Gunsmoke, Steam, and Blood
quiet Sharpshooter with Native American influence; acquainted with tragedy
Shane Dunning grew up on the family farm on the border of Augusta and Rockingham Counties, Virginia. He grew up listening to stories of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 from his grandfather. His boyhood was spent idolizing General Washington and the soldiers under his command. At his earliest opportunity, he took up rifle and was busy rooting out all manner of pests on the farm.
As he became more aware of the world around him, he began questioning the peculiar differences between his family and the negros that worked on the family farm. While told that they were property and not people, his friendship with Isaiah, Molly’s son his age, told him differently. Molly was his mother’s chief help around the house. She did most of the cooking and cleaning. Isaiah liked the same things he did, played the same games and had fun just like him.
The family farm fell on harder times for a few years as blight swept through and wiped out the harvest in ’53. His father sold off some of the slaves to make up the difference. One of them was Isaiah’s sister, Grace. Isaiah threw up all kinds of protest and Shane’s father, James beat Isaiah nearly senseless. This started a simmering feud between Shane and his father that never healed.
Shane grew older and continued his idolizing of General Washington. During one of their many philosophical disagreements, his father pointed out that Shane’s hero himself was a slave owner. This crushed Shane’s spirit and caused him to study all he could about the Father of America to find something he could hold onto so as not to invalidate his boyhood fascination. His break came when some abolitionists brought their pilgrimage through the nearest town when Shane was there running errands for farm business. It was proclaimed that George Washington had set his slaves free upon his death and paid for their education in his will. With confidence gained from this information, he returned home and confronted his father. The resulting argument got him kicked out of the house. He took his rifle and left.
He probably would have died of a fever had not he stumbled upon a band of Shawnee Indians who were heading to Pittsburgh to join the Union army. The call had gone out to muster soldiers following the first battle of Manassas and the Union’s sound beating. He befriended one of the scouts, Daniel Littlecrow and they formed a lasting bond.
Daniel joined up months before Shane but they both eventually wound up in The 2nd US Sharpshooters, Company C. They saw heavy action, especially in the battle of Antietam. Nearly half the company disappeared on the first day of action alone. He was once taken prisoner by the Confederates and was saved by Daniel who disobeyed orders to rescue him.
After the Steam walkers turned the tide of the war and their service was done, Shane returned home a different man, scarred by war and looking to return to a safe place to rest and heal. He had seen terrible things. What he found was his father drunk in the middle of town on a Sunday afternoon. The Hanley’s of neighboring Rockingham County had taken advantage of the Dunnings’ hard times and the war and had finagled his father’s farm. Shane’s father cursed his son and blamed him for the family’s misfortune. He was banished once again. Daniel led them to Shawnee lands in Ohio and Shane learned to live again among them. He was permitted to marry one of the tribe’s women and could have died happy among that people.
Misfortune followed him as his pregnant wife contracted smallpox. Both mother and child were taken by the disease. He was taken under the medicine man’s wing and came to terms with many things under his influence. Violence returned to his life as pressure came from white settlers for the Shawnee to be removed to Indian lands. Most of the other Shawnee had already moved on while their band still lingered in Ohio. Their leader finally decided it was in the band’s best interest to move on and started them preparing to leave. During one of their last supply runs, Daniel was killed while he went to get supplies from a nearby town. Shane was (un)lucky enough to survive.
As the band moved west and neared the Indian lands, the medicine man wanted to speak to Shane. He told him he had had a vision. In it, he saw a great shooting star slowly burning itself out as it fell from the sky. As it sunk lower and lower, a spark jumped off from the main body and traveled in a different arc landing in a dry and barren field. The spark burned the field grass and changed it to a fertile field where families grew and laughed. He said Shane’s destiny did not lie with the Shawnee. He performed a ritual and pronounced Shane cleansed from the spirits that had plagued him. For the rest of the journey, Shane was at peace.
Weeks after the ritual, the medicine man came to Shane and told him that tomorrow he was to leave the band. He did not need the Shawnee anymore and Shane was to go to the nearest white settlement and find his destiny there. Three days later Shane arrived in Abilene and began looking for work.