Shinn, Charles H.
Old Man Chepo, pp. 622-630
OLD MAN CHEPO: BY CHARLES H. SHINN HAD not lived long on our mountain 'ranch before ve found that "Old Man Chepo" occupied a place f his own among the several hundred Mono Indians cattered through the Forest, north and south along he Sierra. He was neither chief nor doctor, and yet s this little old fellow trotted and stumbled along the trails or prowled about the roads, generally alone except for several dogs, and casting sly glances here and there, one somehow felt that he knew more or less about everything that was going on. I find it difficult to say how innocently simple he appeared to my wife and me, and how he grew upon us in the course of a few years. "How old that man Chepo ?" I asked Indian Frank, the chief of this branch of the Monos. "Dunno." "How long Chepo here, Frank?" "Long time." "How long, Frank?" The Chief sat on my doorstep, eating one of my apples. He was a good fellow; we liked each other. Sometimes he plowed in my field or hauled my wood. "Very long time." He began looking at his fingers, and his lips moved slowly. Then he struggled painfully to tell me, but first he looked around to see that no one else heard him. "Old Man Chepo one time little boy." He stopped, looking at me; I encouraged him to go on. "Once little boy, long time ago. One white man come, kill big bear, catch beaver in trap. Go away. More white man come. Wash gold in creek; give whiskey to Injuns; kill Chepo father an' mother. Chepo run away, live alone a while. How many year that make ?" "Very long time, Frank," I told him. No one could be sure from what Frank had said. Trappers were here before eighteen hundred and forty. The gold mining began here about eighteen hundred and fifty. But what a situation! Other Indians confirmed it, later. The ten-year old Indian boy, an orphan, lived somehow in the forest a year or so, somewhat by preference. There must have been Indian camps where he migoht have stayed. Out of it all came Old Man Chepo's humorous strewdness, which always out- matched the rest of us put to gether. "All right. You no tell Chepo I tell you ?" asked Frank, dubious- ly. "That old man he know most everything." "No tell," I responded. 622
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