Wind Song - Page 3

The town of Wausa, Nebraska was not unlike other little towns that had sprung up to welcome the pioneers. It was a mix of old and new buildings with wood plank sidewalks and a wide main street of dirt to accommodate trains of oxen. In one of the newer buildings was the general store. Guarding the door was a wooden Indian and next to it hung a bird cage. The family stopped for a moment to look at the yellow bird inside.

When they stepped into the store it was a universe all its own. There was the scent of wood and soap and spice. The walls were lined with racks of crates and mason jars, and along the aisles were bushel barrels of potatoes and apples. In the back neatly propped against the wall were bolts of fabric. While her brother and sister explored the store and her parents spoke with the grocer about their bread and onions, Rachel wandered back outside to look at the bird.

So bright a yellow it was a miniature piece of the sun in that dusty place. It hopped from perch to perch rarely standing still and as it hopped it kept its eyes on Rachel. Suddenly a shadow passed over the girl and startled, she looked up to see a Sioux Indian brave. Her heart beat faster. Indians sometimes came to town to barter although it was discouraged by the shopkeepers. Such a history of warfare existed between Indians and white settlers that no one felt safe. But this Indian was as fascinated by the bird as Rachel. He stared intently and then said something she couldn't understand. Seeing her puzzled face he repeated in English, "It listens to the wind."

Before Rachel could think about what he had said, the Indian turned and walked away. Her parents appeared a moment later, having seen him through the window.

"Are you all right?" asked her father.

Rachel nodded. "He was just looking at the canary."

At that moment the little bird lifted its head, swelled its chest, and sang out a joyous trill. Rachel saw her mother's face light up with delight.

Rachel traded her quilt for the canary and never regretted it because the little bird entertained them endlessly. Sir Gallant, they called him because he did battle with the wind. The louder the wind the more loudly he sang, competition so fierce that sometimes everyone burst out laughing. Sir Gallant lifted their spirits turning dust days back into sunshine days.

Rachel thought about what the Indian had said. She'd heard the wind but unlike the canary she'd never listened to it. Now when she tried she could hear music in the moaning. Of course the music was faint and hidden in the background and she needed her imagination, but it was there if she truly listened. She began humming the sounds she heard. "That's a pretty tune" her mother commented one day, "what song is that?" Rachel didn't reply, unsure how to explain, and her mother didn't press the question. Soon she, too, began humming.

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