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THE MEDICINE MAN

Uncle Billy was a gregarious and generous man so his ranch soon became a stop-off place for travelers; not only for those who were comers and goers, but many who were comers and stayers. It didn't make much difference to him, there was plenty for all--including the Nez Perce Indians who practically made the Horse Creek ranch their headquarters and rendezvous. The Indians liked to trade for watermelons, corn, "tomsaswaki" (as they called tomatoes), fruit, berries and hay for their horses.

The Indians being there, once saved Billy's life. He had blown his thumb to shreds from an accidental powder explosion while reloading shotgun shells. Mickel, only eleven years old at the time, had been sent to town, riding at a dead run a relay of horses borrowed from ranches along the way, to get Dr. Ault at Enterprise, the famous "Doc" of the Wallowa country. But before Doc Ault could make the long journey to the ranch in his buggy, via Imnaha Bridge where he was met by young Fancho with saddle horses, infection had set in.

An old Indian herb doctor or medicine man who could not speak a word of English, had been hovering around in great concern, jabbering persistently. But presently the old medicine man disappeared for several days. When he reappeared, he had with him a parcel of plants which he had gathered in the high mountains. He then pounded these plants into a mash from which he made a poultice and applied it to W.K.'s mangled thumb. By the time Dr. Ault arrived, the infection was gone and he had only to trim and sew up the wound.

Dr. Ault stayed at the ranch for several days ostensibly to care for W.K. The boys knew however that the Doc enjoyed being there-- so they treated him to hunting and fishing jaunts, hikes into the rimrocks, trail rides, and swims in the river.

The Doc even participated in a watermelon steal with the boys, chortling with elfin glee as he escaped wth the melons. He avoided W.K.'s wrath by worming under the barbwire fence surrounding Billy's prize melons and tore his pants on the fence in the getaway. Uncle Billy pretended ignorance of who the thieves might be, roaring into the darkness, "Ah'll let yo' fellers have a load of rock salt in yore paints afore yo' git any of them wartermillions."