The next day Elizabeth and I went to the Fort School for the first time. The school was just outside the fort, not too far from the Indian village. I was anxious because I never learned to spell English words even though I could speak fairly well. Mama and Papa helped me practice English on the ship from Copenhagen, but Mother helped me when I wrote to Isabelle. I could only remember the small words to spell on my own. Papa reminded me that I was good at math and numbers didn't have a language. That was a little comforting, but I was still anxious.
Elizabeth and I sat on some stones outside the school waiting for the bell to ring, when an Indian girl came and sat with us.
"Hello, I am Chenoa."
"Hi, I'm Kirsten and..."
"And I'm Elizabeth. Is you a real Injun?!?"
I was embarrassed by Elizabeth's words. I turned to her.
"Elizabeth, that's rude."
"I am not offended Kirsten. Yes, I am Arapaho."
"Elizabeth and I just arrived here. I didn't know there was a school."
"Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Lunden are only here for a short time. They are continuing in the next wagon train. Mrs. Lunden was sick and they had to stay here til she was well again. Our last teacher left for the gold fields in California, but we have a permanent teacher coming soon. The Lunden's asked the Colonel if they might teach us while they were waiting for the next wagon train."
"Kirsten's afeared of goin to school! Cause she doesn't know English words very good!"
"Kirsten, do not be afraid, the Lunden's are very kind."
"There is the bell. We must go in now."
"Thank you Chenoa for being so nice."
"Come with me Kirsten, I will introduce you to our teachers."
"Mr. Lunden, Mrs. Lunden. This is Kirsten. She is afraid she will not
know her English well enough for school in Wyoming."
(Mr. Lunden replies in Danish)
"Hej, Hvordan har du det Kirsten?"
(Hello, how are you?)
I was so astonished to hear my own language, I stood in shock for a moment. I responded haltingly in Danish,
"Hvor er du fra?!"
(Where are you from?!)
"I am from Sweden, but my wife Anna is Danish like you, Kirsten."
Then Mrs. Lunden spoke in the sweetest voice,
"Hej Kirsten, rart at mode dig."
(Hello Kirsten, pleased to meet you)
Laughing lightly in her kind way Mrs. Lunden responded,
"My husband and I will be happy to help you with your English, so do not worry. Like you we have come to America to be teachers out West. And here we all are far, far from Denmark!"
Mrs. Lunden and Mr. Lunden continued to smile at me. I would find that what Chenoa had said was true. The Lunden's were good teachers, kind and patient.
Mrs. Lunden: "Class, your first problem for today is on the board. Please write and solve the first sum."
"Able: I know I've got the solution first!"
Mr. Lunden: "I am sorry Able, but this is not correct. It looks like Chenoa has the correct answer though. Well done Chenoa. Who has the second problem solved?"
Boys: (quietly) "That Chenoa is teachers pet cause her Uncle is friends to the Colonel. She ain't so smart!"
Kirsten: "But she had the answer correct. That seems smart to me."
Boys: "You shut your mouth, you ain't even knowing English that good!" (boys sniggering)
Elizabeth: "You two boys better shut yer mouth! Don't you talk to my friend like that! I ain't afreared of you nor nobody!"
"Elizabeth, no talking please. Boys, please sit down."
All: "Yes Ma'am."
"When you have brought me your slates you may go out to play."
Chenoa, Elizabeth and I became fast friends. Our favorite activity at recess was the teeter totter. Elizabeth and I had never seen anything like it!
"Watchit! You two's gonna buck me off this contraption! Haha!"
"Elizabeth, I will give you an Indian name: "Dichali"
"Whatsit mean?! Whatsit mean?! Tell me!"
"It means 'speaks a lot' like a cawing crow! Hahaha"
"That's me all right!! Mama says all the time hows I need to learn to hold my tongue!"
(all laughing together)
- AFTER SCHOOL -
"Hello Kirsten, where is Elizabeth?"
"She heard her mother calling her, so she ran back inside the fort."
"Kirsten do you live in a wagon?"
"Yes, just for the trip out West, then Papa will build us a house."
"May I see your wagon home?"
"Yes, of course, come on!"
We walked together back to the fort and chattered about school. As we entered the main gates I saw an Indian man looking hard at us.
"Chenoa, who is that man looking at us?"
"Oh, that is Uncle, he is father's brother. He helps Colonel Preston when he talks to the other tribes. My father was killed by a king buffalo. Now uncle takes care of mother and I. He is afraid I will be hurt by making friends with a wagon-train girl, especially when you leave."
"Oh Chenoa! You are right, I will have to leave soon. We only will be here a few days, then we must continue our journey."
"It is no matter Kirsten. I knew we were meant for friends when I saw you. You have a kind face."
"Thank you Chenoa, I as well.
I know! We can be penpals. I have a penpal in Miller's Basin, her name is Isabelle. She sent me my doll when she fell out the train window. You and I can be penpals too!!"
"Yes, Kirsten, I would like that very much!"
"This is our wagon and this is Else. Do you have a doll Chenoa?"
"Yes, mother made her for me. Mother is very good at making things. Blankets, baskets and beads, she is good at making all things. She made my doll. Did your mother make Else?"
I was surprised to hear my Mother's voice. "Yes, I did. Who is your friend Kirsten?"
"Oh Mother, this is my new friend Chenoa!"
"Pleased to meet you Chenoa. Are you girls going to play in the wagon?"
Please Mrs. Jansen, may Kirsten come to meet my mother?"
"Yes, of course. Kirsten, come back by dinner time, Yes?"
"Yes, Mama. Come Chenoa, let's go!"
"Wait a moment Kirsten, HALONA!"
"Who are you calling Chenoa?"
"OH! A pony!"
"Kirsten, meet Halona, my pony."
"Oh, she is so beautiful Chenoa! You are so fortunate to have a pony!"
"Thank you Kirsten, Halona means 'Happy Fortune', so you are correct! Come into our Tipi Kirsten and meet mother."
"Hello girls, how was school?"
"Hello mother, school was good, this is my new friend Kirsten. Her doll is called Else. Her family came across the ocean on a ship!"
"Hello Kirsten, you may call me Leotie. Your parents must be very brave to cross the ocean and come to this new land."
"I suppose they are. I never thought of it like that before."
Leotie smiled at me and gestured that I should sit. Chenoa reached behind a basket and brought out a little Indian doll.
"Kirsten, this is my doll Aiyana, Aiyana means 'blossom', and this is my own cradle board. Mother made it for me, do you like it?"
"Uh, yes, but what do you do with it?"
Chenoa took her doll Aiyana and wrapped her up tight inside the beaded cradle board.
"See? Indian mother's wrap their babies in a carrier like this."
"Ooh, that is so smart! So the baby can go with you."
"Yes, the baby feels comforted and the mother can get her work done, heehee."
I will never forget that day in Chenoa's Tipi. We played and chatted and snacked on jerky Leotie had made. Too soon it was time to go. Chenoa walked with me back to the fort. Just as we got inside Chenoa stopped me.
"Wait Kirsten, a pony express rider must be coming look!"
All I saw was a man saddling a horse with a strange saddle. It had two pockets on each side where the letters were kept.
"Here he comes Kirsten!"
"Oh Chenoa, he is only a little older than us! I read a poster for these riders. It was so sad, they only wanted orphans, boys with no Mama or Papa. It made tears in my eyes just to think of it."
As soon as he stopped he jumped off his horse and mounted the one that had just been saddled. The man gave him a canteen and he turned the fresh horse to continue his ride. Before he rode away he looked over at us and nodded, but his face was stern for someone so young.
Richard Egan 1861 Pony Express Rider
That night I kept thinking of that Pony Express Rider and asked God to watch over him.
"Hello Chenoa, hello Halona!"
"Hello Kirsten, would you like to ride on Halona?"
"Oh yes! may I?"
She helped me to mount her pony and led me around the Village. I told her I had never ridden a pony before. In Denmark we always took little gig, or we walked.
"Oh Chenoa, I wish so that I could have a pony like Halona! You truly are fortunate Chenoa."
"Oh Chenoa, I wish so that I could have a pony like Halona! You truly are fortunate Chenoa."
Elizabeth Chenoa and I spent as much time together as we could. But too soon it was time to leave. Chenoa and I were only together for 6 days, but we knew we would always be friends.
The morning before we were set to leave I ran out to the Village calling for Chenoa. I couldn't leave without saying goodbye one more time.
"Chenoa! Chenoa!" I called hoping she would hear me.
Just when I turned to go back to the fort, I heard her voice.
"I'm here Kirsten, I was in the Fort looking for you!
Come with me my mother has something for you."
"Something for me?"
"Yes, of course, come."
When I walked into Leonie's Tipi she was busy with her hands as usual. This time it looked like a toy pony. It had a cream mane and tail and a white face.
"Hello Kirsten. Chenoa told me you will continue your journey tomorrow?"
"Yes, Ma'am. We leave at first light." I answered sadly.
"Chenoa has told me how much you wish to have a pony. I can not give you a real pony but I made this little one for you to remember your friends here."
Leotie was holding out the little wool pony to me, hand sewn by herself. I was so stunned and so happy.
"Thank you Leotie and thank you too Chenoa. May I name my pony 'Halona' like your pony? Then this pony will bring my family good fortune on our way to California."
"Yes, of course Kirsten! That makes me very happy."