This is what I believe: We needed the ritual and ceremony of it, the color and splash of blood, the bond of words, and the pain.

It was 1970, and my best friend and I had escaped to our secret hideout, a damp cave of leaves in the underbrush not far from our homes. There, with a lighter stolen from his mother’s purse and the tiny knife blades we’d been using to whittle sticks, we were to become blood brothers, a more powerful union in our minds than any other.

We’d been led to believe that this is what Native Americans did, “Indians” as we called them — a blood-letting that would bond us together for life. Intuitively we knew we were stepping out of our ken, and yet holding our breath to keep from crying out, we opened iron-rich veins. At first sawing tentatively, then pressing harder until a thin wake of red followed, we stepped over the cliff of friendship, uttered some kind of oath, and pressed our fingers together.

My blood ran in his. His ran in mine. New life entered us. We grew to unimaginable size. At no time in our short history had our actions taken on such meaning, and we huddled in fear, the enormity of the event we’d conjured stealing the air. A cold chill ran down our spines as we looked at each other with renewed awe across those few feet of cramped space.

Spore of our union. Milk of our life. Even now I see them, two drops of ruby red, one his, one mine, falling through the sun-spangled air.


CHARLES FINN is the editor of High Desert Journal and author of Wild Delicate Seconds: 29 Wildlife Encounters (OSU Press 2012). His essays and poetry have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals, anthologies, newspapers and consumer magazines. A self-taught woodworker, he began A Room of One’s Own in 2004, building “microhomes,” one-room wood cabins constructed entirely out of reclaimed lumber and materials. Originally from Vermont, he lives in Missoula with his wife, Joyce Mphande-Finn, and their two cats, Pushkin and Lutsa.

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