Frank Bird Linderman.

Indian old-man stories : more sparks from War Eagle's lodge-fire online

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" Oh! cried Red Wing. Do not take the
Whistle of Quo-too-quat/

" I will not hurt his whistle. I only want to
borrow it. I shall bring it back/ said Old-man.
And he went away with the Whistle and his
bow and arrows.

"After he had gone Laughs-in-the-morning
said: We had better comb our hair as he told
us. I am afraid of Old-man. He does wicked
things sometimes. Let us comb our hair right



" I will braid your hair, sister, if you will do
mine, said Red Wing.

" There! He cannot complain now/ said
Laughs-in-the-moniing when they had finished.

"0W-man found a big rock and sat upon it.
Then he began to blow Quo-too-quat s Whistle.
One-two-three-four. One-two-three-four.

"He soon heard a deep rumbling sound, and
the ground trembled with the weight of many
hoofs. Ho! said Old-man. Ho! there are
plenty of buffalo coming. Ha, ha, ha/ He
heard the brush crackling and saw a great herd
of buffalo tramping toward him. There were
two White Buffalo leading the others, straight
to the big rock where OW-man sat blowing Quo-
too-quat s Whistle. When the White Buffalo
were close to him, Old-man began to shoot his
arrows at them as fast as he could; but the
arrows broke in pieces. They did not draw
blood. Their sharp points broke, and the
Buffalo did not fall. They were surprised and
angry at Old-man, and ran away, taking



the great herd with them. He had killed

" That is strange/ he said. My arrows did
not go through the skin of those White Bulls.
I wonder why/

"He had lied to Red Wing. He had said
that he knew about the Buffalo Whistle; that
he had one like it, only better. He had no
whistle at all. He had never heard of those
White Buffalo. They were Medicine Bulls,
and of course his arrows would not kill them.

"Quo-too-quat heard the Whistle. Who can
be blowing my Buffalo Whistle? he said to the

"I don t know, brother, but somebody will
make trouble. Those White Bulls are bad
when they are angry. You d better go and see
who blew that Whistle/ replied the Gray Wolf.

"Quo-too-quat ran; for his magic stick helped
him to travel as fast as other men, and faster.
When he got to his lodge, the girls were gone.

"The White Buffalo had carried them away



the Medicine Bulls had stolen them. They
were angry at Quotoo-quat for lending his
Whistle and had taken the girls away.

"Quo-too-quat was frightened. He did not
know what might happen to Red Wing and
Laughs-in-the-morning. He put on his heavy
moccasin and took his strongest walking-stick.
I shall go and find them while they are yet
alive/ he said. They were good girls, and I
am sure they have done nothing that is wrong/

"Just as he raised the door of his lodge to set
out, he saw Old-man coming. He was crying.
He knew that he had lied, and that something
had happened to make Quo-too-quat angry.

" They told me to blow on your Whistle/ he
said, and I did blow it, but I couldn t kill those
White Bulls. My arrows broke, and

" Oh/ said Quo-too-quat, you tried to kill
the Medicine Bulls, did you? They are friends
of mine. Now I ll teach you manners. Maybe
you will tell the truth and mind your own
business after this/



"He began to beat Old-man s legs with his
bow. Ow oh ow! cried Old-man as he
ran through the woods. But Quo-too-quat was
close at his heels and struck him many times.
Oh ow oh! That s enough! That s
enough ! I 11 remember. Oh ow oh !
I 11 tell the truth and mind my own business,

"Then Quo-too-quat left him and turned to
look for the trail of the White Buffalo. He was
going to follow it.

"When Old-man got far enough away he
called: I m glad I did that ! I hope you never
find those girls. Ha, ha, ha! He turned and
ran. His cackling laugh made the pine squir
rels wonder, and the Bluejay said to the Mag
pie: That s Old-man. I wonder what he s
been doing.

" I don t know, said the Magpie. He s
pretty mean meaner than I am, and I m
pretty mean, myself.

"Quo-too-quat had climbed a high hill. He



had left the trail of the White Buffalo because
he expected to cut them off by crossing the high
hill. There were great pine-trees growing
there, and near one of them he saw a White
Elk. It was a bull, and he was white as the
snow. All those things that are white when
their kind is of a different color are Big Medi
cine. Quo-too-quat called to the White Elk.

"The White Elk came to him, for they all
knew him. He was a Big Medicine Man.

" Have you seen two girls? They were car
ried away from my lodge this morning/ said
Quo-too-quat to the White Elk.

" Yes, I know where they come to get water,
too. I saw them a little while ago. There are
two white buffalo bulls with them. You must
be careful. Those bulls are bad. I know those
bulls. They have wicked hearts/

" Show me where I can find them, brother/
said Quo-too-quat. My Medicine is strong.
We must not wait. I am afraid those White
Bulls will kill the girls/



" Follow me/ said the White Elk; and he
led Quo-too-quat up a mountain and down the
other side without once speaking. At the
bottom he stopped to listen.

" Tap-tap-tap tap-tap-tap-tap. A wood
pecker was hammering upon the dead trunk of
a fir-tree.

" Stand still, Quo-too-quat. Do not move
or speak. I 11 see if Woodpecker knows where
those girls are now. If he sees you, he will fly

"Quo-too-quat stood very still, and the White
Elk walked toward the Woodpecker, pretend
ing to be feeding on the grass as he went so that
Woodpecker would not be afraid. When he
got close he said:

" Woodpecker.

" Oh ! You scared me/ said the Woodpecker.
What is it you want?

" Have you seen two girls to-day?

" Yes/ said Woodpecker, but don t come
any closer. I m afraid of you. Those girls



are down near that creek. There are two
White Buffalo Bulls with them. Be careful/
Then he climbed higher up on the tree and be
gan again: Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap/ He was
minding his own business.

"The White Elk called to Quo-too-quat and
told him what Woodpecker had said. I ll
wait here, Quo-too-quat. I can t make war on
those White Bulls. Be careful. Those Bulls
are wicked. Take your time and get very
close/ he warned.

"Quo-too-quat crept to the creek and listened.
The water made a noise as it rippled over the
stones, so he moved a little farther from the

" Brrrrr, said one White Bull to the other.
Brrrrr, let us kill these girls. They are a
nuisance and Quo-too-quat lends his Whistle to

" Brrrr/ said the other Bull. Brrrr, I am
willing. But let us wait until the night comes/

"It was getting dark even then. Shadows



were coming into the forest so Quo-too-quat
knew that the Night was near. He selected
two very sharp Medicine arrows. They were
painted and there were strange marks upon
their shafts. Their feathers were from the left
wing of a white goose, and would guide them

"Then Quo-too-quat put the arrows in his
mouth and walked like the Bear-people until
he came close to the camp of the White Bulls.
They were sitting near their fire. Laughs-in-
the-morning was crying, and Red Wing was
trying to comfort her. The wicked White
Bulls were laughing at them, when Zip ! Zip !
went the two Medicine arrows from Quo-too-
quat s bow.

" Oh! said both the White Bulls as they
sank to their knees near the fire.

"Quo-too-quat ran to them and pushed the
arrows deeper into their wicked hearts with
his hands. Then they died.

" Come, let us go to my lodge/ said Quo-



too-quat to the girls. You can never go
back to your own country now. It is too
far away. Besides, your people have moved
camp/ Ho!"




^^ dee-dee-dee-dee.

"Oh, he almost came inside the lodge, grand
father!" cried Bluebird, as a chickadee flew to
a bush near the door. "I like the chickadees.
They are always so friendly and happy. I pre
tend they are laughing when they are in the
willows and rosebushes. They do seem to be
laughing, don t they, grandfather?"

"Yes," said War Eagle. "That is what
OW-man thought one day long ago. It made
trouble for us all, too bad trouble that visits
us if we live to be old."

"Tell us the story, grandfather!" cried Buf
falo-Calf. "We will help grandmother gather
dry wood if you will tell us about Old-man."

"That is good. I will tell you," said War



Eagle. " It was in the forest where great trees
grew, and where many bushes and vines cov
ered the ground about them. Old-man was
alone. He had seen no people since morning,
and the Sim wa c already looking toward his
lodge ia the W>SL * Listen/ he said; but he
was only talking to himself. Listen/ He
bent and placed his hand behind his ear, that
he might hear better. Ha! somebody was
laughing among the trees and bushes. It was
not loud laughing, but the Person was having a
good time all by himself, whoever it was.

" That is funny so much laughing, said
Old-man. I ll go and see who it is that
laughs. I d like to laugh, myself, if I could
find something funny. I have looked, too, and
there is nothing to laugh at/

"He hurried toward the sound of laughing,
making so much noise in his travelling that he
could not hear the Person laugh. He stopped
and listened. Ho! it was gone. The Person
had moved. Old-man stood very still for a



while, and then he heard the laughing again,
but it was far away.

" That is strange, he said. That Person
seems to find something that makes him happy
wherever he goes. He was here and laughed,
but I can see nothing to laugh at. Now he is
over near that big tree and is laughing again.
I must find that Person.

"He hurried onward. He even ran; but
twice the Person moved with his laugh before
he came close to a small tree with thick leaves
upon its branches.

" Chickadee-dee-dee-dee. Chickadee-dee-
dee-dee. Ho ! it was the Chickadee laughing.

" What are you laughing at? asked Old-
man. I ve travelled hard all this day and
haven t seen a funny thing.

" That makes me laugh, said the Chickadee.
And he did laugh. Chickadee-dee-dee-dee !

" Are you laughing at me? cried Old-man.

" No. Oh, no not exactly, said the Chick
adee. But if a Person cannot get along with



himself, how can he laugh ? Laugh is a prisoner
with a cross person/

" What were you laughing at before I came?
asked Old-man.

" Watch me/ said the Chickadee.

"Then he took out his eyes and tossed them
away up among the branches. The Chickadee
sat very still and waited for them to come down
again. The eyes came straight back and
landed plump! in their places, as if they had
not been away. Chickadee-dee-dee-deeF He
was laughing again, and that made Old-man.
laugh, too.

" Ha, ha, ha ! That is funny. Do it again/

" All right. Watch me/ said the Chickadee.

"Up went his eyes a second time, and down
they came plump ! into their places. And the
Chickadee laughed again.

" Ha-ha, ha! ha, ha, ha! That is funny.
Show me how to do it, Chickadee/ said Old-man.

" Oh, no no/ said the Chickadee. You
cannot do it. You are too clumsy. You can



do nothing well, and in trying you might get
into trouble/

" Please, brother/ begged OW-man. Tell
me the secret. I will be careful. I made you,
and you should be good to me.

" Yes/ said the Chickadee, you made me,
but you made a lot of enemies for me, too. I
have more than anybody, and they are every
where. No, this is my secret. You would
blame me if you tried it and got into trouble/

"No, I will never blame you, brother. Tell
me the secret and I will give you my necklace.
See, it is very handsome/

"The Chickadee looked at the necklace and
became proud. He wanted to wear it. He
thought it would make him more beautiful, so
he said: All right, I 11 tell you the secret.
Then you must look out for yourself. I don t
do -this thing very often, myself, and I m not
clumsy as you are. You take out your eyes
and throw them as high as you want them to
go. They will always come straight back to



their places if you do not move, nor laugh, nor
even breathe while they are away. If you do
any of these things, your eyes will be lost. Re
member that. I have told you what not to do,
and if you forget you will have to pay for it.
That is all there is to the secret. Now give me
that necklace/

"OW-man took off his necklace and gave it
to the Chickadee. Then he cried: Watch me/
He took out his eyes and tossed them far up
among the trees. He stood still did not
laugh did not move did not even breathe.
Plump ! the eyes came back to their places as
the Chickadee had said they would. Old-man.
laughed, and the Chickadee laughed with him.

" Good-by, my brother. I shall have some
thing to laugh at now/ said Old-man. And he
went away in the forest.

"He tried the Chickadee s trick over and
over, laughing each time, and each time-tossing
his eyes higher, until at last he grew careless.
Ho ! he moved his head. He laughed. He even



breathed before his eyes came back. He was
standing in a thickly timbered spot when he
tossed his eyes upward. They were gone a
long time. He was all ready to laugh, and
couldn t wait. He heard something strike the
ground near him. Then he was frightened. He
was blind. He had no eyes. They had fallen
on the ground among the dead leaves and dirt.
Ho ! Old-man was in trouble. Now he did not
laugh. He cried. Yes, he cried. Oh ho ! now
he was sorry that he had met the Chickadee.
He got down on his hands and knees and began
to feel about for his eyes as one feels for things
in the dark. Once he touched a snail and
thought it was one of his eyes.

"Then at last he found his eyes in the dirt
and leaves where they had fallen. He put them
back in their places, but they hurt him because
of the dirt that had clung to them while they
were upon the ground. He never got over it.
No. He could never see so well as he had be
fore he did that foolish thing.



"Of course he made us all pay for his trouble.
He always does. When he knew his eyes would
never be so good as they were before he met the
Chickadee that day, he said:

" After this there shall come a time in the
lives of old people when their eyes shall not be
very useful. They shall bother them before
they die, as my eyes bother me/ It has been
true from that day to this.

"The Chickadee and all his children wear
0W-man s necklace since that day, and you
have seen it about their necks, of course. The
necklace is too heavy for a bird so small as the
Chickadee, and its weight keeps him from fly
ing very high in the air. He always stays near
the ground in the bushes or small trees because
of the heavy necklace that Old-man gave him
that day in the forest. Ho!"




fTlHE fire in War Eagle s lodge was burning
- brightly when the children entered.

There was an air of mystery among them as
they seated themselves about the cheerful blaze.

"What would you tell me? I know you
have something to say by looking at your faces.
I have finished my smoking. You may speak/
he said.

Eyes-in-the-water arose and stepping to her
grandfather s side she thrust forth her little
hand, which, upon reaching its arm s length
suddenly opened, exposing a tiny tooth. "See,
grandfather. See, I have lost a tooth. It
came out of my mouth."

There was awe in the eyes of the children as
gravely the old warrior took the tooth from his
granddaughter s hand and smiled.

"Six snows have passed," he said. "It does



not seem so long as that since you came to live
on this world, Eyes-in-the-water. But it must
be so six snows."

"It s almost seven snows, grandfather," de
clared Muskrat; "for I am nearly nine, now."

"And did not your teeth fall out, young war
rior?" asked War Eagle.

"Yes, but I was not frightened," said the
boy. "Everybody loses his teeth, does nt he,

"Yes," he said. "Oh, yes, and it is all be
cause of Old-man. All because he was greedy
and dishonest, but we have paid for it all. All
the people have paid, and will pay, as long as
there are people."

"Tell us about it, grandfather," begged the

"Put two sticks upon the fire, Muskrat, and
I will tell you how it came about. Of course it
was long ago, and in the fall when the leaves
of the cottonwoods were yellow along the
streams. There was not a cloud in the sky, and



the wind had not visited the plains for days.
One could see an object a long distance upon
the ground or in the air, for the days were clear
in the bright sunshine. It was one of those
days when echoes sleep lightly and are easily
disturbed by travellers.

"OW-man was walking toward a hilltop on
the plains when he saw a Crane flying over the
land. That bird is going toward water, I
know/ said OW-man, for he talks much to him
self. I 11 watch the Crane and see where he
goes. That is what I will do/

"The Crane flew on until he seemed but a
speck in the air. Then he suddenly dropped
from sight. He was gone.

" That is funny/ said Old-man. I can t see
any water where the Crane came to the ground,
but I will go and see. That is a wise Person,
and perhaps I shall learn something new/

"He walked fast and at last came to a river.
It was not a large stream, but it was very
crooked and made great bends as it flowed



through the land. The ground was deeply Cut
by the water, and the river banks were high,
and sometimes steep; but trees grew along the
stream under the banks in little meadow-places
that were pretty to look upon.

"Old-man looked for the Crane but could not
see him. The water rippled over sand-bars, and
was shallow in some places and deep in others,
like most of the rivers that flow through the
plains, but the Crane was not in sight. He
called: Hey, you Crane-person! Where are
you? Echoes answered him, and his own
voice came back from the banks of the stream
and seemed to mock him. That made Old-
man angry. Hey, you Crane-bird! called
OW-man, and Hey, you Crane-bird ! the echoes
answered. I want to talk to you, Crane/
yelled Old-man, and I want to talk to you/
yelled the echoes. Ho ! he was growing angrier
at every call because the echoes mocked him.
Don t talk to me, you Echo-people/ he roared,
and Don t talk to me, you Echo-people/ came



back to him from the banks and among the
trees. I 11 stop talking, myself/ he said, and
no words came back to him, for he had not
spoken them loudly as he had the others. On
he went down the stream when, turning a bend
in the river, he saw the Crane on the far side
near the bank. The bird was wading in the
shallow water and looking for something to eat.

" Say, you; why don t you answer when you
hear a Person call. When I call People I want
them to answer me. I guess I know what I

" I didn t hear you, 0/rf-man/ said the Crane.
This water makes a lot of noise where I am/

" What are you doing here, anyhow? asked

"I m minding my own business/ said the
Crane. What are you doing here, yourself?

" I m looking for something to eat, of course !
Don t be so cross/

" That s my business here, too/ said the
Crane, and I m not cross. I there! You



made me lose a big fish with your talking. Why
do you talk so much ?

" Ha, ha, ha/ laughed OW-man. It serves
you right for not answering me when I called
you. I hope you don t catch a fish all day.
Not even a frog. Ha, ha, ha ha, ha, ha.

"He left the Crane and went on down the
river, which turned and twisted so suddenly
that sometimes the sun would be looking upon
his face, and at other times it shone upon his
back. Sometimes the river crossed great
stretches where there were no trees at all, but
at other times it ran through groves of cotton-
woods. Its course was most crooked in these
places. The water liked the shade of the trees,
and stayed as long as it could without stopping
altogether. Often it was but a little way across
the bends by land, and ever so far by the water s
route. You have seen rivers that were like
that. By walking across the necks of land a
man can reach a point down the stream quicker


I didn t hear you, Old-Man, said the Crane. This water makes a
lot of noise where I am ! "


than the water can. Yes, and much quicker
than anything that is floating on the water.
Old-man knew all about that, of course, for he
made the rivers made them straight in some
places, but crooked in others.

"In one of the bends of the river Old-man
saw something floating on the water. Whatever
it was bobbed along over the ripples, stopped,
and often turned around in the eddies, but after
a while it always went with the water. It was
round. It was almost white, and it floated
well and lightly.

" That s Back-fat/ said Old-man. I am
sure it is Back-fat. It looks fresh and fine.
Yes, I know it is Back-fat. Hey, you Ball-
thing, he cried, come in here. Come closer
to me. I want to talk to you/

"The river brought it nearer and nearer until
finally it was near the shore, and Old-man
reached and picked it from the water. It felt
like Back-fat in his fingers, and its color was
the same as that of Fat, but he was not



sure; so he asked: What s your name, Ball-

" You made me, yourself, and you should
know my name without asking me replied the

" Yes, I did make you/ said OW-man, but
everything on this world has two names; so tell
me your name/

"My name is One-bite/ said the Ball-thing.

"Ha! Well, I m hungry/ said Old-man,
and took one big bite from the Ball-thing, for
he was sure that it was Back-fat. Then he
tossed the Ball-thing back into the water, and
it began its journey down the stream at once.

"But the bite tasted good. Good-by, Ball-
thing/ cried Old-man. But just as the Ball-
thing went around a bend in the river, he ran
like a deer across a neck of land and so came to
the water again and far below the Ball-thing
that had to go the way of the stream. When
he reached the river he waited, for he knew the
water would bring the Ball-thing and, of course,



it did. As soon as it came into view OW-man
called: Hey, you Ball-thing. Come closer. I
want to talk to you/

"The Ball-thing came close to the shore with
the water, and OW-man grabbed it. What s
your name, Ball-thing? he asked as though
he had never seen it before.

" You made me, and you should know my
name without asking me said the Ball-thing.

"Yes, I guess I did make you, but everything
on this world has two names, so tell your name/

" My name is One-bite/ said the Ball-thing,
and Old-man took another and larger bite. He
wanted to eat it all, but he was afraid because
of the Ball-thing s name, you see. So he threw
it back into the stream. As soon as it struck
the water Old-man ran across another bend and
waited for the Ball-thing to come along that
way. He was laughing now and talking to him
self. Ha, ha, ha Oh Ho ! I 11 eat it all
one bite at a time, if this river stays crooked
enough/ The Ball-thing nearly passed him



before he saw it that time; he was so merry that
his eyes were filled with tears laugh-tears.
The Ball-thing was a little way past him when
he saw it, and he was obliged to run to catch
up, but he called to it and it came to the shore
as it had done before. He asked the same
questions, and the Ball-thing answered as it
had done twice before. OW-man bit again.
He had taken three bites now, and he threw the
Ball-thing back upon the water, but there wasn t
much left of it not much. Of course he ran
away to meet the Ball-thing again, and to bite
it again, but something had happened. Ho!
something queer had happened to the Ball-
thing something that Old-man did not know
about. The Ball-thing had changed itself into
a stone that floats. Its color was the same.
Its shape was as before, so that Old-man did not
know there had been a change.

"Very soon the water brought the Ball-thing
around the bend where Old-man waited, and
he called: Hey, you Ball-thing, come in here.

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Online LibraryFrank Bird LindermanIndian old-man stories : more sparks from War Eagle's lodge-fire → online text (page 2 of 6)