Reapers’ Portraits: December 1890


I was stopped on Main Street by the voice of a child who called me by name. When I turned around I saw a small Indian boy. He was wearing a fine suit and carrying a valise, which was easily twice his size. I looked at him, wondering why this child would know my name and thinking of the few women I had known during my travels in the Indian Territories when the child spoke to me in the language of the Lakota Sioux.

“No, Duncan, I am not your child. I am here to speak with Mr. Aldrich,” the child reaper informed me. “Will you take me to him?”

I told him I would, and I did, though I could tell that Thomas was not pleased with it. He had become skittish of the reapers following the deaths at Johnstown.

When Thomas tried to prepare the reaper for his portrait, Thomas was told to wait. The reaper needed to be in the proper clothes first. Thomas escorted him to a small room and then returned to my company to extract a bottle of spiced rum from his desk. He did not offer me a drink, nor did he pour himself one. Instead, he uncapped it and drank straight from the bottle.

A few minutes later, the reaper stepped out clad in native garb, and he allowed Thomas to help prepare the seat for him. Soon, the photograph was done, and the reaper changed once more into attire, which would garner no attention.

“Will you walk with me, Duncan?” the reaper inquired. I said I would and promised Thomas to return later.

As the reaper and I walked toward the Cross Train Station, he looked up at me with sadness. “Your friend will die this night by his own hand.”

My shoulders sagged, but I nodded my understanding.

We stopped at the entrance to the station, and I asked, “Where are you going?”

“West, of course,” the reaper replied. “Tell Thomas to put the name, ‘Wounded Knee’ in his ledger.”

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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