By 1800, no longer could they trade for salt. The numbers of the tribes, with which they might trade. had grown less. Their ranks were thinner from disease and genocide. They were forced to find their salt on the seacoast.
Koo-Noo, and his friend, Kai-Tai, made ready. This was the day for their four-day-journey to the great waters to the west. The salt was there waiting to be gathered in the rocks close to shore. They would scoop the salt, now nearly pure, from the holes and crevices of the rocky outcroppings as it dried in the sun. Then, their mission finished, the two Pomo warriors would return to the tribe with the precious seasoning.
“Kai-Tai,” he told his friend, “We must move swiftly and with care so we are not seen by the Shoghawa on the trail. They are resentful of trespass in their territory. I do not wish to take time to negotiate a passage through their land. If we are found they will demand a high tribute in the shell money I have been saving for the fall trading with the Modoc.”
When they walked the trail each man knew it would be his duty to keep the trail open and clear of obstacles. Any twig, limb, or part of a tree, which had lowered by weight of snow or otherwise stuck out into the path, must be broken off or pushed back. Pieces of brush must be snapped off and discarded. Anything that might injure a foot or cause a twisted ankle, must be removed. Not only were the trails their highways, they were the chief means of communication between tribes. Koo-Noo and Kai-Tai moved swiftly on the open trail to the sea without worry for obstacles or having to dodge branches
Kai-Tai was a good man to have by his side and Koo-Noo could send a stone skipping across the surface of Clear Lake that mowed a swath through the swarm of ducks floating on the water. Should they come upon Shoghawa warriors, both men would fight if necessary.
Most of the fights were more often like neighborhood quarrels. There might be abusive language but hand to hand fighting was unlikely. Arrows might even be shot but few found their mark, perhaps less by accident and more by design. If a man was killed the fighting ceased. There would be reparations using beads as payment and apologies. Yet each tribe’s territory was sacrosanct and must be respected.
Both were sturdy men. Like Koo-Noo, Kai-Tai measured about five feet, eight inches in height, darker in color than the Native Americans to the north, and with eyes that were black and deep set. Eyebrows, large mouths and fine white teeth were the norm for the males of the Pomo tribe, with hair that was allowed to grow long. Strong and well nourished, the Pomo flourished with an abundant supply of plants and wildlife in the hills and in the waters of Clear lake.
The Chief had given them a message for the trip. His words were wise and listened to by the young men as well as the older Pomo. It had always been so.
Thousands of years ago, fear of the Old Man was the beginning of social wisdom. In the squatting place and near the huts, the young grew up fearing the Old Man. They were forbidden touch his weapons and his tools. They were forbidden to sit in his place. The young man had to remember the women were his and be careful in their speech on meeting. It was taught to the children from the womb and dread and respect was instilled in the younger members of the tribe.
Time had evolved his role to his people. Generations later the Tribal Leaders, of each of the tribes around Clear Lake, were men of wisdom and leaders who sought the good for the tribe. On this morning, the tribal leader stood at the ceremonial fire to send the two men on their journey. The Chieftain was a man of good heart and spoke well. He addressed all the twenty members of the tribe.
“Work, my people. Do not steal, do not fight among yourselves, and keep a good peace of mind.”
Chief Matai’s instructions for the salt gatherers were short and direct; “Go swiftly, avoid battle, gather much salt and return safely.”
Next week: Three Days.
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