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

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the Lion-person was in the water. The broken
canoe would not carry him. There was a great
splashing ! HO ! Strikes-and-kills flew away and



left the Lion-person to swim to the land or die
there in the water.

"When Strikes-and-kills reached the lodge
he told his wife what had happened, and how he
had treated her father. You did well/ she
said. But the water will not kill my father.
Listen. I will tell you a great secret. Go to
the shore of the lake and you will see a dead
pine-tree. There is a great rock near that tree,
and in the tree-top is an Eagle s nest. Listen
well to my words, now. My father keeps his
heart in that nest in the top of the dead pine-
tree. If you can kill his heart, he will die, but
as long as his heart lives, so will he live. You
must be brave and careful for there are two
Wicked Snakes that guard the tree-of-the-nest.
After you pass them you will meet two bad-
hearted Mountain Lions that always watch the
tree-of-the-nest with the Snakes. These two
Lions are my father s brothers. They know
his heart is in the Eagle s nest, and will fight
you if they find you near the tree. Now, be



careful. Do not lose your life. Be brave and
try to kill my father s heart, but keep your life.
It is time my father came to the lodge, now.
You had better go away and save trouble. I
will be here waiting for you whenever you come
for me/

"Strikes-and-kills went into the forest. He
was thinking as he walked. How could he kill
the heart of the Lion-person? He thought of
many ways, but, at last, he knew what he would
do. He hunted for a fat deer and killed him.
Then he cut the deer into pieces and made four
packs of the meat. Two of the packs were large
and two were small. He tied the four packs of
meat with bark, and with them upon his back,
went toward the lake. He was careful. He
did not want to lose his life, so he was long in
finding the tree-of-the-nest. But at last he
saw it far ahead and commenced to walk toward
it. First he must find the Wicked Snakes
he knew that but before he saw anything
that warned him, a Big Snake raised his head



from behind a log near him. What do you
want here, young man? said the Snake.

" I have come to feed you some meat/ said
Strikes-and-kills. I know what your business
is, and that you do not have much time to
hunt/ He tossed one of the small packs of
meat to the Snake, and passed on. Soon he
met the other Snake.

" Stop where you are! You can go no
farther. Who are you?

" I am the son-in-law of the man whose heart
is in the nest/ said Strikes-and-kills. I have
brought you meat to eat/ The Snake believed
him and Strikes-and-kills went on. He was
near the tree. His heart was beating fast.
HO! two big Mountain Lions stood before
him, their long tails swaying from side to side,
and their green eyes glaring in the forest s
light. HO ! Together they came to meet him.
Who are you? asked the largest one of the



" I am Strikes-and-kills, the son-in-law of the
one whose heart is in the nest. I am a relation
of yours, for his daughter is my wife. See ! I
have brought you meat/ and he dropped the
two remaining packs of meat before him.

" We are hungry/ said the Smaller Lion.
We are glad that you thought of us. Where is
our brother that he forgets us?

" He has gone on a long journey in his canoe/
said Strikes-and-kills. I have come in his
place, for I feared you might be hungry/

"The hungry Lions began to eat the meat
and then Strikes-and-kills went on. In a short
time he reached the tree, and, taking his bone-
knife in his mouth, began to climb. If he could
but reach the nest before the Lions finished eat
ing the meat, all would be well, for, if he killed
the heart in the nest, he could kill the two lions
easily. He knew that and hurried. At last
he reached the nest and looked in. There,
beating in the light of day, was the heart of his



father-in-law, the Lion-person. SWOW! he
drove his knife into the heart once, twice, three
times, four times! Then it stopped beating.
The heart was dead.

"Strikes-and-kills climbed down to the
ground. He saw neither the Lions nor the
Wicked Snakes, but went to the lodge without
meeting any Person. His wife ran to meet
him. He s dead/ she cried. My father is
dead ! He dropped down dead in the lodge/

" Yes, said Strikes-and-kills. I killed his
heart. It was then that he died. Now come
with me, for I must look for my brother. I
know where I left him. We must see if he is
still there.

"They travelled together for many days and
nights. At last, they came to the spot where
Strikes-and-kills had left Little Bear. Per
haps he is a Wolf, now, said Strikes-and-kills,
but I shall know him/

Not a Person was in sight. They looked


"He drove his knife into the heart, once, twice, three times, four times."


about carefully. Finally they saw a King
fisher sitting on the limb of a tree near the

" Have you seen my brother about here?
asked Strikes-and-kills of the Kingfisher.

" No/ said the Kingfisher. I have seen no
persons around here, and I have been here a
long time. I live here/

" What are you doing here? asked Strikes-

"Why, I m making my living and minding
my own business. Just now I am trying to
catch one of those small fishes. If you won t
come any closer maybe they d come nearer
the top/

" Have you heard anything of my brother
around here ? asked Strikes-and-kills.

" Well/ said the Kingfisher, there are some
queer noises down there in the water. Lots of
strange talking goes on down there in the lake.
I often hear it/



" When do you hear it? What part of the
day? asked Strikes-and-kills.

" Oh, mostly before the Sun comes with the
Day. But it won t do you any good to listen.
They are not your kind that speak/





" TVD-NIGHT the North-wind is blowing/
- said War Eagle. "Grandmother, put
some big sticks upon the fire, for I will tell our
grandchildren of Old-man s courting."

Grandmother made the fire burn brightly.
It snapped and popped as though inviting a tale
of mystery, and War Eagle smiled as he laid
his pipe away and straightened his back-rest.

"It was a stormy day/ he began. "Out on
the plains the snow was piling in drifts. Deep
in the forests the snow came down from the
sky, and even there the breath of the North
did not let it lie still; even there the snow-drifts
piled among the trees. The Snow-shoe-rabbit,
white and scared, hid in the bushes and in hollow
logs upon the ground. The Wolf could not
travel. The Deer-people and the Elk-people



tramped great patches in the snow and waited
there for a Chinook wind to come.

"At last it was ended. The North-wind was
still. Hardly a sound was in the air. Even
the Echo-people slept so soundly that nothing
wakened them. The Owl hooted when the
night came, but his voice was alone. None of
the Echo-people answered the snow was too
deep. They were sleeping and did not hear.
Then the sky cleared and the Moon came out
to look upon the World. As soon as the Moon
light came the Shadow-people crept from their
lodges and stood upon the snow, mocking things
beside them as the Echo-people mock the voices
of men in the mountains and along the rivers.
I think the Shadow-people and the Echo-people
are relations, for they have ways that are
much the same they are mimics in all they

"All through the awful storm a man was
travelling. It was Old-man, and he wallowed
through the deep snow as the Bear would, if



the Bear were out, but he wasn t. He had
more sense. The snow was too deep. The
Bear was sleeping, as he always does when the
snows are deep. It was Old-man that taught
the Bear to do that way, but he was not wise
enough to do it himself. It is strange that those
who are able to tell others what to do, do not
always follow their own teaching.

So Old-man was travelling during the storm.
He was tired and hungry when he reached the
forest. He had been out on the plains and had
found nothing to eat, and the night was coming
when he entered the forest. None of the Forest-
people were stirring, and at last the night came
on. The Moon climbed into the sky to watch
the World until the Sun came with the Day.
Finally Old-man found a big spruce-tree whose
branches reached nearly to the ground. They
did reach the snow that was piled about them.
He pushed the branches aside and looked in.
The ground was bare and dry about the tree.
No snow had entered there. Ho! he cried.



I ll camp here. I ll spend the night right
here, I guess/

"A Snow-shoe-rabbit ran out as OW-man
entered, and he cried: Wait. Wait, my
brother. I am lonesome. I want to talk to

" I m afraid of you, said the Rabbit, as he
ran away through the snow.

" I made you, said OW-man.

" I know you did, but you made more en
emies for me than for anybody else; so I have
to be careful. I 11 find another place to sleep.
And he ran away.

" Everybody is afraid of me, and if it were
not for me there wouldn t be anybody, said
OW-man, as he leaned back against the tree.
Through the overhanging branches he could
see the Shadow-people standing on the snow,
everywhere. They scarcely moved, but waited
patiently for the Breeze to stir the trees or
move the branches overhead; then they danced
as long as the Breeze sang. An Owl hooted



away in the snowy forest. Whoooo Whoooo
-Who- Who!

" Hey, you Owl-person! Come here. I
want to talk to Somebody, cried Old-man.
But the Owl didn t come. He didn t even
answer; if he heard the call. But he kept at
his hooting in the night.

"It was warm under the spruce-tree and Old-
man s eyelids drooped, shut tight, opened,
drooped once more and he was asleep. Ho !
he was snoring loudly.

"Something stirred on the other side of the
spruce-tree. It was not loud, but there was a
noise behind Old-man, on the other side of the
tree. Who is that? asked Old-man.

" Myself and my daughter, said a voice
behind the tree.

" Who are you?

"The voice didn t answer.

" Do you live here? asked Old-man.

" Yes, said the voice.

" She s pretty very pretty, said Old-man.



"Who s pretty? asked the voice.

"Why, your daughter, of course/ said Old-
man. I ma great hunter, too. I know many

"The voice said nothing.

" I say I am a great hunter and I have no
woman/ said OW-man. But the voice did not

" Say! Can t you hear me? I say I have
no woman and I am looking for one. I am a
great hunter and will be good to any woman
I get/

"All was still. No Person answered.

" Give me your daughter/ begged Old-man.
I 11 be good to her and take care of her/

" You 11 have to talk to my daughter/ said
the voice.

"Will you not talk to me, woman? asked
OW-man. Please talk to me, for I am in love
with you, and I want you/

"Yes, and I will go with you, if you will be
kind to me/ said the young woman.



" Well, I 11 be good to you, of course. Come
and sit beside me.

"She came and sat beside him. He tried to
put his arm about her. Don t do that/ she
cried. You mustn t do that.

" Why not?

"Because I am hardly a Person, yet.

"Can t I tell a Person when I see her?
Can t I tell a pretty woman with my eyes ?

"Oh, you think you can, said the young
woman, but I am not quite a Person. You
cannot court me any more until twelve days
have passed then I 11 be a Person.

"Do you think I m going to sit here and
wait for twelve days? How can I wait twelve

"No voice answered him.

"Well, how can I? he repeated.

"No answer.

" He grabbed at the woman. WHIRRRRR !
a blue grouse flew from beneath the spruce-
tree with a great noise. Old-man had grabbed



in his sleep and had fallen over on his face.
When he sat up again he felt something soft in
his hand. It was full of the tail-feathers of the
bird that was gone. Ho !"




don t know Billy Bent; but I know
him. Billy lives in the Rocky Mountains
where the Missouri River is born and where
the game trails wander along the creeks that
feed the tributaries of that wonderful river.
Billy loves to follow these trails, for they pass
through strange places places that are as
silent and as wild as they were when Christopher
Columbus sailed from Spain.

Billy told me once, "If you sit down when
you come to one of those lonesome places and
sit very still a long time and listen, you ll hear

"What kind of things, Billy?" I asked.

"Oh, little things," he answered.

Then I began to watch Billy. I tried to hear
the "little things" in lonesome places, too.

For a long time I couldn t hear anything,



but now I can. And I know where Billy learned
to look and listen, besides. I ll tell you about

One day when Billy was ten years old he
was sitting on a log that had fallen across a
deer trail. The log had been there so long that
it was worn where the trail crossed it. He
straddled it so that by turning his head he could
look both ways along the trail.

There was a little meadow-place not far from
the log, and an old doe lived there with two
spotted fawns. Billy was watching for her.
He knew that the fawns were hidden some
where in the long grass in the little meadow,
because he had seen them several times be
fore. The afternoon was warm, and mosquitoes
bothered him a good deal, but he knew that
the fawns would not move from their beds until
their mother came to them; so he waited.

A rabbit bobbed across the trail not far from
Billy. When it entered the bushes on the other
side, it turned suddenly, and almost ran against



Billy s foot. Something had scared the rabbit.
Billy s eyes searched the bushes to see what
it could be that had frightened the rabbit, and
he was about to give it up when he thought
he saw a man s nose.

Sometimes shadows and leaves and bark
and sunshine play tricks in the forest, and Billy
knew that; but he looked steadily at the nose
and waited. Then he thought he saw an eye,
but it did not wink. It did not move but stared
straight ahead.

"If it s a man s eye it s got to wink some
time." That is what Billy told me he thought
as he watched.

"There were more mosquitoes than ever/ said
Billy. "But I didn t dare to brush them off
for fear that eye would wink and I wouldn t
see it."

At last a breeze moved the bushes ever so
little, but enough to show Billy a braid of hair.
And besides, the eye winked, or he thought
it did.



"Hello," whispered Billy.

"How, Looks-and-listens." The words were
so soft spoken that they barely reached Billy.

It was Good Voice, an aged Indian that Billy
knew. And there is where it began I mean,
there is where Billy began really to look and

The Indians called him "Looks-and-listens,"
because they had often seen him alone in the
mountains, but he has told me that he learned
how to hear and see things from Good Voice,
and that it began that day.

"What are you doing here?" asked Good

"Oh, just waiting and listening for things,"
Billy told him.

"There are many sounds to hear, and strange
things to see for those who have good ears and
eyes," said the Indian. "What do you like
best of all that you hear?"

"I don t know their names," said Billy.

And just then a raven flew over their heads



and said, "Caw, caw!" almost the same as
the call of a crow, only deeper in tone. "Caw,
caw!" said the raven. And, "Caw, caw!"
came an answer, a little fainter, hollower, and
farther away.

Billy smiled and looked at Good Voice.
"That s one of the things I like to hear that
other voice that answers the raven. It is not
a bird nor a man nor anything, but it s one
of those strange things that speak where quiet
lives. Do you know what it is that answers
ravens and others that make noises in still places,
Good Voice?"

"Yes," said the Indian. "I know who speaks
as you say. They are the Echo People."

"Where do they live?" asked Billy.

"In the silent places," said the Indian.

"Have you ever seen them, Good Voice?"

"No, I have never seen them, but I have
often talked to them. They are wonderful
mimics, the Echo People, and they love to
laugh but they will not, unless you laugh and



make them happy with your own mood. They
never break the stillness themselves, but hide
behind the great rocks near the rivers to mock
those who pass and use their voices. They
speak every language, make every note the
large birds make, and answer the wolves and
coyotes with their own words. They sleep
until disturbed, and their tribes do not move
but stay in one place forever.

"Come, I will show you a camp where the
Echo People have wonderful voices. Those
same voices were there when my grandfather
was a boy. They are still there and are sleep
ing, but I will wake them that you may hear
them speak. Come."

It was after sundown when Good Voice whis
pered, "We are nearly there. Make no noise
until I speak to the Echo People. When they
are startled many speak in this camp."

Billy walked softly. The trail suddenly
turned and went down a steep hill until it



reached the bank of a river. Then it began
to follow the stream as though it did not like
to leave it again.

Good Voice stopped and held up his hand.
Billy stood still. There were two great cliffs
of rock not far away. One was across the river,
and the other reached much higher upon the
mountain on the side where Good Voice and
Billy were. Both of the cliffs were colored red
and yellow and white, and even green, by the
minerals in the rock, and they looked very beau
tiful in the soft light after the sun had gone.

"Whooooo! Hey! Hey!" Good Voice
yelled. "Ho! Ho! Ho! Echo People.
Looks-and-listens has come to your camp!"

"Wooooo! Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Ho!
Echo People. Looks-and-listens has come to
your camp camp camp," replied the Echoes,
using his exact words and repeating the last
over and over again, until the voices could
scarcely be heard.



"Have they run away?" asked Billy.

"No," said Good Voice. "Those that spoke
last are farther away than the ones who first
answered me. This is a large camp of the Echo
People. It covers much ground. Those who
live on the outskirts of the camp did not answer
me they answered the others who were near
us. They are always at home. They never
go away, but they are great sleepers and you
would think they would not wake so quickly.
They all awake at once and all answer disturbers
of the silence. It is their way. I have never
seen them, nor did my grandfather who lived
before me/

"I am glad I know where they live, Good
Voice," said Billy. "I shall come here often
and speak that they may awake and answer
me. I must go home now. Can I come to your
lodge some day?"

"Yes," said Good Voice. "Come."

Billy turned back over the dark trail toward



his home. The shadows were deep in the forest
and along the river, but he was not afraid. " I 11
ask old Good Voice about the Shadows when I
visit him," he said aloud, as he climbed a steep
hill. For Billy sometimes talks to himself.




HT^HERE were great preparations for a sun-
dance in the village. The leaves upon the
trees were nearly full grown, and it was time for
the dance. The poles for the sacred lodge had
been cut and were ready for use. Everyone
was talking of the coming event, and when the
children came to War Eagle s lodge they were
full of excitement and anxious to learn of the

"The sun-dance is old," said War Eagle.
"Many people have sun-dances. No man can
tell who first made the sun-dance." He put
away his pipe and was silent for a moment.
Then he said:

" Once, long ago, OW-man was travelling in the
forest. The day was warm and he was thirsty.
He stopped at a creek to drink, and after drink
ing sat still and listened to the water rippling



over the stones on the creek s bottom. He
was tired. High Ho ! he yawned, and went to
sleep there by the water. When he wakened he
heard singing. It was soft and low. There
were no loud voices among the singers. He lis
tened, but could see no people. Say, you! he
called, who is doing that singing? But there
was no answer. He called again, but no answer
came, and the singing continued. That is
queer/ he said. There s singing going on and
I can see no singers/ He stood up and looked
about. Not a man was in sight. He walked
down the creek a little way and there stood
still to listen again. No sound came to him.
The singing had ceased. They must be up the
creek/ he said aloud. I 11 go up that way and
find them/

"He passed the place where he had slept
without stopping and went on up the stream.
Then he stopped and looked about. He stood
very still to listen, but there was no sound in
the forest save that which was made by a wood-



pecker on a tree-top. That is funny/ said Old-
man. I m sure that I heard singing. I 11 go
back to the place where I slept and listen once

"He went back and stopped to listen. The
same sound of singing came to him. It s right
here/ he muttered, but I can see no people/
He began to look among the willows that grew
along the creek and in the long grass. At last
he saw the head and horns of a Bull-elk. The
Elk had died in winter and the wolves had
cleaned the bones of all meat and hide, but the
head was still covered with the skin. The
eyes were gone and the skull smelled badly.
0/rf-man stood still and looked at the head of
the Bull-elk for a long time. And then he saw a
Fly go into the head through one of the eye
holes in the skull. Ah ! he cried, it is in there.
The singing is in there/

"He knelt beside the Elk s head and listened.
Yes, there was singing inside. Many low voices
were singing the same song. Just then a Fly



came out and Old-man asked: What is going
on in there?

" Oh, it s a sun-dance/ answered the Fly and
went away.

"Old-man waited until another Fly came out
and then he said: I want to go in to that sun-
dance. Tell me how to get in.

" You are too large/ said the Fly.

"No, I am not too large/ declared Old-man
not if you will show me the way not if you
will help me/

EYES SHUT TIGHT/ said the Fly. Perhaps
you can get in, but be sure to keep your eyes
shut until I tell you to open them/

"All right. I m ready/ laughed Old-man.

" No, you are not ready/ answered the Fly.
You are laughing/

" I 11 stop laughing. I have stopped/ declared
Old-man, and he stooped low and closed his eyes.
He began to squeeze himself into the eye-hole
after the Fly. The singing was very near, but



OW-man was not yet inside. The Fly had not
told him to open his eyes, but he did. Oh-Ho !
he did and he was stuck hard and fast there.
He could not move. He could not get his head
out of the eye-hole in the Bull-elk s head.
Oh-ho! OW-man was in trouble. He began
to cry and twist and turn, but he could not
get out. He was stuck tight. At last he stood
up with the Bull-elk s head stuck fast to his own.
He began to run through the forest like one
who has lost his reason. SWOW ! he ran into
a tree.

" What tree are you? he asked.

" I m a pine/ said the tree.

"0W-man ran on until SWOW! he bumped
into another tree.

" What tree are you? 9 he cried.

"I m a spruce, replied the tree.

"Away he went again, running fast and
faster through the forest when SWOW! he
struck another tree.

" What tree are you? he asked.



" I m a birch/ said the tree. I grow near
the water/

" Good! said OW-man, but where is the
water ?

"Right ahead of you/ replied the birch-
tree. Right straight ahead, if you are able to
get it/

"OW-man waded out into the water. It was
a lake of water and the birch-tree grew near it.
The water grew deeper and deeper as OW-man
waded, but he could not drink because of the
Bull-elk s head that was fast upon his own.

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Online LibraryFrank Bird LindermanIndian old-man stories : more sparks from War Eagle's lodge-fire → online text (page 5 of 6)