{Non-professional Division First Place Short Story by Linnie M. Findlay}
The kindly young teacher stood by the door of the one-room log school house and looked out into the spring morning. Long shadows streaked across the valley, and patches of snow still showed on the north side of the willows and sagebrush. It would soon be time for his pupils to arrive and he wondered what this day would bring. The pupils ranged from small children of six or seven to boys sixteen or seventeen years old. The teacher knew that he did not have much time left before the children would be taken from the school to assist their parents with spring planting and other farm work.

Jesse W. Fox had been trained as a teacher in New York State, and had been baptized a member of the L.D.S. Church in 1844 by Elijah Williams. Following his baptism, he arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, at the time the Mormon people were mourning the martyrdom of their Prophet leader, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum. When the Saints began their journey across the plains Jesse fox had been sent on a mission by President Brigham Young back to his home state of New York. He had not been in Salt Lake City long after his mission, until he was sent to Manti to lay out the city according to the plan for the "City of Zion," which Joseph Smith had used for the Mormon communities in Missouri and Illinois, and which President Young had followed in the settlement in the valley of the Great Salt Lake.

When the school house in Manti had been completed in November 1850, the settlers had called on the young surveyor to stay and teach their children. It hadn't been easy to teach these frontier children. Oh, they were progressing well with their reading and writing and arithmetic, but it was hard to make them understand that when the Lord had said that the second great commandment was to love your neighbor, that "neighbors” also included the Indians they had come to live among. He found the settlers had brought with them a deep distrust of the Indians, and President Young's admonition to build a fort as quickly as possible sustained that distrust.

Although a number of the Indians had been baptized members of the L.D.S. Church and some had been ordained to the office of Elder in the Church, grim stories of plunder and thievery continued to filter into the settlement. It was known that these mounted Utah Indians would attack the weaker Indian tribes who subsisted on berries and roots and did not have horses, and stole children for the flourishing slave trade with Mexico.

President Brigham Young had advised against too much familiarity with the Indians, and the settlers were glad to follow that counsel. They worked hard and tried to set a good example, but from the first the cattle and horses had to be carefully guarded and any feelings of friendship were overshadowed by fear and a loathing for the primitive ways of the natives.

The teacher thought of the Indian boy who had started coming to his school soon after he had begun to teach. Long dark braids hung over his shoulders, accenting the dark color of his skin and his black eyes. The boy had stayed apart from the other children for most of the winter, but as the snow had begun to melt, the children had let him join in their games. They had played ball with home-made rag balls and bats made from the sticks left when the logs had been sawed for the school house. The Indian boy could run very fast and had been chosen, sometimes, to play in their games of tag and hide-and-seek, and the teacher had been pleased when he had heard them laughing together. He felt good when the boy had come back into the school room smiling and happy.

The young teacher prayed for wisdom to meet the challenges of this day, as he thought about the report that had reached the settlement the day before of a man by the name of Baker, who had been killed by Indians between Utah and Sanpete Valleys. The news had spread quickly through the settlement, and Jesse fox knew that it would bring problems to his school.

He was still pondering what course he should take when the students began arriving. They came quietly into the room and quickly took their seats, glancing at the empty place where the Indian boy usually sat.

It was more than a week before the Indian boy ventured timidly back into the schoolroom, and the teacher knew that he, too, had heard of the murder of the white man named Baker, and he wondered if it might have been better if the boy had not come. None of the children spoke to him, and the atmosphere was strained. Each day went by sheer force of discipline, and it was several days before the Indian boy went with the others onto the playground. He was gone only a few seconds when he slipped quietly back into the room and into his seat. Taunting cries from his school-mates followed him into the room.

He was a picture of complete dejection as he sat huddled in his place, looking down at the dirt floor of the building. Filled with compassion the teacher walked to where the boy was sitting and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. As he sat down on the other end of the split log bench, the boy raised his head for an instant and looked into the friendly eyes of his teacher. No tears fell, but the boy's visage was dark and full of sorrow.

His head, dropped again as the chant from the white students came through the open door. "Injun, wicked Injun."

"They call me Fox." The teacher smiled, then almost chuckled, as the boy brightened for a brief moment, and sank again into despondency.

As classes went forward in the afternoon the boy did not participate, but sat quietly drawing on his slate. When school was over, he came and handed the slate, face down, to the teacher. He hurried from the room and disappeared into the nearby willows. As the teacher turned the slate to look at it, he saw the outline of a beautiful fox, and by it a huge bird. It might be an eagle or a hawk, he mused.

Years passed, and Jesse W. Fox had been appointed territorial surveyor and had traveled much about the territory, surveying many of the cities and towns between Logan and St. George. It was on one of those surveying trips during the Black Hawk War that Jesse fox and his surveying party were captured as they traveled between Heber City and Summit County. Some of the Indian braves who captured them wanted to massacre the entire party, but others urged that they be taken to their chief. The surveyors were surrounded by painted Indians, whooping and yelling, and dashing back and forth recklessly on their stolen horses.

The chief came out of the lodge as he heard them coming, and the surveyors were placed in a line before him. No expression of any kind crossed his dark face as he gave a quick command to the eager warriors, and the surveyors were pushed into the big tepee. Another command sent the warriors from the lodge, and Jesse W. Fox and his men faced the chief. Silently, their prayers for forgiveness of earthly sins ascended as they prepared to die.

Picking a long spear from the wall of the tepee, the chief advanced toward the men. They began to understand that for this prize the chief would do his own slaughter.

The tall chief stepped first to Jesse W. Fox. Placing the tip of his spear in the soft earth he drew the outline of a fox, and by it, just above the head of the fox, he placed the outline of a great black hawk. The two men looked into each other's eyes for several seconds. Neither spoke.

Chief Black Hawk stepped back, replaced the spear against the wall and gave more commands to the waiting warriors.

This time their attitude was respectful as they came into the big tepee. The leading warriors formed an honor guard, walking on each side of the surveyors. They proceeded in this way until they reached the top of the hill that stretched north, toward the settlements in the south end of Summit County.

Pointing to the little village of Kamas, the warrior in charge spoke.

"Go!" was all he said, as the Indians turned, and started trotting back down the trail to the spot where stood the lodge of their chief.


Account of Jesse W. Fox being captured and taken to safety by warriors of Chief Black Hawk told to author by S. Ross Fox. Sr., grandson of Jesse W. Fox.

Jensen, Andrew, L. D. S. Biographical Encyclopedia. Volume I, pub. Andrew Jensen History Company, Printed, Deseret Hews, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1901. pp. 774, 775.

Larson, Gustive 0., Outline History of Utah and the Mormons. Deseret Book Company, 1958, pp. 30, 63, 64, 143-161.

Gottfredson, Peter, Indian Depredations in Utah, Second Edition, 1969, Private Printing by Merlin G. Christensen, Salt Lake City, Utah. pp. 36, 15, 16, etc.

Roberts, B. H., Comprehensive History of the Church Volume III, Published by The Church, Brigham Young Univereity Press, 1965 pp. 460-465, 481.

"THEY CALL ME FOX" by Linnie M. Findlay, Saga of the Sanpitch Vol 15, 255 East 1st South, Ephraim, Utah

No comments: