|Author's note- this is a piece written to explore a character called Jim Bodaway who will be featured in a alternative history novel I have been kicking around for a few years. Bodaway is a young Apache man who was sent to CIIS (Carlisle Indian Industrial School) in 1886. After spending a school year there, he finds he is being sent on an outing- the term used by the school for sending its students to white families during the summer to work instead of sending them home. Captain Pratt was the founder of CIIS. This piece is set before the point of divergence into an alternate history realm.
Bodaway sat in the uncomfortable chair outside of the Captain's office. There was a line of wooden chairs along each side of the hallway outside of the office. There were two other children sitting a few chairs down. New arrivals, he thought as he took in the young girls who were still dressed in leather shifts and clutched brightly woven blankets around their bodies. He smiled at them, but they cowered and began talking in a language he didn't understand. He glanced down the hallway, lifting his hand to try to quiet the girls.
“Shhhh, don't speak that way. Speak English or you will be in trouble,” he spoke quietly, but his words only seemed to frighten the girls more.
Bodaway heard the man's voice, but he was focused on the young girls and it had only been a few months since an instructor had told him that his name was now Jim. There were still times that he didn't respond.
His head turned as he saw the frowning Captain standing in the doorway. He squared his shoulders and stood, tugging his uniform jacket down. “Sorry, sir.” He glanced one more time at the girls before following the Captain into his office.
The Captain motioned to the chair in front of his desk as he sat down. “You have done well this year. You have come a long way.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The Captain looked at a few papers, before picking up one and holding it out to the young man. “I think you have earned the right to leave the school this summer.”
Bodaway's eyes widened as he reached for the paper, looking at it. Hope flooded his body. Was he going to get to go home? Would he get to see his mother and father back at Fort Marion? They were still there. A few months ago he had received a letter that his father had dictated to a translator. From the letter, he had become aware that his family would be moving yet again in the very near future to a place near a town called Mt. Vernon. He hoped he would be able to help them make the move. He remembered the move to Fort Marion and how horrible it had been. It would be easier if he was with his mother and father and could translate for them.
His hopes were dashed as he examined the paper he had been handed. “Why can't I go home? I don't want to go to Boston. I want to see my family!” he scowled, holding the paper back towards the Captain. Even the disapproving glare from the Captain didn't frighten him. It wasn't fair.
Captain Pratt understood Bodaway's frustration, but he couldn't let Bodaway go home. It could undo all the progress he felt his school had provided Bodaway with. A summer with his family, even as they settled on the new reservation the Chiricahua band was being moved onto, Pratt felt he couldn't risk it. Students were never sent home during the summer months. If they didn't remain at Carlisle, they were sent on outings. The students who had proven themselves reliable and deemed most civilized by the instructors were hired out during the summer months.
Depending on the trade they were learning, they were sent as labor to white families, usually to a city. Under the guise of further civilizing his charges, a guise he truly believed he was accomplishing, students would be given a ticket and a destination. There had been a few cases of students complaining, but he paid them little heed. He knew what was best. Bodaway was not happy, but he was proving to be a quick study in the printing trade. He had received a request from a family in Boston that was looking for an apprentice print setter. He had immediately thought of Bodaway and wanted to offer him this chance.
“The Donahue’s will be expecting you within the week. You aren't going to disappoint me or your school, are you?” Pratt tried to lay the guilt on. He had students he had trusted run away the minute they left the school. Chasing them down cost time, effort and money. Perhaps he was unwise to trust this young Apache.
“I want to go home.”
“Boston is an exciting city...” Pratt began, holding the paper he had taken back from Bodaway and the ticket that had been purchased this morning in a bunch for several students who would be leaving for the outing in the next few days. “We will see about finding you some time to visit your family if you prove to be a good assistant for the Donahue’s. Would that be acceptable?”
Bodaway stared. He knew that tone. He knew that look. He had seen it many times from his instructors. He wasn't really being offered a choice. The only option that would be acceptable, that would be rewarded was the one response that Pratt wanted. He wiped the scowl from his face, trying to mimic the impassive stare he had seen his own father don when dealing with the guards and white traders and missionaries at Fort Marion. He had the sinking feeling that no matter how well he did at the Donahue’s, that although this was his first outing, it would not be his last and the odds of him getting time to go home? It wouldn't happen. Not until the instructors at Carlisle felt he was ready for graduation.
A bugle sounded in the background. It was lunch time. Students who spent the morning in a classroom would then go to their trade class and those who had been in their trade class in the morning would then find themselves studying the basic reading, writing and arithmetic the school taught. Bodaway would spend the afternoon setting type for the new issue of the school's newsletter after lunch. Unless he was to leave for Boston immediately.
“I will go to Boston.” He said, face impassive but chin lifted in defiance.