Dream Catcher

by Kathy M

Main Characters: Vin and JD

“No, no, don’t,” JD cried in his sleep.

Instantly coming awake, Vin rolled closer to JD in the bed they shared. “Sshh, it’s ok, JD. I’m here,” he soothed, rubbing JD’s back. It certainly wasn’t the first time JD had woke up with nightmares since the two boys had been together, but after the two little orphans had come to live with Buck and Chris, and had settled in, the bad dreams had seemed to stop, only to start again a couple of nights ago.

“Vin?” mumbled JD, slowly coming awake. “You’re here.”

“Course I’m here, JD, I’ll always be here. Everything’s fine. Snuggle up. Let’s go back to sleep. We don’t want to be any bother.”

From the edge of the doorway Buck watched until the boys were settled and seemed like they were asleep. Somehow he knew that Vin knew he was there, but wanted to handle JD himself, and as much as Buck wanted to sweep in there and gather JD up and soothe him, maybe even take him into his own bed, he knew that it was better to let them settle down themselves. He would have intervened if necessary. Sighing softly Buck headed back to bed, wondering again why JD was having bad dreams, and once again asking himself if taking in the boys was the best choice for them, but in his heart he knew no one else could possible care as much for them as he and Chris did.

The next morning found the unorthodox little family in town while Buck and Chris both took turns at patrol. Finally in the late afternoon, Buck and Chris joined Nathan and Josiah for a beer in the saloon while Ezra entertained the boys with a card game that was ‘guaranteed to enhance their numerical abilities’.

“You’re looking a bit tired, Buck,” commented Nathan. “You feeling okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. JD’s been having nightmares again. He never remembers what they’re about in the morning. I thought they were happy with us.”

“Can’t blame him, or Vin either, for having nightmares after all that those poor boys have been through,” commented Josiah wisely.

“See, Buck, I told you,” stated Chris, “and like I said, I remember Adam waking up sometimes for no particular reason, it’s just something kids go through sometimes, right, Nathan?”

“I’m sure it’s just a phase he’s going through,” agreed Nathan.

“He’s a smart boy with a vivid imagination; maybe he’s overheard some of the older kids talking about things that would seem scary to him. Don’t worry about it,” suggested Josiah.

That night after such a long busy day both boys slept through the night, but the next night JD woke up again, and was a lot more upset than the time before.

“Hush, JD, we don’t want to wake Buck and Chris!”

“Yes, I do. I want my Buck!”

“JD! Stop it! Nobody wants to keep children what are a bother!”

“Don’t want to be a bother,” sobbed JD, hiccupping softly.

This time Buck couldn’t stop himself from intervening. “You’re never a bother, JD,” Buck reassured the small boy he was already starting to think of as his son. “Don’t you worry, I’m keeping you forever. Wild tigers couldn’t drag me away from you. No sirree!

JD raised his arms and Buck scooped him up. “What about wild elephants?” asked the little boy, thinking of the wild animals from his picture book and already distracted from his nightmare.

“Nope, not them neither, not even lions! Now how about you get back in bed with Vin and I’ll sit here until you boys are back asleep.” Buck would have taken JD back to bed with him but Chris told him that was a bad habit to get into, and Buck would have felt bad leaving Vin alone, and he knew Vin probably felt bad already for not being able to keep JD from waking him up. Buck looked up after the boys were settled and saw Chris hovering just outside the bedroom door. He gave him a nod to let him know he had everything under control.

The next morning Chris and Buck noticed JD was quieter than usual. In fact both boys seemed a bit subdued; either tired or maybe trying to make up for the disturbance during the night, so Buck took JD aside and told him again that everyone had bad dreams sometimes, even Buck himself and that JD shouldn’t worry about it, and he would always be there if he needed him. Meanwhile Chris tried again to explain to Vin that JD wasn’t only his responsibility anymore, he and Buck were here too, and they wouldn’t ever get upset over something like bad dreams. Both JD and Vin had nodded and said they’d understood and had left to do their usual early morning chores of feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs. Both adults hoped they had gotten through to them this time, but neither of them was confident that they had.

Vin was scattering chicken feed and JD was hunting for eggs. “Here’s one, Vin,” he said carefully putting it in the basket. “I’se real sorry ‘bout always wakin’ up in the night, Vin.”

“I know JD; it’s not your fault. I just don’t want us to be too much trouble for Chris and Buck.”

“I’ll try harder Vin, you know I will!”

“I know, JD,” Vin sighed, watching as JD carefully picked up another egg and also a couple of little feathers.

“I know what!” exclaimed Vin. “We just needs us a dreamcatcher, that’ll fix all your bad dreams.”

“It will? Uh, what’s a dream catcher?” asked JD, his curiosity immediately overtaking any leftover worry from his unsettling night.

“It’s a thing that hangs at the top of the opening in a teepee or above a baby’s bed, or in the window of a bedroom. It’s a hoop, with feathers hanging down, and you make like a web in it, and the hole in the middle of the web lets the good dreams in, sometimes even visions, and they slide down the feathers to you, and the dreamcatcher catches the bad dreams in the web, and keeps them away, so they can’t hurt you, and then in the morning the sun burns away all the bad ones and the web keeps all the good ones.”

“Wow! I never knowed that! You are so smart.”

“I seen them when I was living with the Indians afore I met ya’,” explained Vin. “I asked the grandfather what they was and he told me the legend ‘bout dreamcatchers.”

“Tell me, tell me,” begged JD. “I love your Indian stories.”

“A long time ago in an Indian village there was an old grandmother and she saw this spider spinning his web and she left him alone,” began Vin, as JD sat quietly enthralled.

“Every night she would watch him working hard to spin and weave his web, and she was amazed at how tricky it looked to make. She thought it was beautiful and told him so. At night when the moonlight shined it looked all silvery and magical. Then one day one of her grandsons came in and saw it, and grabbed a stick to hit it.”

“Oh, no, and then what happened?” asked JD, as always fascinated by any of Vin’s Indian tales.

“The grandmother stopped him, and when he asked her why she just smiled, and so he thought she was just a confused old lady, and let the spider live and when he left the spider thanked the old lady for saving his life, and said, “I will give you a gift. I’ve seen you admiring my work so watch and learn. See how I spin and leave a small hole in the middle? That’s so the good dreams and visions can get through to you in the night, and you’ll remember them, and it will catch the bad dreams.”

“What are visions?” asked JD.

“They’re like good dreams but they can come true. It’s sort of like good Indian spirits what tell you stuff to do when you’re sleeping.”

“Like what?” wondered JD.

“The grandfather told me sometimes he’d get visions telling them when to move their camp or where to go hunting. He said he knew I was coming before I even got there.”

“Wow, I gotta get me one of those,” JD bounced enthusiastically. “Where do we get one?”

“We gots to make one,” said Vin. “We need a thin willow branch to make the hoop, and leather to wrap it and it needs horse hair, and some beads, and stuff. It’s gotta have feathers on it, some in the web and then some hanging down. Guess we can use string for the web.”

“Can we use these feathers,” asked JD, offering the few chicken feathers he had gathered along with the eggs.”

“Don’t think so,” replied Vin, squinting his eyes and drawing his eyebrows together as he tried to remember. “I think we need an eagle feather for courage, and one from an owl for wisdom.”

“Oh,” said JD sadly as he dropped his little feathers.

“But we need some for the middle,” added Vin. “I guess those could go there, and we can use one of my special eagle ones that I got saved.”

“Oh, this is gonna be the bestest dreamcatcher ever,” exclaimed JD, as he picked up the feathers and started to spin around.

“Watch out for the eggs!” warned Vin as JD danced close to the basket.

At breakfast JD animatedly told Buck and Chris about the dreamcatcher. Buck was happy to see JD acting like himself again. Chris asked Vin to tell them the same things he’d told JD, and was pleased to see Vin opening up and sharing some more of his past with them. Although both men were skeptical about the whole idea, they just shrugged at each other and let the boys go ahead with their latest project, figuring it couldn’t hurt.

The boys rushed through the rest of their morning chores. When they were done Chris walked with them down to the creek, since that was one of the places they weren’t allowed to go without an adult. Under his supervision Vin cut a thin branch from one of the willow trees overhanging the creek, cut it into the right length, and stripped the leaves off. Then the boys headed out on their feather quest. They promised to only go into the very edge of the woods that bordered Larabee’s back field, and Chris headed back home, promising to carve a few wooden beads for them.

Vin and JD ran, chatting excitedly until they got to the trees.

“JD, stay close to me, and remember we’re only looking for feathers, not all of the stuff you usually collect, ok?” instructed Vin.

“OK, nothing but feathers, nothing but feathers,” sang JD, carefully hopping from spot to spot, bending down and looking around and under things, totally enjoying the hunt.

“There’s one, Vin, why didn’t ya’ pick up that feather?”

“That’s from a crow. Don’t want black, and anyways crows are tricksters. Best be from other types of birds; like I said eagles and owls are the bestest,” replied Vin as they continued their search.

“Lookit, Vin! This little rock’s pretty and has a hole in it. Can we put it in our dreamcatcher?”

“Sure JD, now we gotta keep lookin’ for the right kind of feathers.”

They continued looking, Vin rejecting another crow feather and some other little ones that JD found.

“How about these brown ones? Are they ok?” asked JD, sounding slightly exasperated since Vin had turned down all the other ones so far.

“Don’t think they’s from an owl,” he replied after inspecting them closely.

“But you don’t know for sure, right?” argued JD. “So they might be from an owl. I’m going to ask Buck!” he declared and started marching out of the forest.

“Hey, JD. Wait up. Well, they’re not from a crow, so I think we can use them. Race you there!”

When they got back Chris gave them four beads he’d carved, and let them have a piece of leather from a broken bridle. Since they needed horse hair too, they brushed Peso’s mane until they got a few long pieces. Vin got one of his eagle feathers and a little piece of turquoise rock from his collection in his bedroom and both boys sat on the front porch to work on their project. Vin shaped the piece of willow into a circle, overlapping the ends slightly and JD held it tightly while Vin used the piece of leather to tie it together and then continued wrapping the leather around the hoop. Buck had given them some string, and JD watched patiently, or as patiently as he could, asking questions and giving suggestions, as Vin carefully managed to tie the string across the hoop so that there were 8 spokes, like spider legs he told JD. Then he weaved string around the spokes leaving a hole in the centre. Next they wove the smallest feathers into the web, and knotted string around the little rocks to secure them into the web too. They threaded the beads onto two short pieces of string, divided up the horse hair and feathers, and attached them to one end of each of the short strings, and tied the other ends to the bottom of the hoop so those feathers hung down. Satisfied with their beautiful creation they ran to show their dads, who praised them, telling them how much they liked it and how they impressed they were by their hard work.

Buck hammered a nail above the window in the boys’ bedroom and helped them hang it so that it hung in the middle where it could catch the morning sun. That night the boys actually seemed eager to go to bed; both of them getting on top of the bed to touch the feathers, claiming they had to do that to get good dreams and maybe even a vision.

That night Buck woke up. He was sure that he had heard JD cry out, so he walked to their room. He stopped when he heard Vin talking quietly to JD and he peered in, able to see easily with the moon shining brightly through the window. The dreamcatcher looked silvery and somewhat mystical standing out against the darkness, reflecting the moonlight.

“It’s ok now JD. The dreamcatcher done catched the bad dream. You just gotta go get another good one.”

“Ok,” sniffed JD, and taking a big breath he crawled out from the covers, reached up and stroked the feathers, then plopped back down, and snuggled close to Vin.

Buck stood there until JD was settled and Vin glanced his way. Smiling at the older boy he snuck back to his own room.

A couple days later Buck had finished his turn on patrol and Chris was on his, so while the boys were playing with Billy Travis and the Potter kids he joined Josiah and Nathan in the saloon for a beer.

“How are things going?” asked Nathan. “The boys sleeping better?”

“Yeah, they have been. They built themselves a dreamcatcher,” said Buck and he told them Vin’s story about dreamcatchers, and how the boys made theirs, and about watching JD stroke the feathers when he woke up in the night to get a good dream. “Not sure why it works, but it seems to be helping.”

“Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, Brother. It works because they think it will,” explained Josiah.

“Yeah, maybe that’s it.” laughed Buck. “This morning JD said he’d had a dream about fishing. He said it must have been one of those dream visions that Vin had told us about and that it meant that I was going to take them fishing, so guess what we’re doing tomorrow?”

“Going fishing!” they all said at once, smiling as they continued sipping their beer and chatting the afternoon away.

The End


There are many versions of both the legend of dreamcatchers and how to make them. Here are a few sites if you’re interested in some more information.

One version of how to build a dreamcatcher