Robuck Love Story
Flash Fiction by Sarah Elisabeth & Lynda Kay Sawyer
Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory
If the buck made it to the deep waters of the lake, the hunt was lost. William Robuck cleared the fallen tree his dogs had jumped moments before.
He listened to the splash of the buck in the shallows. Too late. By the time William reached the shore, the stag was swimming toward the other side. This was not a good way to start his vacation break from college.
William squinted as he watched his escaping quarry, whistling to call his blue hounds back.
The buck wasn’t the only one on the lake that afternoon. There were two young women in a canoe, fishing. One raised her bow and took aim. The arrow whizzed from the string and rattled in the buck’s immense antlers. The animal veered and headed toward the shore about two stone throws from William.
Signaling the dogs to stillness, William waited until the buck’s hooves touched dry land before shooting it. A prize he wouldn’t have obtained if the girl hadn’t driven it back to him.
William lifted her arrow from the antlers and examined it. His initials were carved on it, and he recognized where it had come from. He’d made several of these arrows for a schoolmate back in Mississippi. In the homelands of his Choctaw people.
As the girls paddled to the landing where he stood waiting, William thought back to that time in his life.
William Robuck was born November 6, 1820 on Honey Island in Mississippi. The Yazoo River surrounded the island. His father, Ezekiel, kept an apiary, or bee yard, for his business of exporting honey to England. His mother, Elsie, farmed a flock of geese.
When William came of age, he attended a community school that his father helped establish. Besides academics, he participated with his peers in a class on arrow making. He gifted a classmate four of his arrows.
The year William was twelve, his father and mother gathered him with his younger brother, Benjamin, and infant sister, Anna, to make a very long trip. Led by President Andrew Jackson, the U.S. government had implemented the Indian Removal Act, forcing the Choctaw Nation to sign a treaty for their survival. This meant they had to leave their home and take very little with them. With their community dispersed in wagons, boats and afoot, families were separated and relationships lost.
On their journey, William’s father died from cholera. After using pocketknives to dig a grave for him by the trail, William helped his mother with his younger siblings as they continued on to Fort Towson in Indian Territory.
It was a treacherous trail. At one point, William’s mother tied baby Anna to herself with a paisley shawl as they crossed a flooded river during that freezing winter.
When William’s family arrived in Fort Towson, relatives that had gone before prepared a half dugout for them to shelter in until William, his mother and brother could cut trees to build a more permanent home. They reconnected with many family and friends, but not all.
William and Benjamin had completed their basic education at the missionary school nearby. The next five years they both attended the Choctaw College in Blue Springs, Kentucky, where William would finish in law.
It was during a vacation break at home from school that William was on this hunt by the lake.
When the girls reached the landing, William asked, “Whose arrow is this?”
The girls dragged the canoe onto the shore, and one of them smoothed back her raven hair as she turned to him.
“It’s mine. I am Polayah Homma.”
Surprise and joy filled William as he smiled and handed the arrow to her. “You are! Well, I am William Robuck.”
Polayah laughed in recognition. “You gave this arrow to me, and now I have used it to help in your hunt.”
“And now I give this buck to you.”
Polayah smiled. “Yakoke. Will you come to my grandfather’s home to eat? That is where I live with my father.”
William accepted the invitation, and the two girls mounted their horses, while he slung the buck across his, and they rode to Polayah’s home. On the way, William learned her mother had died on the trail from Mississippi. He remembered Polayah’s father and grandfather, who were chiefs of the Choctaw Nation. At the cabin with her family, William was happy to renew old friendships.
Thus began the courtship of William and Polayah.
The next year, William and Polayah’s marriage included two ceremonies. First was a traditional Choctaw ceremony where they built an arbor draped with vines and berries. Near the arbor, two poles were erected about twenty-five feet apart. Polayah and her attendants circled one pole and William and his attendants circled the other. They began to dance with the beat of the Tom Toms while the Love Call played on the flutes.
As the dance progressed, Polayah stole away toward the arbor, and William chased after her. He caught her with a laugh just as she reached the arbor. He sealed their ceremony with a kiss.
Under the arbor, they continued with a church ceremony officiated by Reverend R. D. Potter. Then the feasting came, and gifts were showered on the newlyweds. William’s mother presented Polayah with her paisley shawl.
As the years passed, at the lake where they had reunited, William and Polayah reared eight children in a large cedar log home, and christened it Robuck Lake. They farmed, raised cattle, and had a gristmill, sorghum mill and cotton gin.
William served in many official positions including the Senate of the Choctaw Nation. Polayah, who also went by her english name Mary Ann, helped many in the community. In her later years, she was lovingly referred to by many as Granny.
William and Mary Ann Robuck’s union continues to grow with a multitude of decedents.
We are honored to be two of them.
*Yakoke means thank you in Choctaw.
If you like to read heart pounding, heart wrenching, heart tugging, raw and realistic stories, you can get my collection of over 40 of my best flash fictions in Third Side of the Coin (A Short Story Collection).