Frank Bird Linderman.

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

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He walked farther out in the water. How
deep am I now, Oh Birch-tree? he called.

" You are up to your waist in the water/
answered the tree.

"I can t drink yet/ whined OW-man, and
waded still farther out in the water. Now,
how deep am I ? he called.

"The water is over your shoulders, and if
you go farther you will die/ answered the tree.

" Old-man bent his head to try to drink.



"Then there was a great noise and an arrow
struck the water near to OW-man s head and
he ran ran away into the forest with many of
our people after him. They thought that he
was a bull-elk swimming in the lake and chased
him. He ran even faster than before. He was
lucky for a long time, but finally SWOW! he
ran into a fir tree and fell. The blow broke
the Bull-elk s skull and it fell away from Old-
man s head, but he did not know it. He was
without his thoughts. His mind was asleep.
The fir tree had hurt him. At last he sat up
and looked about. Many people stood around
him and they were laughing.

"The sun-dance is old. Ho !"




"TTERE is some tobacco, grandfather," said
" Buffalo-calf. "We traded a robe for it

at the fort. It is for you. We like to see you

smoke your pipe."
"Yes, grandfather/ agreed Eyes-in-the- water,

"and we like it when you tell us stories of Old-


" Ah," said War Eagle, "I fear that I can tell
you no more stories of OW-man. I will think
while I smoke."

He lighted his pipe and smoked in silence
while the children waited hopefully. At last,
having finished with the pipe, he laid it away.

Old-man, made the Dog-people, of course,"
he said, straightening his back-rest. "You
know that he made everything, but the Dogs
have learned many things since they were made



things that OW-man did not teach them
things that he did not think of, perhaps.

"You have heard the Dogs howl at night.
You have wondered why they do that. They
are howling at the Dog-star which shines at
night with the other stars. The Dogs believe
that they have relations living on the Dog-
star, and speak to them with loud voices, for
the star is far away. The Dog-star comes close
to the world sometimes with the other stars.
It is then that the Dogs howl at night, for they
believe that they should speak to their people
on the star whenever they are near enough to
hear their voices.

"When people believe that such things are
right, and do them for that reason, we should
not complain. That is why we never object
when our Dogs howl at night. We know why
they do it, and we know that they believe that
it is the right thing to do. We know that they
were told to do it. I will tell you the story:

"Once, a long time ago, the Dogs had a great



chief. He was wise. He was just. He was
strong and he thought of ways to make his peo
ple better. The Dog-people loved their chief,
and he lived to be very old. His hair grew white
with the snows that passed his head, and that
is the mark of Manitou s esteem. The chief-
dog made long journeys into the mountains,
alone. He went there to dream and to think.
Voices spoke to him on the high mountains,
but it was always night when the voices spoke.
At last he learned where the voices came from,
but he did not speak of the voices to his people
until he was growing old. One day he called a
council, and when the Dogs were all assembled
he said:

" I am growing old. I can not live forever/
The Dogs began to whine at this, but he told
them to stop it, and they did stop it. Listen/
said the chief, and they listened. I have spent
much time alone/ he told them. Sometimes
voices have spoken to me, but for a long time I
did not know whose voice it was that spoke, nor



where it came from. I always listened, and al
ways the voice came to me at night. One night
I was alone in the mountains. It was winter.
The snows were deep and crusted. They would
bear my weight everywhere. The cold of the
night was terrible. My breath was white and
my hair was frosted from it. No wind was stir
ring and the stars seemed to be just above the
tree-tops a little way. They were bluish- white
and large, and very near. Not a sound was in
the air except my own footsteps on the snow-
crust. The strange, moving lights that some
times burn in the north were dancing that night
in a sheen of yellow-green. They ran along
the mountain tops, and reached far up into the
sky, but when I had climbed to where they
seemed to have stopped, they were gone gone to
a higher mountain farther away toward the
north. I followed, because I thought that the
voices that I had heard so many times came from
those strange, moving lights. I stopped, at
last, on a mountain top and looked at the strange



lights until the cold would let me stand no
longer. I started to move away when a voice
said: "Why do you never speak to your rela
tions here?"

" " Where ?" I asked.

" "Here," replied the voice.

" I looked carefully, but could see nothing,
nobody. I had often heard that same voice,
but never so plainly. "I cannot see you," I

" "I am here with many of your relations,"
replied the voice, and then I saw a star that
seemed to move in the sky. It seemed very close
and I watched there in the bitter cold watched
and listened. I heard our relations on the star
many of them. They were howling trying to
make us hear them, but their voices were faint
and seemed far away. Then the voice spoke
again. "Hear my people?" it asked.

" "I hear them, but faintly," I answered.
"Are you with them on the star?"

" "Yes, I am their chief," said the voice.



"I would that your people and mine might be
close friends for we are alike. "

"I was freezing. I told the Chief-dog that
I could stay there no longer. I went away, but
since that night I have heard the voice many
times. Before I die I want to make friends with
our relations on that star, and I ask that the
strongest among the young Dogs stand before

"There was much talking among the Dogs
much arguing between the old ones, but at last
a large Dog came and stood before the chief.
He was young and strong and sound.

" Are you the strongest Dog among the young
ones? asked the chief.

" They say that I am/ replied the Dog.
My name is Friend and I would serve you/

" Good/ said the chief. I am going to send
a present to the chief-dog on the star. The
journey will be a long one. You will need all
the snows that are before you, and you will be
old ere you return to us. I will show you the


way, but I warn you that you must go alone.
Are you willing to make the journey?

" I am willing, chief/ Friend answered. I
am willing and ready to go/

" Good/ said the chief. Let all you people
go now and bring the finest piece of back-fat
that you can find. Go at once/

"The Dogs went away and began to hunt for
pieces of back-fat. Whenever a Dog found a
fine piece he brought it to the chief. Soon a
great pile of back-fat was before him, and the
chief carefully examined every piece. At last
he found one that suited him. It was hard and
white, and from a fresh-killed buffalo cow.

"This will do/ he said. Now get me a
strong string of rawhide/

"They brought the string. Come close,
Friend/ said the chief, and the young dog stood
close. The chief tied the back-fat about the
neck of Friend with the rawhide string.

"Then he turned and spoke to the Dogs:

"We are going away, Friend and I, but I



shall return soon. Friend will not come back
for a long time; perhaps not until after I am
dead. Whenever he comes you must honor
him, and help him, for he will be old, maybe.
Come, Friend/ and they went away.

"Many days passed and then the chief came
back to his people. He did not speak of Friend
or of his journey. Most of the Dogs had for
gotten about it, when one day the chief called
another council. When all the Dogs had ar
rived the chief said:

" I have made a mistake and I would mend
it. Friend has gone to the Dog-star with a
present for the chief-dog. Friend is young now,
but he may be old when he returns, for nobody
has ever made so long a journey. We know
him now, but age changes all things. He may
have war on the way and the scars of battle
help time to disfigure bodies. I should have
marked that Dog so that we would know him,
no matter when he returns to us. I have



thought about this, and I ask that the swiftest
Dog among you stand before me/

"The Dogs began to talk and there was some
quarrelling among them, but finally a Dog stood
before the chief, who asked: Are you the
swiftest Dog among my people?

" They say that I am all but one He
thinks that he can beat me/ replied the dog.
My name is South- wind/

" What is the name of the Dog who thinks
that he can beat you running? asked the chief.

" North- wind/ replied the dog.

"Then the chief called for North- wind and he
came and stood before his chief with South-

" I have use for the swiftest among my peo
ple/ said the chief. I must not make a mistake
in my choice. Run to the top of that hill yon
der, and the one that returns first to me, shall
be my messenger/

"Away went the two fast Dogs while the rest



watched the race, but South- wind was first to
return to the chief.

" Good/ he said. South-wind, I want you
to take the trail of Friend and bring him back.
I will show you the way that he went. Come/
And the chief and South- wind left the rest there
at the council. The chief returned soon, but
most of the Dogs had already gone to their

"It was nearly winter before South- wind re
turned with Friend, but the chief called a coun
cil at once. He asked the Dogs to bring with
them the best piece of back-fat that they could
find. They came, of course, and they all
brought a piece of back-fat. They were won
dering and there was much talking among them.
At last, when they were all there, the chief

" I will send Friend upon his journey once
more, but when he returns every dog will know
him, no matter how long he is gone from among
us. Even our grandchildren will know him al-



though they may not be born. We shall tell
our children of Friend s long journey and they,
in turn, will tell their children, until at last our
messenger returns to his people. He selected
the best piece of back-fat from the pile that the
Dogs had brought to the council and tied it
about the neck of Friend in place of the other
piece which was becoming old. Now/ he
said, I have made a musk for Friend. There
is no other that is like it. There never can be.
You cannot mistake it. When you have smelled
it you will know it ever afterward. I have made
the musk from roots and herbs of the forest.
The secret of its making will die with me lest it
become common. I want every Dog to come
and smell this musk/ and they came and smelled
it. I need not tell you to remember this
smell/ said the chief. I know that you will
never forget it/

"Then he took a stick and dipped it into the
musk that he had made. He rubbed the stick
upon the root of Friend s tail and said: There.



That will never come off. We shall know you by
that smell and we shall look for you as long as we
live. x After we are dead our children will look
for you as we did. Now let us eat the rest of
this pile of back-fat. Let us feast, and from the
feast send our gift to our relations on the Dog-

"They ate the back-fat and told stories until
nearly morning. At last the chief said : Friend,
is there anything that you want done while you
are away?

" Yes/ replied Friend, there is. I wish that
our people would howl once in a while at night,
for the trail to the Dog-star is lonesome. I
could hear the voices of our relations on the star
before I returned, but my own people were silent.
Let them answer our relations on the Dog-star.
It will please them and cheer me/

" Good/ said the chief. It will be done.
Do you hear, my people? Once in a while you
must howl at night when the Dog-star is near.
Remember that all your lives. Remember,



also, to look for Friend and whenever you see a
strange Dog, see if he wears the musk that I
have put upon Friend. Do not fail in this.
Always look for Friend until you die.
"And they do. Ho/


L D 2l-50m-l,



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