Sunday, May 13, 2012

SImon "Bullnose" Walker

Simon "Bullnose" Walker: A Character Study (fictional)
Setting: Early to mid-1800s, somewhere in the Sierra Nevada

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Simon Bullnose Walker was a hunter. He hunted to survive. But sometimes, as now, it wasn't about survival at all. It was about something else, something…bigger. 

Some might call it vengeance; others, justice. Still others might call it murder. Simon didn't much care if it had a name. Names were just words. And words were the creation of men. The world was much bigger than words, and words restricted men's thinking, locking them into seeing only what they could define. Words made men blind to the bigger reality, the truer reality around them.

It was a lesson Simon had learned early in life. Folks were always looking for words to say what he was. Whatever word they chose would dictate how they would talk to him, how they would respond to him…and how they would treat him. Those who called him darkie expected him to do their fetching; when he walked away as though to oblige them, he just kept walking, and never looked back. Those who called him greaser expected him to be a thief; and so he took what was theirs, and then disappeared into the night, leaving them to chase nothing but shadows—because the word they'd used had no reality within it. Those who called him injun expected him to be a savage; and so he was. No one ever used any of those words on him more than once. 

Simon didn't much care if there was a word that spoke truly about him. The old trapper who'd found him had always said Simon shouldn't abide by men's words, because Simon was more than just a man. In fact, according to that trapper, Simon might not even have been born of woman. He'd been found caterwauling in a cradle, in the middle of the forest, an infant child left alone and hungry. When no human soul came forth to claim him, the trapper took him in. He was called Simon for the trapper's baby brother, whom the trapper had abandoned to venture west in search of something that had always seemed elusive in the society of men, something grander than words could ever describe—something Simon had found even when the trapper couldn't; he'd found it whenever he gazed out over things no man could ever create—or recreate—valleys and gorges and waterfalls that defied even the greatest artists' pallets…or the greatest poets' words.

Simon's second name came about as he grew into the man he would become. His wide face and nearly equally wide, flat nose earned him the name Bullnose. Like Simon, it was a name he had never been inclined to argue against. Like Simon, there was a purpose to it. It was a name that gave him strength, and he wore it well.

His third name, Walker, came about much later, after the old trapper had died and Simon was left to walk in the world alone. It was then that he became a hunter. He lived in the forest with the other animals, and he came to respect them as they came to respect him. He would not use an animal to serve him. Just as he would not fetch for those who called him darkie, he would not expect an animal to fetch for him. He rode no horse. He conscripted no mule to haul for him.  And though the trapper had been good to him, Simon did not respect what the trapper had done. Trapping was not hunting. Trapping took animals. Hunting was different. Simon hunted only those animals who called to him, those that were willing to give what they had so that he might survive. They gave him food. They gave him clothing. And sometimes, as now, they gave him shelter.

At the first signs of rain, Simon had tucked himself into the niche between the rocks he'd taken as his home as soon as he'd caught up with his recent prey. The niche was small enough for most men to overlook, yet large enough to enable him to stretch out in comfort. And throughout the storm, that's exactly what he'd done. He'd pulled a thick bear skin over the opening, providing him with warmth as well as protection, and he'd settled into a sleep deep enough to revive his body as well as his spirit.

When he woke, he could easily sense the change in the weather. The smell was crisp, the sound…soft. The lonely howl of the wind might seem hard to most men, but to someone like Simon, a man so unlike other men, it was comforting. It was the kind of howl that reminded Simon he was where he belonged, the kind that sang to him like a lullaby…the only lullaby he had ever known. He breathed in that crisp scent, that soft lullaby, and then he pulled aside his bear skin door to find the entrance of his niche nearly obscured by new fallen snow.

It was a sight that gave him succor. Dawn was hours ahead yet, but it would be a good dawn, a good day. Weather such as this made other men weak, men such as the two-legged prey he'd been tracking by smell for the past three weeks. Yes, they would be weak, but he was now rested, and strong as the bull that had given him his second name.

The day to come would surely mark the last day of his latest hunt.

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