The year is 1881. She Who Flies With Doves had survived seventeen summers with the Little Squirrel tribe of the Apache Nation. Her father was a fierce warrior, her mother a yellow haired, white captive.
Her very early times were spent happily, thriving on the caring attention of her parents. Their family unit also included a boy, three summers older than herself. Jimmy Two Trees was Dark Wolf's son by his first woman, who had also been a captive. She had perished birthing Jimmy. Yellow Woman had replaced her, becoming mother to the infant boy.
The children of Dark Wolf had neither his coloring, or that of their white mothers. Raven haired, their skin was light brown instead of red or white. Facial features were more refined than those of the Apaches.
Raised together, half brother and sister were of one mind. They stood as a team against other children who would taunt them because they were breeds. They sat huddled together in blankets during winter storms, divided scant water under the desert's blistering summer sun. They laughed together, played together, worked together, defied all odds together and shared happiness. They learned in secret from Yellow Woman, her native language. Although not fluently, they were able to speak to each other as the white-eyes talked. Yellow Woman also recalled to them some of the beliefs and behaviors of the fair skinned people who were her heritage.
An uncommonly intelligent child at ten summers, She Who Flies With Doves had at long last come upon a way to make herself more accepted in the village. Unlike Jimmy, who had staunchly refused, she was willing to help the elders. She could often be seen gathering wood or scraping hides instead of playing with the other children. However, when an adult saw fit to teach children the ways of animals and the skills of survival, She Who Flies With Doves made sure she was among them. As was her brother.
Sadness struck however when Jimmy came of age and chose not to tolerate being looked down upon because he was half white. One day he simply mounted his pony, smiled a last time at his sister, nodded to her mother, saluted Dark Wolf with his spear, then rode away.
By the time She Who Flies With Doves was fourteen summers, a beautiful young woman was beginning to emerge from the child. She was not prideful of her looks. Looks would not help her survive a tough existence, for that she needed skills. Her ability to handle the ponies earned respect, if not meeting with approval from the elders. Boys changing into men loathed her out of jealousy. Girls wished they, too, had her stubborn courage.
Then shortly after the celebration of her sixteenth summer, the peaceful village of twenty families, at that time located in a valley nestled high in the wooded White Mountains near Fort Thomas, was raided by at least a dozen brutal renegades. Some were white, others Mexican. All were heavily armed, most with repeating rifles as well as handguns. Cha-ut-lip-un. It was very bad.
The Apaches did not stand a chance in the battle. Except for a few braves left on guard, the other fit men, including Chief Little Squirrel, were down in the foothills hunting game.
She Who Flies With Doves was caught trying to escape the horrors of the fight and was raped by six of the renegades, one after the other. However, she managed to exact a measure of revenge. At their moment of satisfaction, she had bitten each of them on the jaw, marking them as her enemies for life.
Left to die after the last of them had finished with her, it was to awaken many hours later. The renegades had gone, leaving behind death and destruction. Among those who had been sent on their way to the Happy Hunting Ground, was Dark Wolf. With her father dead, She Who Flies With Doves joined her mother in silent grieving. There was no time for wailing in self-pity.
Many people had been killed or wounded, other women raped, old men degraded by having their hair cut off. Ponies were taken, as well as cured hides and silver jewelry that had been claimed in a battle with the sheep herding Navajos the previous winter.
Every able bodied villager worked to care for the injured before tending to burial tradition. Then one and all picked up and moved. They settled many days walk southwest in the boulder strewn desert mountains near Coyote Springs.
There was talk of war by the young bucks, of painting their faces and taking scalps. Other Apache tribes lived to raid and plunder, and the Blue Coats were helpless to stop them, they had said.
Little Squirrel tried to prevent foolishness from causing disaster. The tribe needed the braves to hunt game, to protect them from their enemies. That the medicine man, Cochino Thunder, was calling for blood made the Chief's task all the more difficult. In the end, nearly half the young men gathered their weapons, took the fittest of the remaining ponies and rode off. None returned.
Two months later despair set in for She Who Flies With Doves. She found that she was with child. Because she would not submit to the cleansing ritual that could remove the growing evil seed from her body, braves and squaws alike looked upon her with disgust and impatience. Only her mother stayed faithfully by her side, and together they kept up a pretense of indifference.
If it had not been for Crooked Spear, who had coveted Yellow Woman even when Dark Wolf was alive, the women would have starved. He fed them and made sure their possessions were not left behind whenever the tribe moved. Moving was frequent, Little Squirrel might have been against riding off to fight, might be against unconscionable killing, but he was sticking to his plundering ways. His code of ethics was to steal from others and move on before they could retaliate by stealing back from him.
Seven months passed, bringing with it the time of giving birth for She Who Flies With Doves. The agonizing pain of bearing her daughter was nothing compared to what happened shortly afterwards, because the babe, given the name of Fallow Deer, had fair skin and red hair.
Cochino Thunder declared evil would befall the tribe. Nothing could stop it, he had sworn. He was right. There was suddenly no game to feed the hungry, trusted watering holes turned bitter. A lice infestation flared. Little Squirrel's favorite stallion was slaughtered by a cougar.
Yellow Woman, She Who Flies With Doves and Fallow Deer were driven away before the dead horse's bones had been picked clean by buzzards. All they were permitted to take with them were the clothes on their backs, a pouch of rags and a cradleboard for the tiny babe, a few strips of dried venison, one hunting knife and a single gourd of water.
Crooked Spear had not protested, he instead stood tall among the remaining younger bucks, sniggering more fiercely than any of them. Squaws screeched insults, children threw rocks.
Because of anger, with each step, the cast out women became less Apache and more white.
Yellow Woman had been taken captive and given that Indian name by Dark Wolf when she was but fifteen. Now at the age of thirty-three, she was weathered by rugged living conditions and the elements. Possessing a shrewd mind, over the years she had kept reminding herself the ways of the whites and had instructed her children. After Jimmy Two Trees had gone away she had intensified the teachings to her daughter. Yellow Woman had sensed future disaster.
Now, the women both refrained from speaking the Apache tongue and began conversing to each other in English for the first time without fear of being overheard. None of the people in Little Squirrel's tribe would have accepted their use of the white men's words, especially Cochino Thunder.
Walking across the desert in July was no easy task. It was the time of no moon, so it was not safe to travel at night. The sun was hot enough during the day to blister the hide off a javelina. Bee-Flies buzzed, attempting to land on the sweat-beaded foreheads of the women and babe, gnats would not stay away from their eyes and nostrils.
The land was a mixture of flatness, rolling gentle slopes, mountain ranges, gullies and arroyos. Brush and thorny branches of acrid trees whipped at the women as they passed, many varieties of cactus snagged in their hide skirts. Knee-high Apache moccasins protected their legs.
It was fortunate that they happened on a trunk among discards from settlers heading west. The clothing it contained was well worn, but the women were grateful for the garments. Not so with button up shoes, but they put them on their feet, anyway. Combs were also found, so they raked their long hair, and tied a tiny green ribbon in the babe's fine red down. The cradleboard had to be left behind, moccasins were hidden in the single bundle of cloths for the babe. The more the travelers looked like white folks, the better.
Their immediate futures would hold many dangers. If anyone suspected that they came from a band of Apaches, there would be no hope to live peacefully. They would be made to feel like rodents. As for searching for Yellow Woman's birth family, there was no use in even trying. After nearly eighteen long years they could be anywhere, there was no way of ever finding them. They had to believe that their daughter was long since dead.
By the time the wandering women neared the town of Cortaro seven days after being driven away from the tribe of Little Squirrel, Yellow Woman had reclaimed her old name of Nancy Applegate. Her daughter was now Mary, and her infant daughter was Louise.