It would have been a painful way to die. It wasn’t a straight drop to the bottom. Tony and I would have hit every rock, boulder and tree stump on the way down. Then we would have lingered alive for a couple of hours before finally succumbing to blood loss. I didn’t want to die that way.
I backed off the edge of the cliff and fell into Tony’s arms. There was clapping and whistling from the soldiers. I didn’t realize they were all standing there. I apologized to Tony for everything I had said a few moments before. Tony kissed me on the head and thanked me for not jumping. Tony and the four soldiers that had survived the ambush led us around the woods for more than an hour trying to find the graves of Yates and the other soldiers they were able to bury. I wanted to say goodbye.
We had almost given up looking for the graves when one of the soldiers accidentally stumbled upon the gravesite during a moment of rest. We held a small goodbye ceremony in the woods for Yates and the other fallen soldiers. Each of the graves was marked with a cross of twigs. The nametag from the soldier’s uniform was pushed into the bark.
I found Yates and said my goodbyes. I apologized for getting him into this trouble. Tony knelt down beside me and whispered in my ear that none of this was my fault. I didn’t put General Yates into this grave. I wish I could believe that. There is a small boy at Ft Shasta who is now without a father.