Then the Chief looked at the prisoner and said, “Bring him.”
The man started yelling at us, and he threatened to kill the Chief. He described some really vile sexual things that he would do to us girls if we didn’t let him go. Some of the kids got really frightened then, and some were so frightened they asked the Chief to let the man go. They even spoke to the man, and they begged him to promise that he would never bother us again.
The man was struggling, and he was a big man and strong, but Ralph, John, and Howard held him firmly, and the other Spears helped them push the man onto the barrel. It tried to roll out from under him, so the Chief called for some kids to hold the barrel firm at the ends. The rest of the Spears, and some of the other kids, grabbed the ends of the barrel and held it steady.
The Chief climbed onto the barrel, and Douglas handed him the rope. The Chief struggled to work the noose over the head of the wiggling man who was cursing at him. Once he had the loop around the man’s neck, he tossed the other end of the rope toward a big tree branch. It fell short, and he tossed it again and again, until he made an accurate toss and the end of the rope dropped over the thick branch. Then he jumped down.
Ahmad, John, and a Spear named Rasul grabbed the loose end of the rope, and they pulled it rigid to lift the prisoner’s head. The man kept cursing them. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I heard the Chief ask the man if he wanted to pray or something. I know that behind me, I heard one of the boys praying quietly.
They lifted the man onto the barrel and helped him steady himself, and then they stepped back. The man wavered, and then he caught his balance. Ahmad tied the other end of the rope under a bole on the trunk of the tree.
The Chief said, “Do you have any last words?”
I don’t think the man truly believed that the Chief was going to execute him until that moment. He turned ashen and began to breathe very heavily. I wondered if he was going to beg for his life.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” he stuttered.
The Chief stepped onto the high side of the root, and as he did Howard stepped forward.
“I’ll help,” Howard said. “I didn’t go with you when you fought, so I’ll do this.”
To my surprise, Ralph came forward and said, “I want to do it.”
But the Chief shook his head and refused his request.
Then Desi stepped forward. “I’ll do it. One of us should be a girl,” she said, and she got into position behind the barrel.
Some kids were hiding their faces by now, and I was one of them. Maybe some of us were curious, but I think that most of us were scared or horrified at what was about to happen.
I heard the clank of shoes against the barrel. The boy praying raised his voice, but I heard the barrel move, and I heard the man gasping, and then with a loud sound the barrel crashed over to the other side of the root and rolled down the hill. I heard the rasp of the rope as it slid taut against the branch of the tree. The man made a few noises for a second, and then he got quiet. I turned slightly and saw his feet swaying, and then a few seconds later I smelled a terrible smell which I realized afterward was the smell of his waste as it was released from his body. I felt sick, so I moved a long way from the tree and vomited into some bushes.