, wiping of grease from oily faces and hands followed in short order.

     Yugta watched her men with her usual caring mode of deep satisfaction and love, deriving great inner joy in seeing them all together again, sharing food, quietly bantering back and forth. She smiled at the simple pleasure of pouring hot water over mare’s milk and mint leaves, then serving each in turn with a steaming ceramic mug.

     Lao-Ying, Shan-Ying and Najda were all plying Lien-Ying with questions about his latest travels.

     “Tell me about the holy caves in Tung-An,” the patriarch insisted. “Is it true there are too many to count?”

     “No, father,” Lien-Ying responded, “someone has noted each one, and found there to be over 900 shrine-caves and niches.”

     “Aiya! And what could a simple holy man put in so many holes in the earth?”

“Oh, just the usual: carvings, drawings, and

 

depictions of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, monks, heavenly maids

 

with veils, musicians, acrobats, plus…” Lien-Ying reached

 

into a shirt pocket to extract a strangely shaped piece of

 

blue and reddish jade and caught the eye of his brother.

 

“…plus assorted treasures.”

 

He dangled the piece only long enough to evade Shan-

 

Ying’s lunge for it, then shoved it back into his shirt.

    

“And mother,” he continued, “I saw some medical

 

prescriptions carved into a wall just beyond the entrance of

 

the largest shrine. Interested?”

 

The older woman looked up from the deep pile of the sheep’s wool rug where she was cradling and gently rocking her grandson. “Yes, go ahead,” she whispered.

     “Let me get this right… Yes, yes, it goes like this: ‘To counteract malaria, breathe vapors of rice wine mixed with duck dung.’” Lien-Ying paused there for the expected effect.

     “I’ve done that already as a new husband in the yurt of your mother’s mother,” retorted Lao-Ying. “But I didn’t know it was medicine; she told me it was supper!”

     “Stop, you old yak, you know that’s not true! Besides, you don’t even know what a malaria is,” the old wife rasped as quietly as she could. “Any more, Lien-Ying?”

     “Oh, yes: ‘To control wild talk, insert needles under big toenail.’

     “Mother, finally our son has said something of value. Pass the needles while I grab his boot.” Lien-Ying laughed and retracted his foot just out of reach from his father’s mock lunge.

     Shan-Ying retrieved the hugin from its peg on the wall, and began gently pulling a horsehair bow across its long neck. The eight strings hummed and lowed with deep tones. Najda softly crooned to their daughter wrapped up in her arms. A kettle wheezed softly over the glowing coals. The Children started to nod off.

              *             *             *

     After all had bundled into their pallets,  with the fire burning low, Lao-Ying had quietly rousted his son.

     “Hunhh? Father, wha--?” Lien-Ying closed his mouth sharply as his father held up his hand for silence, and then gestured for Lien-Ying to follow. Tip-toeing around the slumbering family, they quickly donned protective clothing. 

     The two men exited the tight warmth of the yurt into the vast, brilliant, star-studded panorama of the Kazakhstan night.

     “Did you hear something, father?”

     “No need for concern, my son. I just wanted to talk. I was wondering about something…”

     Lien-Ying followed as his father circled the compound, picking their way among the other yurts, and on out to where the ponies were hobbled. Livingston was waiting for those familiar signals that his father’s thoughts were in order and ready to cantor forward in file.

     Lien Ying cleared his throat and scratched his Chin before finally speaking.  “Did you talk to ‘The Monkey’ on your trip to Tung An?”

     Lien-Ying couldn’t have been more astonished if his father had declared himself a closet Kazakh transvestite.

But when Lao-Ying reached into his fur to withdraw a leather thong from around his neck, his son nearly passed out to see the pendant: a mirror-image of the luminous jade given him in Tung An.

              *             *             *

     Old Tai-Tai hugged the boy Tai Ying closer to him, checking to make sure the lad hadn’t nodded off before he continued.

     “An old Kazakh proverb speaks of the connection between the man and his steed: ‘An eagle has his wings, the Kazakh his horse.’ But your illustrious ancestor Lien-Ying, the Desert Eagle, had both. How the Desert Eagle got his wings is part of our story of the gathering of the Three Treasures of the Guo Clan.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16

 

Tai Ying’s second and third glances at the Indian woman who shuffled through the Sailors Prison door brought a revised opinion or two. What kind of woman is this? he wondered. He couldn’t help from stealing furtive looks: Rather tall for an Indian, he thought, about 5’10”, no hips, no round melons on her chest, but with developed shoulders and thick thighs and hard calves to match. This girl hasn’t spent much time in the inner courtyard with her mother, learning the arts of homemaking, he surmised.

Tai Ying felt a sudden “slither of the snake,” as his fellow members in the Chi Chao said. Wouldn’t mind a clinch to gather clouds, he thought. Yeah, definitely--this was a woman a man could relate to: first she’d fight you and then she’d fuck you. He watched her firm butt clank her fettered self around the corner, and caught the tension that passed from the woman to Muskrat Bone.

The whole atmosphere changed, as matter of fact, from boredom to readiness, dejection to hope. Tai Ying felt these changes and the surge of strength that this woman brought forth in the men, especially the Indians. Ho! That’s it, he thought, these are her men, her brothers-at-arms! It wasn’t hard to guess that they’d been caught harassing the gwei-lo round-eye white devils. He just couldn’t figure why they were here, dumped in with foreigners and sailors.

          *             *             *

What Tai Ying wasn’t able to fathom, of course, was that Capt. John Fremont had been using the Prison as a temporary holding tank for these Indians as being particularly undesirable—not that any but deceased or missionized Indians were ever desirable.

At any rate, Fremont’s orders were to route these braves north by way of ship up the Mendocino coast to disembark and march, with “all due speed,” directly to the Round Valley reservation, some 50 miles inland.

Round Valley reservation was one of a series of “indefinite holding” pens established between 1855-65 throughout the State. Ostensibly for the purpose of “proteckting the Indian and providing him Sustenance and Improvement in Charackter in a Christian manner,” the real reason lay, of course, in real estate: the Americans wanted it all.

It was proposed, prior to 1855, that Congress “reserve” a vast territory for Indian homelands, but that didn’t appease the Anglo invaders’ appetites. So for a couple decades several tribes were jammed together onto the same parcels, referred to as “reservations.” The outcome of such lack of cultural understanding was inevitable. Then too, the agents were often caught misappropriating funds allocated to Indians, resulting in acute food and clothing shortages.

To such a place these Indians malingering in the Prison were bound. Tai Ying wondered where he was bound—and why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 17

 

Ishi was dreaming, floating, floating to horizon after horizon above the earth, seeing the formations of both landscape and air change with each new horizon, his own body transforming synchronically. He watched himself moving through being a new-born babe into his teen years, his maturing into adulthood, and finally as a feeble old man.

This happened again and again, with the only difference being sometimes he was male, sometimes female, and different colored skins enveloped him. His interior, his essence remained the same, it just seemed that he moved through a timeless scrolling of trying on different costumes—until the soft cloud entered a darkened, thunderous sky and turned hard and angular, with violent pitching and rocking.

“Wake up, Acolyte Guo!” Martial Instructor Pan Erh bellowed, shaking Ishi’s shoulders. “Everybody up!” he roared.

Ishi couldn’t believe it: the previous night he had thought he’d never be able to fall asleep. Being so accustomed to the free flow of outdoors air, it had seemed suppressingly stuffy the night before when he settled down onto his kang brick-bed platform. In colder weather those bricks would be heated from below by a low charcoal fire.

“Here, put this on—quickly!” Monk Pan ordered, and threw the gray acolyte’s uniform at him. “And line up, all of you! Look lively! Buddha would not be so cruel as to have me train such slow maggots in a hard dog turd!” he grumbled in shouts.

Finally locating his place in formation, Ishi was able to get his first good look at his young fellow monks and training companions. Some were younger, some older, but most seemed about his age. He was, however, the only one of mixed, non-Chinese lineage.

The supervising monk shepherded his charges out the door of the barracks and into the open-air passageway to the main hall, some 100 feet away. Ishi was too tired, and the light too dim the previous night, so he was now stunned by what he saw. The covered corridors were supported by columns every 25 feet, with lotus blossoms carved at their feet and clouds at their apices. Oak beams provided horizontal support every five feet, and the center of each one depicted ancient figures in strange robes meditating, standing on a mountaintop, and (he couldn’t believe it!) flying through the air on clouds.

The boys were escorted to the main Meditation Hall of Peace and Harmony, directed to their appointed places along the perimeter of the room, and told to sit down on the floor and do nothing. This time, Ishi thought, I know what to do—rather, what not to do—was that right?—whatever, this time he wouldn’t move.

He faced a large chair of a dark wood with over-sized arms and back, covered with carved lotuses. It had an orange saffron-colored cushion on its seat. They all looked at the empty chair with palpable expectancy, as if it would transform itself by virtue of their concentration. Ishi soon tired of looking at only the chair, so his eyes and mind wandered elsewhere, to the inner doors of the Hall carved with emerald and gold dragons, peach-and-yellow clouds, white cranes, and to the gold-painted figures, the asparas or celestial beings, carved into the Hall’s huge exposed beams.

He took in the giant iron urns marking the Four Directions, placed around the Hall, each burning several great sticks of incense, and each with bas-relief of dragons and tigers.

WHACK! WHACK! Ishi hadn’t seen the monitor monks holding large pine spatulas standing nearly hidden behind the rear columns. He had been struck smartly across his back by one of the diligent masters. Not one word was said, but it seemed to Ishi that the monk’s scowling features matched that of one of the giant Temple Guardian demons in the forward courtyard.

Ishi looked forward to see that the Abbot had already entered and was lowering himself into “Emperor’s Meditation Posture” in the chair, just in time to catch Ishi’s eye. Oh no, thought Ishi, Am I in trouble again?

The old Abbot said nothing, but began meditating immediately. All within the room followed suit for the next hour, when Abbot Channa began chanting lead phrases from the Lotus Sutra, followed by pauses in which the monks, acolytes and laity would respond with heavily-metered refrains. Every four or five passages one of the monks seated to the Abbot’s side would strike two cymbals together.

The recitation continued for twenty minutes, followed by another half-hour of silence and meditation. Finally, after one length of the giant incense sticks’ burning, the Abbot stood up and left the Hall. The older monks were behind him, followed by the Master Instructor monks, and then the main body of monks composing most of the Monastery’s sangha, the religious community. What remained were the acolytes, their Instructors, and the monitor monks. The boys looked at each other apprehensively, then jumped into quick and ready lines to file out the door. They were relieved to be led into the mess area for breakfast.

Food was taken in a room very much smaller than the great Hall. Regardless of rank, all sat cross-legged in front of very low tables. None looked up, all appeared to be meditating deeply, patiently. But Ishi knew better: he could hear impatient sounds issuing from stomachs all around him.

Ishi hadn’t spoken since awakening two hours earlier; he was anxious to get to know his comrades-in-training, but the opportunity for conversation would have to wait until after breakfast, he decided. At last six kitchen monks appeared trotting, three steaming bowls balanced on each forearm, to place a dish in front of each monk. No one had started eating yet. Finally, when all were served, the Abbot raised one hand, strung with large, dark wooden beads, and chanted “Amitabha!” Everyone dove into the steaming rice and hot pickled vegetables with chopsticks flying.

All but one, that is. The Abbot watched them all wolf hungrily, a slight smile on his face. After 10 minutes, everyone except the Old Man filed out of the chow hall. Ishi looked back to see Abbot Channa place his votive bowl of food before the small candles and incense shrine of the kitchen gods at the rear of the room.

          *             *             *

The monitor and instructor monks directed the acolytes towards the rear gates of the Monastery grounds. The compound

was surrounded by stone walls 10 feet high, and was filled with landscaped gardens, some with lotus ponds, and several dirt or rock slab areas. Looks like training areas to me, Ishi observed.

     The boys were marched, still silent, through the rear gate in the furthest wall. A strange sight greeted Ishi as they trotted out: several rows of reliquary monuments, slender pagoda-like stupa stood silently among the miniature beech and white pine forest. Each structure, about 18 feet high, was grabbing the still-early rays of the morning on its several angles and levels.

     Ishi was disappointed to see brooms being handed out to all the acolytes. He had hoped that perhaps it was time to begin his martial training there in that forest of stone. Rather listlessly he followed a monitor’s order and began to sweep dust and pebbles from the walkways and foundations of the stupas.

     A monk was near him, sweeping, with back turned away. “What are these?” Ishi whispered.

     The monk kept up the whish-whish of the broom and whispered back, “They house the bodies of past abbots and masters. Their final incarnations, if they have been humble and righteous enough.”

     Ishi sighed impetuously, and grumbled, “I don’t see what sweeping has to do with becoming a master.”

At that the monk turned. Ishi’s heart leaped into his throat, and his spirit nearly flew out the crown of his head.

”Still in a hurry, my son?” Abbot Channa prodded gently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 18

 

“The first thing a warrior of the self must learn is how to be quiet,” Owl Woman said, voice light as a cricket’s first tentative Chirp in a pale-colored dusk. She had brought Yana to sit with her on a small rise overlooking Catch-Moon Lake.

Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine ringed the lake, along with water weed and cattails. Ducks drifted into reedy hiding coves for the night, fishhawks were making their last circles in search of the large, uniquely indigenous trout surfacing in quick splashes to gobble the new mayfly hatch. A new moon was visible over the eastern shoulder of the power mountain.

As the medicine woman for the Chumewei, Owl Woman was presenting her charge with a set of problems to solve different in form and essence from those of the training camp for raiders. Yana’s courage would be tested alright, but the methods would be more subtle and the process intuitive, out-lasting any fighting maneuver in scope of application. But it took Yana a great deal of difficult self-searching to even approach what her mother had in mind.

“You will stay here alone tonight” she instructed. “You will count—until dawn breaks—how many rings the trout make.”

Yana was astonished. “What?! What does counting trout-

rings have to do with courage and subtle fighting techniques?

What does—“

“Further,” her mother continued, “you will count how many bird calls are sounded.”

“That’s impossible! Are you sure? I mean, that sounds

weird and almost…”

Owl Woman cut her off: “By all that is natural and

sacred, sometimes you are a whiney piece of talking bear shit on the bottom of my moccasin!” 

She got up abruptly to leave Yana alone, shaking her head and mumbling as she went. She turned around before entering the stand of trees. “Come see me in the morning—unless you’ve turned into a quivering pool of frog piddle.” Owl Woman disappeared into the woods, still muttering to herself.

Yana jumped to her feet to yell. “That’s it? Doesn’t sound like much guidance to me! Mother!”

The response came drifting out of the woods: “Those are my words.”

The next morning, Yana strode strongly into the encampment, spied Owl Woman in front of a rack of dried herbs. Her mother smiled, and checked the bottom of her moccasin.

“No, no—it really is me here” Yana laughed.

 

“Had to make sure. So—what did you learn?”

 

 “A strange thing,” Yana began. “It was different, wondrous—I don’t know how to talk about this…” Owl Woman waited, and Yana began again. “As I concentrated on the fish, they appeared less frequently, while the birds seemed to be screaming for my attention. And yet—and yet, when at last I began to note how many different birds were around me, they quieted more and more, until I heard hardly a one.”

She shook her head in consternation. “But by then the fish were flopping around as if being chased by hawks.”

“And what did you make of this, Child?”

“I finally tried to count them both simultaneously, but both fish and birds started going crazy again. It was too much for me to think about. So I just gave up my thinking,” Yana finalized.

“And the animals, what were they doing then?” Owl Woman pressed.

“Well, as soon as I did that, it seemed like they went to sleep—until I thought about their sleeping, that is. Then, more activity.” Yana scratched her head in wonder. “I just don’t know how to talk about this.”

“Perhaps it’s not a matter for talk—or thought. Perhaps it’s a matter of being quiet,” Owl Woman offered.

Two weeks later Owl Woman took her daughter to a cliff over-looking over most of the peaks of ancient volcanoes and their several valleys. Again mother and daughter sat side-by-side. The moon was quite full, and it almost seemed as if they could distinguish each tree of the immense forest stretched out beneath them to the horizon.

Owl Woman turned to her daughter. “The second thing a warrior of the self must learn,” she said, standing up on the rock, “is to…” and she leaped off the boulder to float slowly, lightly to the ground. “…control your breathing,” she finished.

“What the--!” Yana burst out. “How’d you do that?”

“It’s all in your mind. Do not breathe with your mouth, throat or lungs.”

“But, but—how can a human do this?”

“The first step,” her mother admonished, “is to close your mouth, Little Person! Look: You have guides all around you. Dance with the trees and wind, learn to breathe. These are my words.” With that Owl Woman padded silently away into the stand of fir to leave her daughter to her work.

Yana leaped down with a clumsy thud. “What? C’mon--you gotta give me more than that!” Yana stamped her foot. “Oh, beetle dung, this is too hard. Wish I had someone to lay into,” she said to herself, punching the air a couple times.

 

          *             *             *

At first Yana kept forgetting to keep her mouth closed, but her throat kept drying out, so she found that by concentrating on drawing a fine stream of air—gently, gently—through her nose, she could keep from gulping and heaving her chest. This helped immensely, but she still didn’t understand what her mother meant by watching the trees breathe. She couldn’t see any mouths on the limbs or chests on the trunks, so she stayed confused until a light wind came up.

The breeze washed down off the immense mountain slopes and into the thick stands of fir, lodgepole and pines. She noticed the limbs of those great trees moving with—no, not with the wind; they moved as the air moved: there was no separation of trees and the force of that vital air of the winds.

She could see, too, the limbs opening up to embrace that breeze. The needles, the leaves, branches and trunks all seemed to respire and energize. Those which did not, from age or fate, simply snapped and fell heavily to the forest floor. She also noted that the trunks turned subtly this way and that, in accordance with the wind’s power. Looking around, she found evidence of that: a huge stump with jagged ends, telling of an elderly tree whose trunk was not limber enough to bend with the tremendous gales of the mountain’s powerful winters.

Again, the following morning she walked to her clan’s camp and found her mother sorting dried comfrey and plantain leaves, and preparing fresh anise roots for the drying rack.

“Ho! Daughter!” Owl Woman called cheerfully. “Did you hold your breath all night?”

Yana laughed. “I guess that’s one way to control my breath, but I didn’t want to roll home in an old tree trunk.”

They both felt good because each saw the other breathing with fingertips and heels, and each saw and felt the protective cocoon that pulsed out from their bodies in rhythm with breath cycles. They both laughed, an insiders joke.

“I see you learned from something from the trees,” Owl Woman complimented.

“I feel great!” Yana enthused. “Like I could really

kick some boy-butt!”

“Or possibly you missed a subtlety or two” her mother admonished. “Back to the woods for you.  

          *             *             *

It was the time of the darkened moon. Owl Woman and Yana were again in a remote part of the forest.

“You’re getting closer to the final problems in this quest, Yana. I warn you, though: the next tasks cause most

warriors many difficulties.

 

Bat crap, I knew it!” Yana protested. “Are you gonna turn me into something weird after all this? I remember what happened to Flaming Maggot after a night with you.”

“Nothing so simple for you, Little Piss-Ant” her mother snipped. “Your work is to understand the energy of

another being. And…”

Standing up, Owl Woman took Yana’s hand to lead her to the beginning of a path into the woods. It was very dark. “And how to make that knowledge a part of you of you. Close your eyes.”

She started walking slowly into the woods, then turned back to Yana. “So…? Open your eyes!”

“A deer!” Yana effused. “I heard and felt you being a deer!”

Owl Woman began to demonstrate the gait. “Now—let’s walk together. Let the forest show us what we should do. You must soften your footfall, Little Person. Bend your knees, like so. And loosen your ankles, so.”

Yana tried to copy the stride and carriage. “Don’t bounce your head, but bob it, like the deer,” her mother corrected. “Bend your knees—so—and point your toes—so.” .” Owl Woman demonstrated the gait she was after.

 

Yana tried another couple steps, then shook her head in consternation. She watched her mother glide down the path laden with fir needles, small sticks, protruding roots and stones, trying to copy her stride and carriage. She shook her head that her mother could move over the path seemingly without disturbing a single pebble. I’ll never get this, she thought.

Owl Woman tried to reassure her a little. “It’ll take you until the moon returns full to get this.”

“So long?” Yana protested. “The boys never stayed away a full moon-cycle.”

“The boys weren’t so stubborn. It takes you longer to learn the difference between being alive and thinking you’re

alive.” Owl Woman melted into the obscurity in a heartbeat.

“Wait,” Yana pleaded. “What’s this walking got to do with being stubborn? Or…my stubbornness with being alive?

Who’s stubborn, anyway?!” she yelled into the dark.

When Owl Woman replied, her voice seemed to come from behind, then from left, then right, then above, finally from all directions at once.

“Still seeing things separately, my daughter? Those are my words.”

By the second week of training alone in the deep woods, Yana found herself surrounded by two does at the end of her quiet, carefully-placed and tentative deer-stepping exercise.   

All three seemed to gaze at each other with a question hovering between them. Instantly they all broke into the loping, bounding trot so characteristic of the white-tail, following one after another down the path. The deer neither quickened their pace nor slowed, at first. They all moved together as one being.

After a few minutes the deer increased their strides with a longer bounding, and Yana strove to keep up. She could maintain the pace for a short while, but inevitably she recalled her human limitations, and started to lag. Finally she stopped, breathing deeply, quietly.

A great longing and inexplicable sudden sadness came over her. Both does paused some 40 yards away, swung their long necks to look back at her, then continued to move away at a steady walk. She stood perfectly still, staring after them for long moments. Then, reluctantly, she turned to pad back down the path she had taken. The poignancy of that loss was to stay with her the rest of her rather short life.

When Yana returned to her village encampment three weeks later, she was worn and subdued. She ducked immediately into the bark shelter, not seeking contact with others. Yana glanced at her mother and squatted down heavily.

Owl Woman looked upon her face, deeply searching her daughter’s exhausted face and eyes. “It’s the time of the marking,” she said softly.

Yana knew what was expected of her. “Why did you keep this from me, mother?” she asked.

“The heavy burden of knowledge must be shut away in silence, until the time is ripe, my daughter.”

Yana nodded slowly, laid down, and wearily closed her eyes. “Until the time is ripe,” she murmured.

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 19

 

“Mr. Brenalt,” Livingston said, rising up from his table to extend a handshake, “may I offer you a libation?”

“I’ll pass on the/No strong drink and coffee, thank you,” came the curt reply. “But you may offer me some high conversation.”

The tenor of this salutatory greeting raised Livingston’s business hackles. Sam Brenalt was more than fairly astute, as anyone could gather from his newly-ensconced dry goods and implements store. True Brenalt did have the benefit of holding Livingston’s gold in a private fiduciary account—drawing interest, of course.

“I’m not certain that I am qualified to enlighten a man of your background with counsel so sound as his own, sir. But perhaps you might assist me in my efforts to come to grips with these surroundings—such as they are, that is,” Livingston offered apologetically.

Sam Brenalt was tall, lanky, with a very controlled mustache off-setting a large, bulbous nose. He had been standing until Livingston’s reply, seemingly uncertain as to whether he should remain and thus expose anymore of himself to either this Boston primrose or to the surroundings. But he needed something, so he smiled, folded himself into a chair built for stockier men, and said, “Well, it seems that we may both be sharing a common difficulty. What is the nature of your dilemma, exactly?”

Livingston smiled as well. For the first time in eight months he felt as if he were on familiar ground. This was the kind of tête-à-tête and rapport he knew to be necessary for the launching of a business opportunity. He could smell the approach of a lucrative scheme; it was so very tactile that he could indeed feel the change in the very air around them. He could sense, too, a grasping quality in how Brenalt regarded him. Livingston knew he was talking to his first customer. He didn’t know what he was selling yet, or for how much; but that was secondary, for now his well-honed instincts in the chase of commercial enterprise were heightened. My good God, he thought: How I have missed these civilized cerebral colloquies.

Of course, it wouldn’t do to expose one’s inductions about such matters, so Livingston proceeded to guide Brenalt through his little game of discovering the backgrounds of the clientele in the Hotel saloon.

“Oh, that’s not a difficulty for me, Mr. Lowe.”

Livingston caught the “Mr.” without reacting; a couple weeks ago, Brenalt avoided giving him title of respect.

“Proceed, sir,” Livingston said, encouraging Brenalt to relax with a sharing of his experiences.

“Without a doubt, 90% of the men are from sundry mining camps, all within a week’s walk. Here I can even point out to you which ones come from which camps.”

“I find that remarkable, sir.”

“Well, yes—look over there,” and Brenalt went on to name the men from Rough & Ready, Roaring Camp, Poker Flat, Randy Doodler, Bedbug, Jackass Gulch, Dutch Flat.

“That does border on the improbable, Mr. Brenalt,” Livingston laughed.

“But it is the remaining 10% that offers the amazing in possibility, Mr. Lowe,” Brenalt said, somewhat enigmatically.

“And precisely how do you mean that, sir?”

“Those remaining 10% are farmers and ranchers, sir. And it is due to them that I seek your own counsel this evening,” Brenalt said.

Livingston allowed himself a small inner smile of smugness.

“First,” Brenalt continued, “we need to ascertain to the best of our direct powers of observation and deductive faculties the underlying cause, the raison d’etre, if you will, that produces such a pitiable effect—to wit, these poor creatures you see before you.”

“Couldn’t agree with you more, sir. I would like to hear  the foundation for your discourse.”

“All in good and appropriate time, sir,” Brenalt admonished gently. “What in your opinion, after—how many months have you among them?—10 here and eight enroute? A considerable enough exposure to lend validity to a well-educated guess. What do you see as the underlying motives for these men’s lives, as they manifest right at this moment?” Brenalt folded his arms and leaned back in anticipation.

This query presented no obstacle in exact analysis for Livingston, as he had always known such men in the employ of his family’s farm and firm. Obviously lackeys, chattel, beings without discipline, and with no high regard for the rewards of restraint, these were hardly men at all (as indeed, legally speaking, back in the real world most did not meet the definition of a “man”).

However, Livingston managed to hold his swift and ready accounting, in order to afford the senior Brenalt more prestige by virtue of appearing to mull over the probing inquiry.

Finally, after a suitably courteous interval, he began with, “Taking into account that anywhere else, these persons would have assignations other than as men,” and he paused as Brenalt offered a wry smile indicating comprehension of the underlying valence. “Taking that into account, I would have to put forward that these men are driven by the insatiable appetites characteristic in so much of the uneducated.” Livingston paused again, expectantly.

“And what might these appetites be, sir?” Brenalt offered, fulfilling his role in the well-established rules of proper, expository conversation.

“For immediate gratification of the flesh and for power over their fellows. In other words, for gold, strong drink, and connubial release.”

As if on cue, a woman in the hotel’s employ stopped to lean over, with alcoholic breath and ample bodice pouring over their table to rasp, “If it’s anything I like, it’s fast horses, easy money, and men without a pecker of responsibility!” and shrieked with laughter as she stumbled away.

“Well, it seems obvious,” Brenalt observed, “that not many can remain within this world and yet not be of it, wouldn’t you concur? Good. Now, I concede that for most of these men here, you have struck the peg squarely. That is, for 95% of them, at any rate.”

Livingston nodded, rightfully impressed with his companion’s logic, high language and obvious depth of understanding of the social climate.

Brenalt continued, “What fate can a long-thinking man believe might befall him if he were to act as these persons do? Well, we both know that a fire that burns hottest burns fastest. And so it is—have a modicum of patience with me here—so it is with those merchants who hitch their star to the redoubtable business of satisfying the hot, quick-to-appear, quicker-to-extinguish desires of the masses.”

“Are you implying, Mr. Brenalt, that an alternate exists—one which righteous and profitable?”

“Not one alternative, Mr. Livingston, but several. Let us once again survey the clients, and pick out those few who are not miners.” Brenalt paused to allow Livingston opportunity to complete the task.

Livingston did see, besides the pig-tailed heathen and the floozies, now and then a man not unkempt nor so filthy as the degenerate miners. There were even a couple tables of these few men conversing quietly with one another. “Whom do you reckon those men to be?” he asked, gesturing with his head.

“Those are the future of this great and prosperous California. They are the righteous who are here because of their belief in and execution of those exemplary virtues of thrift and hard work. Those are the farmers and ranchers, men with families, with immediate obligations, long-term desires and schemes.”

“Ah, more desires,” Livingston interjected.

“Yes, of course. However, the snaking course of these particular desires is considerably slower than the greater volume of those hot-blooded miners. These slow-burning desires—of maintaining family and home, acquiring property, and the pursuit of a well-regulated happiness—these desires will extinguish as well, but it is up to those of us who have the anointed vision of profit, as ordained by God, to reap the more intelligent benefit of investing therein. Do you concur, sir?” Brenalt concluded.

“With your premises I do, indeed. I am curious however,” returned Livingston. “Just how shall a long-thinking man execute such judgment wisely?”

“Why, Mr. Lowe, I am a little surprised at you. What is the religion of your baptism? Methodist, you say? An honorable and well-organized Church. Well, you know full well that we have been given the dictum from God in the Old Testament to go forthwith, multiply, and have dominion over the earth! That is, over herbs and animals of all kinds.”

Brenalt wasn’t paying much attention to Livingston at this point, or to anyone else. The pitch of his voice rose and the volume increased as he unleashed that unrelenting message of his inner messiah: “It is our God-appointed duty to sell implements of dominion to these hard-working farmers and ranchers! The Lord has confided in me that I must sell these plows and picks, shovels and axes so that white Christian men may have dominion here!”

Brenalt had nearly risen to his feet; his forehead glistened slightly with the effort of his soliloquy. He mopped his face with a swipe of his large palm, breathing deeply.

A nearby table of miners quieted briefly to witness the display. “Got that right, Sam!” called one wildly bewhiskered old-timer.

“Hell, I’ll buy yer fukkin’ shovels, Brenalt!” put in another. “Here’s to ya!”

The whiskered miner then leaned over to his companion for a private aside. “Careful a that ‘un—he’d steal the shitball from a blind dungbeetle, give ‘im a marble and put ‘im on the wrong road home.”

Livingston saw Brenalt’s point: The burgeoning population rate was beyond any comparison on the continent. Who would be left after the gold ran out—as it must? Why, those in constant need of tools to carve out their niches, territory and claims in these forests, hills, wildernesses and marshes so empty of all but the beast-like natives, so void of civilization, so crying out for real culture.

“And why are you relating this to me, sir?” Livingston inquired—but only as a means of having the obvious put forward.

“Because, simply, I have encountered an obstruction, one which prevents me from fulfilling the dictates from Heavenly Father in a timely manner,” Brenalt responded. “For some months now, there has plagued me—indeed, it has plagued all merchants here who rely on goods not readily tooled in the region—it has hexed me to discover a reliable manner in which to import tools and whatnot without the interminable wait of six months and more, what with the treacherous voyage around the Horn.”

“Ah, quite right, I do see your dilemma, sir. And, if I might say so, I think I may offer solutions to these difficulties of imported sundries.  That is, if I but could be informed of their details,” Livingston said, bowing slightly.

“And so you shall sir. Shall we say tomorrow then at 9 a.m., at my establishment? Good.” The men shook hands over the tentative association.

Establishment was a tad euphemistic for the over-sized, dirty, canvas-walled tent Brenalt called his sundries and dry-goods outlet. But it was no different from all the businesses in Mormon Island, except for the two saloon-hotels, the whorehouses, and the one church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 20

 

Ishi was in his sixth month as novice monk cum-gardener. He had swept—always sweeping, it seemed as if he’d swept far enough to go down the mountain and back up again—moving earth, lifting rocks, chopping wood, carrying water: all at the whim of the master gardeners.

Ishi squatted on one of the walkways that wound through the monastery gardens. Just beyond him the path meandered past a miniaturized pond to a seemingly dead-end walk with a half-hidden passage through the wall. Ishi cleared minute debris from one of the man-made trickles suggesting miniature rivers flanked by large rocks chosen for their shape and texture. The rocks had been shaped and contoured by hand to snug together—without benefit of mortar—to resemble mountains.

Ishi kneeled among these mini-giants and between small, gnarled trees, dwarfed by the Temple’s arborist to look storm-worn. He bent low, seemingly on some minute landscaping task. But if you looked close he was playing with little stick-men running up and down the “mountains.”

“Acolyte Kwok!” Big-Eared Tu, the Master Gardener, interrupted the boy’s game.

Ishi jumped to his feet, brought fist to open palm, and bowed deeply. “Sir! Master Gardener, sir!”

“Tell me where the sun is, Acolyte.”

“Where it belongs, Master: on my person.”

“Tell me the lie of the mountain.”

“The mountain rises from within, Master.”

“What is a mountain to water, Acolyte Kwok Ishi?”

“They must go together, Master.” Ishi was referring to the Chinese definition of “scenery” or “landscape”: sanshui in Mandarin, literally meaning “mountains and water.”

“And what is their true relationship, Acolyte?”

“Nature holds the answers, Master.”

“Can you force plants to fruit and flower in off-season?”

“Not unless we have asked permission of the plants first, Master.”

“And why should we do that, Acolyte?”

“Nothing we have is ours alone, Master.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that we may be able to force the plant to do so, but the fruit and flowers belong to the parent as well as to us.”

Big-Eared Tu grunted in satisfaction at the boy’s responses, spun on his heel, and walked toward the pond. He only paused once, cocking an ear towards Ishi. The boy was singing softly to himself:

     “The mountain rises from within,

     Its clouds cling to my shoulders,

     The sun rises out of my face;

Its rays shine forth when I see

My mountain home.

Beauty above,

Beauty below,

Beauty all around me.”

 

~     

The month after returning from her quest in the forest, Yana was summoned before her mother and a council of Snake Clan healers, some whom she had only heard about in tales, as they were seldom seen, and had only now appeared from vast distances to preside over the birth of this girl’s new awareness.

Yana was led to the sacred lodge, and (as was due her imminent initiation) was required to enter through the round opening on the roof. After descending the notched log into the smoky half-light of the interior, her mother directed her to sit with her back against the usual door of entrance.

The elders were already sitting in place, and her mother sat directly across from her, completing the last void in the circle. Moon Owl grabbed a dried, bound sheaf of river sage, gestured to the four directions, tossed the bundle into the central fire; a WHOOSH! of flame quickly consumed the dried material, and sent even more haze and heat forth into the lodge. Picking up the pipe lying in front of her crossed legs, Moon Owl stuffed in a wad of loose, grey-green lead, and proceeded to light it. Billows of smoke issued after several pulls on the stem. After three or four inhalations, she passed the pipe to the right.

Yana recognized the sharp aroma of jimson weed in the bowl. When the pipe passed in front of her, she snugged the warm bowl into her right palm, guided the long stem to her lips, and dragged the acrid smoke deeply into her lungs—once, twice, three times, and was going for a fourth when she began to see a hole being bored into the smoky haze.

Into that hole she saw, as a diminutive diorama, people and animals being born, living, dying. She watched the dramas unfold and disappear, again and again, for what seemed like several lifetimes. With each lifespan, the pipe unaccountably appeared in her hands, and she smoked, and it was forgotten again.

     After several rounds of the pipe, the haze cleared suddenly and Yana’s vision expanded: she found herself standing on the lip of a vast mesa overlooking the homelands of her tribe. She could see the shelters, wisps of cooking fires rising off the valley floor, the wetlands and creeks, the forests, the two great mountains.

     She heard a distant chanting voice, intoning as if from across an immense chasm:

          “Beauty above, beauty below;

          Beauty all around you.

          You are that Beauty,

          And it rests in you.”

     A great peace and inner serenity filled her, flowed out of her. And that flow added to and became the beauty of where she was. Gratitude and joy envelop[ed her. She felt contentment, completeness. A tear came and went.

     The pipe passed by once more and Yana looked down at her feet. Something tiny glittered and winked, so she crouched down to get a better look. It was a drop of water, and as she gazed more intently, the drop enlarged until she could see something in it.

     A face began to appear in the small pool at her feet. It seemed to be moving its mouth, to be telling her something, but the surface was too dibbled and rippled to make out what.

     Yana was certain a message from the Creator Gods was coming through the reflection, and she leaned closer, straining to hear. This is what came to her:

     “From your training, from your own tribe’s tales, from the oral history of The People, you’ve learned exactly who the enemy are, what their faces look lie. They are within us, they are our own faces, our own anger, our fear, our wanting.

     “And they have become so strong within us that they became people. People who will not disappear until we have scoured ourselves clean. You vanquish enemies when you can control yourself.”

     “But, Wise One, shall I but stand by?” Yana pleaded, though her mouth opened not. “Shall I watch the whites wipe us out, murder babies, steal land? Shall I not fight them with all my breath and all my spirit?” She was startled to find herself crying. The source of that pool was her own tears.

     “You cannot murder your own self, but you can protect yourself against your weaknesses,” the face responded.

     “And if the white man is stronger than us?”

     At that the pool suddenly stilled. The reflection finally stopped quivering, and an outline sharpened in the water: it was her own face, and the words came from her mouth.

     “It will seem so for generations—until we learn to control our anger. It will be our anger that drains our spirit. We cannot kill anger, but we can refuse to feed it. Concentrate on our strengths, and it will go away, feeding upon its own hatred, and finally returning to the Underworld from which it sprang.”

     The shamans rose off their haunches to begin walking in a circle in front of Yana, and she drew herself back from the pool to watch them. They increased their ambling to a slow run, and the central fire synchronized its own intensity. As the tempo gradually increased, the integrity of their basic human forms was bent, blended and melted, one into the other, and the flames leaped and roared while a constantly rushing golden stream of pure energy rushed around the lodge.

     Yana was trying to focus her eyes on the Elders, but the only distinctive shapes she could make out were occasional and fleeting forms of animals: a buffalo, a hawk, a bear, a jaguar were all padding and streaking around the lodge. She found that disconcerting enough, and then she discovered that they were talking to her, even as they metamorphosed and pulsated light. The animals were speaking to her dark doubts.

     Yes, Yes! She knew what she should do, but Yana also knew herself, and she didn’t think she’d be able to stand by and watch passively as Whites continued to rob and murder her people. Yana implored the Wise Ones: It might be hundreds of years before the whites destroyed themselves and returned to the Underworld!

     Knowing her thoughts, her spiritual mentors advised her, each in turn:

     Red Hawk of Ojibway: “Time signifies neither before nor after, but now: If you see this, all is in time, and we are well.”

     White Buffalo of Hunkpapa Sioux: “The expanse of the stars can be put into a kernel of corn. If you know this, all is where it should be, and we are well.”

     Black Bear of Mescalero Apache: “The heart of the sun beats in your chest: If you know this, our blood will flow as it should, and we are well.”

     Yellow Jaguar of the Quiche Maya: “The air we breathe comes from our thoughts. If you know this, we shall breathe freely, and we are well.”

     Finally, the Tschastas Bald Eagle came: “The Eagle penetrates the eddies of our mind: If you nurture his call, our people will endure.”

     Yana heard the words from the Wise Ones, but felt terribly bowed, troubled, and confused as to her abilities to carry out the sage counsel. She fell asleep where she sat, head bent forward to her chest, wondering, How can a young woman nurture the Eagle?  It was her 19th birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 21

 

     One blustery winter’s night Brenalt and Lowe were sleeping in their store-tent, as was their wont, when they heard a noise foreign to the innards of their establishment. Brenalt was an unusually light sleeper, and discovered the intruder first. Springing from his cot, he grabbed the man from behind to grapple mightily with him, overturning his bed in the process.

     Lowe then came awake suddenly to discover a full-blown fray already well-underway before his very eyes. With great enthusiasm, Livingston them jumped immediately into the thick of it. Endeavoring to constrain the robber by the legs, Livingston grabbed the first pair he could reach and threw the man backwards. The technique worked wondrously well, but on the wrong pair of legs: in the darkness he had grabbed and thrown Brenalt instead.

     The robber guffawed, turned to make for the wide open spaces, tripped over a lot of axe and pick handles released from barrels during the altercation, and skeetered out of control right into a big vat of molasses. Strive though he did to extricate himself, the intruder was fated to merely insinuate his predicament further, as a fly struggling on the sticky wick, partially due to the two brave merchants’ efforts. Indeed, each time a leg or arm found its way over the lip of the vat, Livingston or Sam would assist the errant limb on the journey back from whence it harkened. The sport thickened when finally the robber managed to grab Lowe on a return voyage to the vat and both went in this time.

     Livingston came up sputtering and yelling “FIRE!” as loud as he could.

“Fire? What fire? I see no fire!” Sam complained.

“What would you have me yell?” Livingston retorted between globs of stickiness invading his facial cavities. “Molasses?!”

By then the ruckus had been noticed beyond the canvas walls, and several men poured into the front entrance flaps. Two had rifles poised for business and one held up a lantern. A fourth man stooped down, brought up one of the axe-handles, and proceeded to swing it overhead, down towards the blackened, unfortunate creatures in the vat. A beautiful swing, one that connected well, and one man slumped forward with chest and arms extended over the edge of the container. The other vat visitor laughed, a gurgling sort of mirth it was.

“Did I get ‘im?” asked the swinger.

“Not sure, in this light,” said Brenalt. “Better whack the other one too, for good measure.” Another Crack! resounded, as well delivered as the first.

After sorting things out, the rescue committee revived the robber long enough to tie him to a post in a nearby shed. The next morning a posse escorted the prisoner to a Justice of the Peace. Standing on his own feet, with raiment still blackened, but considerably stiffer and crusty, he was duly tried, convicted, whipped, and finally freed with stern admonishment to “Keep moving!”

Three nights later, Brenalt was yet again awakened by a nocturnal prowler, and immediately put a phosphorous to a lantern. This time Livingston too had learned from his previous shortcomings: he pulled out a tiny 20-caliber Derringer from beneath his pillow, and proceeded to point it shakily in the vague direction of the robber.

“Hands up, scoundrel! Bring the illumination nearer, please, Sam!”

“’aw! Whatcha figure ya ‘ave there, mitey? Looks like sumthin’ outn’ one a yer ora-fices!”

“Good God, man!” Brenalt exclaimed. “Can you believe it? We have the same damn thief on our property!”

“He’s persistent, if nothing else,” Livingston marveled. “What do you want this time, if I may be so bold to ask?” he said, still leveling the pistol the best his temerity would allow.

“Wull, I ain’t in th’ mood fer no tithing. Whaddaya think I want? ‘and over yer cash, right smart now!”

“I don’t perceive that you’re in any position to propose our behavior,” Livingston sniffed with more confidence, drawing himself up haughtily and stretching his pistol-hand further out.

And with that the interloper stepped forward smartly to jam a digit firmly into the barrel. “’aw-aw-aw! Whatcha pro-pose now, Mr. ‘igh ‘n Mighty?”

“Unhand my—uh, de-finger my—umm, remove your finger from my pistol!”

“I ain’t about to do that!”

“Why—why I’ll just shoot your finger, then!” And Livingston tightened his grip.

“No, no! Great Scott, man!” pleaded Brenalt.

“’e’s right, doncha know, mitey. Do that ‘n this ‘ere pipsquake barrel’s likely as not to barst to smithereens. ‘aw!”

“See here, you—“ began Livingston.

“’arry, ‘arry Dux the moniker, by way of Sydney,” and the undaunted Mr. Dux stuck out his left hand in greeting—seeing as how his right was presently occupied.

Livingston found himself automatically reacting by shaking hands, then tossing the grip aside in disgust. “See here, we aren’t about to hand over any money to you. In

fact—“

“Awright, then,” Harry Dux interrupted, “’Ow’s ‘bout offerin’ me employment? Put me to wuk, laik.”

Brenalt and Lower turned to look at one another with wide eyes.

“Come on, then, ‘ow’s about it, miteys?”

Brenalt shrugged his shoulders. “It would serve to keep him from sneaking back.”

“Very well, Mr. Dux—“ Livingston began.

“’Arry.”

“’Arry, uh, Harry. Very well, Harry, we have an arrangement. Come back in the morning—later this morning—and we’ll discuss your duties.”

With that Harry Dux grunted and twisted his pinky finger out of the barrel, saluted with same, and spun on his heel to disappear into the late hours of Mormon Island.

“At least we won’t interrupt any more night’s sleep,” Brenalt grumbled, climbing into his cot.

“Did you see his arms?” Livingston asked, throwing a blanket over himself. “They were so hairy I thought he was wearing furs. ‘Harry—that’s an appropriate appellation for him, don’t you think?”

Sam answered with a resounding “SNORT!” of a man at last in the arms of peaceful slumber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 22

 

Ishi jolted out of his sleepy half-attention and suddenly sat up straight. It was 4:30 a.m. in the Great Meditation Hall of White Cloud Monastery, and Chan Da Moh, Abbot, had finished his chanting of the Diamond Sutra. The Abbot meditated in a half-lotus position, with one foot supported on the opposite thigh, for a full hour before turning his attention to the novices.

     What had the man said yesterday? Something about “our duty as warriors of the spirit to fight for the righting of wrongs or injustices.” It had sparked the interest of all the young novitiates, and the old man had promised to expound further during the next morning’s sermon.

     The old man cleared his throat. “Yesterday we learned of the importance of acknowledging our debt to spiritual masters who have provided us with the means to refine our character. However, we have an even older obligation to a particular secular group of men, men who sought to hone their fires of their characters and spirits on the iron anvils of experience in the world.

“The disciplines they devised over the last four thousand years came to be known as the deepest, most profound well-spring of applied training for warriors, kings, and priests. This most ancient caste of disciplined men was the Ksatreya of India. If we hope to understand the codes, goals and methods of the White Cloud way of the present, we’re obligated to research the old ones to the best of our abilities.

“Sacred scriptures such as the Vedas, the Bible, the Koran and the Buddhist Sutras of course provide insights as to how higher moral codes may be applied to everyday living. However, there exists a more direct and immediate path to understanding, and I shall get to that later.

“The Vedas recount the challenges of early Indians in their journey of self-evolution, just as the recorded words of other Awakened Ones testify to their own growth. Within its role as spiritual advisor, the Vedas often considered the ethics of warfare, reaching conclusion that clearly established the spiritual potential within warriorhood.” The Abbot paused to gather his breath, look inward, and sink his gather Chi to his lower abdomen. The acolytes attention remained riveted to the old man in that silent hall.

“Of course these ancient sages were referring to the intensely illuminating experiences of looking into the polished mirror of the self when locked in combat eyeball-to-eyeball—hardly comparable to the barbarism of remote dispassionate carnage sought by modern technology, with soldiers pulling triggers and lanyards to kill anyone from a far and impersonal distance.

“As students of the ancient arts, you need to acknowledge a fundamental truth inherent to your training: The heightened awareness that we forge with our self-disciplines furthers development of Self as well as all sentient beings. This is not easily understood by those who are not involved in the training or by those who are guided through life by the question, ‘Where’s the money in that?’

“Fundamental truths and time-tested conclusions were manifested and codified within the Ksatreya caste. Trained from infancy in armed and unarmed martial arts, as well as in spiritual practices, the Ksyatreya studied all available literature, history, religion and philosophy. Tests and exams in these fields of learning were required before membership into the martial brotherhood was proffered. You, little brothers, will meet these same ancient standards.

“The ancient Mahabarata literature puts forth the strict ethical conduct of the Ksatreya:

‘Those who attack by the use of words should only be fought with words.

‘One should strike only after giving due notice.

‘A noble warrior should only fight his equal in battle.

‘A noble warrior would not strike one who is tired, weeping, unwilling to fight, ill, or one who cries surrender.

‘A noble warrior defends all who have surrendered, even an enemy.

‘In battle, the noble warrior does not strike one who is in conference with another, one who is panicked, or one who is unprepared for battle.

‘It is the noble warrior’s duty to fight under the principle of “righteous conquest,” for the righting of wrongs or injustices, regardless of whom the transgressors might be.’”

There it was again! Ishi’s attention level soared with this last principle, and led him into possibilities of action he hadn’t thought of before. What if he could convince some of his brothers to help him fight those who killed his parents? Surely the Abbot would see the righteousness of his cause?  He tuned back into the Abbot.

“… said earlier that, while it is obviously very good to research sacred scriptures, there exists a more immediate path to wisdom. Quite simply, it’s best to speak directly with the ancient teachers for their guidance.”

The entire group of boys stirred with that pronouncement.

“Yes, you heard right:  you can communicate with the old masters. How may we accomplish such a seemingly impossible task? The answer lies in the moment-to-moment process of daily training.” With this enigmatic statement Chan Da Moh closed his mouth, stood up off his meditation dais, and left the hall through a rear door.

The acolytes all rose to bow him out, and when they turned around, there were three giant men approaching from the other end of the Hall. They were solid men, with a centered calm that makes unconfident men nervous. They were the head martial monks, and it was the first day of training for the novices. 

    

 

“The inner teachings (The Voice of Lightning) of the noble warriors of India were considered to be so sacred that only persons of high moral character were worthy students. But when the teachings are applied in combat, Vajramukti is known as ‘Thunderbolt Hands,’ or kuen po and chuan fa in Chinese. That is the name of our art.

    

 

 

 

Chapter 23

 

“You heard me right,” Lao-Ying repeated. “Did you meet ‘The Monkey’?”

Lien-Ying quickly fumbled beneath his shirt to extract the strangely shaped piece of jade, while Lao-Ying unlooped a leather thong from around his own neck. Suspended on it was another piece of jade of the same blue color.

      “This should be interesting,” Lao-Ying mused as he took his son’s piece. “I think this is what he said to do.” He fiddled with the two pieces a moment until they CLICKED! 

Together they composed a figure of an eagle within a reddish triangle, and as soon as the pieces conjoined, the eagle took on a pulsing blue glow that grew to the size of a luminescent canopy over the entire encampment. At the apex of the canopy’s expansion, there was a coalescence of light that burst into a cascade of brilliantly-blue flashes. The huge illuminate flew off over the lake, leaving blue trails with each flap of a giant wing.

Lao-Ying was the first to recover. “Now that was different. Any idea what that means?”

“Yes—and so do you, laughed Lien-Ying. He stooped down to pick up the leather thong; only the reddish jade triangle remained. He offered it to his father, saying “Another journey to the West.”

“No, no. You keep that. No more quests for me,” his father protested. “I just want to get home to my warm woman each night. Take your brother. What I need is some sleep. I think that’s enough excitement for one night.”

“No, no more quests,” his father protested. “That’s plenty of excitement for me right there. I just want to get home to my warm woman each night. Which reminds me. Shall we?”

     “Maybe Shan-Ying wants to go with me.”

     “Good idea. Take lots of wine. Don’t ask,” Lao-Ying said, putting his arm around his son to steer them back towards the yurt.

Later that night, when everyone was sound asleep, Lao-Ying got up, tip-toed to the door. He took the thong from his neck and suspended the figurine from a peg above the door. The eagle was glowing and pulsating a luminous blue/ with a blue luminescent pulse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 24

 

As gold traces started fading in 1852, Brenalt and Lowe decided to open a branch of American Pride in the region of Sutter’s Fort. They saw the writing on the tent walls and knew that to expand their business they needed to go where the men were settling down for the long haul. And men were building homes and farms now in the great valley, after trying unsuccessfully their hands at mining.

What better place to get a patent leather boot toe in that the busiest dock in California? Boats from San Francisco tied up on the banks of the broad American River but a short distance from Fort Sutter. What began as only a tiny village of about 75 people living in tents and shacks in 1848, had jumped to 10,000 business-driven souls by 1850. Those new folks started referring to their town as Sacramento City.

Not that Sacto City (as the “old timers” started calling it) was much of an improvement in living conditions over Saints Island. Both were dirty, unkempt, tumultuous, rough, tough, raucous, full of noise and confusion, without order or plan—except to make as much money as fast as possible with no restriction. The usual, true-blue American idea of freedom and boom-and-bust life, in other words.

The pace of the newly-born city was so torrid that it was difficult to keep track of the burgeoning population. The business rhythms were frenetic, necessarily so in the face of the mad, corybantic consumption levels of the hundreds of newcomers arriving daily. It was nothing to see boats busily unloading their cargoes at midnight, or to hear teamsters starting out their long hauls at three in the morning through the middle of town, prodding mules and oxen with “GEE-HAW!” and “HEY, NOW! HEY, NOW!”

These omnipresent hums of commerce were the warp-and-woof of the internal rhythms of Brenalt & Lowe, and those two men set-to with an energy of expansion that was in keeping with the activity around them.

 

          *             *             *

 

Despite major calamities, the city kept growing. A big fire raged for two days and razed most of the old buildings, but newer ones quickly replaced them with the wondrous redwood from new sawmills on the Mendocino coast.

A series of warm rains then melted the mountain snow-pack quicker than normally, causing the Sacramento River to out-run its banks and sprint into thousands of basements. The torrent made it into the first floor of many businesses, American Pride included, ruining hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock in the process.

But this was still gravy--compared to getting to the Promised Land by clipper, mule, dugout, prairie schooner, and boot leather. Those undaunted business pioneers of the new West just out-waited the surging waters, laid in new supplies, and threw up levees on the river banks.

The population surrounding Sacramento City bulged and surged much like the spring thaw, but this inundation brought only abundance to American Pride. Besides seeds of many varieties, the new farmers wanted plows, harrows, wagons, steel for horse shoes and wagon wheels  ETCETC INVENTORY??

Brenalt made frequent trips in San Francisco, as he sought to coordinate wider frontiers of their efforts. In speaking to business clubs, farmers’ associations picnics, moving among stock sales with ranchers, he was becoming more and more the voice of the State’s agricultural community. It soon became obvious to Brenalt that such a voice needed amplification. He mused about starting a newspaper devoted to the advancement of agriculture in California. But where…?

          *             *             *

 

     It was early, that crispy fall of 1853. Harry Dux was atop the ladder, fixing the sign to the front of their new store on J Street, while Livingston supported it from below. From his perch Harry gazed up and down the muddy, rutted street with its various wagons, mules, horses, Chinese and Anglo miners on foot.

“Anything interesting this morning, Harry?” Livingston asked.

“The usual scatterins’ of Podunk miners chasing broke dreams.”         

Brenalt quickly broke in: “And I see a great significance.

We are the only ones in all of the Sierras offering top-quality, fully gar-on-teed hardware supplies.

With those words, a bewhiskered old salt rolled up in a buckboard with two mules and heaved to a sudden stop. He squinted his rheumy eyes at the sign.

“What the hell’s a “hardware?”       

“Why, that’s the newest name,” Livingston explained, “for all manner of tools you might need for mining and

farming. We got it all: horseshoes, horse collars, axes, hammers—“

“Got any shovels?”

“You betcha, old timer. Here, let me get you one.”

“More like 30. And 30 picks while yer at it. Long’s they ain’t soft, like.”

Livingston was puzzled: “Soft?”

Yeah, soft. They ain’t soft picks, ere they? Hain’t got no use for no software.”

Brenalt reassured the miner, “Our tools are guaranteed to

outlast a working man’s best efforts. Does that sound like

software? You just come on in here and we’ll fix you up

proper-like.”

 

The old timer clambered down, and followed Brenalt inside. Livingston stood outside welcoming three other men on foot entering the store. He rubbed his hands with pleasure, and looked up at the sign once again with a swelling heart:

    AMERICAN PRIDE

 

Hardware & Sundries for Success

 

      BRENALT & LOWE, prop.

By then California had been a State in the Union just a little over three years, with a population estimated at around 220,000. (This of course did not enumerate Native Americans, Chinese and californios.) Already Sacramento City’s population stood at somewhere around 17,000, with men outnumbering women three to one.

The beginning of the year brought another bad flood. The town council tried to establish another city center nearer the American River, but found it simpler to do something about the streets that in winter were lakes of mud and in summer oceans of swirling dust. The Council finally coalesced in opinion enough to grade and then plank the principal business streets—from Front at I to M Streets, and then from the levee to 12th—all filled in with dirt to above flood plain, and covered with heavy planking 28 feet wide.

Other signs of civic pride were in evidence: the shacks and other ramshackle structures that went up in ’49 and ’50 were steadily giving way to solid, substantial edifices—some even two-storied and constructed with brick. An identifiable residential section appeared, with people building permanent homes, and landscaping with trees, shrubs, cutting gardens, and lawns.

Prosperity was still on everyone’s mind in 1853, but not at the garishly vulgar levels of ’49, when a fella would pull out ten or 15 dollars in coin from his breeches to throw away because the cash was too heavy to carry on his way to finding abundant gold in the mines.

Business was healthfully steady and profuse. Families continued to emigrate (30,000 families that year alone), and the quantity of cattle, horses, and sheep coming in was far greater than ever seen in any season. Produce finally began to be abundant at low prices. San Francisco continued to sprawl and boom. Indeed, everything looked prosperous and rosy to the American business community.

But it was like building without plan or blueprint in front of you. For the Anglos of California in the 1850’s, there was no past! What a heady intoxicant: to be liberated from the stuffiness of established Victorianism! In long-settled New England, it was easy to blend future with the past, because the present bowed to the status quo. But in this new land, in this California of such promise, present and future were bound to no traditions other than the glory of profit and expansion.

So it came to pass that Brenalt and Lowe were bound by their gods of commerce to feed the voracious appetites of a swelling number of farmers, ranchers, homesteaders, company mining concerns and railway expansionism. This they did by opening the doors of their two stores at daybreak, not to close until an hour past sunset. After closing, the three of them—Sam, Livingston, and Harry—went out for a quick supper, then returned to work until 10 or 11 p.m.

Dux pulled and placed new stock, Brenalt handled bookkeeping, and Lowe arranged purchasing through export-import avenues and personal contacts with business acquaintances and family connections in Boston. Sometimes it was midnight or 1 a.m. before they crumpled from exhaustion onto the singular cots they still maintained at their stores. It was feet on the floor by 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. every  morning following.

On Sundays, Brenalt hired a horse and buggy and rode out to visit farmers and learn their needs, wants and grousings first hand. Lowe stayed in the store and got out his letters and buying orders. Now and then he made a trip to San Francisco (“The City,” everyone called it) to take care of more secure banking, express and mail services. Dux might be spending his Sunday building extra shelves or bins, putting on price tags of newly-arrived goods.

It was your typical association of Type A’s obsessed with commercial profit; and without a clue about the fragile workings of the natural processes around them or how their hyper-activity might affect the ambient rhythms already in place for tens of thousands of years. This was a belligerence rarely seen in the evolution of man.  The intent of their discordant machination of modern commerce was dead-set on achieving their definition of ‘success,’ no matter the cost (but the cheaper, the better). Well, they did die trying—and have succeeded, though not in the sense they fancied: they and their commercial successors are well on the way to taking all surrounding life forms with them in the attempt.

“What an exact and true example of free enterprise!” boomed Lowe one Saturday. American Pride #2 had grossed $5,000 that day, within their first week of opening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 25

 

Tai Ying’s eyes sprang open with the first scrapes reverberating faintly through the thick walls. The next instant was all a-tumble with crumbling bricks, mortar pieces launched across the cell space, and light—outside light from torches!

A flood of torch heads thrust through the hole pierced in the wall. Torch heads, belching sooty clouds, were being thrust through the hole in the wall. Voices were shouting in Chinese, oaths cast in several other languages.

Lai la! Lai la! Gege Tai-Kun! Brother Big Stick, over here, over here.”

Buddha’s Turtle! Thought Tai Ying, my Tong brothers to the rescue!

          *                  *             *

“The mandarins draw their power from the law;
the people, from the secret societies.” -

Ancient Saying

 

     Humans need secret societies. They’re our safety valve, socially and psychologically. They allow us to not feel so victimized about our existence. Westerners are confused about secret societies simply because we don’t read history—real history, not the state-mandated bilge.    You do the research and it’s unavoidable to notice three things:

1)     Secret societies exist to help members fight against a common oppressor (the Colonial Congress was a good example).

2)     Secret societies change as they get older.

3)     A society’s success in achieving its material goal is inversely proportional to its philosophical degradation and ethical demise.

If we’re confused about the nature of western secret societies, their aims and development, (the Masonic Lodge, the Federal Reserve, the CIA, or even Congress, for example), we haven’t a clue about the Chinese counterparts.

 

If a Westerner reads tong or triad, a whole set of opinions and mind-sets is put into motion, usually negative in assumption, and often correct—but only if you’re thinking about the infamous and the most recent examples. First thing to do is to understand the differences between “tong” and “triad.”

By definition and history tongs were not inherently criminal associations. Strictly linguistically, tong means “hall” or “association of people.” That’s it. And that’s the way it stayed defined, as mutual benefit societies for people with a common interest, for about the first 1000 years. A common purpose of the tongs was to collect & invest membership dues & initiation fees in insurance funds for the indigent, unemployed, widows & orphans of deceased members, funeral expenses, etc.

These societies came about because the government’s infrastructure could not meet the needs of the people. No government likes to face its failures. In order to cover its own butt, a culture’s status quo tends to regard unrecognized organizations as illegal or dangerously marginal, and that forces the society into an underground status of utmost secrecy.

Finally, in the 10th century, the Chi Mei (Red Eyebrows) Society made history as they emerged fully politicized and in full public eye to fight the Han Dynasties—unsuccessfully, but they did sow seeds of hope of change for other tongs in their losing effort.

     As foreign invaders began ruling the Chinese (Mongols in the 13th and 14th centuries; Manchurians from 17th to 20th centuries), the tongs underwent vast functional, structural, and ideological changes. They still strove to be benevolent, filling gaps to enhance the peoples’ well-being. But they added a distinct military component to their nature, including both self-defense and aggressive campaigns against the foreigners.

Both the Mongols and Manchus formed state structures to suppress the native Chinese Han peoples. Under the second emperor of the Qing, Kang Hsi, secret societies, as well as religious organizations like Buddhism and Taoism were outlawed and their monasteries shut.  Taoists priests caught selling charms were executed, Buddhism was shut down, and secret societies members were actively pursued. 

Instead of the banned secret societies dissolving, they went underground creating pro-Ming, anti-Qing insurrections.  One such society was the Hung Society.  It was the Hung which coined the battle cry of 'Fan qing-fuk ming,' or “Overthrow the Qing, restore the Ming.”

Many Chinese Tongs revolved around smuggling & (again, such as the Colonial Congress) tax-evasion, or clandestine self-control of certain trades (in opposition to State control), or insurrectionary political or religious aims (overthrow of the Manchus for example).

By the start of the 19th century, there were over 300 million Chinese, but there was no industry or trade of sufficient scope to absorb the surplus labor. Moreover, the scarcity of land led to widespread rural discontent and a breakdown in law and order. The weakening through corruption of the bureaucratic and military systems and mounting urban pauperism also contributed to these disturbances. Localized revolts erupted in various parts of the empire in the early nineteenth century. Secret societies, such as the White Lotus sect in the north and the Triad Society in the south, gained ground, combining anti-Manchu subversion with banditry.

There was such devastation in the north that many youths were forced to migrate south. For survival and protection, these youths banded together into non-elite groups of differing surnames, in stark contrast to the hierarchies of age and divisions of wealth, family lineage, and village status that had so characterized the earlier societies.

Societies sharing a similar ideology, ritual, and terminology spread all along the SE China coast. In times of peace the secret societies functioned as fraternal organizations. Poor peasants, itinerant workers, and others who lacked strong kinship ties found security in the fraternal ties and in the protection offered by the societies.

Secret codes were developed, to frustrate the emperor's spies. However, this secrecy, and the martial arts training, eventually led to the associations being used for criminal purposes, instead of political ones.  But they often became involved in criminal activities and at times armed conflict with rival groups occurred.

The Taiping Rebellion (1850–64) brought a revival of secret-society militancy and anti-Manchu sentiment, but the resultant strife left the economic structures of several provinces in shambles.

Gold Mountain provided the pressure relief that China needed and men began to flock to California, Oregon and British Columbia. The tongs and triads stepped up to fill their ancient mandates of welfare, commerce and political recruitment.

          *             *             *

 

The Chinese people mostly kept to themselves when they relocated to various foreign countries, maintaining a strong national and cultural identity.  Those persons from a particular province or town tended to feel they had a bond with others they met from the same area, even though they may have never met before their migration to a foreign country.  Chinatown and the tongs continued to be an extension of the connections to the motherland. These were expressions of cultural identity and mutual self-help.

The majority of those tongs that re-located in North America were fraternal associations based on clan, surname or locale. These benevolent societies looked after the welfare of their members and played a major role in the mining camps where the men were isolated from their friends and family.

A tong served not only as a meeting hall but also as a gambling hall, restaurant, saloon, community center, boarding house, hospital, old age home, and as family for the single men. The family is the central focus of Chinese life and the tongs were necessary to fill this void in the camps. The members would come to sit, visit, eat, and perhaps play a game of Mah Jong, dominoes or Fan Tan, over tea.

These associations helped the Chinese cope with the cultural and racial conflicts, and served as a political organization dedicated to protecting Chinese rights and preserving the language and culture. The tongs provided services for ancestor worshipping, celebrations, such as Chinese New Year, and observing important feast days. In some cases, it also served as a court and resolved disputes between members.

Profits from gambling helped to keep the tongs operating and to provide many services. These services included accommodations for new arrivals, helping members find jobs, tending to the sick, paying funeral expenses, providing mail services, writing letters to family back home, and helping ailing members return to China while still alive or after their death. If death came unexpectedly, it was the custom to have the bones of the deceased returned to China.

During the 1840s and 1850s, the sheer weight of the new influx of thousands of Chinese immigrants to California prompted a darker need: protection from whites. Resentment by whites against Chinese immigrants was intense. Many Chinese worked as manual laborers on railroads and in gold mines. "Tong gangs," which were unheard of in China, were common in the railroad construction camps. In time, they expanded to large urban areas such as San Francisco.

The stalwart Confucian upbringing of these peoples has taught them that they must watch their backs, and their brothers linked by language, region, and lineage .  Associations were created using this system, creating a security net for all those involved.  These “security nets” rapidly evolved into something much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 26

 

 

Tai Ying didn’t need any encouragement. He was already on his feet moving toward the gaping wall, shouting “Hung Muhn! My brothers! Here I am!”

Three rescuers appeared through the breach, and promptly bowed deeply to Tai Ying.

“I am glad you are here. But just who the hell are you guys?” Tai Ying asked.

 “I am Kidi, First Enforcer. May we escort you to more comfortable surroundings?”

Tai Ying started to step through the hole, but felt something behind him, pulling for his attention. When he turned around, Yana was staring with wide eyes at Tai Ying, surrounded by smoke and dust.

“If you nurture his call, our people will endure.” Yana could not only hear her vision, but she also saw the eagle’s features transposed on Tai Ying’s face. Great Gods! She thought: Is he the connection?

Yana moved to take a step toward Tai Ying. Her shackles and chains stretched, then restrained her movement so that she couldn’t avoid the man who ran over her in confusion. TAI YING TURNS and disappears through the black hole. As guards finally poured in the door, a great deal of smoke and dust helped cover his escape.

Several pairs of hands reached through the rubble to grab him. He was immediately bundled into a great coat and a fedora jammed on his head. The group melted into the inky, ambiguous animus of the heavy fog of that San Francisco night before the dust had settled. Free at last!

With men yelling behind them, Muskrat Bone quickly helped Yana to her feet to join the rest of the Chumawei band trying to hobble out in leg irons.

A uniformed Lieutenant barked orders for men to drag the Chumawei back in. “Get those heathen down to the temporary holding tank! They’re only here ‘til morning anyway.”

Meanwhile out on the Embarcadero, Tai Ying and his rescuers dug in for a hard sprint up California Street. Two of the young men turned around to chuck the burning brands at their uniformed pursuers.

“Loy ge hai dai!” one of the young Chinese yelled. “C’mon ya cowards!” With much uproar of the chase behind them, the two youths continued to rip up California, while Tai Ying and three others hung a hard right onto Montgomery.

Halfway down the block four Irish toughs staggered out the swinging doors of The Shamrock pub, and confronted that strange sight with a barricade of their beefy bodies.

“I kinna believe me oon eyes, ladies,” slurred the biggest one. “Am I soo taken with stroong drink that I moost coonjoor oop sootch luck as two fuggin Chinee in oor toorf noo?”

All four Irishmen drew various weapons as they approached the four Chinese. Big Jim-Boy appeared to lower his knife as he stepped toward Tai Ying.

A second Irishman tried to divert Ying’s-Ying’s attention. “But Jim-boy, far sartain they dinna knew this is noo Chinee-toon. Might be they’re boot misplaced noo.”

Jim-Boy answered without taking his eyes off Tai Ying, waiting for Tai Ying’s attention to weaken. “Right you ere, ‘e might be ‘ere in friendship, like. Right, poot ‘er ‘ere, man.”

Jim-Boy took another step, extending his right hand, and all the others to start circling Ying-Ying.

Ying-Ying didn’t have much time to consider how odd that was because Jim-Boy went for Tai Ying’s face with a left hooking slash. Tai Ying countered with a right outward block as his left hand speared Jim-Boy’s trachea. Predictably, Jim-Boy reacted by choking and clutching at his throat. Tai Ying took advantage of this by jumping up to spring off the head of Jim-Boy for an aerial spinning axe-kick into attacker #2, who slammed backwards into a wall.

A third man then swung a chain at Tai Ying’s head. Tai Ying ducked to let the chain wrap around the man’s neck, then grabbed it to pull hard as he pivoted. The man spun like a top into the Irish kicked against the wall, and they both go down. The fourth man over-handed an iron pipe towards the top of Tai Ying’s head. Tai Ying blocked with the chain and simultaneously thrust-kicked into the man’s gut, smacked him alongside the head immediately after with the chain, then grabbed the pipe and bounced it off the other side of the attacker’s head.

Ten seconds passed from the initial attack to the last blow, and the Chinese rescuers did nothing—nor were they attacked. What is this? wondered Tai Ying briefly.

The four Chinese resumed their flight up Montgomery until they reached Clay. Tai Ying and the leader Kidi peeled off left onto Clay, while the other two continued straight. Tai Ying followed Kidi through Portsmouth Square to duck into Ross Alley.

The deep shadows of that alley caused Tai Ying to nearly run on past their destination. Kidi waved him into a tiny portal in one wall, bowed and opened the door for Tai Ying.

Tai Ying glanced up before he stepped: above the arch the Chinese script said “Pai Ma Pi Gum San.”

    “Stroke the Horse’s Butt on Gold Mountain Benevolent Assn”--bullshit, thought Tai Ying. More like Triad Hdqtrs.       “Pockmarked Choy awaits your arrival, Red Stick,” urged Kidi.

 

          *             *             *

The thought of throwing off the yoke of grinding poverty, of freeing one’s family from suffocating serfdom so common in the countryside, became a rallying cry for tens of thousands of southern Chinese immigrants of the time.

But they were rubes, country bumpkins who were finessed every step of the way by the commercial interests of cosmopolites half-way around the world.

The official pitch was this: ya git yer ticket now, ya pay when ya get there. Of course this was a writ of indenture, a wink-and-a-nod towards the legality of enslaving a hard-working population willing to survive for pennies on the dollar of investment. Immigration to the U.S. was officially sanctioned by two ways: the credit-ticket system, (with the ticket to be repaid out of earnings); and the contract-labor system, in which the emigrant works for an American company for a specified number of years. The cunning loopholes in these systems were liberally indulged in, of course. The outright kidnapping of the coolie (from ku-li, or “eat bitter”) for slave labor was the most outrageous in its outright trickery, but it was the most honest.

Fully 99% of all Chinese in California originated in Canton Province, and from only 21 of its 72 counties. The logistical reason for that great preponderance of Cantonese was self-evident: the convenient accessibility of Hong Kong for “coolie clippers” bound for Gold Mountain.

But underlying that was a weightier cultural matter: the Chinese penchant for hierarchical association, if not an outright addiction to established pecking order.  While this so-Chinese characteristic enhanced the aims of the Americans in securing cheap and ready labor, it also provided them with a source of long-term headaches.

This parallel system has vexed western culture from ancient times to the present: the well-organized fraternal organization. As they grew in membership, area of involvement, and influence, these brotherhoods brought together anyone willing to join/—often with extreme prejudice--/, be he from the same bloodlines or have the same village-province-national identity./—often with extreme prejudice.

So when the Chinese arrived in Gold Mountain to find their options of livelihood very curtailed, these fraternal organizations stepped in to fill the void of furthering their brethren.

If they were still alive when the ocean vessels swung into SF Bay (and sometimes 20% did not), the workers were met by a swarm of slave brokers, company representatives looking to fetch their “investments,” Chinese sharks collecting their indentured low-end chum floating in the socio-economic food-current, not to mention vast numbers of assorted Barbary Coast predators, and US Customs officials.

No wonder those unsophisticated country boys high-tailed it for the first protectorate they could find: the fraternal cum-welfare associations, which promised them, for a hefty monthly dues subscription, a pallet in a roomful of other bachelors, a shot at a menial laboring job, and (most important) protection.

After all, those country people stuck out from the dominant Anglo culture with their funny clothes and incomprehensible language and customs. The two biggest strikes against them, though, were that they were not white and they were poor.

But the Chinese also needed protection from one another. Blood and regional ties were exceptionally strong in the 19th Century. The cultural values and historical facts did not include independence and solitary effort as viable ways of making it to old age.

So you became a joiner to survive. You joined whoever would take you, whomever was not at war with your past or present associations, you joined with other fishermen, you joined with your clan, you joined with your kung-fu brothers, you joined a business collective, or a group of poetry lovers, and even a bunch of fellow kao-liang rice wine lovers.

The all-powerful 8 Leagues, California’s first Chinese-led corporation, leaped forward into the breach like a great feral beast in a cannibalistic chow-down. Stretching a web of influence between San Francisco, Vancouver, Canton, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, these not so mild-mannered businessmen referred to themselves as “The Association of Great Chinese Benevolence.” Their stated mission was “to assist Chinese to come to California, to minister to the sick, to bury the dead, and to return Chinese corpses to Chinese soil.” Of course, the reality took on a different hue: population control via labor subscriptions and gangs (tongs or Triads), opium cargoes coming in as foodstuffs, arms and gold bullion going out in coffins bound for Mother China.

Originally the 8 were separate units, agents of Chinese firms in Canton and Hong Kong which established coolie trade. Canton was divided into 72 districts, 7 of which constituted 90% of all Chinese in the USA. They amalgamated into one organization because then it was easier to protect the interests of China in legal matters. The board members of the 8 Leagues were, in public view, upstanding and well-to-do merchants. The heads of the board were de facto spokesmen for the Imperial Government, as no Chinese embassy or consulate yet existed in the United States.

The 8 Leagues entered into many extra-legal agreements with ship owners. One was that a shipping vessel should sell no tickets to returning Chinese unless they had a certificate from the 7 Companies indicating no debts were outstanding in The City. If an individual showed up at the dock without a receipt, he could pay the Company’s inspector his fees on the spot. A refusal to pay meant that he would go, “with all due aid of American laws keeping him from boarding the steamer,” straight to Sailors Prison. Not many refused to pay.

A coolie who rushed to Gold Mountain willingly allowed the affiliation to his district’s representative to take precedence over clan association, his trade guild, and his fraternal society or tong. At least, until he became wealthy enough to not have to be a ward of the district in China. And in spite of the burdensome racist and protectionist limitations of the dominant Anglo culture, it really didn’t take the most industrious much time to be able to have a degree of independence not possible in the motherland.

However, the stark fact of collectivism (being the real force behind cultural assimilation and betterment of working and living conditions for the Chinese) brought the 8 Leagues’  membership in San Francisco to 40,000 by 1860.

This strength came because officers and committeemen of each of the various guilds, associations and societies joined to form a congress with the 8 Leagues, complete with the board of presidents. This coordinating board was the real power in Chinatown, until challenges were issued by the toughest fighting tongs.

Oddly enough, it was the white businessmen who were responsible for the Triad crime wave that swept over The City through the last half of the 19th Century.

          *             *             *

Tai Ying slipped into the tiny portal off Ross Alley, and followed Kidi down a dark hallway into dimly lit room with a bare, western-style desk. Pockmarked Choy slouched behind it, chewing on an apple.

Large, fat, and disgusting in any culture, his bulk overflowed the chair. With both feet up on the desk, he sported American leather shoes and a western style suit. His sneer indicated as much disdain for the respected “Guardian of Chiu Chao Gates,” as his shoes off the floor: didn’t even fear Tai Ying enough to have his feet firmly planted. Four lieutenants flanked him, each similarly attired, but with Chinese over-jackets half-concealing double knives and pistols jutting out their sashes.

“Sic fan may ah? Have you eaten rice yet?” Pockmarked Choy opened the dialog in a traditional manner. But the fact that he did not rise and that he launched the words with flecks of apple belied his true face.

Muhd liu ah, fei lo Choy! What the hell is happening here, Chubby Choy?” Tai Ying shot back.

The Boo-How-Doy lieutenants stiffened at his lack of etiquette. The one standing next to Choy began to step forward, bringing out two small hatchets hidden in his waistband. Tai Ying reached back with both hands to extract several needle-darts hidden in his long hair braid.

He quickly whipped the first one into the attacker’s outer wrist; the second needle struck the web of the other hand. The third chunked into Choy’s apple. The boo-how-doy’s arms were paralyzed, and the hatchets thudded to the floor, while he stood there disabled and looking confused.

Tai Ying was cocked and ready for another throw, but no one else moved a muscle. Tai Ying stepped forward to remove the needles. The hatchet-man whined a little bit as he massaged his wrists. Choy bounced the apple off his soldier’s head in disgust. Two other men then began to move menacingly toward Tai Ying.

“No, no, he’s just off the boat,”  Pockmarked Choy waved them back. He was struggling to maintain face, so he addressed Tai Ying with a directive: “Ah, you are a subordinate here, that’s what’s happening.”

“Is the shrimp trying on a lobster’s tail here?” Tai Ying nearly spit it out. “I am Hung Muhn, you are Chee Kung. Our families do no business together in Canton.”

“Our blood families, maybe not. But your spiritual Father approves this meeting.” Pockmarked Choy knew he had the upper hand and waited for this barbed gibe to sink in.

     Tai Ying stammered in frustration. “Lei sai po-- Gau hmm dap bah? Ding nei gor fei! Shifu Chan would never—  What is this crap? I’d rather  kiss your phlegmmy lungs than—“

Choy slapped the desk with his large paw. “Careful! Debts have been paid. Boo-hoo-doy zon lap ji dan bay nei bow tong. These hatchet boys may bring you a bullet to make soup with, if you are careless.”

     But Tai Ying was far from contrite. “If these ping soldiers are anything like what I’ve seen tonight, they will drop the bullet in the honey bucket.”

     Pockmarked Choy managed to move his mass in an upward posture and drew a revolver from a holster hidden under his coat. “Enough!” he declared, slamming it on the desk. “The Abbot Chan Dat Moh will advise you tomorrow of your new alliances.” Choy snapped his fingers. “Kidi!” 

Kidi reached into his sash to hold up a key, flipped it to Tai Ying.

----------------  

ALTERNATE>Choy snapped his fingers. “Kidi!” He fished around in his sash, held up a key, and flipped it to his soldier.

-------------------

“Your room on Washington Street,” said Choy. “Hai gum seen, Ching,” he dismissed Tai Ying, jerking his thumb toward the door. “That’s it, sweetie, bye now.”

Tai Ying backed cautiously towards the door, Kidi followed.

“Oh, one other thing: Don’t forget the silver??????????? on Wednesday,” Choy barked. ?????????????

     Tai Ying hoped he didn’t know/wasn’t quite sure what the fat man meant, but he didn’t ask. He just wanted to get out of that den of vipers, even if they were the ones providing his first pallet for his first night in Little China.

              *             *             *

Chinatown! It was the first Little China Tai Ying had ever encountered, and there wasn’t much of it—only a few blocks long, from California Street northwards, and 2 blocks wide, from Kearny to Stockton. Many of the streets in between had Chinese names. Washington Street was Wa Sheng Shong Hong ("Waystation to Prosperity Street"), Stout's Alley was Lou Shong Hong ("Old Mexican Gambler Alley") and Waverly Place was Ten How Mui Gai ("Ten How Temple Street"). Dupont Gai was the main throughway in the middle of it all.

 

All day long, until wee hours of the night, the boardwalks were crowded with Chinese, nearly all of them men with shaven crowns and neatly braided cues, speaking several dialects as they sauntered slowly along in front of the Dupont Gai’s storefronts, conversing, visiting, trading, laughing, and scolding one another over prices. It was rare to ever see a Chinese woman in California in 1850, unless you visited a brothel. Absolutely no children were evident.

 

Brightly painted balconies were everywhere hung with Chimes and suspended paper lanterns decorated with flowers and birds. Shop windows were stuffed with plain and fancy clothing with brocades and embroideries, bronze lamps and statues, delicate porcelain figurines, jade jewelry and ivory carvings, figurines of coral, and rose crystal glassware. Boarded spaces between shops were busy with bulletins and announcements inscribed with red-bright ideographs.

 

Pervading all the district were the aromas prevalent in any Chinese population: the mélange of dried plants in the herbal drugstores, sandalwood incense, the thick sweetness of burning opium, mixes of various raw meats and roasted fowl, counter- pointed by the sharp freshness of green vegetables.

 

There were laundries, dry goods, small cafes and large restaurants, food stalls, tea and herb shops, butcher shops, vegetable stands, barber shops—every type of goods and services needed was available, but not out of choice. It was dangerous for Chinese to go even one street beyond the boundaries of Little China. Only those who worked for a white household dared to do so, and not always without paying for their trespass. The Chinese businessmen tried to avoid competition with white businesses, and generally kept things ‘Chinese for the Chinese.’

 

              *             *             *

 

The next morning Tai Ying walked through a particularly thick Chinatown fog. It was his first experience in a racial ghetto, and the fog wasn’t helping that closed-in feeling he had. He paused on Jackson Street before turning onto the dead-end of Tien Hau Mui Gai , or Waverly Place, as the gwei-lo knew it.

The fog was so thick that he couldn’t make out even half-way down the street. Not a soul stirred; the fog clung to his skin like cold, thin soup. He continued walking. A crow sounded nearby as he turned into a gate painted gold. The arches proclaimed “Gold Mountain Temple Meditation Hall” in large, red Chinese ideographs.

In the reception room Tai Ying lit several sticks of incense, and walked into the Inner Meditation Hall to place the sticks before the altar of ancestors. No one else was present. After bowing he sat to meditate. The only movement was his breathing, slow as incense trails.

An hour later Abbot Chan entered with robes flowing.

 Ama-to-fo! Beit loy mo yeung le ma! Buddha bless!

It is so good to see my senior student again!”

Tai Ying kowtowed on the floor, and remained there. The Abbot reached down to lift him to his feet. Tai Ying performed the martial salute to his old teacher, palm over fist, and remained in a deep bow.

“Chan Shifu!” Tai Ying exclaimed.

“You are a friend as well, Eldest Son. Come, let old

friends get caught up.

Both men sat on cushions, facing one another. A young disciple came in bearing a tea tray. Tai Ying poured for the Abbot. He placed a cup in front of the old man with a respectful ceremony before pouring his own. No conversation ensued until both men had swiped the steam away with the cup lids.

 “I understand you have met dai-lo Pockmarked Choy.”  Abbot Chan scrutinized his student’s face carefully before continuing. “I feel pretty bad about it too.”

Tai Ying shrugged. “We have had disappointments

before.”

The Abbot snapped his eyes at that. “We may yet bring order to this fat disappointment.”

Tai Ying’s eyes narrowed slightly on hearing this. “Just what is my obligation, Shifu?”

“I pledged your initiation into Chee Kung Tong as their Chief Enforcer.”

Tai Ying was stunned. “To what end? Choy’s ass makes

a big sucking sound with every word. Is it not our sworn duty

to aid our people, to keep them from persecution, to help them

find jobs?

Ji gay yau, mai hoy cheung. Lower your weapon, we’re on

the same side,” the Abbot admonished. “That will not change. You came here a Hero of the people, and will remain so, only now more informed, more influential.

“I bow to your far-seeing wisdom, Master.”

“Actually, the Chee Kung is not our biggest problem—they will disappear with the next storm in China. But now we have this force of Police Specials…” 

“`But now…?’” Tai Ying queried. “What undercurrents

move these ‘Specials’?

The Abbot sighed. “The usual concerns of a secular world built on greed: kick-backs, protection money, turning a fox’s eye toward opium traffic. It’s all a bit much for an old monk… but I’ve had help.” He picked up a small bell and shook it.

Dan Wu entered wearing western clothes, short hair, and a broad smile. He bowed to the Abbot as Tai Ying jumped to his feet. Both men exchanged martial salutes, then embraced strongly, warmly.

Ho hing dai Wu! Good Brother Wu! For a minute there I thought you were a Gwei Lo cross-dressed like a Chinese!

“Yeah, Frisco does that to you. You look the same, Big

Brother, like the righteous man everyone always talks about.”

Wu paused, then went on: “Well, the Hung Mun definitely needs a Hero in these times.”

“Enough of that Hero crap. Hey, what’s that on your neck?”

“Tigress tracks from last night,” Wu bragged.

“Looks like what’s left of Chicken curry stains to me. Don’t you wash?” Tai Ying loved to bait his friend whenever possible.

     The old man shifted uncomfortably and rose to his feet. “Well, you boys have a lot to talk about.” The two young men rose and bowed as the Abbot left the room.

Tai Ying turned to Wu. “Sure would like to know what’s going on, Brother. Why is Master linking us with the Chee Kung trash?”

“He is in an embarrassing position. Only small numbers

of Chinese are allowed entry, and the Chee Kung has paid officials in place. No cooperation, no Hong Mun. And we needed you here.”

Tai Ying punched a fist into his palm. “Yes, yes—‘debts have been paid.’ I see, I see.”

“Unfortunately,” Wu said carefully, “we haven’t picked up all the stinking fish yet. Any idea where the real gold is on this mountain?”

“They tell me I just got off the boat.”

Chinatown real estate. The 8 Leagues owns this and most other buildings. The Chee Kung dominates their board. Stir in the Police mobilizing Irish gangs to encourage us to leave, and—“

“I have already run into that welcoming committee.”

“It gets a lot worse. The cops publicly denounce the Chee Kung, but both work together with the military and customs to bring slaves and opium in from China. The Irish Ducks then ‘protect’ the Embarcadero so that arms can make the orbit back.”           

Tai Ying shrugged. “Well, that sounds like business back home, too.”

“Yeah, but this definitely isn’t like back home,” Wu said, reaching into a back pocket. “From Sacramento City.” He held out a folded newspaper written in Chinese.

“Brothers being slaughtered by the hundreds in mining camps by White Ghosts!” Tai Ying glanced at Wu before going on, “‘…as hunters kill a covey of quail.’ Buddha’s spittle!”

“Shifu thinks it’d be a good idea for you put an end to

that.” Wu paused to look pointedly at Tai Ying. “By the way, the first thing the gangs look for is a queue.”

“How’s that? I have to pretend to be in disguise?” Tai Ying was irritated.

“Well, at least you’ll lose it to a Chinese.”

“What you talking about?”

“I want you to become a member of the Chee Kung,” said a voice behind them. Master Chan continued, “Their Red Stick enforcer, as a matter of fact.”

Tai Ying spent the next minute fuming over this new development. Finally he asked, “And the Ah Fung? Will the Chee Kung Grandfather be there?”

“No one knows who the real leader is,” Chan responded. “And you aren’t important enough for him to show. The nominal Dragon Head is Bing Leong; he’ll be ceremonial master.”

“Anything else I should know, Sifu?” Tai Ying asked wryly.

“Do not pout like a schoolgirl!” Chan snapped. “We all make new sacrifices and alliances here. Not only will we not be there, you will have to deny further allegiance to Hong Mun brotherhood, on pain of execution. And they will expect you to donate considerably each month. You will start by turning over our Tong’s gift of silver to Leong.”

Tai Ying bowed an apology and sighed, “The Lord of Old Accounts rapes us, then charges us for the pleasure?”

Wu laughed and slapped his brother on the back. “Welcome to America.”

 

          *             *             *

 

Two days later Tai Ying walked into the principal meeting hall of the Chee Kung Tong. The low background yammer grew as he entered. The hall was crowded with Chee Kung soldiers standing at ease in their long cotton robes; the officers sat behind long tables against one wall. Most of the members were in evidence for the propitious act of initiating a well-known peoples’ hero into service as the Red Stick to impress their decisions onto the Tong membership throughout California.

Tai Ying scanned his surroundings, looking for emergency exits: one never knows. The principal object in the hall was the gilded shrine of Kwan-ti, God of  War. An altar fronted the shrine, with candlesticks, vases, incense burner, red packages, red silk flags. In the center of the altar was a short sword on a stand. The wall behind the table was hung with the Tong’s red triangle banner, and wooden tablets with names of the members.

Tai Ying, dressed in the same ceremonial garb as the soldiers, strode over to the middle table. He knew who occupied which office in the organization by where they were sitting: The Dragon Head was in the center, along with the incense master, the “straw sandal” recruiter, and the “white paper fan” secretary. On each side of them were the dai dai lo lieutenants of the Dragon Head; Tai Ying recognized Pockmarked Choy and Kidi in the flanking chairs. 

A distinctively scholarly-looking man, tall and thin, occupied the center chair with a Mandarin’s bearing: Bing Leong had the stare of a celestial lion staring down a mere mortal. Tai Ying snapped to a martial salute attention, raised one fist, covered it with the other palm, and bowed his head.

The room fell quiet as Leong stood up and strode over to the altar. Tai Ying immediately fell to his knees to follow along best he could—an intentionally humiliating moment.

Leong picked the sword out of its stand and lowered the naked blade towards Tai Ying’s bowed head. Tai Ying expected the steel to be cold as it moved to each side of his neck, but it was strangely warm, almost hot.

The blade lifted and lowered repeatedly as Leong asked if Tai Ying was ready to give his life to the support of his brothers and the tong, if Tai Ying understood that the oath was literal, should he betray the tong in any way. At that point, everyone knew that the questions were a mere formality, just nails in the coffin, you might say. But it still made Tai Ying’s skin crawl to answer “Yes” to each question. 

Finally Leong then paused with the blade raised above his head, gave Tai Ying a strange look, and suddenly reached down to stretch out Tai Ying’s queue. Tai Ying felt the air swish! behind his head, heard the hair fall behind him, felt a lightness to his head as he ridded himself of that symbol of his slavery to a thousand years of suppression.

 Tai Ying reached both hand forward, palms up. Leong handed him a small bowl from the altar, then passed the blade over Tai Ying’s palm.

Tai Ying clenched his fist to direct the blood into the bowl, then handed it to Leong. Leong replaced the bowl and the sword on the shrine.

Tai Ying stayed on his knees, withdrew from his robe a package wrapped in red silk, and with head bowed, proffered the gift with both hands. Leong pocketed the gift and helped Tai Ying to his feet.

The boo-how-doy immediately crowded around in welcome. Leong leaned close to say something in Tai Ying’s ear, grabbed some food and a bottle from the banquet table, and exited into the next room.

Daniel Wu was waiting there for Leong. Leong placed his food on the desk, withdrew the red silk package, and stretched it toward Wu. He grabbed Wu by the wrist: “For the Ah Kung’s eyes only!” Wu bowed and left through a back door. Leong sat behind his desk, opened the bottle of kaoliang wine and poured a generous glassful.

          *             *             *

 

Tai Ying had spent the last half hour lifting many a sam pai! toast, then drifted over to the office door to knock once before entering.

“Come in, First Enforcer.” Leong wiped the last of the food from his mouth.

“You wanted to see me, Kai-Yee?”

Leong began pouring glasses of kao-liang. “I wanted to personally express my pleasure at having your formidable expertise among our membership, First Enforcer.”

“It is my duty to further our Brothers, Kai-Yee,” Tai Ying said, accepting the proffered glass. “You have only to speak it.”

The two men toasted one another, and Leong got down to business. “Already you have been somewhat educated as to the nature of the Irish gangs. Did you know that they were created by well-heeled gwei-lo businessmen looking to run us out of Chinatown?”

“They have such heavy backing? I have heard only of Dux.”

“Dux is a only a hired hatchet man for some heavy Anglos. Can you believe this redneck refers to us Chinese as docile, whipped curs?”

“Done, Tai Ying responded, with some pleasure. “And his gwei lo bosses?”

“You’re thinking beyond your station. Brenalt and Lowe are too important to us in their ‘special imports’ business.”

“Opium, Kai-Yee?”

Leong took a gold case from his pocket, extracted a cigarrito. “That, and our pillow women properties from Canton—half our accounts. We may not be able to get to the powerful gwei-lo tai pan,” he paused to light up. “But we want you to cripple that ghost-fart Dux.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book II: The Illusion

 

Chapter 27

 

A folder slopped down on the wooden desk. Lieutenant O’Leary stood behind it, facing a room of 10 beefy uniforms in the briefing room at police headquarters in The City.

“Right. Let’s get started. As you know, there’s a lot of

Chinese hitting the streets these days in Frisco, mostly

contract laborers from Canton. But now--” and O’Leary paused for emphasis, “now we also got boatloads of pillow slaves and—What is it, Casey?”

“Excuse me, sar, but that’s been going on for many months

now,” an old veteran of the force spoke up. “Me ‘n the boys gave our report to the Cap’n six months ago and--“

“Yeah, yeah. But this is a different breed,” said O’Leary, dismissing the comment with a wave of his hand. “Ever since the Taiping Rebellion Boxers were squashed last year in south China, we suspect that the Triad has been infiltrated us heavily—Frisco, Chicago, New York, Philly. Those Triads are hell-bent on organizing the Chinese here—gambling, sex slaves, opium.”

“We got any intelligence on them Triad heathen, sir?” Casey broke in again.

“Our best snitches in the Chinatown alleys say the local Triads are the Chee Kung Tong. The Chee Kung recruits men from the agricultural ports of south China, men who don’t got nuthin else in mind other than working hard and returning home quick as possible.”

A flatfoot raised his hand. “Pardon me, sir, but this don’t appear malign on the face of it.”

“That it don’t--”the Lieutenant went on, “unless you understand how the whole damned situation is organized. Somehow, those yellas in China got it into their heads that things can get a little rough for coolies here.”

     “Hell, we jes try to give ‘em a hand up,” blurted one young, particularly large cop.

“Yeah, show us yer courtesy paws, Michael!” a man in the back yelled.

They all guffawed when Mike Delaney stood up, clenched two huge ham-fists together, and punched them together with an audible, meaty smack!

     “Sit down, Delaney,” ordered O’Leary, “save it for the ring.”

     “Right you are, Lieutenant,” Delaney said. “This Saturday I be heading the welcome wagon fer one a them that needs me hand in blessing.” Men laughed and cuffed one another in glee.

O’Leary continued with his briefing. “Now, when the laborers arrive here the Chee Kung Tong promises protection against the likes of Delaney here. The Chee Kung has been able to recruit 4,000 pigtails in the last five weeks alone.”

A lot of low groans and bitching ensued with that news.

     “Yeah, that’s a new tack,” O’Leary said. “At least they aren’t all here in The City.”

     “Where else, Lieutenant?” came a question from the back.

     “Mostly the Sierra diggings, Sacamenta City, Chico, and Reading up north. Boys, our gummint’s scared shitless that the moneyed Triad backers in China might be organizing a revolutionary guerilla army right here in California.” O’Leary waited for the low whistles to subside.

“There are tong soldiers gathering members and money to overthrow the current Chinese regime—one which our government just happens to support. Just a second.” The Lieutenant went to the door and leaned out to motion to someone in the hall.

Bing Leong followed O’Leary, then stood alongside, waiting confidently. He was dressed impeccably in western business attire, Bowler hat in hand. He passed the Lieutenant a handful of papers. As the Lieutenant reached, Leong wondered how many others of these men drawing a salary of less than $75- were flashing diamond rings and sporting gold-plated revolvers.

“You all know Bing Leong here—“

“Yeah, he sells stuff to the Celestials on Dupont Gai,” Delaney put in.

“And that’s how I want him to continue to be known,” the Lieutenant affirmed. He scanned the room intently. “He wasn’t present at this meeting, savvy?” O’Leary reached for the papers in

Leong stepped forward as O’Leary began handing out sketches. “Your Lieutenant is quite correct. The Chee Kung is here, and thriving.”

“You’ll notice something strange about the men in these drawings,” O’Leary pointed out.

“Yeah,” said Casey, “they got no queue braid, sir.”

“These are their soldiers,” Leong said, “the boo-how-doy.”

“Hatchet Men or Highbinders, we calls ‘em, sar,” put in one cop.

“In only eight weeks time,” the Lieutenant began, “the

Highbinders have organized several betting halls, a dozen houses of prostitution, and least three gangs of enforcers. These enforcers are quick to fight, quicker to kill.”

“And may I add, Lieutenant,” said Leong, “that extortion has raised its ugly head. The boo-how-doy now demands that every merchant subscribe to its protection services.”

“What’s the opinion of the Chinese business community as

how to handle the problem?” O’Leary asked.

“Very important question,” Leong responded cautiously, glancing around the room. “A big step has been taken since your Department assigned these “Specials” to replace the old Chinatown Task Force—found to be in the Tong’s employ.”

A couple of the uniforms shifted uncomfortably in their seats and glanced at one another.

“I would like to stress that the 7 Companies,” Leong continued, “as well as the Consul General of Imperial China,

direct me to offer you whatever assistance you need. “After all…” and he paused to give O’Leary an intent look, “…we all want to prosper here.” He then shuffled through a pile of papers on the desk. “By way, this is the head soldier, the Enforcer,” Leong noted, holding up a sketch. “His name is Tai Ying.”

 

          *             *             *

 

 

 

Lieutenant O’Leary knocked briefly on Police Chief John Doyle’s Office, then began to step inside when he almost ran over Abbot Chan exiting. Chan was dressed as a western businessman, complete with fedora.

     “Pardon me, Abbot, here let me…” said O’Leary, holding the door open wide. “Chief, ya told me to bring--”

“Yeah, yeah, right—get on in here, the both of youse,” the Chief ordered. After 23 years of service, big John Doyle (a “cop’s cop,” some said), was galvanized by the ways of the world. He bided neither useless action nor gilded speech. 

The Lieutenant and Bing Leong headed front and center to the Chief’s desk. On the desktop stood a miniature gallows with a real queue suspended by a miniature noose. Several more queues hung from a mantle behind the desk.

“Leong--got somethin’ for me, do ya now?” Chief Doyle didn’t look up from the file he was rummaging through.

Leong released a puff of smoke from his cigarrito, then bowed. He reached into an interior suit pocket, then stepped forward to place a small package, bundled with red paper, on the desktop. “Chief Doyle, 8 Leagues much honor subsclibe the Vigirante Committee Fund.”

     Finally Doyle looked up. “Well, there, Mister Leong. The Police Department does appreciate yer vote of confidence.” He opened a draw to slide the package out of sight. “O’Leary!”

“Sir?”

“I wancha to personally implement the ‘correct’ attitudes in the Special Task Force.”

“Leave it to me, sir.”

“There—you see, Mr. Leong?” the Chief said. “It’s settled before trouble even starts.”

“Chinee say, ‘Solving big ploblem with small solution,’” responded Leong. “Most wise, Chief Doyle.”

The Chief picked up the package, testing its weight. “And if the solution isn’t up to the task?”

“More bigger sorutions avairable.”

The Chief looked the tall Chinese up and down for a moment, wondering why this deceptively mild, certainly dangerous, unfathomable yellow prick always talked fukkin pidgin English to him. “Ahh. And what do you ‘Celestials’ call those?”

“We say that…” began Leong, letting his butt fall to the floor. He crushed it carefully, then looked up to lock eyes with the Chief. “That called ‘Stifring heat by setting small fire.’”

      Lieutenant O’Leary guffawed. “`Stifling the heat!’ I’ll have to-- Oh.”

The Chief threw O’Leary a look to shut up his face. “O’Leary—“

“I know, I know,” the lieutenant said, backing toward the door. “Go polish my nightstick.”

Leong turned to the Chief once the door closed. “Why your men stop us?” The Chief threw a quizzical look. “At docks. The 8 Reagues want send `Rittle Big Feet” back Canton.”

“`Rittle Big Feet’? Oh yeah, the young whores--they aren’t bound.” The Chief looked pensive for a moment. “Don’t unnerstand why not—more fun if they can’t run—“ he murmured almost to himself. “Never mind. Leong, we got our orders, just like you,” he barked. “Look here,” and he threw a sheaf of habeas corpus on the desk. “The lawyers got their orders, too.”

“Guhls too much tlouble, too much ploblem,” Leong shook his head.

“The girls are too much problem?”

“No, no, it your people. One gwei-lo use guhls more than 40 Chinese mens,” Leong complained.

“That’s exactly why you can’t let them leave. Too many important white dicks stirring Chinese honey pots.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 28

 

 

“Sergeant, get these prisoners below and outta sight! Look lively!” The pistoled U.S. Army Lieutenant stood aboard a U.S. coastal clipper berthed off the Embarcadero, watching the 35 Indians, chained and leashed, being pulled up the gangway by his Sergeant. Other armed uniforms followed the line of prisoners closely.

Yana scuffed to the head of the plank, then paused slightly, ostensibly to ease the ankle shackles; but she took the moment to scan the lay of the deck.

The Sergeant jerked the leash viciously. “Move it, ya damn Diggers!”

          *             *             *

“I’ll breathe a whole lot easier oncet we dump this lot off at Cape Mendocino tomorrow, sir,” the Sergeant said, once back up on the clipper’s deck.

The Lieutenant worked a chew of tobacco around his lower lip before answering. “Wouldn’t wanna be going where they’re headed, Sergeant,” he answered finally. “Round Valley Rez is a catch-all sump of heathen troublemakers from all over the State.”

“Hear tell the ranchers are huntin’ ‘em like deer.”

“Only one difference, Sergeant.”

“What’s that, sir?”

The Lieutenant spit overboard and wiped his Chin. “Ain’t no limit on the number of heathen savages ya can bag.”

The two men turned and went below to supervise their charges.

          *             *             *

The lighthouse rays pierced toward the clipper, then splayed toward land over the Mendocino cliffs, barely visible through the growing dusk. Four block-and-tackles squealed and squawked as two of the clipper’s dinghies were lowered into the sea. They were full of Indians, no longer shackled or cuffed, but noosed with rope. The Sergeant and three grunts were guarding the Indians.

The Lieutenant called down to a bobbing dinghy from the vessel’s deck. “Sergeant, I’ll meet you back here next Wednesday. Watch yer rear-end.” He couldn’t hear the response for the crashing of nearby surf.

Yana and Muskrat Bone were headed toward shore in the lead dinghy. They reconnoitered the beach being pounded by large waves. Muskrat Bone pointed with his Chin towards the beach. A squad of foot soldiers and two mounted officers were waiting on the beach for the dinghies.

“Run parallel, man—parallel!” the Sergeant called out to the scull men as they jerked towards the large breakers. Wait, now—wait for the opening!”

The lead dinghy breached the shore break. “Not yet, not yet! Stupid government man!” Muskrat Bone muttered. He and Yana stiffened and held tight best they could.

Both dinghies plunged prow first, up-ended, and everyone sucked foam to come up spitting and coughing. Yana and Muskrat Bone did the “otter” stroke on their backs and started kicking to shore.

A dozen Indians, the Sergeant, and all three of the other enlisted men washed up onto the beach. The natives disappeared into the dark in an instant. One of the mounted guard splashed into the surf, and leaped out of his saddle to help the Sergeant to his feet.

“Corporal, leave me be and get a search detail goin’ for the rest of them sodden ‘skins!”

“Straight away, Sarge!”

“And bring me a mount!”

*             *             *

It was dawn, and the escaped Chumawei padded along a forest footpath on the eastern slopes of California’s coastal mountains. Yana slowed to push a branch aside, looking both ways before moving ahead to look out over a precipice and a huge panorama. Muskrat Bone followed close behind.

The braves stood shoulder-to-shoulder to stare over the vast forest and towards their homeland, some 250 miles distant. Yana pointed with her Chin at the sun peeking between the tips of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen on the eastern horizon. As one, the band turned to start running down the path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 29

 

Livingston was relaxing in the overland coach back to Sacramento City. He leaned back in the deep velvet pile of the private stage and ruminated about the new changes imminent on the horizon of his young life. The volume of business at American Pride had been so continuous that he was able to take six months off for a long-anticipated liaison with a woman approved by himself and family alike. The couple had been married and embarked on a honeymoon voyage to California.

          *             *             *

Being a white bachelor in California during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s was the pits. First off, very few respectable white women would dare to put themselves in such a raw social ambience, including San Francisco. So if you were a young miner who mostly hung out in and around New Helvetia, Mormon City, Sacramento City or Placerville—well, the best you could hope for would be confliction during your whole California stay—that is, if you had a functional Christian value-system and still wanted to get your rocks off.

Actually, most of the young men were not conflicted about their sexual needs and values: they just took, bought, or stole what they wanted from whatever vagina was handy at the time. Sure, they did; saying it didn’t happen won’t change what did happen. And you were only conflicted if you didn’t suffer from the most common malady among the tens of thousands of men who gambled their lives and personal histories to make the trip to “quickly reap profits from that empty and wild land.” That malady was perceived failure in their great gamble.

After all, most of the miners did not get anywhere near rich. Aggressive sex was an easy way to assuage the irritation of being a failure. Well, it worked for awhile… But the constant dangling of the possibility of really raking it in, combined with the hard reality of actually making a meager go it, must have put an incessant irritation in the drawers of a lot of undisciplined men. No, sex was not the driving force behind these angry, contemptuous, hostile men with feelings of inadequacy. These types of men were not after a healthfully whole relationship in sex, society or self. Their driving need was—and continues to be—to assert their power through control and exploitation, no matter the arena.

But lest we overly burden the males of that epoch with all the culpability, we really should remember that the expression of one energy pole is in direct relation to its opposite. Meaning that, Anglo women helped to create the milieu that made sex crimes committed against Indian, Chinese, and Mexican women possible.

Men and women within a culture don’t act in a social vacuum, but integrally. If she (whom you value as a good woman) wants you to protect her, you attempt to do that—even if her fears are illusions. The frontier men were no different; they sought to live up to the overly protective and aggressive behaviors that their women expected of them.   

If she requires that you have a certain income before mating, you take on board her idea of wealth and strive to attain it. If she supports a social context in which some humans are servient, and if you are a poor white man with no money, you can demonstrate your “superiority” by raping women from an “inferior” social group.

*             *             *

Livingston was at an impasse. His feelings of sexual frustration were not unique of course. How many times had he needed to take a good stiff milk punch on the strength of after merely watching a saloon girl rub her leg!

He had written home a number of times in the past few years accounting his business successes in order to similarly account for his life as notated in the ledgers of his parents. But if one were reading closely enough, one would see that the young man suffering from a physical need of “the other half,” as he put it to his father. It wouldn’t do to speak to his mother so.

Of course our lad could have satisfied his physical needs quite easily in either Sacto City or San Francisco, where a person could find nearly one thousand courtesans who in effect constituted a new kind of “aristocracy” in those cities.

And of that fruit Livingston partook a couple times, but after each nervous tryst he confounded himself so much that he couldn’t even think properly about his accounts the next day. That wouldn’t do, wouldn’t do at all—whereas a permanent, socially acceptable liaison would actually help with business.

So it came to pass that Colonel Lowe (commissioned by the Governor of California himself, after that Indian/ business in the Sierras) left Sacramento City in 1851, bound for New York in a clipper, then overland by stage to Boston. Granted, it was under guise of buying merchandise for American Pride: What if he couldn’t find a woman willing to trade Eastern seaboard society for the dubious position of frontier distaff?

In fact, American Pride was about to lose both of its star lodgers. The two business partners now had other interests in life, and each began to build a family. Actually, it was the second family structure for both, but none would wag about that. Everyone knew that Indian wives were just interim endeavors, easily discarded when “real” women were available. But what about the offspring?

          *             *             *

Brenalt felt good about some of his latest forays into the world of newspaper publishing. He had become engrossed with the idea that California needed to be guided by prominent men, especially in the areas of the advancement of agriculture in California.

But he was in a quandary because of his hardware supply commitment and extensive contacts already in place in Sacto City. Ultimately it was that very same web of business associates which convinced him that it would be better all around if he gave up the hardware business to start this fifth estate venture in San Francisco.

He needed a grubstake to launch the newspaper, though, and proposed to Lowe and Dux that they all sell out and join him in The City. Dux was hot on it, but Livingston took his time chewing on the offer.

“Got no objections to trying something new, but I don’t think we should completely burn our bridges here,” he brought forward after a particularly profitable day.

“What do you have in mind,?” asked Brenalt.

“We don’t have to be minding a store. I do want to keep intact our system of freighting to mines and ranches.”

“Yeah, I wanna keep my hand in as well,” Dux piped in.

“Sounds good,” Brenalt answered, “but can we proxy most of that work? I’ll need all the help I can get in The City—at least ‘til we get a boot in.”

“Sure, I can set it up that we don’t even have to leave Frisco very often. What do you think, Sydney?”

“Yeh. Too much success gets boring. I’m itching to try out something risky,” Dux smiled. “Mebbe even dangerous.”

 

             

 

 

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 30

 

“Oh, dear, the hackmen at the wharf positively deafened me, screaming their wares,” the young redhead with milk-colored skin complained. The new Mrs. Livingston Lowe had no difficulty in finding her voice as a newcomer long-suffering in her displacement from a superior cultural center.

“It was all I could do to embark the carriage without one of them touching me!” she accounted in her personal journal. “But when we finally pulled up to the Grand Oriental Hotel, I could hardly believe my extraordinary luck: there in the lobby stood all manner of luxurious sofas, carpets, chairs, mirrors, and even a real piano.”

     Later on the newly-weds tried to stroll the streets, but Mrs. Lowe found the planked roads to be “unpleasantly uneven.” She could hardly be expected to /a sense of /respect /for/ this community that seemed to have spontaneously combusted. But she did have a sense of wonder: /she became witness to a social engine unknown in relatively slow-developing Boston. /In San Francisco the control of money and property occurred faster than the process of establishing a personal reputation. Ever-burgeoning technology, instant commercial connections, and the lack of state restraints accelerated the rate of contact between people—but without the glue of trust that time brings. Hardly like Boston, but she/Harriet was witness to the birth of the instant state of Calif. and the instant city of SF. As with all births, it was exhilarating and scary. She wasn’t in Boston anymore.

              *             *             *

Only a few hundred people lived there in the 1840s. When the first mayor of under the American flag took office in 1847, the population numbered 500 (including Indians) and it was still known as Yerba Buena. During '47 and '48 the pueblo increased to two thousand, and then the discovery of gold kicked in to bring an unimaginable growth. The city soon averaged 30 new houses (mostly workers’ shacks) and two murders each day.

A plot of San Francisco real estate that cost $16 in 1847, sold for $45,000 just 18 months later. In less than two years ‘Frisco burned to the ground six times, followed each time by a "calico city" with tents and improvised structures that shifted around like one of the  moving sand dunes just beyond the commercial waterfront. People continued to flow in, but of the 60,244 men and 1,979 women who disembarked in 1850, only 5,000 chose to put down roots in SF. The majority high-tailed it soon as possible for the gold-fields.

It was a constant swirl of a transient, mostly uneducated and lower-class, population which included many cast-offs and criminals from New York, Australia, and England. A far cry from the settled and conservative atmosphere of Boston.

When the new Mrs. Lowe arrived in 1850, a big sand hill covered the middle of Market Street, from Kearny to Dupont. Winter rains produced mud to the knees in places, so the few streets and sidewalks were laid with 4-inch wood planks 16 to 24 feet long. Horses clacked up the planks of Geary St. to Dupont (now Grant Ave.), then to the edge of the sand hill on Market, the road scarcely wide enough for a milk wagon to pass. From the hilltop you could raise your butt off the saddle to look down into St. Anne's Valley, with its large sand hills running east and west.

*             *             *

“We stayed three days in ‘The City,’” she entered in her journal. “`Hardly holds a candle to my beloved Boston… So raw and rough, and very unsafe. One sees all manner of persons here not visible in Boston. And it is so dark! Not a streetlamp in all its confines. One cannot leave one’s hotel after dusk for fear of encountering all manner of unsavory nocturnal creatures.

“`While one is certainly pleased to hear that most of these rough types are headed out of town, I am not relieved to understand that the bulk move through Sacramento City, on their way to the goldfields,’” she lamented.

“`We board the river boat tomorrow for Sacramento City, and I shan’t be looking forward to that horrid experience of being afloat once more.’”

     We know she arrived safely because her complaints continued: “`When I first saw Sacramento City from the paddleboat, it was an apparently endless sweep of small tents, not a frame building anywhere in sight. It was a terrifying place. I was frightened. Men were gambling on all sides. They were shooting and cursing and yelling. The noise and uproar were awful.

“`Luckily, we were able to disembark almost at the entrance to my new home, the Hotel Sierra. Indeed, no matter which way one turns his neck he may see the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains with their peaks in the clouds.

     “`Dear me, the Sacramento River running by the Hotel is a constant menace. Its waters are extremely unclear. The older residents tell me that this is due to the mining carried on upstream, and that formerly it was perfectly drinkable. Unquestionably, I and my new friend Alice Brenalt, of recent wedded to Sam, have pacted that we shall not drink it until it is either settled with alum, or filtered by pouring over porous stones, which we have the Indians gather for us.’”

MORE ON SAC CITY?

 

Those “Indian” women had a little different experience in relating to white men.

using Indians as slaves?

 

              *             *             *

 

Four years later, Harriet had convinced ‘The Colonel,” as she liked to call Livingston, that conditions had improved “sufficiently” for them to relocate their Chief residence to a San Francisco. She hardly recognized The City.

 

 

The San Francisco of 1856 had reinvented itself—from a sleepy pueblo of 500 californios in 1847, to a hormone-driven, international adolescence of tents and shacks in 1850, and again into a settled city of brick and granite buildings with 30,000 people. It still harbored flimsy wooden and floppy sheet iron buildings, but they merely filled in the sandy hills and lots beyond the commercial avenues.

There was even a network of cobblestone streets with brick and stone sidewalks. In the evenings thick smoke from the whale oil and kerosene oil wafted from the top of the street lamps lighting the main streets. Pacific street actually cut through to the Western Addition, extending as far as Leavenworth street. Beyond were milk ranches and "Washwoman's Lake," where white sheets and pillow slips from ocean steamers flapped in the westerly winds.

Jackson Street and Washington Street stretched all the way to Taylor Street. Some of the waterfront streets had wharves, but many of the larger vacant lots merely flushed/filled with water from the bay/with the Bay’s tides.

Local banks used scales to buy gold dust. A pinch of gold dust paid for a pie at a bakery. The Democratic party was everywhere in power, and generally controlled the newspapers, which consisted of blanket sheets of four pages. There was no overland telegraph.

The Lowe’s moved almost immediately into the new house Livingston had built for her in the heights next to the Presidio. Standing on the cliffs with its cooling fogs and winds, Lorene felt her strongest pangs of homesickness. It afforded a wind-swept exposure to the cliffs, wind, and fog of the entrance to the Bay. Most importantly, it reminded her that here was the gate to return to Boston. 

A model on stately row houses of London terraces, and perched on a thoroughly-planned street grid, their home sought to impose spatial order on their wild surroundings of salt spray, sandy knolls, and rock beaches. The three-story Italianate Victorian was constructed entirely of a newly-discovered reddish wood, hauled by ship from the ports of Mendocino. It was high and narrow, with large bay windows, an entry foyer, a parlor, long dark hallways with rooms off to one side, high 12 foot ceilings, a large library with adjoining salon, five bedrooms, few closets, a small kitchen, and servants rooms behind.

By its formality and incongruousness with the surrounding rough countryside, their home made a statement that this was how civilized people lived. As they were only the second homebuilders on their block, theirs was a wide lot, with no close neighbor, affording Harriet an opportunity to train her Indian servants in New England garden styles.

Harriet had arranged for her dowry from Boston to be shipped and ensconced in their new home. She had complete sets of Italian-crafted furniture pieces for parlor, salon, and bedroom hauled around the Horn and then bumped up to the Heights. Harriet managed to cram the home with furniture, as well as the requisite bric-a-brac, China, domed wax flowers, stuffed birds, trinket boxes, a piano, and even a hand-carved rosewood harp with a Celtic knot work inlay on the arms. No visitor could doubt her Eastern seaboard refinements and position. 

The amount of wood consumed in constructing Harriet’s Victorian furniture was determined by her clothes.  Vastness of scale was essential because from the waist down, dressed women looked like bells or gigantic, domed beehives. They needed big, generous seats and balloon back chairs to spread their expansive crinolines, hoops, and skirts.

Even the staircases were built wide to help accommodate the ladies as they swept down in a flurry of petticoats and crinoline skirts. For her unattached guests, Harriet positioned a double seat called the Tête-à-Tête in the parlor, enabling women to spread their skirts without crushing and to flirt with a man at the same time—without being compromised by sitting too closely, of course.  The separating backrest prevented bodies from touching, ideal for couples getting to know each other in a restrained, respectable way. 

The home’s interior was quite dark with busily patterned wallpaper. From picture rails hung oil paintings, etchings, engravings, silhouettes, water colors, stitched needlework samplers and hand embroidered reproductions of famous paintings.  Furniture and shelves were covered with fringed, beaded cloths and runners.  Sunlight was kept out of the already dark room by layers of blinds, lace curtains, velvet drapes, and side curtains in dark colors. The brass ringed curtains hung on great poles, but often remained drawn on bright days.  

It was important to restrain Nature from impinging uninvited on one’s measured existence. It was equally important for her to see her current image, to have her home life constantly reflected in full-length mirrors in nearly every room.

It was merely good etiquette to dress according to one's position in society, and this meant evaluating one’s appearance often in the ubiquitous mirrors. Harriet was in a “twixt-and-tween” stage, being married yet not a senior matriarch. Married women were limited to stately fabrics like heavy satins, crisp silks and plush velvets, but Harriet often sighed as she watched her young virginal visitors twirl in front of the salon mirrors, evaluating their signals of availability on the marriage market. Their fragile gauze dresses, decorated with silk flowers, froths of tulle, pleated gauze trims and ribbons, were only intended to be worn for one or two evenings and then cast aside as they soiled and crushed so easily.

The full-size sofa featured the traditional Victorian rose-and-leaf carving on the center medallion and on the crests of the elongated wings. A very elaborate arch of carved roses and leaves was above the shield-shaped backs of both the lady and gentleman's chairs. Harriet showed a flare for modern anti-Edwardianism in convincing Livingston that the large salon needed a carved Fainting Sofa, essential for graceful reclining in a formal setting.

All pieces were from mahogany and cherry wood, hand-rubbed to a warm finish. The parlors had large chandeliers with two or three rows of glass prisms, containing wax candles. On the heavily-carved occasional tables she burned whale oil in colorfully leaded glass lamps.

In the bedrooms, the  Victorian  beds and chests were substantial, ornate and very Old World--massive pieces to remind  visitors of being in the presence of greatness. The mirror, the armoire, the bedposts and headboard were all intricately carved. Dresser, chests and nightstand featured shaped fronts and tops. Cameo carvings and fluted pilasters adorned the armoire, dresser, and nightstand. Large candles in high silver candlesticks were used in all five bedrooms, which Harriet made certain were well-walloped by Luis and Mary, her two Indian servants.

But the servants weren’t allowed near the prize of her collection: the purely decorative papier-mâché chair, cane seated, scrolled, gilded and inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

There were still some concessions Harriet had to make. Unlike Boston, no houses were piped with gas or water. Large water wagons powered by two horses would rumble to a halt in front of her home, and boys would run buckets up the steps. Each house had a barrel in the kitchen to be filled. A wash stand with a bowl and pitcher usually furnished her personal washing facilities.

Men sought baths in barber shops, but of course she was obliged to visit the What Cheer House on Sacramento street, the only hotel with public bath tubs. She did so reluctantly, remarking on the “public contact,” as the tubs were in the basement, not in the rooms. Harriet had to wait for a year to be one of the first residents with a bathtub at home.

Harriet's correspondence to her family was largely limited to using the thick, oiled Wells-Fargo envelopes, 10 cents each, carried by the daily stage that went to San Jose and beyond. Sometimes she posted a packet aboard the steamers that sailed every thirty days to New York, by way of Panama. If she wanted to send a heavy gift, it was by Clipper ship via Cape Horn in ninety days, considered a quick trip.

 

          *             *             *

“`A 500-pound grizzly bear was caught today near the Mission Dolores!’” Harriet was reading the Northern Star aloud to Livingston in the dining salon. “`It is being kept on the Mission grounds for public viewing.’ I should like to see a grizzly, Colonel.” she goaded.

“Hmm?” he queried, then answered himself, growling “Hmm,” and shook his part of the paper.

“I shall take that as an affirmative, dear. Will Sunday be convenient?”

“Now Harriet,” he said, already realizing he had lost his argument, “you know I like to keep my Sundays free of bother.”

“No bother, dear. I shall pack a light basket and we need only have Luis ready the carriage. No bother at all.”

Livingston squirmed in his chair, rattled the paper some more. “I have only just returned from that business in the mines.”

Livingston, that was five days ago. You have rested—”

“There’s a lot of paperwork to complete here and—” Livingston hedged.

“A day in the country will do me good,” she sharply interrupted. Then her voice turned suddenly softer. “Why are you being stubborn about this?”

The next day they were rattling along on Mission Street, a turnpike to the Mission Dolores. It was a plank road all the way, the first established public drive and public promenade. Winding among the sand hills, the road passed through two toll gates.

The weather was pleasantly cool and sunny that day, and many of The City’s residents were taking the air along the promenade. Harriet began turning this way and that in the upholstered seat.

“Shall I have Luis pull over?” inquired Livingston.

     “Heavens no! Such a promiscuous mingling of diverse people,” she sniffed out loud.

But Harriet continued to ogle the women of pleasure, carelessly without hats and gloves in their high-necked shirt blouses and skimpy flared skirt with only one petticoat, the throngs of men of fashion in long Prince Albert coats and silk hats called "beavers," the idlers, the gamblers, and dozens of families strolling babies.

“Luis, slower please!” she called out to their Indian servant.

As they slowly clattered the two miles southwest

of The City, crossing marshy stretches and intervening sand hills, Harriet could see quite a number of Mexican adobe houses still in existence, particularly around the Mission.

 

Later that evening she recorded in her journal: “`Today I told Livingston I should like to see a grizzly, and insisted that he take me to the Mission. He didn’t want to go, but of course we went in the end.  We traversed the road to the Old Mission Dolores Church--very poor, but interesting in its adobe walls. We went through the churchyard, finding grave mounds with Indian boys tending flowers.

On the right stands the Indian Village, consisting of about fifty cabins, which serve as dwelling places to seven hundred and forty Indians. These cabins are the most miserly that are to be met among any people; they are round, six feet in diameter by four in height.

More than one of the boys was positively ruddy-skinned and light-haired. I asked Livingston about the differences in coloration, and he said it is just something that “happens” among the tribe.’”

~     

     “Where did you procure those lovely native servants?” Anne Brenalt asked Harriet and Justine O’Leary. She sipped her tea carefully. The three friends were braving the cool weather in the rear garden of the Lowe’s house for their weekly tea.

     “Don’t you just find them simply crazy for flour and tobacco, dear? Mine are,” put in Justine O’Leary.

     “Oh, Luis and Mary. They came with the house.” Harriet leaned to pour from the silver teapot. “Or perhaps with the view.” They all laughed politely at her witticism.

      “I do miss living on Gen. Vallejo’s ranch,” Justine signed. “So exciting, living among those energetic vaqueros and exotic natives. Do you suppose Mary would bring me some fresh rose petals, Harriet dear? I just adore fresh petals in the orange pekoe.”

     “Did the General have Indian servants?” Harriet was curious.

     “All the best Spanish families had Indian slaves, dear. Those Indians made good slaves, excellent. The General never permitted them to walk behind his coach, but made them trot all the time. We never treated ours like that, though. When we traveled, we let them ride horses. Did you know, all those Indians needed was a piece of jerked beef and some roasted corn, and they would carry that with them, and ride hundreds of miles.”

     “Ours are local servants, we don’t like to call them slaves. Thank you, Mary. Justine? Diggers, I believe they call themselves.”

     “One of mine is Costoan, she’s slow but such a dear,” gushed Anne.

     “At the Vallejo ranch, “ Justine said between sips, “we were certain of the origin of ours.”

     “Are they not all just California Diggers, dear?” Harriet inquired.

     “We found the ones near Ukiah to be the best workers. We would put an order in with the vaqueros, and they would just ride up north to the encampments and cut out the boys and girls. Fair price, too.” Justine sipped her rose water tea contentedly.

     “I think the poor creatures are getting along better now, don’t you?”  Anne asked rhetorically. “About two miles from our summer place on Mt. Tamalpais there’s a  little colony of Indians. They sell chickens and pigs, and in the summer time they work in the harvest field and manage to get along pretty well.”

     The ladies assuaged their opinions by taking another round of orange pekoe.

     “We really should take an adventure to the mountains,” Justine offered.

     “Yes, dear friends, let’s!” encouraged Ann. “I could convince Sam to allow us to accompany him the next time he reviews the books at American Pride in Sacramento City.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 31

 “Is this Monkey-man an illusionist—or an illusion, maybe?” Shan-Ying wondered to his older brother as he turned the spitted duck over the campfire.

Lien-Ying and his brother had spent several lazy days robbing the black-neck cranes’ nests for eggs and feathers, and hunting the Red Sheldrake for some excellent roasting at night.

Lien-Ying watched the duck grease dripping fuel into the fire. “Great question. I’m not even sure I met him, now that I think about it.”

*             *             *

Lien-Ying and his brother crested the hill above Qing-Hai Lake, adding miniature clouds of visible breath into the dawn’s early mist. The long grasses were heavy with an early frost, but now that the sun was up, the green blades were rapidly transforming heavy, icy moisture to their thick yak skin leggings.

The Guo brothers had a difficult time bringing themselves to leave the Lake. Probably stayed longer than we should have, Lien-Ying had admonished. But their loitering was not only because of their appreciation of the striking deep blue waters contrasting the permanent snow caps of the surrounding mountains, and the rich, swaying green grass of the pastures.

These lands bounded the home territory of the thousands of richly-plumed migratory fowl of Bird Island in the middle of the Lake. And on a small bay, the two searched for a famously elusive fungus. Besides providing high-energy, the Snow Lotus mushroom (it was murmured among the initiated) had the power to bring the dead back to life. Feathers They harvested enough

 

Shan-Ying cracked through the blackened skin of a wing, chewed and ruminated awhile on his brother’s answer. “Well, at least you know where to find him, right?” No response. “Lien-Ying?” Shan-Ying pressed.

“Yeah, in the Bamboo Grove.”

“You said the Grove doesn’t exist.”

“I didn’t say that. I said there was no bamboo, and they never meet in the same place.”

          *             *             *

 

The Bamboo Grove Society was an especially fitting name for that august group of elder wastrels. It really wasn’t a society; “society” implies some sort of quorumed accord, a consensus expressing a beginning, a middle, an end—at least a rational plan. However, rationality wasn’t merely avoided by this group, they ridiculed it.

Maybe those cosmic rascals were just engaging in their usual antithetical repartee, because they all knew damn well none of them was going to agree about any one thing under the sun. Which is not to say that they didn’t completely understand, without saying a word (which would have been philosophically adulterous or wasteful), the one principle that brought them together, that sustained their bond, and that provided them fuel for future forays.

In any case, this non-group Society didn’t even meet in a bamboo grove. Not that they didn’t want to or wouldn’t have, if but they could: there just wasn’t any bamboo around for 1,200 miles. It was a very non-collectible, non-banding bunch of guys who didn’t meet in a milieu that didn’t exist, whenever it happened to not-strike them.

That’s where Lien-Ying and his brother were going to find—or not find, as the case might be—The Monkey.

          *             *             *

It was an hour past dawn, and they were trudging over the summit of a barren and rocky peak. “So we’re trying to find a group of hermits, poets, and mystics that doesn’t exist, in a place that doesn’t have a fixed point? Have I got that right?” Shan-Ying pretty much knew that wasn’t a real question, but he was just pissed about leaving the beautiful, cool lakeside three days back. “Here we are again, scuffing dust in a desolated—whoa! Where’s all that heat coming from? Why does it look like the hills are on fire?”

Both men had instinctively raised their arms to protect their faces. They scuffed on downhill, moving sideways against the heat.

The Flaming Mountains burned their skins before they came within a thousand yards of the towering red sandstone escarpments. The morning’s delicious coolness had long been replaced by sweat-beads, which meant their walk for the day was about done—a day which began about 3 a.m. It was the only way to get over through that torrid, beautiful wasteland without frying your brains.

Lien-Ying didn’t answer his brother’s prods. He seemed absorbed in something beyond the conversation.

“Come on, help me out here,” Shan-Ying begged. “I’m just trying not to float off into space. It’s bad enough we’re—“ He shut up abruptly when Lien-Ying suddenly stood perfectly still.

Shan-Ying followed his brothers eyes upwards. “Impossible!” he protested in a low voice. But there it was, irrefutable, at least in the present: ideographs floating in the sky, seemingly issuing from a point between the confluence of two rivers. But they were dissipating almost as fast as the two brothers’ capacity for rationality.

“What is that—smoke?”

“Better grasp the moment while you can,” warned Lien-Ying. They both trotted forward a few yards to make out what the smoke conveyed:

The words of a man of good fortune are few.

A fortunate man has plenty of wine and is too busy to talk.

You want to talk with me, you better have wine.

If we have wine, no need to talk:

Good fortune indeed.

The two brothers looked at each other and shrugged. “We’re here,” they murmured.

          *             *             *

It was awhile before “here” arrived, however. The two headed for the spot where it seemed the smoke had issued from, but after trudging through dozens of dusty ravines and red-rocked gullies, and always facing one more bend in the dry riverbed, they were beginning to wonder if they had seen anything at all.

“Guess we better get the wine, huh?” asked Shan-Ying.

“Either that or get the hell out,” Lien-Ying agreed.

So the brothers sat down amongst the sandy, shapeless mounds, in the shade of a crumbling wall that once delineated Gaochang, one of the most powerful spiritual centers of all Mongolia and the far western Chinese territories. They broke out the wine, some nan, continued to munch on the Snow Lotus mushroom, and had a decent repast. They were tired, it was mid-day hot, so of course they fell asleep.

          *             *             *

Lien-Ying thought he was dreaming when someone kicked him in the ankle. “Hey, you two! Gonna sleep through your own death?” It was The Monkey, and he was in a foul mood.

“What’s—Buddha’s balls—who are—what’s that?” stammered Shan-Ying.

“Brother, may I present The Monkey,” Lien-Ying introduced them, grabbing a blanket and a gourd.

“You have a poor sense of timing for courtesies,” The Monkey scolded. “Do you have eyes? When will you people understand?”

But Lien-Ying had already cut his gourd in half to confront an emergency that was a first for the brothers: a tree was in flame. This was unique because the desert had so few trees that no one would ever set one aflame purposefully. In fact, this was the only tree in sight. Later on, the brothers would remark that they had not even seen one tree since they left Qinghai Lake, two days back.

“You two are gonna be tourists all yer life! You know that, don’t you?” It was a voice from behind Lien-Ying. When he turned he got a fourth surprise in little more than two minutes: five men converged on the site, all armed and each carrying cloth and scoops.

“We didn’t even have a fire,” Shan-Ying whined.

“This place is holy. Know what that means, baby face?” put in the hugely bearded, portly monk named Tripi. He was pretty imposing, with huge arms that wielded a giant iron blade at the end of a staff. “No, of course not. Damned tourists.” He spat with a finality, and laid into the tree with his blade. “You eat the Snow Lotus with wine and it upsets the balance of energy poles,” he grumbled between swings.

He not so much as quelched the flames as smashed the shit out of the branches. Lien-Ying had seen one of those used against his own mounted guards, and knew what it could do to a 500-pound pony.

The rest of them fell to with blankets and scoops of sand. A half-hour later the eight men were sitting down, gasping for breath, sweating in a scorching sun, finally through with the fire.

“You been watching us long, Master?” Lien-Ying wondered aloud.

“Long enough to know that this is all your fault!” The Monkey admonished. “But you probably don’t even realize it. Damned tourists.” He spat in the dust.

“We didn’t even have a fire,” Shan-Ying whined.

“This place is holy. Know what that means, baby face?” put in the hugely bearded, portly monk named Tripi. He was pretty imposing, with huge arms that wielded a giant iron blade at the end of a staff. “No, of course not. Damned tourists.” He spat with a finality, and laid into the tree with his blade. “You eat the Snow Lotus with wine and it upsets the balance of energy poles,” he grumbled between swings.

He not so much as quelched the flames as smashed the shit out of the branches. Lien-Ying had seen one of those used against his own mounted guards, and knew what it could do to a 600-pound pony.

          *             *             *

A half-hour later the seven men were sitting down, gasping for breath, sweating in a scorching sun, finally through with the fire.

“You been watching us long, Master?” Lien-Ying wondered aloud.

“Long enough to know that this is all your fault, you two!” The Monkey admonished. “But you probably don’t even realize it. Damned tourists.” He spat in the dust.

“But, but we didn’t even have a fire,” Shan-Ying whimpered.

Inexplicably a thunder-cloud appeared, sending a thorough deluge to the gully floor. The men scampered up the bank.

“Back to Cloud Mountain Cave.” The Monkey pointed up the pastel red escarpment.

“That’s my hangout,” said Wuhuo. “But you gotta be a basket-case to enter.”

Well, that about includes the whole gang, Lien-Ying mused internally.

“You little birdshit, we heard that,” The Monkey said, and bit him on the back, just for fun.

The men trudged on through the ruins into a sparse orchard and vineyard, grabbing whatever fruit they happened upon. The escarpment loomed suddenly, thankfully in shade by this time, and the Guo brothers were slammed by the magnificence of it all. The impact of seeing 1,000 caves stretched along a two banks of a red cliff wall, scattered with a dozen minaret domes and stupa below, was enough to bring anyone to his knees.

And that’s what happened to Shan-Ying—but for a different reason. The heavily-descending basket knocked him down, and nearly out.

“Put him in first,” The Monkey directed Lien-Ying, who stuffed a groggy brother in best he could without………….. “Ready as he’s gonna be,” The Monkey yelled up towards where the rope dangled over from the edge of Cloud Mountain Cave.

“You’re next,” The Monkey indicated to Lien-Ying. “But don’t stand under the—too late!“

“Noooo!” Lien-Ying cried, and leaped back, trying to brush the urine out of his hair.

“Don’t know why some people react like that,” The Monkey said with some chagrin. “Actually quite a pretty view.”

Lien-Ying wasn’t thinking about the view later on, as he glanced over the basket at The Monkey’s motley crew 200 feet down, and being swung to and fro by a rather stiff wind. He was glad for the strength of the person hauling as he gained another 100 feet before breeching the lip of the cave.

Lien-Ying had it in mind to lay into his brother for pissing on him, but he almost fell backwards out of the basket. The person at end of the rope greeted him with her elongated, rose-colored eyebrows and green eyes——a finely boned, lovely woman wearing a sheer blue silk blouse and admiring an orchid in one hand while holding the rope in the other. Her long hair was held in a top-knot by a pearl comb. She also had long, blue arm-feathers.

It was enough to give a grown man pause, and his brother still hadn’t recovered from his several vertigos. After being hauled in a basket up a cliff-face and confronting such a lovely creature, he was reduced to a quivering piece of protoplasm.

“Welcome to my world, I am Yurien Devas. Will you be a little more help than your brother?” she asked sweetly, turning her attention back to the orchid.

“I can do that. Shan-Ying! Snap out of it or I’ll put you back in the basket!”

The blue-feathered lady retired to the rear of the cave while the brothers hauled up the crew below. Well, it took all of them to haul up Tripi, who appeared white as a ghost.

“See how fear makes a person real heavy? What’s your problem anyway, Tripi?” The Monkey wanted to know.

“I saw a body floating downstream.”

“Don’t worry, it was just yourself!” The Monkey laughed, and slapped Tripi on the back. “No big deal, more of that where you came from. Where’d that fungus get to? Shan-Ying?”

While Shan-Ying administered some Snow Lotus to Tripi, Lien-Ying got a chance to check out the cave.

          *             *             *

     When westerners attach a mental image to “cave,” we show just how stunted our culture is, as we reach back into our collective consciousness, to come up with: “Cave: a hollow place in the earth, natural or man-made”; and “Cave dweller: a savage of prehistoric times whose dwelling place was a cave.”

     The Dunhuang Caves were actively created for a thousand years from 366 – 1066 AD. And then cared for another 800 years. This was not a family theme park or tourist center. This was probably the most influential of energy vortices that existed on the earth for that initial 1,000 years. Its electro-magnetic force field drew mystics, poets, painters, philosophers, temple dancers, monks, musicians and madmen—not to mention such human flotsam poseurs as kings, princes, princesses, court leeches and intellectuals.

     These ‘caves” of Dunhuang reflected a profusely rich interior spiritual life and advanced artistry at a time when Europeans were, indeed, savages grinding out a difficult and basic survivalist existence.

Historical records describe these structures as being “connected by corridors suspended in mid air", "from top to bottom like hanging clouds, with flying pavilions from north to south connected by colored clouds." Kind of florid, but hey: You might have waxed b.s. eloquent too about the place if you had scuffed through the Gobi desert for 12 days to get there. The glibness doesn’t negate the fact that they had an intricate walkways spider-webbing between hundreds of caves—on the face of an escarpment 400 feet high. 

When the ancients gazed out from Emerald Cloud Cave, they felt delivered into “a celestial abode.” Their views embraced a river in front, with water mirroring the well-built (even luxurious) homes, and birds Chirping all through the shady paths of orchards. Once arrived, you had your basic and your deluxe cave choices. A pious monk would incline toward the simple meditation caves with their narrow corridors and small meditation cells attached to both sides. Not much else.

None of that for The Monkey, however. Sages have a carte blanche (or some other universal credit, perhaps) that enables them to use what they need without getting hung up on their tools. Cut to the well-appointed cave that our questing brothers found themselves hanging out in:

This particular cave demonstrated its theme of synthesis within and without. In an older style, the arched entrance was a bottle shape—suspiciously like a Coke—with an arched lintel (perhaps the first created by man) carved with vines and flowers with a phoenix on one side and a dragon on the other framing a flaming pearl.

Like most Tang Dynasty caves, this one had a front and a back hall, and it internally connected to other caves. The front hall was rectangular, pillared, and sported a central stupa native to India (who was that obsessive-compulsive who escorted that 800-pound stone reliquary over two mountain ranges and the Gobi??).

The back chamber had a flat chessboard ceiling while the front ceiling chamber was an inverted suspended lotus in the center, with the boundary rim decorated with woodbine, clouds, and flaming pearls. Suspended from the four corner petals were decorations of animal faces, jade pendants, tassels and bird feathers.

The walls had figures engraved on them, with hanging curtains separating their several themes such as "The sages of the bamboo groves," "Winged angel playing with the dragon," "Winged fairy plays with the tiger,"  "Ascending heaven with blue wings to become immortal."

The back chamber religious focus was the multi-storied stupa of Chinese pavilion style that allowed the devotees to circumambulate it. Chinese style altars were carved out from both the walls below the ends of the upside-down “U”. An outer wooden façade covered much of the earth faces, but otherwise tapestry hung down. The artists went wild with so much canvas to choose from: wood, textile, earth.

The artistic centerpiece (the hook in the whole scene, if you will) was in the middle of the front chamber: A miniaturized pond of blue rippling water full of blossoming lotuses. A stuccoed and painted Amitabha perched in the middle of an enlarged porcelain lotus blossom with water circulating out the bottom back into the center of the pond. (The Monkey often remarked that Buddhas deserve a decent crapper.)

In front of the pond was a stage with carved railings depicting musicians lining both sides of the stage, while figures with bejeweled headdresses, garlands and saris danced and waved their flowing scarves. Peacocks, parrots, cranes, and phoenixes were painted all around them, fluttering their wings and dancing to the music. The upper section of the bas-relief was painted and showed an azure sky with colored clouds and musical instruments flying about, playing themselves.

A path paved with lotus patterned tiles led from the cave entrance 15 meters up to the foot of the pedestal, then circled the Buddha. As the pious circumambulated the rotunda on the lotus path, he could view painted figures of Bodhisattvas, the ten Chief Buddha disciples, supernatural beings, and Vajramukti warriors.   Finally, the pious were led to the rear stupa. 

The painting shows a pond of blue rippling waves full of blossoming lotuses.

          *             *             *

Shan-Ying nearly choked as he swigged from a wine bladders. “I’m a yak herder, not a poet!”

The Monkey wrested the bladder from him. “Well, guess what? That qualifies you plenty. Whaddaya say, guys?”

Lan stood up—with the help of a stick—to deliver his/her? opinion:

“If I do speak, it oughtta be into silence;

If I don’t speak, it should be deafening,” and abandoned the effort with a grunt to plop back down on his/her? butt.

“That’s as clear as we ever get from you, Lan.”

“Hell, it can’t even find its own genitals, whaddaya ‘speck?”

Chang stretched his arm toward Lan, proffering a vial: “Got something fer what ails ya, Lan. Put hair on yer thang—whatever it is.”

“Whatcha got there, Chang?” The Monkey wanted to know.

“Made it specially for the occasion,” Chang replied.

“Which one you speaking' of?” Tripi had suddenly come to life.

“You back among the living, Tripi? Don’t get too comfortable,” The Monkey counseled.

“Get over it, Chang,” Tatvam said in an edgy voice. “Are you neuter-phobic?”

“Whatever I am, it’s nuthin y’all can take care of,” Chang’s usual smile had dropped, and he rose to his feet.

“Let’s try it on, big guy,” Tat said, wind-milling his arms and sliding backwards without moving his knees in a kind of moon-walk.

“I know what I am,” squealed Lan, and he retreated to the rear chamber to sulk.

“Sit down you two before you embarrass yourselves,” The Monkey ordered. “Can we get on with the matter at hand?”

“I would like to intervene—with your permission, Lord Monkey.” It was Yurien, gliding out from behind the pond. “Would you mind, Han?,” and she relayed her horticultural tools to Han as he approached from the rear chamber.

“Oh, now it’s Han again, is it?” Chang razzed.

“I wish you would,” The Monkey encouraged Yurien. “Somebody needs to—“ He was pushed out of the center floor by Tatvam.

Tatvam glared at Chang and grounded his teeth while he recited:

          “Better that two tigers not

fight in the meadow—

black and yellow

all a-swirl,

suffering red stains

on green grass remains

long after parting.”

Tatvam stamped his boot into the dust in front of Chang and spit. “Damned brown-neck.”

Chang jumped up, put his toes against Tat’s, and jutted his jaw out as he recited:

     “He treads on the tail of the tiger.

     The tiger bites: Misfortune and suffering;

     The tiger bites again: Sacrifice and courage.

     Thus does a warrior act on behalf of the Great.

Clouds follow the dragon, wind follows the tiger.”

Chang put his nose right against Tatvam’s before continuing: “The Superior Warrior removes himself from the windy area of the tiger.”

     “Got any of that elixir for me, buddy?” Tatvam Asi asked in his best gender-ambiguous voice.

     “I’m gonna tell Lan you’re funnin’ him,” warned Han.

     Chang broke up. “How can I refuse ya, Chief.”

“You two wash up before dinner now,” Yurien urged. And the two retreated arm in arm to the pond.

     “Han, you ever read, or paint, or dance with anything but your flute?” Lien-Ying wanted to know.

     “Too displaced for him,” Tattvam Asi answered, displacing Han’s own response.

     “How’s that?” Lien-Ying asked.

     Han put down his flute:

“We read not for increase,

but because we’ve forgotten

how to know the future past;

reading robs the present

to pay debts of the past,

drifting by my lorcha

like paper hats.”

“All together now,” Han called out, and put the flute to use. He played the last refrain of his ditty, and The Monkey conducted everyone in chorus: “Drifting by my lorcha, like paper hats.”

     “We coulda used Lan in there as a counter-tonal,” Chang grumbled.

     “Don’t start,” warned Han, and made a slicing saber maneuver with his flute.

     “Awright, buckeroo Kazakh,” The Monkey turned toward Shan-Ying. “No tourists. What do you have to say?”

     Shan-Ying glanced toward his big brother. “Hey, don’t look at me,” Lien-Ying pleaded, raising his arms. “You’re awake or ya ain’t.”

     Shan-Ying gulped and rose to his feet, trying to goad his mind into action.

     “Be here now,” yelled out Tattvam.

     “Be yourself, dear boy,” advised Yurien.

     “Be straight, dear boy,” put in Lan.

     “Don’t listen to that thing,” Chang warned. “It knows only itself—and you know what that means.”

     “Remember what Confucius said,” advised The Monkey. “’Yang is three, Yin is four. That is the correct place.’”

     No one moved a muscle in disbelief, then The Monkey had to start dodging pebbles and pieces of dirt.

     “What?” The Monkey protested. “Remember: ‘Only by forgetting the images can one grasp the meaning,’” he continued, trying to dodge missiles as he recited.

“’And only by forgetting the words can one grasp—Ow!—the images. Meaning consists in forgetting the images, and grasping—hey! that hurt!—the images consists in forgetting the words. If images are established that exhaust the meaning completely, one may forget the images.’ Wang Pi, 226 AD,” The Monkey concluded, ducking a piece of tile launched by Chang.

     “Forget you, ya troublemaker,” Chang shouted.

     “Forget you!” chorused the others, and they all jumped him to toss him in the pond.

     Shan-Ying’s mind suddenly cleared, and he actually leapt into the center. He craned his head up, bellowed like a yak once, then burst into a new experience:

          “I heard my yak through distant mountains,

          Going farther and farther 'til exhausted.

          Listen: hear the cicada?

          By the river, up the cliffs—

          What a strong cry, distant crane!

          Feel the breeze on your skin.

          Say, did I glimpse something?

          Run and catch her, might get away!

          How fast she retreats, and

          The harder I grasp,

The faster she runs!

Get a firm grip, and

She follows me home.

Or ride her for what’s she’s worth.

Once home, I can let her free again,

No need for restraints now.

No need for blabber of differences.

The river flows, blossoms drop.”

“Hell, I hadda woman like that oncet,” Kuo-Lao put in.

     “You? Ya gotta be alive to get it up,” Chang commented.

     “I was talking about my yak, you fools,” Shan-Ying.

     Tvattsam tossed him a bladder. “Sure you were. Welcome aboard, son. Blood follows blood, whaddaya say Lien-Ying? You got the goods?”

     Lien-Ying was stretched out pretty drunk, didn’t feel like even opening his eyes, but he did, and even got up on one elbow to begin:

     “It was the solar camp

Of the Bamboo Grove Society,

A gathering of my kaoliang wine-swillin’

Potent-smokin’ brothers.

 

The Grove was indeed a grove,

With bamboo abound

And in the surround,

A small pond

Splashed at our feet.

 

We squatted and splayed

In several stages of

Cerebral wonder and disarray.

 

The task was the usual:

Wu wei! Don’t say!

Wei wu! Don’t be done to!

That is, without the inflection

Of reflection,

Speak!

Ignoring the ratchet of the rational,

Act!

 

Well, I can tell you I was definitely woo—

With Kaoliang and good smoke—

I was so waaay woo!

 

At length the eldest Society brother spoke:

‘Honored young gentleman,

I understand you are a

Follower of the Way.’

And he paused in wait.

 

Ok, OK, no excuse now—

I was up, eyes turned inward on me:

What to not-speak?

Where to not-do?”

 

At last Lien-Ying struggled to his feet, cleared his throat, and held out his bladder:

“Finally, I stood,

Raised my cup to each of the masters:

‘There  is no way I can follow without thinking;

Yet only when I do think, the Way I do not follow.

If you’re thinking about this,

You’re not following me!

 

 

{{To beat this, Old Man,}}

You’ll have to pass me that pipe

To shut me up.”/

And shut up!”

And he promptly collapsed out on the floor to a deafeningly appreciative non-applause.

     “Don’t pass him anything, he can’t hold his liquor,” Kuo-Lao murmured from his own semi-coma.

     “Who’s he calling ‘old’?” Tvattvam wanted to know. “I’m only four, myself.”

     “Four what, Chief?” The Monkey inquired.

     “Kalpas, what else?”

     “I’m four bladders gone,  myself,” slurred Han.

     “And he’s not talking about the wine,” Lien-Ying jibed. “Look at his pants.”

     “That’s as good a timepiece as there is, Han,” Tattvam observed. “Got any more jewels to share?”

     “Yeah, Han-man” Chang goaded, “you’re always saying you’re too sophisticated for religion.“

     “But too superstitious to deny the gods,” said The Monkey.

     “Give it up, Han-man, c’mon,” jabbed Chang.

     “Awright—not that any of it will be understood,” Han sniffed. “The first law is compliance of one’s behavior with the laws of nature.”

     “That doesn’t present an image,” complained Kuo-Lao, without opening his eyes.

     “No, but it does have a good beat ya can dance to,” observed Lien-Ying. “No, really—check out Yurien.”

     She was gliding around between both chambers, lightly spinning now around the pond, now between the splayed men, then floating back out of sight momentarily before dancing back into view. She had changed into something definitely more comfy, grabbing the attention of and vexing the men greatly.

Her hair was gathered behind in a loose tail that cascaded half-way down her back; a small bejeweled crown was fixed on her head. Her upper body was half-covered by a sheer purple scarf that snaked from shoulders, over one plump breast, to end at her slim waist. A long dhoti of brocaded silk accented her large hips. Her feet were bare, with rings on several toes.

“Now that I have your attention…” she began.

“Tell us how it is, darlin’,” Lan encouraged, appearing from the rear carrying a pipa lute.

“Share your perfect thunder,” shouted Chang.

“Share your perfect mind,” yelled The Monkey.

“You guys want her to share more than that,” observed Tattvam Asi.

Now that I have your attention…” she began again. “Maestro—if you please,” she directed Lan. He strummed strongly, and her scarf fluttered as she moved with the pipa to become a creek flowing over pebbles, a strong cascade, or heavenly crash.

 

“I am the thought that dwells in the Light.

I am the thunderbolt that lives in the Perfect Mind.

I hide myself in everyone,

And move in every creature.”

Her graceful hands described mudras that mirrored the verbal messages while offering a subtext much beyond words and physical realities:

 

“I am the Word that dwells in Silence.

I am the first and the last,

The honored and the scorned,

The whore and the holy one,

The wife and the virgin.

 

But men remember not—

And no longer take themselves from Me.

I am not permitted to speak,

But, with my newborn as my head,

Must take instruction in full submission.

 

Now my creations use fire and sword

To spread their gospel of selfishness,

Their love of conquest and deceit.

I am bound to their service,

The Mother now the slave.

 

This is the long road into night,

And the temple of the goddess must be hidden

Within your own perfect thunder.”

 

     Before her last word faded, a fight broke out between Chang, The Monkey, and Lien-Ying for the honors of succession.

     “Take it to the back, would you please!” admonished Tattvam.

     They did, and a great noise and scuffling ensued for 15 seconds.

     Lien-Ying strode strongly forward, following the lotus tile path, and shaking his hand free of a pain. “Got one,” he announced: “In a Sea of Golden Elixir.”

     “Wow—got a title and everything.” It was The Monkey, limping around the pond.

     “Shut up, sore loser,” Lan said.

     “Ain’t the losing that’s sore,” The Monkey complained, nursing his nuts with both hands.

     “In a Sea of Golden Elixir,” Lien-Ying announced again, mooning Yurien as he started.

“I am materialized by sunshine,

Mixed with the life

Of the stars.

 

I am a jade column

Standing coolly

Before your heavenly gate.

 

I am a flushed warrior wielding

A fiery sword,

Awash in a sea of golden elixir,

Searching for your shining pearl.

 

Found, I offer it back,

A little fuller, throbbing

In its ripeness, too sensitive

To breathe on.

 

I am a little sunshine, some star,

And nourished by you.”

 

     “Ooh, that was lovely, Lien-Ying,” Yurien bubbled.

     “’Lovely,’” parodied Chang. “Better check your pants for an excess load there, knight errant.”

     Lien-Ying started to re-invite Chang to round two, then thought better of it: Yurien had gone around the stupa to peep out and wiggle her flaming eyebrows at him. “I got something better to do than embarrass you again,” he taunted, trotting down the lotus path.

     “Yeah? You and what caravan, pal?” Chang huffed. “Hey, I know more about poetry of motion than a yak-boy. Try a real man sometime.”

     “How ‘bout treating us to a real man’s song, Chang?” suggested Tattvam.

     “No problem, got it right here in the front of my mind.”

     “Didn’t know you had more than one place in your head,” The Monkey remarked.

     “You’re next, semi-simiano,” warned Tattvam.

     The big monk grabbed a bladder and reared his head back until it all emptied down his gullet. He wiped his beard with the back of his hand, grabbed his kwan-do, brandished and flourished it with a few circles around his head and waist, to finish in a one-legged “Hero’s Pose.” He stayed in that posture the whole recitation:

“He wuz in my face—

what could I do?

It was insultin’

and way out of grace.

 

Drums pounded in my head,

rage poured out my ears,

thunder spoke through my hands & feet,

and my eyes clouded dark red.

 

Hey—it felt good, it felt right

while goin down.

Only another warrior knows

that heat of combat:

the power, the height.

 

Yeah, I'm victorious and so

a king; but vanquished, just

a fuckin bandido.

Think I don’t know how it is?

You take the high road and I’ll take the low?

Not likely when we’re at it toe-to-toe.

 

Well, I won it on horseback.

But can I rule it from here?

Do I have two spirits:

One that strokes

tiny fuzz on my baby’s arm,

One that destroys in crazy rage?

Do I have two kingdoms:

one for enjoying the forever of a moment,

the other for threatening total harm?

 

Blood flows from the people’s veins

after I slide my blades from their scabbards.

I have the power to destroy:

Is this the only memory of me,

My remains?”

 

The monk slowly lowered his leg and his lance to squat where he was, breathing heavily. Tattvam tossed him a fresh bladder.

     “Are those characters on the ceiling over there in the corner?” It was Shan-Ying, awake at long last.

     “That’s our library, hopeful youth of our future,” Chang answered. “Most people in here spend most of their time on their backs.”

     “I can’t read.”

     “Try this on for size, yak-boy.” Chang craned his neck and started reading:     

‘The way of the sage

          Influences through example,

 

A wholeness of personality.

          The way of the hero sets standards

In the lives of man.’”

     “What am I?” Shan-Ying pleaded. “Do I get a choice?”

     “If you hafta ask, you ain’t no sage,” The Monkey snorted.

     “At least he asked the question,” Tattvam growled. “More ‘n you did at first.”

     “Ooh, my head hurts,” Shan-Ying complained, and rolled over. “Wisht I hadn’t opened my eyes.”

     “That’s what they all say,” Tattvam said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 32

 

“May I bring to the attention of everyone here,” began The Monkey in a loud, officious voice, “of the acute duties that the Master reminded us all?”

“Not again, Simian-Boy. Let the man RIP, already,” Chang pleaded.

“Confucius reminds us, you will all remember, that the Superior Man is modest, that the Noble Man is reverent in conduct and subordinates himself to others, and that it is the merit of his fulfilled duties which carries things to conclusion.”

     “Yeah, I think I got one of those doodies of his right back here in my trousers,” said Chang, checking behind himself.

     “And – risking that I might repeat myself – that ‘Yang is three, yin is four.’”

     “I think I’m gonna beat me some monkey-butt.” Chang began to get up, but stopped when Lien-Ying and Yurien rounded the pond, arm-in-arm.

     “I can vouch for that old stuffed shirt,” Lien-Ying announced. “I yanged three times myself, and Yurien yinned four. Good stuff, that Confucianism.” The ruddy couple nodded and beamed at each other.

     “This calls for a choral effort, everybody!” effused Tattvam Asi. “To the rear, harch!”

     The Monkey, Chang, Shan-Ying, Tattvam each grabbed a limb of Kuo-Lao to haul him to the back chamber, while Yurien assisted the incommoded Lien-Ying.

     They all laid down on their backs in front of the altar to sing the ideographs together:

“’Drifting warm

In a glittering sea,

Beyond ambition,

Beyond myself:

Leap, love, leap.

Once more,

And again,

Once more: love leap.

There—you—are, and

Here we are:

Beyond the beyond, drifting

In a glittering sea,

Headed for the other shore.’”

 

              *             *             *

 

 “That’s the River of Flowing Sands. Only runs at night.” It was Tatvam Asi, self-appointed caretaker of the ruins of Bezeklik, currently drunk as a skunk, and standing too close for olfactory comfort behind Lien-Ying.

“Not night yet,” observed Shan-Ying.

The two brothers were ogling the vista from Cloud Ladder Cave, one of the thousand Buddha Caves of Bezelik. The river ran below—or seemed to, they couldn’t decide which.

 “Don’t waste your time reciting man-made laws to an immortal!” The Monkey bellowed back, stumbling against the cave wall. “It’s night when I say it’s night.” And he fell flat on his face. “It must be night: the sand is flowing again,” he muttered with his nose pressed into the dirt floor, and promptly passed out.

              *             *             *

“Monk, how’d you do that with the smoke?”

“Smoke? No smoke here, besides the huka.”

“We saw smoke from this camp, from the other side of

the--” Shan-Ying stopped short, with the swiping motion his brother made across the throat.

     “How ‘bout a trade?” Tatvam slurred. “You got ‘shroom, doncha? Gimme ‘shroom and you can hab dis.” And he brought out the blue jade eagle in the red triangle, flipped it to an astonished Lien-Ying. Could it be all that easy?

     My chance to drive a divine bargain, thought Shan-Ying. “Just a minute, old man. This herb is magical stuff, and--”

     “Yeah, yeah—spozed to raise the dead ‘n all dat.”

     “That’s right, and how’s that piece of jewelry worth that?” insisted Shan-Ying.

     “Didn’t we see Po’try wake up your stupid little self tonight?”

     Shan-Ying begrudged the point.

     “You gathered the ‘shroom to exchange for the Eagle, right? The ones who ate it were the ones who needed it,” said Tatvam.

“You keep the Eagle to remind you how dead you were,” The Monkey said. “But you gotta let go of the Eagle to escape the Dragon and get re-born.” And he laughed his shrill monkey staccato giggle.

“Talking to you makes my head hurt,” Shan Ying complained.

“Fuckin’ tourists,” retorted The Monkey. And he spat in the cave floor dust.

“Prob’ly WON’T REMEMBER/DO WHAT?????????? “Probably won’t remember that the Eagle flies to the Dragon

TELLS FORTUNE…. Shan Ying goes into Tien Shan, finds Snow Lotus and hermit, gets future prediction.

Later on, after they had packed their gear back on their horses, Shan-Ying asked why.

     “Didn’t you notice? There was no fire-ring,” his brother gently explained. “And no smoke. If we go ”

“What if I went back and asked The Monkey?”

“You’re won’t find him. Or the others, or any fire-ring.”

“They can’t have left so soon. I’m going back,” said Shan-Ying impetuously, pulling on his reins.

Lien-Ying put his hand out. “You don’t get it yet. They—us—all that existed because of our being there then. What happened was because of what we put into it at the moment, and it can’t repeat itself. Cherish it, nurture it, share it if you can. But you can’t go back.”

Yak’s balls. I suppose next you’ll be telling me you didn’t see the horse dragon/pink phoenix. Damned tourist.” And Shan-Ying spat, but it landed on his foot.

“C’mon,” urged Lien-Ying. “It’s time we paid great-Uncle Semu-Ren a visit in Beijing.”

          *             *             *

Two weeks later the two steppe bumpkins presented themselves to Uncle Guo Semu-Ren, a lower Chancellor in the court of Genghis Khan. That same year of 1260 Uncle Guo passed the jade Eagle Triangle to the Tibetan lama, Phags-pa, State Preceptor. The Buddhists guarded the Eagle until its time came, four centuries later.

During the reign of Emperor K'ang-hsi (1661-1722), the imperial armies contained 128 fighting monks from the Shaolin Temple. These monks distinguished themselves in action against the raiding nomadic tribesmen who were attacking the western borders of the Chinese homeland. In gratitude, the Emperor granted lands to the Temple and each monk received imperial gifts. One monk was awarded (at the suggestion of the Buddhist Preceptor) a reddish triangle with a blue eagle.

A few years later Manchu officials convinced Emperor K'ang-hsu that the Fukien Shaolin Temple was the spawning ground for anti-government forces, and the Emperor's Imperial Army utterly destroyed the Temple. Only five monks and some laymen escaped with their lives.

For the next 250 years the practice of Shaolin ch’uan fa kung fu was punishable by death. The monks continued to teach their fighting arts in secret, however, building a resistance organization against a repressive and sometimes vicious Manchu regime. This was the brotherhood of the society that sought to protect the people and "Overthrow the Qing, restore the Ming."

The founders of the resistance called themselves the Hong Muhn--named after the jade triangle one of the monks wore. The Triads were born.

 

continued their resistance and taught Kung Fu for the sole purpose of fighting and defeating the Chin's. They Only five monks are said to have escaped, and the systems of combat that they are supposed to have developed are said to be the basis of all modern Shaolin chuan fa styles of kung fu. 

 

 

 ‘Truthfulness is the root of the holy. The pure and the simple is the highest good. Sublime success is the penetration of truthfulness.’ -Chou Tun-I, Sung (960-1127)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 33

 

On July 25, 1852, Indian Affairs Supt. John Hantsen received a message from Special Agent Jim Biddle in Reading, about 300 miles northeast of San Francisco, that "several white men in the neighboring mountains had been killed by Indians." The Super thought knew just the perfect man to resolve the issue. He sent a messenger right over to Colonel Lowe's law office on “Monkey Block” (as the citizens with juice called Montgomery Street).

              *             *             *

     "Your government needs you, Colonel-that should be motivation enough,” Hantsen Chided.

     "I can appreciate that, Superintendent," Livingston began. "But my field days are past. I just concern myself with law these days. Why--?"

”The perfect candidate, I say. Your mining interests employed both Chinese and redmen, did they not? Right. See there: your experience among both our heathen populations here has been proven, man.” Hell, he’s not biting, Supt. Hantsen thought to himself. Gonna hafta up the ante in this.??needed??

    

 “And of course there is the special concern you have shown towards the welfare of Indians, right here in our own beloved City..." He left Livingston dangling there as the embarrassing moment dawned.

     "You mean..." Livingston stuttered.

     "Yes, your careful attention to the welfare of some of the young squaws at Mission Dolores has been noted with some awe,” the Superintendent smiled. “Have you educated your wife as to the fruits of your labors at the Mission? No? Pity,” the Superintendent smiled. “Shows a genuine love for our native peoples, I rather think. Don't you?" The man was enjoying himself.  

Livingston was blushing with anger, but stalled giving voice to it, at least until he had gained the real information he wanted. "Exactly what is the problem in Fall River Mills?”

The Super lit a cigar. “Nothing out of the ordinary,” he said, expelling a large cloud. “The Chumawei demanded that ‘Big Tom’—a white trapper—return one of their kidnapped women. He refused. A warrior named Yana led a raid on Tom’s camp at Ash Creek. They rescued the woman, killed all the whites, and cut Big Tom into a thousand pieces.”

“Christ! Just what is the scope of my powers there? What if I find it necessary to remove the offending parties--"

     "And leave lands empty, you mean? At your discretion, Colonel. Try to settle the matter peacefully if possible, and if not..." The Superintendent shrugged and lifted his hands lightly.

     "If not, it's 25 cents a scalp and $5- a head. The Governor's new law is backing us if things turn ugly."

     "Can you be there by Wednesday?" Hantsen asked.

 

              *             *             *

CHICO NEWSPAPER EDITORIAL: “It is a mercy to the red devils to exterminate them, thus saving many white lives. There is only one kind of treaty that is effective—cold lead.”

The ethnic group most persecuted in the States were the Native Americans. However, only on the West Coast did racial violence bear the traits of organized battles coordinated by State government troops and civilians.

It was easy to recruit men for the hunt. By 1849 Native territories were over-run by gold seekers and accompanying settlers already imbued with hatred for Indians. Conflicts were inevitable as the Euro-Americans coveted more and more of the Natives’ lands and traditional Indian food sources grew scarce.

In 1850, the Federal government attempted to end the conflict between the Indians and the whites by creating treaties. The Indians were guaranteed 7.5 million acres of land in order that they could continue with their way of life.

Almost immediately after the Federal Treaty of 1851, the Governor decided to oppose any law that gave Indians exclusive rights to land high in gold bearing quartz or arable land valuable to the settlers and farmers. One year later, the U.S. Senate secretly rejected all the treaties, and instituted a system of small reserves where the Native population was to be controlled by Federal troops and State militia. LIMITATIONS PLACED ON THE INDIANS….

The California State government took an exceptionally powerful, ambivalent interest in Indian affairs. It was the old theme of higher ideals vs. economics of the day. Constitutional ideals clashed with the business leaders/business interests./ who governed/ran the legislature.

The California State government took an exceptionally powerful and ambivalent interest in Indian affairs. The State Constitution outlawed slavery outright, but the first legislature immediately enacted Chapter 133, a law that worked like the “Black Codes” of the South, as well as numerous treaties regarding land dispute.

Chapter 133 resolved the old contest of higher ideals vs. governing business interests, claiming to be a law for the protection of the Indians. What it really did was enable whites to grab any unemployed Indian or orphan and indenture them on ranches, homes and mines. The law also declared that the natives labor without wage, it defined a special class of crimes and punishments for them, and made their testimony (as well as that of the Chinese) inadmissible in courts.

This act was the first of a series which provided for the indenture or apprenticeship of Indians of all ages to any white citizen for long periods of time. Indenturing of Indians, which was a common practice from 1850 to 1863, was a legal means of securing an Indian, but another common practice was to avoid the legal method and to purchase Children outright. This act and its sequel, passed on April 18, 1860, opened the door to the white slave traders who did a good business providing "apprentices" to farmers and miners,

In the 1850s and ‘60s Euro-Americans and Mexican vaqueros raided Indian villages and kidnapped their inhabitants to sell them to farmers and ranchers -- peonage had been transformed into slavery. The Spanish vaqueros used to go up to what is now Ukiah and ride in among the Indian rancherias and drive out the boys and girls, leaving the mothers behind and killing the bucks if they offered any resistance. Then they would herd the captives down like so many cattle and sell them to the ranchers. About $100 was the standard price. A good girl would bring that, but some sold for as little as $50.

Often the ”owners” kept the food supply so short that the Indians starved. Similar to the Mexican peons and Chinese wage workers, the Indians made white miners economically jealous of the advantage the Indians provided to their masters. In southern California, this law allowed the continuation and expansion of the peonage system of the Mexican rancheros to secure labor supply on the cattle ranches. In northern California, the law modified the peonage system into something close to slavery.

By the summer of 1859, the Indians in Mendocino County and the northern part of the state faced the destruction of their culture and were demoralized by the sudden disruption of their normal lives. They not only had to kill livestock to keep from starving, but had to resort to beggary as well. They began to loiter about the settlements, becoming public nuisances. Because of this, the citizens of Mendocino County elected a grand jury, which demanded in a report to the state legislature that the government should rid the county of the "miserable half-starved creatures prowling about and infesting every neighborhood, greatly to the damage and annoyance of our citizens."

Those “problem” natives occupying territories deemed desirable were dealt with in profoundly barbarous fashion. Scores of State-subsidized military campaigns were funded, targeting Indian communities considered threatening to white settlements. These expeditions had two objectives: to exterminate the target or forcibly remove entire populations from their homelands and place them in fenced enclosures guarded by U.S. troops.

Many ranch and townfolk joined in the hunt, as bounties were placed on Indian hair and head. Crowds of drunken men drove hundreds of Indian families from their homes in the dead of winter. Under State law, those same men could not be prosecuted in that violation (or any other, except selling liquor to Indians).

State newspapers commonly reported cases of rape and forced concubinage in the mining districts during the 1850’s. The Daily N. California reported many assaults on Trinity County Indians. One read, “There is a class of men who, when not able to obtain a squaw by fair means of payment, would drag off the squaw and knock down her friends if they interfere. Indian women in these parts must often flee to the mountains to avoid the violence of men who, under the influence of strong drink, will not hesitate to do any deed.”

In the quarter century between 1845 and 1870, the California Indian population declined from approximately 300,000 to 30,000. Soldiers, ranchers, miners, and towns people often fought side-by-side in these genocidal campaigns against Native Americans. White attacks, epidemics, forced labor, starvation, and kidnapping had largely destroyed Native American communities. 

Exploitation of the Indian labor force in mines, destruction of their food supply by hunting and mining, for racial and economic motives were the main reasons for the severe decline of the Indian population.

              *             *             *

    

     It was one of those days of brilliant blues and greens against a sky of meandering white clumps of cumulous clouds, the colors made crystal-clear by the 3000-feet altitude of Fall River Valley, at the confluence of the Sierras and Cascade mountains in northeastern California.

Yana and the small core of Chumawei warriors which  escaped with her had /made it/been home in the Fall River valley near Mt. Shasta for almost a year. She was in the process of re-building their strength in numbers through making alliances, but the neighboring Yahi and Atsugewi peoples had been depleted of many men as well.

It had been a difficult year for all the tribes, as increased numbers of white settlers encroached on their hunting and fishing grounds and generally forbid the tribe's access and use of ancestral territories. Tempers rose as did the number of beatings, humiliation and terrorizing of Indians. Yana had no luck containing her warriors' rage with appeals for patience. She had to convene a war council.

The coalition council of all the three tribes of the Valley was meeting near the Falls in a large meadow ringed by Douglas fir and pine trees. The upland meadow was covered with tall grasses, the ubiquitous sage, sticky monkey flower, coyote bush and ceanothus.  400 warriors sat and stood around the inner circle.

     "What are we—permanent pet dogs of whites forever?" It was Wa-itsu-ma-ta, Run-Down-Antelope, and the opinion of this second-in-command of the warrior society of Pitt River tribes reflected what the majority of the fighters were thinking. "The horses of those two whites just got ‘lost’ finding their way home," and he paused to pass the talking stick to his right. The council chuckled.

     "Those who lost the horses hanged five old people-ambushed while digging roots!" Hunts-the-Sky growled through clinched teeth. "What is the honor in killing old people?"

     Several council members broke in with, "We have had these discussions before!"

Yana held her hand up for silence, and turned to the eldest member. "What do you council, Bear-Who-Walks?"

"We cannot deal with those without honor--" he began, and was interrupted by the whoops of the younger warriors. "And this includes us. Who killed those Children, and why?" He rose to face the men, shaking the stick. "No council was made of this killing."

"It was the people of the Klamath to the north, on a slaving raid," put in Muskrat Bone. "But these whites do not believe us."

          *             *             *

Traveling by steamer, railroad, and stage, Livingston arrived in Reading three days later. There he attended a meeting with Major George Biddel and several other influential large ranch owners and merchants. They decided to strike out on horseback to the town of Burney, some 90 miles to the east over mountainous territory, to determine the facts of the case firsthand.

It took the party of 25 men four days to arrive at the Spencer ranch at Hat Creek settlement. There Livingston found about three hundred of "the most infuriated men I've ever met," as he wrote later to his wife. Bob Ferris was one of the ranchers who lost a Child, and Livingston privately made sure he came to an understanding with the man.

After meeting with the Pitt River council, Col. Livingston got the ranchers together to urge them to "act in a Christian manner," conveying that it might be a matter of mistaken identity.

Stands-in-Skins, Muskrat Bone, Yana, and the core of the consolidated tribes’ best warriors had already slipped away by the time Ferris stood up front and center at the meeting. “How 'bout we move every single one a’ those red asses outta the area!" Hundreds of men shouted their assent.

Livingston put on a show of hedging. “I am not sure we can remove all of them, seems like an awful lot. Besides, aren’t a lot of them working for you farmers here?”

In the end it didn't take them but an hour to hammer out the fate of 2000 Indians of the area. The resolution was passed among the shouting men that "the superintending should be required to move every Indian in Shasta County within 30 days to the reservation at Round Valley on the coast. Any left after this time should be killed." Livingston knew that the enraged mountain men of Shasta were determined to carry out their threats of extermination. Just before he arrived on the scene, some men had captured some Indians, tied them to a tree, and then scalped them alive. No one had asked if the Indians were guilty.

              *             *             *

Livingston telegraphed Reading for help. A week later a detachment of 150 cavalry arrived in Fall River Valley to collect and remove the Pitt River Tribes to the Round Valley Reservation at the coastal county of Mendocino. Yana and her fighters followed unseen as the Army detachment forced their younger and older family members to leave their mountain home. It was a 250 mile march of misery for the natives.

It was slow moving, at the rate of 10-12 miles a day, and got slower as they followed the trails down to the valley floor. Col. Lowe had appointed three field agents to help him collect even more Indians as the train of captives shuffled through known camps: Big Wheels, Montgomery Creek, Cow Creek.  

There were no provisions coming forth from the Army detachment.  After 50 miles there were 150 sick Indians were scattered along the trail, dying at the rate of two or three per day. An old woman, unable to keep the pace, begged to be buried there on the trailside, her favorite basket at her side. Mothers killed their own babies rather than see them die a slow death on the march. Wild hogs were following the procession, gorging on the drop-outs, dead or not, with or without scalps intact.

Although the drop-out rate of the Indians suited the official policy just fine, several of the settlers rode into the encampments complaining of the putrefaction of the corpses left on their properties. Several of the ranchers took the opportunity to cash in scalps taken from the fallen.

As they neared Red Bluff on the valley floor, the Chumawei fighters had to stop following the procession—too many whites. All in all, Yana and her fighters helped 150 escape that death march, but the logistics of feeding and moving so many sick or wounded shortened their list of options. Her 300 men and women fighters carried insufficient food, and the rescued were too far from home to retreat without grave losses. She needed to make new alliances in a new environment. Why not use the available resource? she reasoned to Stands-in-Skins. He called a council of the most level-headed warriors.

“We have been here before,” ruminated Chemeivu. “We mountain people have a history here in the wetlands and marshes longer than on Tschastas mountain.”

“Yana will take five warriors to accompany our sick and elderly,” Stands-in-Skins said. “Then return when you see them to Round Valley.”

~     

Livingston found it necessary to help those cursed red devils die elsewhere, and sent a rider ahead to bring an additional pack train in from Reading. When the pack train did not arrive after a few days, the Indians were marched to Upper Cow Creek, there to rest a short time. A day later, those few who well enough to travel were put on mule back, their Children into one big wagon, and the rest had to go on foot. One hundred and fifty Indians who were too sick from poor drinking water, unaccustomed food, fever, and exhaustion were left to fend for themselves.

After two days on the road the wagon was left at Log Springs, some 50 miles from the reservation drop-off. Some of the women and Children were put on mules or on the soldier's horses, but most had to walk the rest of the way to Round Valley. Making one night stops at government camps and on the middle fork of the Eel River, they reached the rez three days later. 461 Indians started the trek from Reading, 277 finished it.

“I could just feel the pain coming up out of the ground in that valley," Yana said later to Muskrat Bone. She left her people sadly, reluctantly, to return to fight for their right to exist.

     Meanwhile, Col. Lowe tarried a short while in the Reading area. He and several of the men from the Hat Creek meeting filed claims for newly available lands in the Inter-Mountain region of Hat Creek and Fall River Valley. Livingston then turned north, considerably enriched after only two weeks absence from his home on the Presidio cliffs.

 

q       Yana escapes with larger band, makes her way back to Tschastas TO gather forces with achumawei, yahi, maidu

Yana, organizes search-and-destroy missions Concow Maidu from the placer-mining section of the Sacramento Valley on the Feather and American rivers, The Pit River Atsugewi, the Pomo of Clear Lake and Little Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 34

 

The trained lark sat outside its cage, atop a small open box with tiny sheets of folded papers arranged in a row. Its head dipped down to select one of the folded sheets, and held it up for a moment.

The Chinese medium deftly reached down to remove the paper from the bird’s beak with one hand, while extending his other palm in front of Daniel Wu’s nose.

Wu paid the fortune teller a silver piece, unfolded the page and read. This was not easy to do on any street in Chinatown during midday, but Dupont Gai was interminably congested, whatever the hour. Several shoppers bumped him as he read aloud:

“`He treads on the tail of the tiger.

The tiger bites:

Misfortune and suffering;

          The tiger bites again:

Sacrifice and courage.

Thus a warrior acts on behalf of the Great. Clouds follow the dragon,

Wind follows the tiger.’

What do you make of that, Chief?”

     “My grandfather used to recite that to me. It’s a trick, a smoke-screen to keep you from finding a solution,” Tai Ying said slowly, looking hard at Wu.

Wu blanched, then stammered, “That brings up a question. How’re you going to handle the situation in Chico?”

“I’m going to the Opera and try to ignore it.”

“And I’m trying establish a peace there with the gwei-lo rednecks. Won’t help us if you rush in with the Chee Kung Hatchets to collect gambling Debts.”

Tai Ying stopped abruptly, grabbed Wu’s arm and spun him. “You would bring in our Hung Muhn brothers to fight me?”

Wu wrenched his arm away. ”The Chee Kung would be the invader! Shifu Chan put Hung Muhn in place years ago. Your boo-how-doy will destroy our work!” He assumed a fighting stance and glared threateningly at Tai Ying. “How dare you go against Master!”

Wu wound up and let loose a shot at Tai Ying’s head. Tai Ying evaded, locked Wu up, and went down on one knee to stretch him backwards over the knee, hand cocked for a groin shot.

“Do you forget that we are working on the same side? Surely two Brothers can come to a peaceful solution?”

“Yes—yes, of course hong kun, please pardon my temper,” Wu pleaded, accepting Tai Ying’s assistance in rising. “I—I am just impatient, I suppose, to get beyond this basic contention for a place on the map,” Wu explained.

“Forget it, come on, the show’s about to start,” Tai Ying pardoned him. “I’ll buy you some lichi nuts in syrup.”

It was the initial year of operation for the First Chinese Theater of Frisco, opening their doors on Dupont Gai in 1852. The entire building, stage, costumes and props were imported from Canton.

The two men skirted the line outside by using a preferential tai-lo portal to get into the more expensive showing at 6 p.m. Tai Ying led Wu up to the women’s gallery, where he usually sat, to keep an eye on who was down below in the men’s area, and what they were doing.

If a native son Han didn’t know any better, he’d think he were back on the Pearl, perched in a tree overlooking the Red Gypsy Theatre Troupe junk that plied the river, stopping at small villages.

          *             *             *

     Tai Ying could see right down onto the gypsy junk, painted bright red, even the sails, so everyone knew it was time to drop what he was doing for the special event. Not that it was a surprise; the point men for the traveling troupe had already been through the village, some two days ago.

The men had tied up opposite Grandfather’s shack, the three of them, and proceeded to unload a couple boxes to haul up to the village center. There they quickly dressed in abbreviated costumes, announced who they were, and when to expect them.

The three then proceeded to tease the crowd with flowery snippets from Journey to the West, the drama promised them on arrival of the entertainment barge. Tai Ying was immediately enthralled, and didn’t sleep for the next two nights in hot anticipation.

The main stage was the large deck of the junk. The townspeople had set up hasty wooden benches, where several dozen could sit; in these humble surroundings no separate section was necessary for women. For peasants this visit was more than entertainment: it served to acculturate, educate, and remind them of the weighty history of their nation. It kept them feeling linked, and provided a possibility of levels of excellence towards which a humble man might lift his face—if he should so choose.

The seven Genres offered in Chinese plays reflected those possibilities: historical tragedy, comedy, platonic love, court, Chivalry, persecution, and merit rewarded—all characterized by stylized acting forms developed over centuries.

But the most real and all-encompassing genre was hidden from public view: China’s Chief political intrigue was simmering below decks: Overthrow of the Manchu’s Qing dynasty rule.

Not that anybody wanted to emulate the actors though; the profession itself was looked down upon. There were no stars recognized, and there were no women actors. All women’s roles were filled by men specially trained since Childhood to imitate women. Actors well-educated with good knowledge of Chinese history and familiarity with court etiquette were well paid, but not highly regarded. Why would a popular, highly gifted group of men endure a permanent status of lack of “face?”

*             *             *

That late afternoon, Tai Ying was initiated into the fantasy drama-adventure most viewed in the world for the past 300 years, Journey to the West. Based on a true story, Journey recounts the many adventures of a famous Chinese monk who made a pilgrimage on foot to “the West” (as India was known), to bring back Buddhist scriptures. The drama was an allegorical rendition of the journey, mingled with Chinese fables, fairy tables, legends, superstitions, popular beliefs, monster stories as well as whatever the author could find in the Taoist and Buddhist religions.

The hero was a simian named Monkey King, an extraordinary being born out of a rock and fertilized by the grace of Heaven. Being extremely smart and capable, he learned all the magic tricks and Kung Fu from a master Taoist, including the ability to transform himself into seventy-two different manifestations—an actor’s dream character.

Actors appeared and exited from side areas of the main deck, changing their outrageously colorful costumes in plain view, exalting one another and the audience as they postured, danced, and fought their way through two hours of high culture.

     During the performance, vendors selling melon seeds, sweetmeats and fruit circulated among the audience. Among the audience were merchants, fishermen, scholars, acupuncturists, herbalists, thieves, fortunetellers, and prostitutes. People smoke, ate or moved about while the play was in progress. Applause was not encouraged, but murmurs of satisfaction were.

The troupe did its seminal work on the crowd’s imagination and on the youth: that afternoon many a boy was charged with the idea that the Monkey King espoused: determination of one’s own destiny.

Walking home after the performance, Tai Ying rehearsed how to broach the subject with his own earthly guardian, Grandfather. But later that night, he saw Grandfather was way ahead of him.

     “Alright, little one, tell me what is on your mind that you don’t want to hear a story tonight.”

     “Tai-Tai, do you know kung-fu?”

          *             *             *

Cultural developments are rarely unilateral, usually complex, and often intricately incomprehensible. If we mix the oldest defining elements (clan and family loyalty) of a diverse Chinese society with a thousand years of domination and oppression by an unpopular occupying force (the Manchus), sprinkle in several successive years of failing crops (in the whole north), along with generous dollops of widespread corruption (by State and district officials) and unfair methods of distributing royal favors (entrance into government positions), we can expect the populace to organize to right those many wrongs.

China’s social “corrections” came from popular defenses already in place. Of the three institutions the people responded with, martial arts was the weightiest, with its 3,000 year-old codified system created for self-preservation. A thousand years later, the fertile soil of angst and suffering of the people yielded a bitter, albeit systemic effect: out of the growing needs for justice in society sprang the Triads, tongs, and brotherhoods. The third social institution morphed from the inside out, one that didn’t change its structure or outward appearance, but internally transmuted in substance and in meaning to fight oppression—the Chinese Opera.

China’s “corrections” were morphed from two existing institutions (martial arts and opera) that changed to meet growing needs for justice, and one that sprang from the fertile soil of angst and suffering of the people: the Triads, tongs, and brotherhoods.  These popular defenses were certainly born from two institutions originally created for self-preservation—martial arts and brotherhood societies—but there was a third that morphed from the inside out, one that didn’t change its structure or outward appearance, but internally transmuted in substance and in meaning to fight oppression: The Chinese Opera.

Opera began on village and city streets before recorded history, and by the 8th century’s Tang dynasty it had developed into a flourishing art form. This is the same century that brotherhoods were recorded to have appeared, but records usually do not reflect reality. The Shaolin Temple, active since the 5th century in psycho-physical disciplines, was harboring revolutionaries and training monks to repulse the Qing forces. And so, for the following 1,500 years, a marriage of convenience took place between the rise of various brotherhoods, the Shaolin Temple in Henan, and the Chinese Opera.

Eventually, the Mongol invasion and the vast emigration southward in the 13th and 14th centuries pushed that cultural coalition fully into Canton province. But the opposition by the populace had not merged their power yet. It took a rebellion, spear-headed by the Triads, to accomplish that. Actually, it was their failure to break the hold of the Manchu Ching Dynasty (17th to 20th centuries) that coalesced the three folk movements: by the end of the rebellion 700,000 people were executed in one month, in one province alone. It took a Buddhist warrior-monk, a beggar, a cook, and a bunch of outlaw opera performers to do that: the Hung Suen Hei Ban, or Red Junk Opera Company.

The reaction was predictable: for the next 150 years fighters were trained and employed secretly to support continued revolutionary efforts. But by the mid-19th century, the fervor for return of the Ming family to the throne had dissipated. The Qing Dynasty was firmly established and public dissent was focused more on political corruption and fighting the Western Imperial expansion. The largest revolution occurred in 1844 - 1850 AD. The Qing successfully suppressed it and the Red Opera, along with many other Opera societies supporting the revolution, was destroyed during the Qing victory.

But during its operation, the Opera societies fostered and fomented new ways of looking at life, expressing possibilities for hope through classical drama, literature, dancing, and, of course, the fighting arts. At their hey-day, the Hung Suen Hei Ban (Red Junk Opera Company society operated 20 junks, plying the Pearl River between Hong Kong, Canton, and Fuchow and every significant village between.

Most of the Red Junk performers were, in fact, secretly members of revolutionary societies whose goal was to overthrow the occupying Ching dynasty of the Manchurians and restore the Ming dynasty of the native Han people. Since the Junks had relative freedom of travel and the performers routinely wore elaborate make-up and costumes that could disguise their identities, they were an ideal hiding place for wanted revolutionaries. Their route would often take them through towns like Canton, Siu Hing, and Foshan.

While treasured for the entertainment they provided, actors during the Qing held only the lowest of social status, the same as beggars, butchers, and other people of the mean. And in spite of the success of the Red Junk Company, it was a difficult life.

Why, then, would such skilled and gifted people, whose culture very much emphasized “face,” be so strongly attached to the profession? Money and political intrigue. The pay was very good, and, of course, humans love political intrigue—especially when it’s real and the stakes are high. It was literally a matter of life and death to hold an actively differing political viewpoint, so it was a common thing that most of the Red Junk followers knew the art of fighting. 

          *             *             *

Only five martial masters survived the Emperor’s burning of the Fukien Shaolin Temple. Those four men and one women were known as the Five Ancestors, progenitors of several kung fu styles and the legendary founders of the historically recent Triads. They split up to avoid capture and assumed disguises, wandering the southern and western parts of China.

Tiger-style specialist and ex-Fukien monk Jee Shim roamed the Pearl Delta of Canton disguised as a beggar. He heard of the Red Junk Opera and went to watch their show.

A couple hours later, the opera was packing up for a show in Canton. Jee Shim approached the company and asked for passage, but the performers wanted nothing to do with a beggar. They told him abruptly to be on his way.

Jee Shim strode forward and placed one foot on the boat and the other on the dock, and assumed a low stance. The polers looked at one another, shrugged, and made to push off from the mooring, thinking to give the foolish old man an impromptu dunking. The two polers strained from both sides of the junk, but it wouldn’t budge a foot.   

Jee Shim ended up spending years teaching his Shaolin Tiger fighting style to various opera troupes, hopping from junk to junk, always just a leap away from apprehension by the hated Manchu soldiers.

     But even heroes grow old, and one day Jee Shim just stepped off the junk and walked to a village he liked. Jee bought himself an orphan boy, to have some company for himself in his shack, and to help himself as he grew more and more feeble. That boy was Tai Ying’s grandfather, Tai-Tai.

                  

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 35

 

There wasn’t a proper school for Tai Ying there in the village on the Pearl River in Canton Province. Actually, you couldn’t even say it was a proper village, in that it wasn’t really fixed “on” the River. Some years the village was there, some years the stick walls, drying racks and poles stuck in the mud to tie up the boats—all that simply washed away some seasons. So of course the fate of the school depended on the state of the settlement.

It suited Tai Ying just fine if he didn’t have to spend time away from the shores of River, sitting on the floor of the “school.” Could you really call a school something not much more than four driftwood posts supporting palm branches where a traveling scholar showed off his knowledge of a few characters / who knew how to read and write a few characters) by droning on and on with his repetition exercises?

Tai Ying was a healthy boy with greater learning appetites. His school lay outside that restricted social convention.

The boy showed an inexhaustible interest in that tropical waterway as well as all the life-forms he could encounter in and out of the water.

The Pearl Delta yielded such a profusion of plants, birds, snakes, small mammals, and insects—precious Buddha, the bugs/Oh, what bugs!—that it left a boy with no time for such trivial matters as schooling or village ceremonial gatherings or listening to itinerate monks blabbing about Dharma. Buddha bless, there was more Dharma in the boy’s sandy palms than on the lips of any man/espousing a Sutra/in any Sutra.

And how Tai Ying loved to fish. He wasn’t old enough yet to go out on the Pearl in a skiff by himself, so he used a line wound around a stick, attached a hook, tossed from shore. Just standing there, tossing, dragging the line through the current, winding the cord on the stick, and re-tossing filled him with a vital energy of expectation. Sometimes he could feel the presence of the fish in a spot, so he’d throw there. Once it bit, a person couldn’t wind the line fast enough to play the fish, so he would drop the stick and just haul it in, letting the cord pile up by his feet.

The struggle of the fish against his efforts was energizing, and almost always challenging. Well, when it wasn’t, it wasn’t very interesting to him and he felt disappointed. So he went after the big fish, boy against fish.

Sometimes fish are smarter than people, and he learned this. Fighting a smart fish made him think about strength, about being sensitive to the moment, about the limits of his tools, about how to yield, and when to muscle it. Hell, every boy who fishes learns this stuff.

              *             *             *

     “This way, Tai-Tai!” Tai Ying bubbled happily, leading his elderly grandfather by the hand through the reeds on the bank of the Pearl.

“OK, ok, I’m coming, don’t pull—watch that branch, boy!” Tai-Tai could feel that the small lad gave some importance to that particular day, but he could only guess at what was in the boy’s mind.

“This is the spot, you can sit on this grass.”

“What are you up to?” Tai-Tai queried.

But the boy didn’t answer—at least verbally. Tai Ying started to mimic certain actions, movements seen on a score of the red junks that had passed through the village.

Tai-Tai sat mesmerized for 15 minutes while the lad performed his own renditions of the kung fu played out in Chinese opera. “Such enthusiasm, such joy in his art!” mused Tai-Tai. Tai Ying then vocalized his next thought. It was inevitable.

              *             *             *

“I am too old to teach you very much now, Tai Ying,” responded Grandfather. “We can get you started, but in a couple years you’ll need a new and stronger shifu. What kind of animals do you like best?”                                 “I like fish,” Tai Ying said happily.

“Hmm—can’t teach you any fish-style kung fu. Too advanced. You have to start with something simple.”

“I know—a tiger!”                                                               

     “Now there’s an excellent choice!” Grandfather encouraged. “Give me one more.”

     Tai Ying scratched his head for a moment. “Well, sometimes I dream of flying like a bird.”

     “Another good one! Are you a hunter or just gliding along?” pressed Grandfather.

     “Oh I am looking for something to eat, some animals on the ground. They are afraid of me,” Tai Ying pronounced firmly.

     “Excellent! My boy, we have a plan, and you can start after dinner,” the old man enthused. At last I’m going to get a houseboy, he thought to himself, rubbing his hands together with satisfaction.

              *             *             *

     “Grandfather, when are we going to start the Kung Fu?” Tai Ying was tired of always cleaning, repairing things, chopping firewood, carrying water, running errands and even having to cook sometimes. “You told me six months ago we could start my kung fu.”

     “Ah, yes, well, luckily for us that the feng shui is almost correct now, Tai Ying. The dragon beneath the Pearl is still sleeping—you know that. He will be very angry if we practice very strong on his back and wake him up. That wouldn’t do, wouldn’t do at all.” And the old man shook his head in caution.

     “Ooh, I forgot about him.”

     “Ah, maybe he’ll wake up in a couple months, be patient.”

     Two months later Grandfather had to field the same request from the boy. “You know, there is one way we can find out if the loong of the river is ready. If you really want to find out, that is…” the old man teased.

     “Just tell me what to do,” Tai Ying said firmly.

     An hour later he was hoping the dragon would wake up. Grandfather had marched him down to the river shore, and told him to throw out a baited hook.

     “But, but how does this—“ Tai Ying stammered.

     “Separate your arms and pass the line through both hands. Hold ‘em up! Shoulder high, now.” Then he indicated a funny-looking leg posture.

     Tai Ying giggled. “You look like a stink-bug!”

     “That’s called ‘Horse-riding Posture,’ and you’re gonna learn it. Now!”

     Tai Ying settled into the low stance, arms out. “Now what?”

     “If the dragon is ready, he’ll tug on your line. Then watch for him to rise up from the river. He’ll say something important to you. Wait for it. I’m going back home.”  And the old man walked away.

     Enough, already, Tai Ying thought after an hour. I can’t wait forever for a sleepy dragon. He went back to the shack.

     “Grandfather, that dragon didn’t wake up.”

     “Hmm—we’ll have to try another time. Tomorrow perhaps. No training unless the Dragon of the Pearl says so,” Grandfather warned.

     Tai Ying tried each morning for three months. Finally he marched in to announce, “Tai-Tai, that dragon told me something. He said that if I could stand like that for an hour each morning that I must be ready for kung fu training.”

“You sure you heard him correctly? According to my calculations, he shouldn’t be awake for—“

“And that he would be mad at you if you didn’t teach me.”

“Ahh, well that’s different altogether. Care for some tea?”

Tai-Tai spent the rest of his life trying to get the boy ready for a difficult life in a China fomenting with daily skirmishes between a people oppressed for millennia by a cruel, occupying force. Unfortunately he had only a year to prepare the lad.

*             *             *   

     Tai Ying could hardly keep from crying as he ran into the hut.

     “Grandfather! What is happening, are you alright?” Tai Ying was 11, and he knew that the old man was having trouble with his kidneys for some time now. But the boy found it difficult to think about a future without his Tai-Tai.

There was another person present, withdrawing acupuncture needles as he administered to the shriveled old man in the bed.

Tai Ying recognized the man only as a wandering herbalist. The room was heavy/steamy with the steam scents/smells wafting from bowls of brewed medicinal plants, notably… what plants/herbs??????????

     “Come here, boy,” Tai-Tai murmured. “Got a couple things for you.” Tai-Tai pointed over the door, where the triangular jade key was hanging. “Bring that here.”

     Tai Ying had never been allowed to touch the key before.  He walked to the bed, gingerly fingering the cool blueness of the jade, when the old man suddenly sat up and reached out to close his hand over Tai Ying’s.

     “Eagle fits only to Eagle,” Tai-Tai whispered fiercely, staring hard into the eyes of his grandson before collapsing back on the cot. 

     “Best to leave him rest now,” urged the folk doctor.

     Tai Ying backed out the door reluctantly. “He said ‘a couple things’…”

     The old doctor bowed and said, “Actually, it is something you will present to me.”

      “What could that be?”

     “That blue key/lantern behind you. With that you will help (me) take down the dragon and lift the tiger.”

     Tai Ying looked puzzled for a moment, then his eyes opened wide, and he scrambled to his knees to kowtow with his forehead bouncing off the dirt floor. “Shifu!”

“Chan Shifu to you. It is your grandfather’s wish. Now leave him in peace.”

 

~     

 

Most of the people in Foshan County knew Chan Shum as Master Ji, the itinerate herbalist and masseur. That self-presentation was by design, and suited Ji’s purposes just fine.

 

Chapter 36

 

 

“First Enforcer Red Stick!””

Tai Ying turned quickly from the wooden dummy and sunk his knees instinctively as he turned to meet whoever was so harassed. His three “blue lantern” bodyguards got off their butts too.

Pockmarked Choy’s lieutenant, Kidi, swung through the basement door of the kwoon, bottom of the Potsticker Restaurant where the Chee Kung tong kept their martial skills honed. “It’s happened,” he grinned maliciously.

Tai Ying waved his boys down. Offal of the gods, he groaned inwardly, now I gotta start getting serious here. To Kidi he just presented an indifference, sat back down, and asked, “Can you be specific, or do you enjoy baiting people with sensational generalities you know nothing about?”

The bodyguards chuckled through their potstickers as Kidi turned red.

Kidi’s hand darted behind him to extract a short sword. The blue lanterns, being novices, got a little nervous and stood up quickly.

“I’m working out, and if you interrupt again,” growled Tai Ying, “you’re gonna be eating dirt.” Tai Ying waved Kidi to an empty chair, and resumed his mook jong pattern without saying more. The dummy’s arms thundered with each combination.

“First Enforcer,” Kidi began anew, calmer. “I have two reports. The first one is from Sacramento Street around Monkey Block, and the second is from our Dragon Head Ah Fung Leong.”

“I will get the Dragon Head’s words from his lips myself,” Tai Ying responded. But he already knew what that message was. “So what else.”

“The Vigilance Committee nabbed Li and his brother—“

All leaned forward with this news. “The launderers?” one of the guards wanted to know.

“They aren’t street trash,” said Tai Ying. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them leave their laundry.”

“No, no, that’s the point. The ghost-fart goons came into Chinatown, dragged them to Ft. Gunnybags, and are threatening to hang them tomorrow. Check the wall.”

Tai Ying was on his feet immediately, yelling “Tell Tam Toi to get ready!” to two of his boys, then pulled the third with him as he ran out the door to Chee Kung headquarters. They swung by Ross Alley, where all the gangs, sub-gangs, and just pissed off denizens posted their challenges on a wall, and there it was:              

 

    

 

 

This was as much a tip off that the Vigilantes ever gave. Tai Ying couldn’t believe they would dare enter Chinatown. Looked like the goons weren’t satisfied just beating up on any pigtail found outside of Chinatown boundaries. A Chinese took risks working for the wealthy whites on Nob Hill.

Something has broken down, he thought. A new deal needs to be brokered somewhere. And I can guess who is gonna make it.

INCLUDE??? Tai Ying swung into the Chee Kung portal off the alley, and knocked on Bing Leong’s door.

~     

     Tai Ying was roaming the streets of Fo Shan alone one week after Tai-Tai died. He was hurting beyond cogent thought, beyond the limits of his small, young heart. He felt alone, utterly and completely. He didn’t even remember talking to Master Chan those few days after Tai-Tai’s passing. Chan fed him, but he remembered not what; Chan bought him a shirt and a hat, but he found that those had disappeared when he woke one morning beneath the city bridge, alone. And the jade talisman was no longer around his neck. He cried for awhile, then decided to do something about his hunger. And that was the theme of his life for the next five years, dealing with hunger wrapped around sorrow.

     Well, he wasn’t alone. It was 1820, and there were any number of orphaned and displaced children from the oppressive taxations imposed by the Manchu bureaucracies. He joined a ready-made, raggedy-ass gang of street urchins to keep his skinny self alive. One little girl somehow always stayed by his side, offering to split a dirty bao found on the street, or peeling his oranges, or fighting by his side against other desperate children. It was five years of petty thieving, and small errands. Sometimes a real wage was struck—sorting silk leaves, gathering plants for ceramic inks, turning fish on racks put out to dry, searching out fruit in the jungle not so far away from the small city. And always there was this little girl, this Tam Toi, trotting along not far behind. Even for the fights.

     Fights were nearly a daily happening, even something to look forward to—if you were good enough to win. But learning to win meant losing a lot, at least at first, and being able to learn from your losses. Tai Ying’s lessons were important to a young boy, as they were when he was a young man: it was literally a matter of continuing to live.

He made lots of mistakes coming to understand the realities of combat. Tai Ying lost several times,  some mistakes costing more than others. Twice he indulged his hot head and fought over a trifle. He learned that fighting was too serious to fight over nothing. Losing a street fight hurt his body, but the damage to his self esteem didn’t heal as fast. 

~     

Tai Ying was on the way back from an early-morning fruit-raid in the jungle; he was going to sell to vendors in open-air market. He entered the town limits with a long stalk of reddish, tasty bananas over his shoulder and a swatch of herbs wrapped in banana leaves tucked under his other arm. He was barely 12 years old.

As he walked, two guys from a competing gang of street urchins approached. They were his age and size, maybe a little older. As they passed each other on the street, the nearest one knocked him sideways, and his loads went down.

 He bent down to retrieve his stuff, and let loose with a curse. One of them said something back, and he topped it. Both of the other boys walked back towards him, cussing as they came. Tai Ying responded with more words. He should’ve kept his mouth shut.

The closer boy threw an absolutely straight punch, no wind-up, no telegraphing, that tagged Tai Ying on the tip of his nose. The punch broke the nose in three places and shorted an optic nerve. All he could see was a wall of crimson red. His eyes were open but not seeing, and blood was gushing from both nostrils.

He acted instinctively and just charged forward into his opponent, the momentum carrying both to the ground. He was stunned by the punch, couldn't see, so he just held on.

The other boy was struggling to get free, and as Tai Ying’s eyesight cleared a little, he could see why. There was blood all over the place and more on the way. The quantity of blood freaked the guy out. The clothes of both were soaked with blood. The attacker finally got loose, jumped up and ran off.

Tai Ying’s head was of two minds: One was kind of worried about all the blood, wondering if a person could bleed to death from a broken nose, and the other was just pissed at having been bested. He wanted revenge, and he started planning for it that same day.

The experience had taught him that fast punches that land are better than big punches that miss. He enlisted the help of Tam Toi and a new friend, Wu Doc, to help him get ready.

They searched for materials for him to practice his strategy. His plan was the essence of simplicity: he would walk up to the boy, and the moment he got within range he would start punching faster than he had ever punched before, with both fists going straight out, not swinging, and he would strike so many times that the boy would be overwhelmed.

The three children put together a striking mat, grass covering a board, and mounted it on a coconut tree. Every day for two weeks he spent an hour slamming the mat with rapid hand strikes. Then one day he spotted the kid on the street, walking away. Tai Ying called out.

He never slowed his fast stride as he approached, and the split second that he was within range he began firing. The boy’s hands came up, but too late to keep his face from being hit over and over. He was backing up and trying to swing, but he never had a chance to land a one.

Tai Ying’s anger was a distant thing and not really a factor during the fight, but he had enough raging juice for three battles. As he punched, he didn't tire but rather seemed to gain energy. He had waited for this moment, and was loathe to let go of it. He began operating within an extemporal zone, time elongated, and a light engulfed his consciousness.

All of a sudden the other boy broke the spell. “Oh, Kwan Yin’s nuts!,” he exclaimed, grabbing himself in the rear, and ran off, looking back as he skedaddled.

Tai Ying was puzzled until the boy took off, then he laughed out loud, and yelled: “I scared the shit out of you!” He and Tam Toi and Doc fell down laughing about that one for years.

It would be easy to dismiss the early confrontations of a boy-child as inconsequential, but all warriors know that it is exactly those fights which illuminate the path. In this one, Tai Ying learned the advantage of a truly committed and planned attack, combined with overwhelming punching power.

Other fights and other lessons were forthcoming, ones which he could easily analyze. But he was puzzled about that first one: when he would try to remember what was happening, he would only recall that white light and a floating sensation. In fact, he recalled that his blows to the boy felt soft as feathers as they connected. What did it all mean?

~     

Tai Ying was tall for his age, and sometimes that worked against him. One time, around age 14 or 15, he was hanging outside a gambling room, a dingy little place where mostly wanna-be tong punks hung out. A guy with a black smock coat and no queue bumped into him. Tai Ying over-reacted with "You want to take it to the alley?"

“With pleasure,” the tough responded quickly.

“To the alley” was a trigger phrase for the street fighters. It meant, Let’s see whose style is best, and provided an income for the winners, as every time a loser saw the fighter who bested him, he was obliged to tithe or be issued a challenge on the spot. Trouble was, Tai Ying had neither style nor teacher.

They dropped around the corner to the nearest little alley, followed by a swelling entourage already placing bets.

Tai Ying checked his opponent out with care. The boy wasn't as tall as Tai Ying, but he was thicker, older and exuded the confidence of more experience.

They squared off, and Tai Ying was hit in the face and kicked low before he knew what happened. The kick was right on, and Tai Ying doubled up in a heap, helpless as he grasped his nuts and rolled on the ground. He had never experienced pain like that before. Luckily the guy just turned and walked off.

“Who the hell was that?” he managed to ask  Doc after ten minutes.

“Didn’t you see his tattoo? He is I Hing.”

Tai Ying groaned. Now he had a permanent debt. He just hoped he hadn’t made a permanent enemy of the dreaded tong.

That loss taught him that fighting over trifles is a form of stupidity—as is standing too close to your opponent.

~     

One time Tam asked Doc if he had some advice for taking care of herself on the streets. “Yeah, learn to hit fuckin’ hard.” That was the core of his advice, and it depressed her to think she couldn’t stand up when push came to punch. There had to be a better way, she imagined. But what? All the ch’uan systems she knew about relied on brute strength. And anyway, no shifu would stoop to teaching a mere girl. Tam just tried to stick close to Doc and Tai Ying. But it wasn’t always possible.

A group of the I Hing was walking toward Tai Ying, Tam Toi, and Doc Wu. They all knew what was coming, so they split up on the run, with the I Hing moving quickly after them. One tackled Tai Ying, and down they went onto the cobblestones.

The I Hing soldier was not a boy, he was strong, and Tai Ying’s experiences had made clear his own lack of grappling training. He had to finish the guy quick if he were going to make it. Not to mention that there were four more I Hing; he didn't know where, but was sure he’d find out pretty quick.

They very quickly rolled over three times, with Tai Ying fighting for a superior position the whole time. He got what he was after—the entire ear in his mouth. Not part of it. The whole thing.

Just as they stopped rolling, he heard Doc call out: "Brother, come here now!" Tai Ying knew what that meant, and started biting down. His foe started screaming and begging, and went totally limp. He promised he’d just run away if Tai Ying wouldn't take his ear.

Tai Ying let him go, the guy ran away, and Tai Ying ran the other way, towards Doc. The three other guys had all jumped him, knocked him down, and were kicking and stomping him as he curled up against a wall. Tai Ying picked up a heavy stick.

They saw him coming  and took off. After a moment Doc struggled up, but he couldn't straighten all the way. They had broken a rib or two.

“Thanks, brother, you saved my skin,” Doc whispered. He couldn’t even breathe deeply.

“That’s what friends for,” Tai Ying shrugged.

“I am yours in this life and the next,” Doc promised.

~     

Doc was chasing a low life named Wong Wei through the crowded marketplace, and Wong had every reason to be running, as Doc was doubly pissed. It seems that Wong had tried to kidnap Tam Toi, not for long, just enough time for a forced quickie under the Autumn Bridge near the market. Doc knew something was up when she didn’t come back from making her rounds picking pockets among the throng of early morning shoppers.

Tam was 15, and she could scrap—unless a big guy put grappling moves on her, and then it was nearly all over but the screaming. Doc followed her screams and found the struggle. Wong got off her when Doc ran up yelling, pulled the butterfly sword out of his sash, and snarled as he leaped towards Doc. The butterfly is a short sword, its 16-inch blade designed to be a real crowd-pleaser in the densely populated streets of southern China.

Doc had already pulled off his jacket to wrap it around his left forearm. He then reached behind him to extract a small hatchet he always kept handy in his own sash.

Wong shifted the short sword up against his forearm to take the force of Doc’s initial overhand strike. He then immediately reversed the weapon’s arc, aiming at Doc’s face. Doc ducked and swung at the same time, thudding the hatchet into Wong’s jacket side.

It was a glancing, weak blow, didn’t penetrate, but it did look like it made an impression. Wong backed up, crouching in seeming pain as he covered an apparent retreat. Doc fell into the trap and closed for another head shot. Wong suddenly sprang forward, reversing the shank of the blade, and slashed Doc’s ribs superficially. Doc’s shirt stained red very quickly.

The cut just seemed to piss Doc off more. Wong saw the demons pour from Doc’s eyes immediately, and took off up the embankment into the market crowds. The chase was on.

They darted between stalls, with Wong slithering under wagons and between horses, dodging carts and bobbing between laborers with loads, but Doc was on him. Blood was flowing from both, as Doc laid a couple more licks with the business end of the hatchet on Wong’s back and arm.

Wong stumbled back down towards the river, hopped onto a small produce river barge, and suddenly ran out of running room. Doc took his time closing on his prey.

Tai Ying had heard the commotion from the far end of the market, and had a feeling he should check it out. He followed the chase best he could, then headed back to the Bridge where, with one glance at Tam, he figured out what was going on. He caught up with the two combatants.

They had moved into the small boatman’s shack on the barge, still fighting and slashing and parrying. The blood of both splashed the deck as they ran. Wu’s forearm, from the wrist to the inside of the elbow, had been opened to the bone. It was useless to him so Doc fought with his other arm.

Wong’s back was against the bamboo and thatch wall. He was begging and pleading for someone to help him. He had wounds were on his back, his chest, arms, and he no longer had his sword. Doc was in front of him, doing his best to take him out.

Wong was using both hands to try and control Doc’s one good arm. He was only partially successful. He was exhausted, sobbing and begging.

Tai Ying moved as quickly as he could, but it was not easy to get to them. The palm thatch walls were broken and tossed about the large bamboo timber deck, slippery with mud mixed with blood.  He was partially to one side and behind them as Doc raised his hatchet to bury it into the other man’s neck.  Tai Ying hooked his arm with Doc’s on the downswing.

"Brother, is this our path?” he asked. Doc opened his hand and dropped the hatchet. Tai Ying put an arm around him in comfort. Tam Toi had run onto the vegetable barge during the last moments as well, gave Wong a kick where he had collapsed, then supported Doc from the other side. They  started picking they way off the boat.

“Brothers,” said Tam, “I am tired of this directionless life.”

“And this day,” responded Tai Ying, “I am sick of violence without cause.”

     “Then this is the day to pick up the lantern,” said a voice from the riverbank.

     They both turned to see an old man they knew as a crippled money-changer, watching the whole event.

     It was time for the trio to meet their fate.

 

Chapter 37

 

It was in 1851 that Brenalt and Lowe Hardware made a strategic re-location into The City. With their previous contacts in the Sierras and Sacto City, the two men quickly had the largest shipping and receiving center in the State. American Pride serviced farmers’ needs from Fresno to Reading, and the sheer volume of the inventory of hardware moving through their warehouse brought them in close contact with the biggest movers and shakers in The City.

It seemed natural that Brenalt’s in-house monthly bulletin for employees quickly morphed into a four-page weekly publication that spread throughout the mercantile community. He named his rag The Northern Star, and hit the streets with an eight-page edition in 1851.

Brenalt’s pugilistic politics and fiery editorials quickly earned him a following, with many suggesting that he be an action figure on the political scene.

Too tame for me—and oblique, Brenalt surmised. But it didn’t take much urging by the Mayor and fire Chief that he head the first Community Help Committee in 1851. His first act as President was to change the name to Vigilance Committee of Direct Action and Summary Justice.

              *             *             *

/California was a place where young men (most of them solidly petit bourgeois) could escape from the strictures of family, propriety and property, and could revel in a rough frontier equality, a pure money economy, and an absent state -- for a few short years. On the other hand, an unruly city of transients, gamblers and fast-living, the political ascendance of the Irish through the Democratic Party, and economic implosion after 1855 jeopardized the dominance of the Anglo merchant class. Hence their reactionary eruptions in Vigilantism in 1851 and 1855-57./

Like most human efforts to find solutions to sticky problems, it/the Vigilance Committee seemed like a good idea at the time. From the first declaration in 1848 of the gold findings, most cities throughout California were terribly victimized by waves of gamblers, con men, gangsters, prostitutes, and adventurers drawn to easy money.

The constant gambling, drunkenness, and armed brawls on every other corner demoralized the small group of merchants serious about creating a stable society and raising families. There was neither significant deterrent in police presence nor a federal military enforcing civilian order. To survive the lawlessness spreading throughout California, a new style of summary justice was created.  Born of necessity into these tough times in San Francisco was the famous Vigilance Committee of 1851.

The Committee had its hands full. By mid-century, thousands of murders throughout the State went unpunished. No one had time for city and State business because of the rush to the gold fields. Politics and government were neglected by the residents, and so fell to the criminal elements.

Corruption and graft were common in running not only San Francisco, but also Los Angeles, Sacramento, Chico, and San Diego. The courts throughout the State were in the hands of the politicians-for-hire, a city’s administration of justice was for the highest bidder, and/the ballot box was a farce./,  and riffraff of the city used due process to get wealthy on the addictions that defined a consumptive people.

But, as with all cultural institutions, the reformers eventually accommodated to the forces that cemented and fueled the society.

              *             *             *

     “What is your informed opinion, LL?” Sam Brenalt asked, tossing his former partner the proof page of the afternoon’s editorial of The Northern Star.

     “`Livingston Lowe, Esq., met with delegates of the Republican Party yesterday,’” read Livingston, “`to tell them that if Harrison receives the Party’s nomination, he will certainly gain the vote on the entire Pacific coast.’” He looked up from the paper. “Irrefutably true, Sam.”

Brenalt stiffened and fairly yelled back. “My God, the man not only voted against the Chinese Exclusion Act, as Senator he has voted and lobbied to extend citizenship and suffrage to those Celestials already here!”

“Gotta change with the times, Sam.” Brenalt signaled for him to keep reading. “`Can the citizens of this State seriously pretend that the threat of being overrun does not exist, when at this very moment the Orientals are pouring in by the thousands, brought here by steamers subsidized by the workingman’s taxes?’”

Livingston looked up at his friend. “What? Not enough for you to do as Chairman of the Committee, you gotta take on the Chinese now?”

Brenalt pushed back from the massive oak desk (“All the way from Paris, France,” he liked to point out), strode to the window overlooking “The Plaza,” as Portsmouth Square was referred to, and swept his hand over the view from his third story perch. “You think we went from tents to granite buildings like mine in three years by the hands of the Chinese?”

“Valid point, Sam, but I can think of 12 rich people right off-hand who are sure to take this personally, you attack their cheap labor source.”

Brenalt dismissed the point with a wave of his hand. “You realize in ’53, with those back-East butt-fukkin’ politicians and ‘Hounds’ running things here, The City spent three million greenbacks.”

“I thought the Workingman’s Party changed all that last year.”

“That we did,” Brenalt chuckled. “With help of the Committee, The City got along in good shape on $360,000. If I were you, LL, I’d bet on ‘The White Hope,’” he said, snatching the proof away.

“Hey LL, know how to find a Chinese restaurant?”

Livingston knew he didn’t need to lower himself to a response.

“Look for what looks like a pet shop. HA! Were you aware that Chinese just love small animals? Usually one cat between two diners is enough.” Brenalt loved his own jokes.

Enigmatic, bloated bastard, thought LL. Needs to snatch a good look at some young sideways pussy to get religion.     

          *             *             *

The Northern Star’s editorials had a predictable effect: 500 enraged workers marched on Chinatown one spring day, putting it to ruins or under siege. Mobs wandered the streets for the next week, ambushing Chinese and attacking firms who employed Chinese workers. The Governor called out the state militia, blaming the violence on bums, reactionaries, and young hoods. But the militia was quickly overwhelmed, forcing the Governor to consider more creative solutions. He telegraphed the “Lion of the Vigilantes” for assistance.

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 38

 

Tai Ying was a little on edge. He was surrounded by ten thousand pissed-off whites crowding around Ft. Gunnybags, the Headquarters of the Committee of Vigilance.

The Office of the Navy itself had a mounted battalion of 4,000 men under arms. But the streets glistened with more Vigilante muskets, rifles, bayonets, and axe handles (most stamped “B&L”) than the US government could muster. Sam Brenalt’s men had demonstrated just who was running the financial and political power center of all California.

The Committee's army took possession of the entire commercial area, from Kearney St. to Monkey Block all the way up to The Plaza and Ft. Gunnybags. And just to show they meant business, cannons were placed at each corner of the large, three-story brick Headquarters and manned by men who knew how to use them.

The entrance was protected with coarse sacks filled with sand piled up six feet thick and ten feet high. Inside the sandbag barrier a company of musketeers stood on a platform poking their weapons through small apertures in the wall.

Tai Ying had arrived two hours earlier in a large coach with the 8 Leagues delegation. A bodyguard’s worst nightmare: assigned to a rival tong that loans him out to merchants,  supporters of a hated government back home, who then place him unarmed in the midst of thousands of large, hostile, angry white men.

Tai Ying had been standing outside the conference room for five minutes when the Chinese Consul walked down the hall. That puzzled him somewhat, but not as much as seeing the Consul’s own bodyguard, Harry Dux.

And then The Beast strolled in, followed by a lawyer who called himself ”Colonel”; Tai Ying knew the lawyer as a frequent client in the Chee Kung’s Garden of Tender Peonies. Both of them seemed to know the gwei-lo bodyguard, and stopped to greet him. The Beast said a few things, and even gestured toward Tai Ying. The three men glanced over at Tai Ying, The Beast slapped Dux on the shoulder, laughed, and turned to walk inside, giving Tai Ying a strange look as he went.

Another five minutes passed, and six armed men emerged from a stairwell at the other end of the hall, closely ranked around someone. They marched toward Tai Ying and he got a look inside the pocket as the door opened. The Li brothers, looking surprisingly cheerful and in good shape, grinned broadly and issued him a thumbs up. They weren’t even bound.

This is a strange fruit, mused the Chief Enforcer. His helplessness and confusion multiplied when the 8 Leagues  delegation emerged an hour later with the Li brothers. A military squad hustled them all out the rear doors of basement passages leading to the other side of the block and into a waiting closed coach. Tai Ying looked out the rear window to see the Li brothers, surrounded by the squad, waving forlornly as the coach rattled away.

*              *             *

Brenalt stepped up to a dais constructed behind the wall of gunnysacks, and a resounding wave of cheering rose up from the thousands of armed Vigilantes. He waited until he could be heard, then swept his hand over the mob.

“You are all in great danger. Our very way of life is threatened. Hundreds and thousands of Mongolians are flocking into our state every week.

“The Chinese are willing to work for a pittance. And now white laborers all over the state are not wanted except at starving wages. The large cities have become crowded with unemployed white men.

“Store keepers in the country can sell no goods. Why? The white man has left. And the Chinese eat only rice, and they make or import their own clothing.

“The Mongolian is farming thousands of small plots of vegetables, always underselling the white farmer.

“The fair value of real estate has fallen. All kinds of business is stagnating throughout the State.”

“The Chinese must go!” someone yelled, and suddenly the buildings shook with the roars of the hungry multitudes of workingmen.

Brenalt calmed his followers with a simple raising of one hand.

“That same cry has echoed from every campfire in the mining districts to every town.

“But I can tell you that things are not as they appear. Your cry has alarmed the wealthy in The City.

Secret counsels have proposed to suppress the laboring classes’ outcry into submission by the use of brute force. The military is ready to exterminate the working classes like dogs if they do not cease their agitations against the Chinese hordes,” he said, gesturing towards the uniforms.

     The naval battalion officers swallowed, and commands of “Steady!” went through the ranks.

“Look around the nation,” Sam continued. “The Democrats nominate Benjamin Harrison, a man who proposes to shoot down any workingman who publicly asks for increased compensation.

“For Vice President he wants a British banker who controls the Canadian Pacific. That’s a British-owned railroad and steamship corporation. The government of England subsidizes CP to ship Chinese from Hong Kong to work here.”

Sam paused for breath, cast his piercing stare at his faithful. “Now, I am confused here. Who is running the United States? Whose interests are foremost here—Yours or the Canucks? Yours or the Limeys? Yours or the Mongolians? Yours or the rich?”

The roars rocked the block, and he had to stop talking. He raised both arms and grinned. That should up the fight odds, he thought.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 39

 

Tai Ying was under orders from both his Tong leaders to de-brief after the Ft. Gunnybags meeting. Very early the next morning he slipped into the temple to find his sifu already waiting in the meditation hall. At 3 a.m., nobody else was around to interrupt.

“Sit, and tell me why you look so confused.”

“What have you heard, sifu? Why did the goons spend a week beating people up, then treat the Li’s like guests?”

“You did too good a job protecting us here last week.”

“Don’t forget Tam Toi. She put a lot of men on the ground.” Tai Ying did a double take, and blurted, “What do you mean, `too good?’”

“Your reputation arrived before you did yesterday.”

“I feel like I’m missing something.”

“Tell me: How many Vigilantes have you discouraged from beating on more Chinese?”

“Don’t know—dozens, I suppose.”

“Before or after the Li brothers were kidnapped?”

 Tai Ying’s face lightened as he understood the point. “You mean, the Li’s were bait? I still don’t get it. What’s the ransom?”

Chan just looked steadily at him.

“No!” Tai Ying was incredulous.

“They couldn’t get to you by force.”

“But why didn’t they just take me yesterday? What do they want?”

“What they always want: revenge, saving face, and money,” sighed the old man.

“Why don’t I just give myself up to their hands?”

“They’d rather humiliate you in front of the entire gwei-lo population. A challenge match between you and their bare-knuckles champion.”

“Who’s that?/ When?”

“You saw him yesterday. Harry Dux./The fight is scheduled for Saturday night./You saw him yesterday A prizefight with Harry Dux. Scheduled for Saturday night./Saturday night.”

“`Prize’?”

“You lose, you and the Li brothers hang.”

“Not much room for maneuvering there.”

“The 8 Leagues is betting on you to lose.”

“Betting on my loss?” Tai Ying was surprised.

“Large.”

Tai Ying shook his head in disbelief. “What should I do, Sifu?”/, then looked steadily at his teacher. “What are you betting on, Sifu?”

“You’ll do the right thing. And then you’re going on a trip.”

          *             *             *

Tai Ying sighed as he made his way up Pacific St. to the Jong-Mei China-America restaurant where the Chi Tong headman liked to breakfast. One more talk in a morning already full of steep learning curves.

At least there were no more big, angry, white goons on the streets. Just the merchants on Dupont Gai getting ready for early shoppers, stacking crates of leafy greens, apples, live chickens and ducks, tossing buckets of water in front of stores to sweep the boards clear of the muck from the streets—for a few brief hours, anyway.

He swung into the Jong-Mei and headed to the rear table, where Bing Leong liked to sit with his back to the wall. He wasn’t alone. Of course he had several soldiers seated nearby, but it was his companion that knocked the wind out of Tai Ying.

A stunning petite beauty of 25 sat next to the boss. Leong didn’t introduce her; everyone knew this was the concubine Ah Toi. She could not be afforded face.

Tai Ying knew her as Tam Toi. He had been successful for two years in not making contact with his lover and tong sister, per their sifu’s instructions. Thank Buddha for kung fu, to keep my mind off the hole she left, he thought.

He greeted Leong, ignored her, and slid into the chair to Leong’s right, as was correct, with the concubine far left two places over. Leong ordered a breakfast jook, hot rice gruel seasoned with a chicken broth and herbs.

Tai Ying got the same, to help keep his mind off the girl. He spent almost an hour in conversation with Leong, probably mostly about the meeting yesterday, but he was studiously avoiding eye contact with Tam Toi, just sleep-talking his way.

One directive did filter through his haze, though: Leong wanted him to lose to Dux, so that the 8 Leagues and the Chee Kung could make a killing on the fight.

“As I understand it, me and the Li’s would be the killed ones here,” Tai Ying reminded his boss.

“It’s been arranged—three hangings will be staged for the benefit of the masses. The Vigilantes will gain their face back. And the 8 Leagues, the Consul, and your Tong will benefit from your loss. It has been decided.”

The daze returned, and Tai Ying never remembered finishing the jook. His inner mooring came loose as he bounced between what was possible, what was true, what was out of control.

cut??? The next time his consciousness cleared, it was dark and he was turning into Gambler’s Alley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 40

 

The next day Tai Ying picked his way through the revelries that literally exploded on the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown that February, the year of the Snake. There was an incessant roar from the fire-crackers thrown into the streets in stringed packages from every store, gambling-house, restaurant and rooming house window, covering entire blocks with blue-grey clouds of gunpowder smoke and the boardwalks with red husks of thousands of spent crackers.

He stepped into Old Mexican Gamblers Alley off Portsmouth Square, and walked up to one of the many narrow doorways with cloth signs hanging on the walls, announcing in huge Chinese characters the name of the gambling room and the supposed “owner.” But everybody Chinese knew that the owner was always the same.

“Hoi hoi!” Tai Ying barked at the door-guard of The Lucky Lion, miffed that he had to say anything at all.

The beefy soldier whipped his hands out of his sleeves,/door-guard of “The Lucky Lion,” hands tucked up into his sleeves, stamped on the floor twice, and nodded him through the door being opened from the inside.

The large room was as choked this Saturday night as Old Mexican Gamblers Alley outside. Bare and plain, with no chairs except for the dealers and the three-member pipa and flute ensemble, the “parlor” was there for one reason only: to quickly separate the gullible from their earnings. The walls were painted white for the same reason, to foster bad luck for the gamblers and good luck to the house.

Whores wandered from table to table, clad in their loose drawers or pants of blue straight-cut silk, with matching blue silk shoes, richly embroidered in golden thread, and with thick soles of white felt and white anklets and bracelets of silver, gold, or jade-stone. Their lustrous blue-black hair hung down the back, in two braids bound with jade hair-clips.

 This was the uniform of the Chee Kung floral properties. And Tai Ying was Keeper of the Flowers. It was his job to prevent trouble before it happened.

The whores had their work cut out for them: to distract a Chinaman from his Fan Tan was risky business—even if you were dangling pussy in front of his nose. Many a hot-blood would get annoyed at a young girl (sometimes no older than 14), and backhand her across the mouth. The Chee Kung Tong had to keep a man stationed in every parlor to step in when need be. After all, the girl was just a Tong property doing her job.

*             *             *

 

The Chee Kung Tong controlled Chinese prostitution in SF and specialized in protection of these property rights for the slave owners—be they Chinese or not. Their fee was $40 for each woman under their “protection.” Sometimes Tai Ying and a few hatchet soldiers were obliged to confer with those few bold men who had married and sequestered a Chee Kung “flower.” Typically the errant husband was given 3 choices: reimburse her owner for the full value, return the woman, or be killed. Attempts to prosecute the gwei-lo Tai pan slave owners or the Chee Kung in court were unsuccessful: girls were terrified at the thought of crossing their owners and refused to testify against them.

The great majority of SF’s Chinese females in the 19th cent were prostitutes, many no older than 12. Most were ingenuous country girls lured by the promises of rich husbands in the new country, tricked into signing false marriage contracts, or simply kidnapped by Cantonese brokers scouring the countryside. The girls were worth $100- to $300- a head, FOB to the Chee Kung and Lowe, International in SF and NYC. The only promise kept by Gold Mountain when they arrived the promised land of Gold Mountain promised them only slavery.

Slave girls were fed and clothed by their brothel owners, but never paid. If they didn’t work hard enough, or failed to attract men, or refused them, the old ‘mother’ of the brothel would beat them and refuse them food. In San Francisco many fled, some seeking refuge in the church mission houses, some trekking east to the mountains and marshes, all arriving swollen, sore, and bruised.

 

              *             *             *

“The Lucky Lion” had three long tables in play, and they were all cookin’. No other furniture was in sight: You played or you walked. A guy could choose between Pai Gow (dominoes), Fan-Tan (guessing odd-even numbers of beans or coins in a pile), and Mah-Jong (an ancient tiles game).

Tai Ying stepped up to the long Fan-Tan table, crowded with 50 pig-tailed, heavy-smoking countrymen, most dressed in traditional Chinese black suits topped with a Western-style businessman’s hat. The table was supporting two bets: odd-even and exact number of Chinese bronze coins thrown.

The dealer had on the table before him a pile of the light penny-size "copper cash," each with a square hole in the center. The coins were valued of the thousandth part of a Mexican dollar, or a tenth part of one U.S. cent. In China the squared cash was strung on strings of a hundred or a thousand each, for convenience in handling and to save counting.

A grandfatherly old fellow in huge spectacles, blue silk over-shirt and skull-cap, picked up a random handful of these coins, and slammed them down on the table, instantly covering them with a inverted bowl. He was the “dealer.” The players immediately shouted out their bets, and, as always, the dealer covered all bets against the men on the other side of the table. He then raised the bowl, and using a thin piece of wire with a small hook on one end, he quickly separated them into piles of four coins each.

Tai Ying stared at the upended bowl, his tongue flipping the little cigarrito from one side of his mouth to the other. “I count odd and two!” he shouted at the dealer, and placed his bet on the table.

“Seven piles, two left over,” the banker announced. “Fortune smiles often on our First Enforcer!” he exalted as he pocketed Tai Ying’s gift.

Tai Ying’s eye wandered through the thick blue haze of the mixed tobacco and opium cigarittos. Enough bullshit--he needed to keep tabs on the girl, and collect their earnings.

So Tai Ying, Red Stick and First Enforcer of the most feared Tong in the U.S., was also Tai Ying, the Flower Master, of the Chi-Kung flower garden. He let it be known to the girls that he was there to stifle any ungentlemanly conduct towards them. And that was true enough, but his principal reason was more important: keeping tabs on one of the paid distracters. WHO??  WHY??

But his mind was continually blipping him with remembered snippets of his conversation the day before with Tong headman, Bing Leong.

         

 

 

Chapter 41

    

 “Come in, First Enforcer,” called out Leong from his

desk at the Chee Kung Tong Hall.

Tai Ying entered and strode up to the Tong Boss to

salute. “Shuk-fu,” he greeted with a bowed head, then stood

at loose attention with his mouth shut.

“You’ve been here for—what? A year now? I trust that

you are starting to feel more comfortable on “Gold

Mountain”?

“More like in a cage. I haven’t been able to leave the confines of Chinatown to even go fishing at Hunters Point without sneaking in and out. A small existence!” Tai Ying spat the words out bitterly.

 

re-write as if following thru w/ conv. in restaurant>

“We’re working on changing that at the State Assembly level. But our own efficiency works against us. We Chinese are just too good at whatever we do, we work too hard and too efficiently for these white devils.” Leong chuckled. “The obvious inferiority of the performance of these whites enrages them to greater stupidities.”

“What are they up to now in Sacramento?” Tai Ying queried.

“They are prohibiting further entry of immigrants from China because we force them to work harder and for lower wages,” Leong laughed. “The US government’s answer is to encourage more migration from Ireland and eastern Europe. It seems they are in a race to eliminate themselves. We Chinese have only to endure.”

“Chinese are good at that, Chief.”

“Let’s see how you fare with it, First Enforcer.” Tai Ying raised his eyebrows in query. Leong paused and looked hard at Tai Ying. “Our benevolent Tong has a couple problems, and a couple solutions. You will provide both, but in different skins and with several faces.”

“I have a special task for you. A new Anti-Coolie League is being formed by unseen and powerful forces stretching from south State into Washington and Wyoming territories. It is so serious that our government’s minister has appealed to the U.S. government to protect Chinese residents in those places. We need to know the extent of this League, what they hope to gain, and most importantly, who is behind it. We want you to get together 12 of your best to find these things out.”

“This I will do immediately, Kai-Yee.”

“But you will do this in a special manner: A gwei-lo will lead your group, but remain unseen.”

“Who is he, Kai-Yee?”

“You may have heard of him--Sam Brenalt.”

“You mean, the `B’?” Tai Ying was aghast.

“`B’?”

“The Beast. The same man who is sending Irish out to fight us? The same man who competes with our business?”

“You don’t have all the information. Brenalt is

our representative. You will follow his directives. Clear?”

     “OK. Well, what do we know about the situation?”

     “More than the gwei-lo do about us. We’ve even got people employed in the homes of anti-Chinese whites.”

     “That seems to be bringing us some grief, Kai-Yee. Brenalt’s Vigilante goons are moving around the city beating any Han they find.”

“I’m aware of that.”

    “Any reason to think that there is any difference between those ghosts’ behavior and those here in SF?”

     “Most of the new peasants in the countryside are of Irish and English heritage of little culture and little tolerance.”

“Sounds familiar,” Tai Ying said grimly.

“The City is a Chinese Heaven compared to life in the provinces.”

“This is going to be tough,” Tai Ying said, wagging his head.

     “We need to know exactly what are the conditions in those northern counties—not only the overt acts against our brothers, but the attitudes towards them. I want you to particularly check out why that murderer’s half-Cherokee mother could just ride into the middle of town with 16 other Indians, and collect her son from a compliant jailer. And how we can get him back in jail.”

 “And if we get in the thick of it? Got any place to run?“

     “Avoid getting into anything. But I can hardly think you’ll avoid it. The Anti-Coolie League has about 400 sand-lot brawlers who are trying to move our two Chinatowns outside the city limits.”

     “That sounds like a good compromise to me. Why don’t I make that happen?”

     “Because of the attitude behind the idea, that’s why!” Leong fairly shouted. “They claim that we are a public nuisance detrimental to the health of the citizens. Imagine: this from people who don’t bathe for months on end, or even use a twig to clean their teeth!

“Look, if you need it, we’ve set up a safe house in New Chinatown in Reading. But I’d think twice about fleeing to Shasta County: it gets hotter for us the further north you travel.”

Tai Ying was on his way out the door when Leong stopped him dead in his tracks.

“One last thing: Who is Tam Toi?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 42

Tai Ying was pulled back from his wanderings by a tug. It was one of the pipa players, pulling on his sleeve. The Lucky Lion patrons knew her as was Ah Toi, the singer-musician. He knew her as Tam Toi.

“You here to play?”

Tam Toi nodded. “Have to get out sometime,” she shrugged. She raised up on her tiptoes so that the taller Tai Ying could hear better. Her slitted cheong sam opened to her thigh as one leg lifted slightly. “Did you recognize the last tune?”

     “My favorite: ‘Song of the White Lotus.’”

     Tam Toi leaned towards him to murmur, “`Overthrow the darkness.’” Her words were meant for his ears only.

     “`Restore the light,’”  Tai Ying responded, keeping his voice as private.

“Hour of the Rabbit?” Tam Toi murmured.

Tai Ying just glanced down at her, then turned and walked away.???????

          *             *             *

Most men in the early Chinatowns across the U.S. slept five to eight to a small rented room in a residential hotel. There were scarcely any women--marriageable women of good virtue—available to the thousands of bachelors who crammed into a few square city blocks. You had to be rich, be the household whore of the rich, or have the right connections within your Tong to have a room to yourself.

     It suited Tam Toi’s beauty suited her purpose to be kept by the Ah Kung of the Chee Kung, Bing Leong. She could request special privileges, such as private quarters and entertaining at Lucky Lion, where she often picked up snippets of information important to the goals of the Hung Muhn.

     Tam Toi recognized the tap on her rear door of her garden apartment and Tai Ying slipped into the room. “First Enforcer…” she began.

     Tai Ying moved to her side, quickly placed his index finger over her lips, and held her around the waist as he leaned over to peer cautiously out the curtains. He turned back to Tam Toi with “Now we can—.“

     But Tam Toi began kissing his palm and sucking on his fingers one at a time. His other hand went straight to her silk blouse and he reached beneath the cotton under-binding to cup her ample, taut breast. She released his hand to raise up the blouse for his mouth to find the suddenly erect nipple.

Tai Ying loved sucking her nipples and licking the entire breast all over. He found great pleasure in those warm, soft tits/globes, and took his time expressing a proper appreciation.

“Juicy as golden mangoes,” he pronounced happily, drool glistening on both cheeks.

Tam Toi responded to his devotion by lifting up each breast for him to devour at his whim. Her pussy/bao began bubbling with heat, and she couldn’t ignore its hunger for long. She grabbed one of his hands to thrust it into her slit skirt.

Tai Ying’s mouth abandoned a nipple/locked onto a nipple and dove into her skirt with one hand. He felt her soft, hairless mons and slipped his fingers down to hungrily caress her opening labia for a few moments.

Tam Toi reached down with both hands to raise his head up to her mouth. Lip-locked, they fell backwards onto the bed, quickly undressing each other.

 

              *             *             *

     “Bing Leong is on to you. You’re coming with me. Two days.” Tai Ying sounded resolute, but he was still in bed.

     “You sure about the timing?” she wondered, propped on one arm; the other hand danced over his chest, then teased him with a Chi massage three inches above his pelvis. She had his attention. “I have a thought about the prizefight.”

Tai Ying lifted the sheet and peered down. “Right now?”

     “What if I told you the 8 Leagues want you to win?”

     “How…?”

      “Two nights before the fight, the 8 Leagues will send several hundred workers to the Lucky Lion. Gwei-lo bookies will take their bets against you, driving the odds up to favor Dux.”

     “But the 8 Leagues wants me to lose!” Tai Ying was getting that dazed look again.

     Tam Toi waved her hands downward. “Take it easy. Fight- night the heavy 8 Leagues bettors will lay it down for you to win. There you have it.”

     “Just a minute. You mean this whole thing was a set-up, a sting?”

     “They’re all involved, Tai Ying. Even The Beast. You’re the last to know,” she said softly. “Leong was just twisting your thread in the restaurant.”

     “Did a good job,” Tai Ying sighed, shaking his head. 

     “Anyway, back to the present. After you win—“

     “After I win, the Chee Kung wants me in Chico to clean up some problem. You come, too.”

     Tam Toi smiled at this, and began to dress. “The only way for me to leave SF is to disappear forever.” She stood there with her hands on her hips. “And live in Chico as your wife.”

Tai Ying stammered a bit at that. “I don’t—“

     “I would be in disguise.”

     “I still don’t see how we’d get you out of the City without drawing attention.”

     Tam Toi grinned wide. “We need the attention. I want you to kill me.”

~     

Tai Ying had to admit to himself that he was more than a little nervous. He started out jerking each nail of the coffin carefully, but ended up just ripping the damned lid off the final hinge.

     “Careful, man—that coffin gets re-used!” It was the captain of China Star helping Tai Ying. No other ship crew could be trusted to be present with them in the hold. Torches lighted the bulkheads, throwing eerie shadows to dance on the old grey wood.

     There she was, all dressed up for a funeral. Tam Toi was always beautiful, he had to admit—even under an herb-induced, temporary “death.” He stooped down to administer needles to acupuncture points KD-1 on the bottom of her foot to release stored Chi and ST-11 just off her left clavicle to normalize her slowed heartbeat, then massaged cranial points at the base of her head. Didn’t take more than two minutes to bring her around.

     “By the labia of Kwan Yin, you make a beautiful corpse,” he remarked when her eyes cleared.

     She bolted upright to slap his cheek playfully. “You know that’s bad luck! Comparing me to the private parts of The Compassionate One—humph! Where are my clothes?”

     “You’ve been sleeping on them,” Tai Ying laughed, reaching into the coffin.

“What’s so funny?” Tam Toi wanted to know.

He held up a very unflattering shirt. “Hope you don’t mind being my coolie,” he smirked, ducking her punch.

She dressed in a dark corner, laying her funeral garments atop a dark green canvas stack. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she perceived a stenciled marking on the ends of several pine crates beneath the cloth: US ARMY.

~     

A great deal of Tai Ying’s time during his first two years was to oversee the shiploads of corpses, bones and ashes leaving the Embarcadero for Hong Kong--Chinese who had chased dreams up Gold Mountain, only to arrive dead at the top. When the French ship Asia set sail with 321 embalmed Chinese bodies aboard, when the American clipper Flying Cloud followed close behind with corpses of 200 Chinese, and when a dozen other barques, barkentines and brigs were commissioned to transport urns, it was up to Tai Ying to make sure most of the containers were stuffed with muskets and powder-bore pistols. Tai Ying oversaw each step of the disguised shipments.

          *             *             *

 The Captain took a pry bar to the t