Little Joseph jumped from the boulder into the water of the Colorado River, escaping the hot sun of the Arizona Painted Desert. Like other ten-year-olds whenever the chance arose he would spend the day at his favorite swimming hole. The other children did not understand his affliction shunning him from fear of the unknownS He became an outcast.
Convulsions were not unknown to Little Joseph but frightening to the other children. They believed an angry spirit dwelled inside him and caused Little Joseph to loose consciousness falling to the earth shaking uncontrollably. The government doctor still had no confirmed diagnosis of Little Joseph's illness. Test results had been slow in returning from Eastern hospitals and the few that had were incomplete and erratic.
Little Joseph sat upon the boulder letting the sun penetrating his skin, soothing tired and weary muscles. Squinting he noticed an object floating with the current bumping against the rock. It was a box and on the sandy shore he opened the lid and gazed upon six soaked puppies. They lay quiet, unmoving but Little Joseph did not know what to do. Reaching in he plucked one from the pile of wet, matted golden fur and stroked its body while holding its head up to the bright noon sun. He knew the sun helped him feel strong maybe it would return the spirit to the pup. It remained still.
After performing the same ritual on the remaining pups he looked down at their bodies laid in a row and became angry. A box of unwanted puppies tossed into the river by someone who couldn't feed them or didn't care if they lived or died.
He swung his fist around him attacking the evil spirits who followed the pups and allowed this to happen. If he were a warrior like the great Geronimo he would punish those who did this, sending them down the river in a box as a sacrifice for the release of the puppies spirits. He felt the water splashing against the side of the box, slowly at first, then with great intensity it continued to wet his faceSsuddenly his eye's opened.
He lay still on the sandy bank observing the few high clouds that seemed stationary above and realized he had blacked out and fallen to the sand. He wondered of his dream of Geronimo and the boxSthe box! He turned quickly towards it and found a tiny face studying him. Immediately the big sad eye's brightened and the droopy ears lifted as the pup began licking Little Joseph's face with a barrage of laps covering him from chin to brow in seconds. He jumped to his feet and looked down at the tiny form at his feet.
One of the pups had regained consciousness while little Joseph struggled in convulsion and unconscious dreaming of the warrior he would never be. He smiled realizing that the water he thought was splashing on to the box was the pup trying to revive him. It was the effect he needed to snap him from his deepening sleep. He thought it strange that only a few minutes earlier the pup was near death because of a human, then after it escaped death, it has love for the first human it sees and saves him from death also.
Sadly Little Joseph dug a hole in the soft clay of the riverbank and placed the other puppies into it. The confused pup sniffed its brothers and sisters for the last time then scampered away behind the box. Little Joseph replaced the clay into the hole and tried to understand why they were not given a chance to survive.
"All children of Mother earth deserve a chance," he said to the pup picking it up, "You have lived little one. I will call you Stream for the water that brought you to me. A stream is but a puppy as you, but one day you will be a great warrior. Tribes will honour you in dance and song like the great Geronimo."
The dog's head cocked slightly and with glowing eye's barked an approval. "I will carry you this time but I will no more. A warrior must learn to return from battle himself." Little Joseph carried his new friend along the rocky pathway leading to the top of the Mesa and home.
Little Joseph father Yellow Hawk and mother Moon Sky knew of their son's plight with the other children because of an illness that was unknown. Now he had a friend and they were happy to watch Little Joseph play constantly with his new companion. Everyday little Joseph spent hours with the puppy playing and learning commands such as sit, beg, roll over, crawl, play dead, heel, but no matter how hard he tried Little Joseph could not teach Stream to raise his paw as a hand shake. He would only look at his master, cock his head and bark.
Stream grew stronger everyday but Little Joseph's health worsened causing him to remain on his cot longer and not capable of playing with his friend anymore. His strength was ebbing away and the doctor still had no answer. With all speed and urgency the government doctor studied the problem and presented his findings to the hospitals seeking to name and hopefully cure little Joseph's malady. Stream was constantly at his friend's side sleeping at the foot of the cot and remaining as the convulsions struck. He licked Little Joseph's face and howled until he regained consciousness. They were inseparable.
The Christmas season approached but Little Joseph only knew Christmas to be a time when the resident agent, Mister McCabe and his men would get drunk and sing until very early the next morning. Little Joseph did not understand this behaviour but Yellow Hawk had told him that it was the white man's way of honoring their God. Little Joseph thought it strange that a God would allow drunk and foolish men to honour him.
On Christmas Eve Moon Sky walked with Little Joseph and Stream back to their hut after visiting relatives across the reservation. The sun had left the sky and the night chill had set in. Their journey took them near the agent's office and already Little Joseph could hear the slurred and boisterous voices of the drunken men laughing and singing. Their words were strange and incoherent and made no sense to Little Joseph or his mother. They both laughed softly.
"Woman! Come here, join the party!" yelled a voice from the side of the office. Little Joseph could see the shadow of a man standing by the side door holding Mister McCabe. They were both drunk and trying to walk up a few steps into the building. Mister McCabe stumbled and fell to the sand. The other man began a weaving walk towards Moon Sky and her son.
"I said come here!" he shouted. Moon Sky took her sons hand and quickened their pace. The men inside the office heard the shouts and came onto the porch laughing and calling out words of encouragement to the drunk.
"Lookie here fellas! A real live Christmas present for us!" he called out taking hold of Moon Sky's arm.
"Let go!" yelled Little Joseph kicking the man in the shin. The man swung his free arm striking Little Joseph sending him tumbling to the road. He stood and held a rock ready to strike it against the side of the man's head. Then Stream attacked.
The man screamed trying to free his arm from Stream's strong jaws as the dog tore the flesh until a red ooze soaked the mans shirt. A shot rang out. Mister McCabe stood by the side door of the office lowering his rifle. It seemed like an eternity, as though the sound of the shot had turned the world into slow motion and didn't really happen, but it did.
Stream staggered sideways confused and bewildered. He sat on the road where Little Joseph ran to his side and held his head. A red stain spread on his chest and onto the sand of the roadway. Yellow Hawk and others arrived standing helplessly while Little Joseph tried to comfort his fallen friend.
"You will survive," he said with tears flowing down his cheeks, "you are a warrior and must return from battle yourself." Stream struggled to a sitting position, offered his paw to his master and friend, laid his head back onto Little Joseph's lap and died.
Eight days later the village also mourned the loss of Little Joseph to his disease. The reservation would never forget the night the two warriors bravely protected Moon Sky, fighting as the great Geronimo would have. Songs and dances honoring the two friends were celebrated as they were buried overlooking their beloved river. Chiseled into a nearby rock by the hands of a loving father were the words:
RESTING PLACE OF TWO WARRIORS
LITTLE JOSEPH & STREAM
Copyright © 2002 by Henry P. Gravelle