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

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I want to talk to you/ and it came, of course.
What s your name, Ball-thing? he asked.

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

" Yes, I know I made you, but everything on
this world has two names; so tell me your name/

"One-bite/ said the Ball-thing, and SWOW!
OW-man bit the Ball-thing that had turned to
stone that floats. Oh, Ho! Oh, Ho! all
those teeth that grow in front were broken off
at the gums, and he spat them into his left
hand. Blood was running from his mouth,
and tears were in his eyes. Oh, Ho ! Oh,
Ho ! now there was no laughing. That was
a mean trick you played, Ball-thing. That was
wrong. You are wicked. You should not treat
me so. I made you, and you have hurt me and
hurt all the other people of my kind, too, for
from this day onward EVERY CHILD



"Then he threw the Ball-thing back into the
river and sat down upon a log and cried over
his broken teeth like an old woman. That is
why our children lose their teeth. It is just as
OW-man said it would be; and it was because
the Ball-thing made a fool of him. Ho!"




, grandfather," cried Muskrat, as the
children came to War Eagle s lodge;
"oh, grandfather, we found a spring of cold
water just over that hill, and it tastes bad and
smells awful !"

"Yes, I know about that spring," said War
Eagle. " I will tell you about it.

"Once, long ago, a Coyote and his Wife lived
in that cave that is back of that spring, and the
water was sweet. The Coyote was a good
hunter, and his Wife was happy and fat. They
had many children, and these went away to
find their own homes and wives and children,
leaving their father and mother in the cave
back of the spring. There was no other place
so nice to live in as the Coyote s home, and that
made some people jealous.



"The snows passed and the grass came many
times while the Coyote and his Wife lived in
the cave near that spring, but one day the
Wolf passed that way and saw how happy and
comfortable they were. The Wolf did not like
to see his small Cousin so well-off, and he tried
to trade his home for the Coyote s cave.

" No/ said the Coyote. My Wife and I
are happy here. We have had many children,
and still have some little ones to look after.
We will not trade. We will stay where we are/

" You will, will you ? said the Wolf. Well,
you won t. I want that cave, and, besides that,
My Wife wants it, so you 11 have to get out/

" No, I won t/ said the Coyote. I won t
move. I ve been here a long time. My father
owned this cave before me, and it has always
been owned by my family. You must hunt for
another place. You can t have this cave/

" When the Coyote said that, the Wolf grabbed
him. There was a terrible battle. The ground
was scratched, and hair was all over the place,



but the Wolf won, of course. The Coyote was
crippled. He never got well. He always
limped after that fight. He had to leave the
cave, and he was old lots older than his

"At last he found a new home and com
menced to hunt for food for his family. He
met the Fox on a hillside, and the Fox said:
What are you doing so far from your lodge?

" I m not far from my lodge, brother. I
have moved. The Wolf has stolen my cave.
I fought him as hard as I could. I guess I 11
never get well again. I live on top of this hill,

" That s too bad/ said the Fox. The Wolf
is a mean Person.

" Yes, said the Coyote, he is mean, but some
day I 11 get even with him.

" I hope so, said the Fox. I hope so.
Well, I have to be going. Rabbits are scarce,
aren t they? Good-by.

"When the Fox had gone the Coyote began



to think hard. It brought his mind back to
his trouble his talk with the Fox and he
thought hard. I Ve got to get help. The
Wolf is too many for me, alone/ he said to

"Just then a Rabbit ran down the hill, and he
chased him into a hole in the ground. He began
to dig him out when, WHEW ! an awful smell
came to him on the wind. Ho ! he said, that
Skunk Person can make even the winds smell
bad/ Then he stopped digging and his cunning
eyes were half-closed with thinking. Ho! he
cried, why didn t I think of that before?

"He left the Rabbit in his hole and set out
with his keen nose to the wind that brought the
smell of the Skunk Person to him. Carefully he
travelled through the weeds and tall grass till
his smart nose told him to go slowly and be very
gentle. Then, upon turning a patch of willows
that grew on the bank of a creek, he saw the
Skunk sucking the eggs in the nest of a Blue


"Then, upon turning a patch of willows ... he saw the Skunk
sucking the eggs in the nest of a Blue Grouse."


" How, brother/ he said.

" How How/ said the Skunk Person.
Don t you come too close to me or I 11 fix you
so your own wife won t live with you. Re
member that. These eggs are mine. I found
them, so stay where you are. I don t want
any trouble with anybody, myself.

" Neither do I, brother/ said the Coyote.
I have been looking for you. I want you to
help me. I have a favor to ask, and I 11 be
good to you if you grant it/

"Then he told the Skunk what the Wolf had
done told him how long he had lived in the
cave back of that spring, and showed him his
crippled leg as proof of the fight. If you will
help me, brother, whenever I kill a deer, you
may eat all you can hold, and I will not quarrel
with you or your children/

"I don t see how I can help you. You are
stronger than I am. I can t fight the Wolf if
you can t. How can I help you, I d like to
know ? I can t fight that Wolf/




: No, said the Coyote, but you can spoil
that water in that spring. You can make the
whole place smell so bad that the Wolf can t
live there. I guess I know how bad you can
make things smell. Everybody does. Will you
fix that water so the Wolf and his Wife will
have to move? Will you do it ?

" Yes/ said the Skunk, and he did do it.

"The Wolf had to leave. Nobody can stay
there since. Nobody can drink that water.
Nobody wants to try. Ho 1"




<<r pO-NIGHT I will tell you why the
* Weasel is white in winter," said War
Eagle. "Put two sticks on the fire, Muskrat,
and listen:

"The day was dark and gloomy in the forest.
Rain had been falling steadily since the sun
had gone to his lodge in the West the day before.
All the forest-people were camped under the
big spruce-trees, where the ground is always
dry. Even the Winds were still and rested in
their camps. Everything was wet, and the
_world smelled wet. The people that live in the
ground, like the Rabbit and the Mink and the
Skunk, were in their lodges with their families.
Even the wolves and the other great hunters
were at home waiting for the Sun to come to
the world again.



"You would not think that a man would be
travelling at such a time, but Old-man is seldom
still. He is always looking for some kind of
trouble, and one can find that in any sort of
weather. It is plentiful and everywhere, like
the grass. Old-man was moving about all that
time, and so was Win-to-coo, the Man-eating

t( Old-man was slipping through a dark cedar
swamp where the giant trees made so many
shadows that the grass did not grow. Rain
dripped through the boughs, and there were
pools of water in the holes left by trees that had
been uprooted by the winds. He was wet and
cold, and was thinking about building a fire,
when he saw something moving like a shadow
among the trees. It was not a shadow, of
course, for shadows do not live without the Sun
or the Moon. He stopped and watched until
he saw it again. It was a Person a Bad
Person. It was Win-to-coo, the Man-eater,
and Old-man saw him creep behind a big tree.



"Ho ! OW-man turned and ran as fast as he
could go, for he knew all about the Man-eater.
He made that Person, himself, you see, and
knew he was wicked. He was afraid of him and
ran away.

"Win-to-coo was cunning and pretended that
he had not seen Old-man. From behind a tree
where he had stopped he peeped and watched
him run away and hide in some willows that
grew near a creek that flowed through the forest.
When Old-man, had hidden himself, Win-to-coo
started out in another direction, making be
lieve that he had not seen Old-man hide. But
when he got far enough to fool him, he turned
and began to travel in a circle until he came to
the willows. He walked softly. He knew just
where to look. Old-man, believing that Win-
to-coo had not seen him, was just crawling from
his hiding-place when Swow! the Man-eater
grabbed him by the hair. I Ve got you ! I Ve
got you, you

" How! How! my brother, cried Old-man.



I m glad to see you. I Ve been looking for
you all day/

" Ho! said Win-to-coo, there s no brother
of yours here. So you Ve been looking for me
all day, have you? Liar! Forked-tongue!
Cheat! Why did you run out of the cedar
swamp when you saw me? Tell me that !

" I saw the Bear and I I didn t want him
to know I was there/ lied Old-man. I didn t
see you, Win-to-coo. I didn t even know you
were in this country. Let go of my hair.
You re hurting me.

" You didn t see me, laughed Win-to-coo.
But you saw the Bear. Well, I was there, and
I didn t see the Bear, but I saw you. And now
you see me, don t you? Say! don t you see
me now?

"Yes, yes, I see you now, said 0/rf-man.
Of course I see you now. 9

"Well, that is good, because you will never see
me again. I m going to roast and eat you. I am
hungry. Everything hides when it rains so long.



"Old-man began to cry. Do not eat me,
Win-to-coo. Do not kill the man that made

"Yes, you made me/ said Win-to-coo, and
you told me what to do, and I have always done
that. Go now and find dry wood under the
spruce-trees. Gather a lot of it and pile it up.
I want to build a roasting fire to cook you.
Don t you try to run away from me. If you do,
I will make you hurt longer. Remember that/

"Old-man knew that he could not run away
from Win-to-coo. He had made the Man-
eater himself, and knew that he could not beat
him running. So he began to gather the wood,
begging for his life as he worked. This wood
is all wet. It won t burn, Win-to-coo. Let me
go away. Oh, let me go, Win-to-coo/

" Hurry with that wood. You made me
and told me how to live/ said the Man-eater.
Hurry, or I ll

" I ll hurry, Win-to-coo. I ll hurry. Do
not kill me until I get the wood/ begged Old-



man. He worked slowly, whining over every
stick, but at last he had gathered a pile of dry-

" That s enough/ said Win-to-coo. Now
go and cut a long, strong roasting-stick. Get a
good one that will hold you, and not let you
drop into the fire.

"Win-to-coo began to build the fire, and Old-
man watched him until he saw the blaze creep
up through the smaller sticks. Then he began
to look for the long, strong roasting-stick. He
examined many that were good ones, but he
pretended that they would not do. He was
stealing time. That was what he was doing.
He was looking for some one to help him, and
kept calling for helpers in a low voice as he
walked about the bushes.

"Win-to-coo s fire had burned up grandly,
and he sat beside it, warming his hands. The
blaze made him sleepy. His eyelids drooped,
opened, drooped again and he was asleep by
his fire.



"0W-man saw that the Man-eater was
asleep, but he dared not try to run away.
When he thought of running, his knees grew
weak with fright. He kept pretending to look
for the roasting-stick and calling for helpers.

"Just as he leaned over a bush to reach for a
stick, a Weasel that had come out of his lodge
to see how the weather was, spoke to him:

" How, 0-man/ said the Weasel. What
are you looking for? Why don t you stay in
your lodge when it rains?

" Oh, my little brother! cried Old-man.
Oh, brother, I am in trouble. If you will help
me, I will do you a favor. I have made the
other people handsome, and I will do the same
for you if you will help me now. I 11 make you
change your robe with the seasons make
each robe to look like the country you live in/

"What s the matter? asked the Weasel.

"Look over there by that fire. That is
Win-to-coo, the Man-eater. He is going to
roast and eat me. I am looking for a roasting-



stick for him. I am afraid to run away. He is
swifter than I am. I know that, for I made that
Person, ir self/

" I will see what I can do/ said the Weasel.
You stand still. Do not make a noise. Do
not call for helpers, but wait until I return/

"The Weasel moves quickly and quietly, you
know, and he went close to Win-to-coo at the
fire. The Man-eater was fast asleep. His
mouth was open and his snoring shook the
ground. Each breath that came from the huge
body stirred the fur upon the Weasel s back as
the wind moves the grass upon the ground, but
the Weasel is brave. He smiled and stepped
backward to get a good start, that he might
pass Win-to-coo s teeth before he waked. Then,
Swow ! he ran down the great throat of that
wicked Person. Yes, and when once inside,
there was nothing that could stop his work
nothing at all. The Weasel is a great warrior
and knows where to strike. He ate Win-


" Look over there by that fire. That is Win-to-coo, the Man-Eater. "


to-coo s heart, and of course the Man-eater

"When the Weasel came out, he said to Old-
man: Well, that Person is dead. Now do as
you promised. Do something for me/

" Ho, brave warrior/ said Old-man, I will
do as I promised/ Then he sang:

" Oh, Weasel, my Brother, Great Warrior;
You shall have but few enemies.
Even these shall not see you.
Swift as the shadows I have made you.
Fat shall always be upon your body;
You have saved me from Win-to-coo."

"When he had finished singing he said: I
give you a white robe for use when the snows
come. No snow shall be whiter than you are.
But the tip of your tail shall be black to mark
you from the other things that are white in
winter. I also give you a yellowish-brown robe
to wear in the summertime. In this robe you
will look like the dead trees and logs that lie



upon the ground. You will always be hard to
see in any season. This will be good for you
and bad for your enemies/

"That is why the Weasel is brown in summer
and white in the winter time. Ho!"



village had moved and now War
Eagle s lodge stood near the edge of a
mountain lake. Deer came to drink of the
water there in the early morning, or after the
sun had gone in the evening. Their trails led
far back into the dark forest from the shores of
the lake, and the children often followed the
well-beaten ways for miles. Flowers grew
plentifully, too, for the summer was young,
and the shade of the trees was a treat after the
sojourn upon the open plains.

A breeze was blowing and the lodge-skins had
been raised from the ground. There were no
fires burning, and in the gathering twilight the
children sat watching their grandfather smoke
his pipe. When he had finished and laid it
away they begged for a story. War Eagle
smiled. "It is well that my memory is good.



If it were poor I could not tell you these stories
of long ago, but Manitou is kind. Listen.

"Old-man made everything that is on the
world. I have often told you that, but some
times he forgot the names of the things he had
made. He often thought they were other than
they were, for his memory was poor. Of course
he was very old older than anybody or any
thing on the world, and memory will not last

" It was early in the summer and in a timbered
country where there were many lakes like this
one that is near the lodge. Old-man had been
unlucky in hunting. His arrows were not well
made, and so he was hungry much of the time.
He sat down on a log and thought of his troubles.
Then he spoke to himself: If I could find some
thing better with which to make arrow-points,
I could do better work. I will look for it.
Bone is hard to work into arrow points, and
besides I lose so many in hunting. What I
want is something that works easily that s it/



"He arose and began to search for something
with which to make his arrow points. He had
not gone far when he came to a pile of black
stuff upon the ground near a lake. When the
water was high in the lake it covered the black
stuff, but it was low now, and the stuff was in
plain sight. He picked a piece from the pile.
It was heavy and felt hard. Ho! he cried,
I have found just what I want, and there is
plenty of it, too/

"He sat down near the pile and began to
work. He was surprised at the ease with which
he could make the black stuff into arrow points,
and he made many. They were well made, too,
and he fitted them to good shafts, and soon
filled his quiver with fine-looking arrows. Then
he made a knife from a large piece of the black
stuff, and stuck the knife in his belt. He began
to laugh then, and talk to himself. Ha, ha, ha,
I know what I will do. Why didn t I think of
it before? I will make two more knives and
fasten them to the ends of my bow. That is



what I will do. Ha, ha, ha that will give
me more weapons than any other man carries.
That will make me a great warrior greater
than any that lives. Ha, ha, ha, why didn t I
think of that before, ha, ha, ha/

"It did not take him long to make the knives
and tie them to the ends of his bow. He was
pleased with himself, and having many new
weapons he set out to look for trouble. New
weapons are apt to get us all into trouble. It
has always been so. It will be so as long as
men live. Old-man began to sing his war-song,
and when he had finished called out: Hey,
Bear! I want to fight you. Come where I
can see you ! Hey, Bear ! You are a coward !
Don t you hear me calling you? I am at war
with you, Bear!

"Nothing answered except the echoes, but
OW-man kept travelling and calling; for his new
weapons had made him foolish. He was grow
ing warm from fast walking and calling when, at
last, he saw the Bear on the far side of a lake.



"The Bear was minding his own business,
and was digging roots to eat. He had heard
no calling because he was busy. When people
are busy they do not look for trouble, and it
seldom comes to them that mind their own

"Old-man hid himself behind a dead tree on
the ground near the lake. Then he raised him
self a little and called: Hey, you Humped-up
Person over there! You are homely! Then
he hid himself again.

"The Bear stopped his work. His nose was
covered with dirt. He looked across the lake
but there was nobody in sight. He stood still
and listened, but heard nothing but the wind in
the tree-tops. I guess I must have been mis
taken/ he said to himself, and commenced to
dig roots again.

" Hey, you Stub-tail Person over there!
What became of your tail? yelled Old-man
from behind the tree on the ground.

"The Bear didn t like that talk. Almost



everybody knew how he had lost his tail, and
he didn t want people to talk about it. He
stopped digging and turned clear around from
his work to see who was calling him names, but
he didn t see anybody. I d like to know who
that was that called me names/ said the Bear.
*No Person can call me such names. They
know better. It s some foolish one, I guess/
and he turned to his work once more.

" Here I am, you big coward. I have been
looking for you all day. Why don t you come
close when I call you. When a Person wants
to fight you, do you hide? I want to fight.
That is the reason I have been looking for you
so long/ OW-man stood up so the Bear could
see him, and laughed, Ha, ha, ha/

" You wait right there/ called the Bear.
You stay right where you are. I 11 come close
enough to suit you. I suppose you want to
see me get wet, and then run away; but you
will have to run far for I shall chase you until
we fight. You have made me angry, Old-man. 9


f OW-Man stood up so the Bear could see him, and laughed
Ha, ha, ha. "


He plunged into the lake and began to swim

" Ha, ha, ha/ laughed Old-man. You
awkward Person. You Stub-tail Thing. You
Humped-up big Fool. Come on ! I m tired
travelling and calling to you. I m tired wait
ing. You swim slow. Hurry ! I want to show
you some new weapons/ and he danced on the
shore of the lake calling the Bear more names;
wasting the breath he would need, in boasting.

"He did not wait for the Bear to reach the
land. Oh, no. He was not fair; but as soon
as the Bear had come close enough, one, two,
three, four, went his arrows. Ho! but they
broke. Their points crumbled without making
the Bear s blood run.

" Ho ! Come on ! Come right along, Bear/
called OW-man. I have more weapons/ He
began to stab the Bear with the knives that
were tied to the ends of his bow, but they broke
into bits and fell to the ground like willow
leaves when the summer is dead.



" Ha, ha, ha! That is nothing/ he cried.
* I have a big knife yet. Come on, Bear ! * But
his knife was as poor as his arrows and broke
into bits.

"What do you think he had used to make
his weapons ? Bark water-logged bark, and
he thought it was stone.

"Ho ! Now it was the Bear s turn, and Old-
man fled. The Bear was close to his heels
when he dodged behind a clump of willows to
run about it. Round and round they ran.
Faster and faster they circled the clump of wil
lows in a mad race. So many times they ran
around the clump of willows that the ground was
made dusty with their footsteps. There was
nothing funny about it now that OW-man could
see ; but he kept at work running. He could not
cry nor beg because he needed his breath. It
was all he could do to keep his heels from the
Bear. They were both breathing hard. The
Bear s nose almost touched OW-man s moccasins
when Old-man s toe struck against something



and nearly tripped him. He did not know what
it was, but his toe gave him pain because of the
thing that had struck it. He watched for the
thing when he came around the willows again,
and what do you think it was ? a buffalo horn
that had been there so long that the ground
had covered it. When Old-man, saw what it
was he kicked it every time he came to it in
his running. He was nearly out of breath
when the horn came out of the ground. He
was going so fast he couldn t stop, but he slowed
down a little bit, and the next time he came to
the horn he stooped and grabbed it stuck it
on his forehead and turned upon the Bear.
Wooh wooh ! he cried. So suddenly did he
turn upon the Bear, and so fierce were the
snorts Wooh Wooh ! that the Bear turned
and fled with Old-man close behind him snort
ing Wooh wooh at every jump and as loudly
as his breath would let him.

"The Bear made a great noise in the brush
as he ran away, but OW-man followed him only



a little way. Then he sat down on a log and
laughed and laughed Ha, ha, ha Ho!
ha, ha, ha! Oh, Ho! I wonder how many
buffalo the Bear thought were after him ?




"OTRANGE things happened to men when
^ the world was young/ said War Eagle,
as he laid aside his pipe. "Put wood on the
fire, Buffalo-calf, and I will tell you a story.
It has been many shows since it came to my

"Looks-at-the-stars was young, and the world
was not old. Our people were camped near the
shore of the Big-water, eastward. One night
in his father s lodge the Wind spoke to Looks-
at-the-stars: Come to the Big-water/ it whis
pered. The young man heard the words of the
Wind but he was sleepy and did not heed them.
At first the voice of the Wind was low, but it
grew louder and louder until it cried: Come!
Come to the Big-water, Looks-at-the-stars
come to the Big- water! It shook the lodge.
It screamed. It cried out: Come to the Big-



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Online LibraryFrank Bird LindermanIndian old-man stories : more sparks from War Eagle's lodge-fire → online text (page 3 of 6)