The story continued: “First in small numbers, then in a great panic-stricken migration, my people fled in all directions. This is how we came to be here in the marsh country. Gradually, some of us were assimilated by lesser tribes; others continue searching for a suitable homeland to this day. Only I remain here to tell you this tale. I have not heard from my people in all these years since they abandoned me here in this place. With each passing generation, memories of the verdant north country diminish. The great fear we have of Tsawhawbitts, the evil spirit, remains constant as it is told and retold. It must be known that the lush hunting area of Jarbidge and the Bruneau river must be avoided as if there were a plague. Our tribal memory of this evil spirit will be handed down for many generations.”
Turtle-Who-Fights was enthralled by the story. He was intensely interested in legends and spiritual stories. He wanted to commit as many of these myths and legends to memory as he could.
With the end of the story telling session, it came time for the people to retire for the evening so they could resume their burdensome journey in the morning. Most everyone had enjoyed a soothing bath in the hotspring pools, and some, including Turtle, returned for a hot evening swim under the moonlit sky. Most of those in the pool were the youngsters of the group enjoying a playful session of splashing hot water on one another and dunking each other in the pool. Rama, the woman who was working on tanning Turtle’s medicine bag, and her daughter came down to bathe in the pool. The daughter was a wisp of a girl about nine years old.
Rama came over to Turtle sitting on the bank of the pool and sat beside him while she watched the young girl bathing in the pool. Rama said, “The medicine bag will not be completed until the group is camped in one place long enough to let the hides soak in the tanning solution.”
“That’s fine. I knew it would be a long while before the pouch was ready. Any medicine I have to put in the bag can wait until it is finished. I have all I can do right now trying to learn the ways of a shaman before I have need for a medicine bag.”
Turtle was startled when the woman reached over and clasped his hand and pulled herself close to him. “I admire you, Turtle, for wanting to learn the ways of a shaman. I am attracted to a man, regardless of his age, if he has ambitions of greatness. I think you have ambitions of greatness, Turtle-Who-Fights. I am sure that one day you will be a great and respected shaman.”
With that said, Rama called her daughter from the pool and left to retire for the evening. Turtle was flattered that the woman showed an interest in him. He was not sure what all that meant, but he too decided to fetch his bedroll and find a place among the tall clumps of meadow grass to make a place to sleep. The grass formed a thick, soft carpet between huge clumps of taller, plumed, wild ryegrass. Turtle rolled out his matting of woven tules on the grassy carpet, then reclined on the mat and pulled a blanket of woven rabbit skins over himself to keep warm.
The sky was brilliant with stars that seemed so thick as to touch each other in the unpolluted atmosphere. A half moon hung in the sky giving just enough light to see the outline of the surrounding hills. A family of coyotes yapped incessantly in the distance as Turtle reclined on his back staring into the heavens. He yearned to dream as he has been told all shamans dream to receive guidance from the spiritual world. Perhaps, if he really concentrated, a dream would come to him this evening to reveal some spirit, or some truth for him to act upon. The incredible stories told by Bruneau at the campfire kept creeping into Turtle’s thoughts. He tried to imagine which parts of the stories might be true, and which parts were probably just myth or entertainment. Eventually, the young man began to doze off to sleep, his mind filled with a multitude of topics for thought.
No sooner had Turtle entered a deep sleep, he was awakened by a strange presence, as if someone were standing over him. He felt as if someone were watching him. Peering out from beneath the rabbit skin blanket, Turtle stared up into the starlit sky. Sure enough, there was a figure of a person, only a silhouette, looming above him in the moonlight. The young man was so startled, it seemed his heart jumped up into his throat. He quickly sat up to see who, or what, it was that was standing over him.
“It is I,” whispered Rama, as she knelt down beside the bedroll. “I would like to share your bed with you tonight.”
Without waiting for a reply, the woman pulled the blanket aside and slid her naked body in alongside the astonished young man. She pulled the blanket back over them and snuggled against the man’s warm body to break the chill of standing out in the cold October air. For a few moments, neither of them spoke, they just cuddled and embraced and enjoyed the feeling of being held in each other’s arms.
At last, Turtle spoke. “You startled me. I was so frightened, I thought I must be dreaming that some great spirit had come to visit me.”
“A great spirit has come to visit you, my friend. I have a great spirit, and it wants to be with you.”
Turtle laughed, and said, “You know what I mean. You are making fun of me. I must say, though, I am very pleased you are here. I have admired you from a distance, never having the courage to speak to you, and always afraid of what others may say because of our age difference.”
“Shhhh,” Rama hushed Turtle’s words. “Do not worry what others may say. Tonight is just about you and me. It is our special time together. I have been without a man for four years. There are no available men of our group unrelated to me, for me to have as a mate. I find you sexually attractive, not as a mate, but as a special friend with which to share this intimate moment.”
The couple began to snuggle and explore each other’s bodies with their arms, legs and hands. Rama brought her leg up over Turtle’s thighs and he could feel the warmth of her soft beaver against his skin. He became aroused as he had never been before. He caressed her and buried his face in the long black tresses of hair against her neck and shoulders. He could smell the smoke from the campfire in her hair and the sweet woman smell of her skin. Turtle could feel her soft, warm breasts against his chest. As he slid down to kiss her hard, brown nipples, she began to fondle him and slide her warm fingers up and down his shaft, and he became more and more aroused.
In all of Turtle’s young life, he had never even come close to having a sexual encounter. Naked and partially clothed men and women were an accepted way of life among the marsh people. Merely seeing a woman’s unclothed body never aroused more in his mind than healthy curiosity. He suddenly found that mere visual contact and actual touching and feeling were quite different things, indeed.
Rama, on the other hand, was vastly more experienced and knew exactly what she wanted. She knew from past experience the pleasures to be had from intimacy and lovemaking, and she was determined to share this pleasure with her new lover that evening.
For several minutes, the couple continued their mutual caressing and fondling, until both were panting with desire for each other. Rama finally reclined and pulled Turtle up close to her and engulfed him. She squeezed and contracted as he entered her, a groan of delight escaping from her lips. As they locked into a tight embrace, he was pulsating and almost uncontrollably starting a slow, thrusting rhythm, breathing in short gasps of air.
As quickly as it began, it was over. Rama could feel the young man melting inside her. She knew he had finished long before she was even fully aroused. The woman pulled away from the spent Turtle, as he lay back sweating and panting. Rama, disappointed in the performance of the inexperienced young man, became angry and started to scold Turtle-Who-Fights. “Don’t tell me it’s over already! I cannot believe you have no knowledge of the needs of a woman. I really expected more from you after seeing what a strong, brave young hunter you are. When I had a man of my own, he would pace himself so both of us could enjoy the ecstasy of our love making. Your mother named you wrong. She should have named you ‘Rabbit-Who-Squeals,’ not ‘Turtle-Who-Fights.”’
Turtle was devastated. He tried to explain. “I am sorry. I have never been with a woman before. This was my very first time. I became so excited, it was over before I knew what was happening.” Nothing he could say would console the angry, humiliated woman. His first sexual encounter had ended in disaster.
Rama rose to leave and strode off through the moonlight. Turtle called after her “Please do not be angry with me. Won’t you still be my friend?”
As the woman disappeared in the darkness, Turtle heard the sounds of some youngsters giggling in their beds from the ruckus they had just heard. Another lesson learned for the future shaman.