Monday, July 6, 2015

Buckskin Brigades - Chapter 38 - Yellow Hair Threatens his Prisoners and Talks a Bunch

Man, it's a good thing Yellow Hair is in charge of this battle, and was able to tell his people to capture all the fleeing bullies and whatnot instead of running them down as per his original order of "do not leave a man alive!"  Sure would be awkward to end this book with a massacre.

As it is, McGlincy and the Mustache are sweating in the trading room, which has gone all quiet.  The rest of the fur traders are refusing to shoot for fear of provoking the besiegers to burn the place down around them, but it turns out the Blackfoot have other ideas - everyone freaks out when they notice that the attackers are "rolling up cannon!"

Yes, the Blackfoot have managed to get the fort's artillery pieces off the walls and into the courtyard in one piece to aim them at the trading room.  No, the two that Yellow Hair cut loose to fire upon the fort weren't damaged in the process, especially the one that shot itself off the wall  Yes, Yellow Hair figured out how to load and operate the things by watching the bullies operate them off-screen during a timeskip, and is able to instruct the Indians.  Soon all four guns are loaded and pointing at the trading room.

Yellow Hair had something of a grin on his face, though his powder-blackened skin

Let us take a moment to appreciate the possibly unintentional symbolism of Yellow Hair, having been violently rejected from white society, now has literally been darkened to better fit in with his adopted people.

 only let his teeth gleam through.  To McGlincy these were very like wolf fangs.

It was too good a chance for Yellow Hair to miss.  It was such a wonderful turnabout of the tables on McGlincy that it simply had to be done.

Thanks for explaining the irony of the role reversal, Hubbard.  Nice to know that even in your first book you were looking out for your stupid readers.

"With more humor than menace," our hero calls for McGlincy to come out, mocking him by dropping some "damme"s into his threats to blow up the fort if he doesn't.  Yellow Hair doesn't quite count down from ten, but slowly lowers the torch towards a cannon until the men holed up inside the trading room kick McGlincy out.  Alone in front of a horde of Indians, and specifically looking down the barrel of a very big gun, McGlincy turns into a blubbering mess who can only beg wretchedly for his life.

The punk was still near the torchholes and McGlincy was almost looking into the muzzles. His teeth began to chatter and he shook so hard he could not talk.

"Spare me," he whined.

"Don't kill me!" he shrieked.

"Please, for God's sake, have mercy on me!"

But Yellow Hair refused to do anything but grin at him and McGlincy's heart was ice within him.

Because it'd sure be awkward if his heart was ice and lying in the dirt in front of him.

He whimpered and groveled and walked forward by shifting his knees.  His hands were held prayerfully under his upraised chin and his eyes sought heaven---though what he expected to find there was questionable.

Just remember, McGlincy is a Bad Guy, which means it's okay for a Good Guy like Yellow Hair to put him through psychological torment in the name of revenge.  And since we of course identify so strongly with our hero Yellow Hair, it should be super-satisfying for us too.

Eventually Yellow Hair gets tired of this sad display and has the Mustache and other survivors come out of the trading house.  After reminding McGlincy that he once talked about an Indian execution method involving roasting a man alive... I guess this happened in one of the many months that passed in the story that we never saw.  Anyway, Yellow Hair then reminds the Mustache that he always wanted to shoot some Indians, so now, "perhaps he'd like to see how accurate Indians can shoot by letting them fire at him?"  Which as an ironic threat doesn't quite work, but whatever, we're almost done with the book.

"Oh, God, no," moaned Strathleigh.  "Look, you're a civilized white man, Yellow Hair... er... Michael Kirk.  You wouldn't---"

"You've said otherwise, Strathleigh."

What's weird is that the author passes on a perfect opportunity to turn "civilized white man" into an epithet by having Yellow Hair insist that he's a Pikuni, which is why he won't gun down unarmed men.  Or at least explain to the readers that the Mustache is hoping that by calling Yellow Hair a civilized white man, he won't act like the "civilized" white men have behaved in this story.  Because white men are greedy and evil and murder for fun and all that, while Indians are pure and innocent and honorable, remember.

Anyway, Yellow Hair turns his attention back to McGlincy, says that for his misdeeds he deserves something much worse than simple execution, and announces his doom - "I'm going to send you to Edmonton."

I am suddenly reminded of MST3K's treatment of The Final Sacrifice.  You seen that one?  One of their best episodes, probably in my personal top five.

Yes, the punishment for the bad guys is to be sent back to their bosses in Edmonton, sans weapons, pelts, fancy clothes or even whiskey.  Since "death would not cure you, but above all else you love glory," Yellow Hair is going to give McGlincy a heaping helping of shame, and the Mustache will be sent along with him to make sure he tells even the king himself the truth of what happened.  The king of Canada lives in Edmonton, right?

And it's weird, but the Mustache is all too eager to assure Yellow Hair that he'll do exactly that.  And then a wretched McGlincy turns to Luberly, but even that toad shakes him off and snaps that "I've had enough of your stinking carcass, I have."  And surely your smile must be growing wider now that the Bad Guy's supposed friends and allies have turned on him, and all of the bullies are looking at McGlincy with disdain, and he knows he'll never have a command again.  Things could only be better if he found out his girlfriend had gotten married to someone else and his parents had disowned him.

Now, you might be wondering why our hero isn't sending Father Marc, the only white fellow he really trusts, to go along with McGlincy and make sure the truth gets out.  Although the better question is where Father Marc is at the moment - there's no mention of him being rounded up last chapter, or being with McGlincy's holdouts this chapter, or any explanation of him hiding somewhere else during the battle.  But to answer your original question, Yellow Hair decrees that he's keeping Marc here, "to show him how a clean people can live."  The bathing jokes from Chapter 8 have come full circle.

Finally, Yellow Hair says that before he leaves, McGlincy will go over to Motley's fort and explain just which "Indian" attacked his boat and stole his fur shipment back in Act One.  After one protest, the bad guy agrees.  And then there's nothing left but for our hero to give the Mustache a big speech.

"Strathleigh," said Yellow Hair, "these Blackfeet are finer people than any of yours.  And this country we have here is wholly ours.

Suck it Tushepaws, Shoshone, and all the other rival tribes we've conquered or driven off.

You can tell the Nor'Westers to spread the word that we mean what we say.  I have just talked with the chiefs

Obviously this happened in between taking the fort and setting up the cannons.

and they tell me

The highest authority among the Blackfoot, evidently.

to communicate to you the ultimatum that no white shall set foot in the Blackfoot domain on the penalty of death.  Too long we have remained idly by while you robbed us.

How dare you take those beaver pelts we brought you in exchange for weapons and trade goods!

Here in this fort we have the guns we need, the ammunition, the knives.  We take them as spoils of war.  Whatever else we need we will trade for to [sic] the Hudson's Bay Company across the river.

Or maybe some American fur traders when they show up in a few decades.

"Through you and your men and friends I have received much harm even unto the loss of the woman who was to become my wife.

Oh, so that's what this is all really about...

"Tell them that, Strathleigh, and I'll say no more about murder.

The word "murder" hadn't appeared in the chapter until this line.

You others, prepare to be gone.  Take only your personal baggage, all else is forfeit to the Blackfoot nation and the families of the men who died bravely fighting here today.

Wait, Indians died during this quote-unquote battle?  The only casualty actually mentioned was Lost-in-Mountains' horse.

Your canoes are waiting for you."

Aaaand the chapter abruptly ends.  With nary a word from any of the other Indian chiefs.  I guess I missed the part where Yellow Hair rose from an unblooded warrior to become commander-in-chief of the whole damned Blackfoot Confederacy.

Back to Chapter 37

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