Raven’s blood was often in conflict with his environment and his decision-processing mode was at a full gallop during this morning’s breakfast time. Did he allow his Cherokee blood and the Cherokees’ matrilineal kinship system to control his actions? If so, he must acknowledge his mother as head of the household. On the other hand, he could momentarily become one hundred percent white man and think of her as “that Indian woman married to a white man,” which Raven knew was a comment routinely verbalized from the less enlightened citizens of the area. Raven realized the later was an insult not only to his mother but to himself and the entire Cherokee nation. From the kitchen table, he watched channel 13, WVTM out of Birmingham, while his mother prepared him a breakfast of fried corn bread and stewed huckleberries. Seems like President Jimmy Carter was going to boycott the Olympic Games in Moscow; something about Afghanistan, Brezhnev and oil.
Raven slowed the motorcycle before gunning the throttle a bit. The rear wheel made a semi-circle rut about an inch and a half deep in the otherwise undisturbed dirt masquerading as the front lawn of Kenny’s house. Raven much preferred to leave everything as he found it, so he seldom made such a maneuver with the Bultaco but he knew Kenny expected his cousin to leave his mark on occasion.
Kenny had been on the front porch within seconds of receiving Raven’s message consisting of one Morse code letter; the letter ‘G.’ Some years earlier, Raven and Kenny had constructed some rather crude heliographs, wireless solar telegraphs, after a summer-long diet of “I Spy” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” reruns. Now that the two knew the F.B.I. was around, they decided they should start being a little more careful with their communications. They would use the old heliographs for daytime communications, for now; and start work immediately on more secure technology for round-the-clock use.
“Lets bounce,” said Kenny as he slid on the seat behind Raven. He quickly reached down to roll up his left pants leg so the chain wouldn’t eat it up.
“Hey, How’d that thing with that F.B.I. hoser go, homeboy?”
“I kid you not, that dipstick shook my hand and said, ‘be seein ya’ later.’ Then he just left.”
“What did Tsalagi Unitsi, say.” Tsalagi Unitsi, Cherokee Mother, was Kenny’s nickname for Raven’s mother. Being a cousin from the male side of the Cane family, Kenny did not have the Cherokee blood of Raven but he worked hard to be as Cherokee as Raven; at least while with Raven. To her face, Kenny would have addressed Raven’s mother as Aunt.
“As usual, she asked me to tell her a Cherokee tale. She asked me to tell her the story of ‘The Two Wolves.’ She says it helps her remember the stories but I know it’s really her Cherokee way of discipline.”
“Oh yea, I now that one by heart,” blurted Kenny. “Tell me if this is right – I’ve only heard it like a million times.
‘One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, generosity, empathy, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked the grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.’ ”
Raven wasn’t listening. He was simultaneously congratulating himself on his choice of motorbikes and weighing the pros and cons of two choices for their destination. The motorbike decision had been an easy choice for Raven. He had a remarkable memory. Once his analysis began, and as a starting point, Raven retrieved from memory an article about the Bultaco Alpina. He wanted a quiet motorcycle but one he could depend on. Many years later he would be told his type of memory had a name – hyperthymesitic syndrome. The Bultaco article had been in Popular Mechanics, the April 1972 edition. Page 54.
Choosing the proper destination was not quite as simple. He was in search of the Cherokee Rose his mother needed to make her hair lotion. His choices were Ragland Branch and Crooked Creek. Taking everything into consideration, like time of day, temperature, humidity and so forth, he chose Ragland Branch because it would be easy to spot the flowers’ bright green leaves against the short grasses around the lake at the bottom of the branch and it would be close to the corn field over at Jones Chapel. Might be a good time to see how the corn was doing.
It wasn’t arrogance or ego but it was pride. Raven was proud of his knowledge of Slokey County. He felt sure that not one single person knew the area like he did. With one possible exception; his grandfather Melvin. Never once crossing a public road and never coming within hundreds of yards of anyone’s home, Raven coasted to a stop at Ragland Branch. He had made two short jumps across Cold Springs at Crane Hill and nearly lost his passenger on the first landing.
Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies continued to enjoy the Cherokee Roses while Raven and Kenny carefully selected 7 of the most fragrant flowers from the climbing wild rose bushes. Cherokee legend tells that on the Trail of Tears, Cherokee mothers grieved and cried for their children. Elders prayed for a sign that would give them strength. Soon, roses began to grow where tears fell. The white petals represent their tears, the gold center is for the gold taken from Cherokee land and here are seven leaves on each stem, one for each of the seven Cherokee clans.
Kenny would never forget the day in 1976, he was only eight at the time, when he and Raven had been presented a gift of a blowgun. One for Kenny and one for Raven. The blowguns were presented with instruction that they were for the taking of quail and rabbit and be used to kill only after asking permission from the god of creation, Unetlanvhi. Thanks must be given to the animal’s spirit for its sacrifice and must be given immediately upon its death. It was also at this time that Tsalagi Unitsi, Aunt, had instructed Raven and Kenny to never take more than needed and firmly asserted that when together, the two of them would never exceed 7 with Raven taking 4 and Kenny 3.
Raven and Kenny gave thanks to the spirit of each flower as it was carefully pulled from its birthplace. “Hey, Raven, let’s go spook the moonshiners over at Bankhead,” said Kenny.
“Nope. I want to go check on the corn field. Haven’t been up there in weeks.”