Frank Bird Linderman.

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happy. I wouldn't change it. Directly a wolf
howled up the Marias a little piece and the dog
stopped gnawing and answered. "That's it," I
thought. "You are blood-kin."

Then I thought of Bluebird. Was she any re-
lation to me or my kind? I wished I hadn't asked
her to tell her father to call at my lodge. I would
persuade Mac to trade for whatever we could get,
and try to make the Post at the mouth of the Yel-
lowstone. Why was I thinking of Bluebird? I
didn't want her. If Red Robe came to my lodge I



hoped she wouldn't be with him. She had been good
to me, but I had an idea Mac had been responsible
for her coming to the lodge in the stockade. I
knowed it was Mac's doings. She wouldn't have
thought of it. But I wanted to even the score with
her, nevertheless, so I'd send her a present by her
father, if he come. I'd let her see that a whiteman
paid his debts, anyhow. I'd go back to Coon Creek
and stay there. I'd even go and listen to Joshua
Moulds of Sundays, and be glad of the chance. By
turns I was angry at Mac, and grateful to him for
sending Bluebird with the kettle of meat and ber-
ries, that night. For I was sure it was him that
did it. I didn't ask him about it then, and I
wouldn't do it now. I'd rather have it the way it is
in my mind: mostly a guess that could be settled
easy. The dog kept gnawing the bone outside, his
teeth gritting and grinding and crushing, till it
mighty nigh made me drive him off. Once another
dog come nigh him and he growled ugly and the
other dog went away. His happiness was threat-
ened but he defended and kept it. I did wish he'd
finish the bone, or else pack it away somewhere and
enjoy it alone.

That was a night such as comes once in a while
to most folks. I'd been willing to bet that I hadn't
slept an hour ; but I know that I must have, for it
was plumb daylight when I built up my fire in the
lodge. I was glum yet, and the fresh snow, instead
of brightening me up, seemed to deaden what good
nature I had.

I went down to the river, stepping in 'tracks al-
ready made by others. When I was coming back I
saw Bluebird slip out of her father's lodge with a
kettle in her hand. She was going for water, but


when she saw me she ducked back into the lodge,
letting the door fall shut behind her. "Go it!" I
muttered, and felt ornery as all time.

I washed up, and broiled some meat; and when
Mac come in I was in better spirits. But somehow
I couldn't open the question of trading and getting
away. He was so happy over our prospects that I
thought I'd wait a day or two.

The sun didn't come out and the clouds hung low
and looked threatening, though it wa'n't very cold.
We slicked up the lodge and was talking, when the
door was lifted and Red Robe looked in.

"How!" he said, and smiled.

"How, how! hi-ee!" greeted Mac. And I got up
and spread a robe.

Red Robe stepped into the lodge, and behind him
was Bluebird. They sat down, and right away
Mac lit a pipe and passed it to me. "Dis is your
lodge," he said in English. "You'll mak' de smoke
wid de Sun and de Earth. Den you'll pass de pipe
to heem. When she's troo smoke, you'll spick first
an' tell heem you're glad por veesit."

I did like he told me. When Red Robe had
smoked with us I said: "You are welcome in this,
my lodge. I am made happy by your coming. Your
daughter, Bluebird, was kind to me, and I would
show my gratitude by making you presents."

I went to the packs and got Bill's rifle and a good
blanket and give them to him, besides some powder
and balls. I never did see such pleasure in a man's
face. He was so tickled I was glad even to watch
him, and when he thanked me I felt good all over.
I reckoned that she was as happy as he was; but
when I give her a cup full of beads and two mighty
pretty blankets, one red and the other green, for


herse'f, I wish you could have seen her eyes.
Cracky ! But she didn't speak a word just sat still
with the blankets beside her and the cup of beads
in her hand.

Red Robe thought that was bad manners, I
reckon, for he said to her, "Have you no words?
Can you not speak? Are you like the stones that
drink the rain and thank not the rain-maker?" He
spoke like a man speaks to a child, not ornery or

She rose to her knees and shot a glance at me.
"It is too much to give me," she said. I saw her
eyes shine in the firelight, but they wouldn't look at
me; they just dusted me with a pleasant look that,
like her words, was only enough to do, and nothing
left over.

Right away I remembered my thoughts of the
night before and felt ashamed. These was good
folks, even though I didn't know their ways. We're
apt to get on the wrong trail that way, comparing
strangers with ourse'fs, and mebby after we know
them well we find out that we hadn't so much to
brag about after all.

Mac lit the pipe again and I watched Red Robe
as he offered the stem to the Sun before he smoked,
himse'f . You could see that he was a good man. I
was sorry when he got up to go ; and when Bluebird
bent to pass outside, I says, "Some day will you tell
me about the bluebirds? You said you would,
didn't you?"

"I said some day, maybe," she answered.

"What do you say now, to-day?" I said, low as I

"Maybe, some day," she answered, and I thought
there was laughter in her words; quiet laughter


that wa'n't intended for anybody but herse'f. I
thought of her ducking back into her father's lodge
that morning and felt like saying, "Go it," again,
but I didn't.

I was sorry I had said anything about bluebirds
didn't care to learn about them, and wouldn't
mention them again. I'd talk to Mac about trading
and getting out.


But I didn't do that either. Mac begun to talk
about a big buffalo hunt the Crees was planning,
and even while he was speaking I heeredi voices

"What's that?" I asked.

"The Buffalo song," he answered. "Day after
tomorrow they will make a corral and kill much

We listened. There wa'n't many words to the
song; only a tune that was queer, like all their
music, and wild as theirse'fs. It swelled up loud
a minute and then died down like the winds do, till
we couldn't hardly hear it. Suddenly there come a
voice speaking in one tone, and the singing stopped
altogether. "Black Bear," says Mac. But I could
have told it.

The old man was asking power of the Bear, cun-
ning from the Wolf, and speed from the Antelope
for the buffalo hunters.

"He owns a great buffalo-stone," whispered Mac,
while the medicine man was talking.

"What is a buffalo-stone?" I says.

But he didn't tell me. "She will tell you," he
says. "Listen."

Black Bear was talking fast. He was speaking
to the winds now.

"Oh, North Wind," he said, his voice shaking with
earnestness, "wind that we fear, wind that brings
the winter and holds it long; hear us, for we are in
need. Rest while our people go forth to the herds,
that the buffalo may not be warned and run away.



Your breath is cold, North wind, but we do not
complain, do not grumble against you. Oh, hear
us, hear us, hear us!"

He stopped short, and the singing commenced
again, this time with a drum. Then Black Bear's
voice rose again, speaking to the East wind. "0
great wind that knows the Sun, that so often comes
with him to the world in summer, hear us now, for
we are hungry. Stay in your lodge. Do not visit
the plains when our people seek the buffalo, for thy
breath goes fast and far."

When he stopped the song commenced again, the
drum sounding hollow and deep. I felt creepy all
over. I wanted to see the singers.

"Can we not go into the lodge with them, Little
Knife?" I asked.

"Yes, come," he said, and we went out into the
snow. The sun hadn't shone all day and snow was
falling slow, like it had a notion to quit and clear up.

Nobody paid any attention to us when we went
into the lodge and sat down near the door. The
music stopped and Black Bear stood up facing the
South. Sweat stood out on his forehead and his
eyes burned like a man's with fever on him. He
begun to chant: "Oh, soft wind, Oh, gentle wind,
Oh, wind that all the people love, that brings the
grass and the flowers, your breath is sweet with the
perfume of things whose lives are short and beauti-
ful. The flowers make you presents as you pass,
until you can carry no more. Do not blow! Do
not visit the plains now, where the North wind has
set his lodge, lest his breath drive you off and for
long. Help us by your silence!" His voice was
low; but it lost none of its earnestness when he
added, "Help us by staying away ? South wind !"


They sung longer than before, and when they
quit the old man turned to the west. "Oh, West
wind," he prayed, "Oh, strong wind, Oh, wind that
sleeps with the Sun ; wait until the North wind has
piled the snow in the coulees. Do not send your
strong breath to the plains now, lest the buffalo be
told that we are coming to kill them. Our people
need meat. Do not tell the buffalo. Do not betray
us, West wind I"

He sat down, plumb tired out, and they sung a
song to the West wind, the music loud and soft by
turns a heap like the wind, I thought.

"We will go now/' said Mac.

Back in the lodge he told me that there would be
a buffalo-dance on the next day and that if their
medicine was good they would have many robes to
trade soon. He didn't go to his own lodge, nor we
didn't sit up late. I had made up my mind that I
wouldn't urge trading until after the big hunt, any-
way, and fell to thinking of Bluebird. But it didn't
keep me awake; for before the fire was out I was

When we went down to the river in the morning
men was parading about the village wearing head-
dresses made of buffalo hair, buffalo heads with
horns and all left on, or bonnets made of tails.
They danced about and chanted songs. One man
wore the head of a large buffalo bull that looked
almost fresh-killed, it was so real and life-like.
They didn't talk to us nor pay any attention when
we met them ; and all through the day till sundown
they kept moving about, wearing something on
their heads made of buffalo hair or hides. Then at
night they danced till late, and it was a sight.

The weather had warmed up considerable and the


snow had settled down so that there wa'n't more
than a foot of it on the level, though in the coulees
it was drifted bad. I was as anxious to see the hunt
as I could be, and hoped that the morning would
suit the hunters.

We was up before daylight, and no wonder.
Everybody was up. The camp-crier went about
telling of the hunt and saying the day would be
fine. Mac took his lance and his bow and arrows
and we set out with mighty nigh every able man in
the village, before it was light enough to see good.
And the women a passel of them come along, too,
and some half -grown children, all packing old robes
and axes. You'd think they was moving to see the
stuff they had ; but I soon learned that every bit was

After an hour's travel up the river we come to a
big grove of cottonwoods growing on the edge of
the plains, from where, as the sun come out of a
cloud on the eastern horizon we saw a herd of buf-
falo not more'n half a mile away.

Everybody knowed what to do. They begun to
slash brush and pull down-timber out of the snow.
In no time they had built a flimsy corral, using any-
thing for its sides, even old buffalo robes and wil-
lows. It wouldn't have held a hoss a minute; but
though I didn't scarcely believe in it, I he'ped them
them make it.

The cottonwood grove was a little lower than the
plains. I mean there was a bank that dropped down
about three or four feet where the plains met the
trees in the cottonwood bottom quite a jump-off
it was. They built a wall against the bank, making
the side of the corral of logs, too, so they could
place more logs from the wall to the corral's side,


like the bottom of a bridge. This approach wa'n't
more than six feet long. Anything crossing the ap-
proach, or bridge bottom, would either have to
jump down about four feet or turn and go back;
but of all the miserable-constructed things I ever
saw it was sure the worst. If they ever managed
to get a buffalo into the corral I figured he'd go
right through it. I told Mac it wouldn't hold a rab-
bit. But he says, "Wait and see. The buffalo," he
says, "will not touch the sides when once they are
in the corral. They always go around and around
in one direction until the last one is dead. They go
as the sun goes. It is always so.'"

Everybody had been careful to stay in the grove,
and while they wa'n't over-careful about noise they
didn't do much talking and didn't pound any more
than they had to. But now some men, each packing
willows, walked out onto the plain, the party
spreading out V-shaped from the corral-bridge.
When the outer ends of the V had gone the right
distance, the men layed down behind the willows
they had been packing so the willows formed wings
to the corral. It seemed like they was flimsy make-
believes which wouldn't likely fool a buffalo.

As soon as the men with the willows had layed
down we all hid behind trees and bushes. The wind
was still. Black Bear's medicine was good. Not a
breath was stirring.

"Look," whispered Mac by my side.

A man had popped up like a jumping-jack direct-
ly in front of the herd. He was wearing a buffalo
head-dress, and though he was more than half a
mile away, I guessed it was the big bull's-head bon-
net I'd seen the day before. "Bad Weasel," whis-


pered Mac. "He owns a great buffalo-stone. He is
the buffalo-man. Watch him."

"What is a buffalo-stone?" I asked, parting the
bushes to see better.

"She will tell you," he says. "Look!"

The buffalo had noticed the man. A cow, curious,
had walked a step or two towards him and stopped,
sniffing. The man begun to dance. The cow moved
nearer. And then others of the herd noticed and
stopped grazing. The cow advanced a little more,
and there was a general movement in the herd.
More than five hundred buffalo was looking at Bad
Weasel! I thought I'd rather be where I was than
out on the plains with him. But he turned his back
to the herd and danced towards us, hopping about
and even getting down on his knees sometimes. A
dozen cows and a big bull was walking towards him
now, and I could hear the people muttering. They
was growing excited. I turned to whisper to Mac;
and when I looked again Bad Weasel was gone.

"Where is he?" I asked.

"Hid in a little coulee. Watch!"

Mac got to his knees and was breathing hard.
The buffalo had stopped. The whole herd was
bunched and looking for the strange object that had
been near them. They was restless and ready to
stampede. It was a ticklish moment, and the peo-
ple was fretting. Directly I saw Bad Weasel rise
out of the snow, still in front of the herd, but closer
to the corral. He danced and the herd started to-
wards him. He begun to trot, awkwardly towards
us, half -dancing. The buffalo come faster, and Bad
Weasel ran.

The stampede was on. They was coming. I
prickled all over. Mac had hold of my arm and


squeezed hard. Bad Weasel was running for his
life. It seemed like the herd would trample him to
shreds. He couldn't hope to out-run the buffalo.
I seemed to be in his place. I could feel the hot
breath of the big bull on my back. I struggled to
my feet, but Mac pulled me down. "Be still!" he

Bad Weasel was near to the willow wings. I
hoped the men behind them was going to save him.
But even as I looked he was gone. Only the herd
was coming, running straight over the unmarked

Nobody moved nor spoke. The herd had entered
the V and was between the willow wings, running
blind and fast. As it passed them the willow men
raised up with their willows, yelling, and sending
the stampeded buffalo even faster towards the cor-
ral, till they tumbled into it, one against the other.
The ones behind crowded the leaders into the trap,
and right away the corral was a milling mass of
brown bodies, so thick that there wa'n't room for
another one. The willow-men had split the herd,
someway, and turned part away. There wa'n't no
need of care now. Everybody was talking and
everybody was killing buffalo. Strong bows sent
arrows into the big bodies so that the shafts some-
times stuck through them. I saw men reach in and
even jump in the corral and push arrows deeper
with their hands.

Round and round, over the dead bodies of others,
the buffalo ran, never once touching the corral
unless they was crowded against it and traveling
as the sun does, like Mac said. They never changed
their course nor stopped, till the last was dead, or
down to die. They stumbled blind and without


sound over the dead bodies of their fellows till the
last, an old bull, crazed and gored with lances and
even knives lashed to poles, fell panting upon the
carcass of another bull as big as himse'f.

It was all over with. Blood was everywhere and
all over everybody. The snow was awful to look at,
all tracked and trampled and full of red puddles for
more than twenty feet from the corral. I wanted
to get away from it; so as soon as the butchering
commenced Mac and I with four nice tongues, left
the place to the butchers.

No part of the meat was wasted. Even the en-
trails was taken for use and heads and legs was
prized. Travois-loads of meat come to the village
for three days, and there was feasting for four
nights. And all through the winter the camp dogs
kept a trail open to the buffalo-corral, where they
had many a meal, and scores of battles among


We broiled fat buffalo steaks like Dad had done
till we couldn't eat no more ; and there was a lot of
good robes in the kill that would come to us in
trade. Even the village dogs grew fat and sleek;
and every day hunters fetched in more meat for the
camp needed much, and the women dried it as fast
as it come to them.

The weather wa'n't cold, and the snow didn't
bother us much, though it hung on till one night
when a Chinook hit the country and next morning
it was all gone except in the coulees. I couldn't be-
lieve it when, leaving the lodge at daylight, I saw
the plains as bare of snow as on a summer day, ex-
cepting spots in the deeper coulees. All night the
wind had howled and shrieked, though it was warm,
almost, as summer winds. Water was in puddles
everywhere and I felt spring had come. But in two
days the weather was cold again, although there
wa'n't no snow. The buffalo didn't leave, so that
there wa'n't much chance of the Crees moving their
village, and I was glad of that. I begun to go about
evenings with Mac, visiting his friends, feasting
and listening to stories. The Crees was proud of
their tribe, and I never got tired of the stories they
told. The fairness showed up by their telling was
a thing to remember. If the joke was on the teller
himse'f, he told it straight out and seemed to enjoy
it as much as anybody.

One night we was in Left Hand's lodge. He was
more'n sixty years old, I reckon, and he told a story
that I can't forget.



"When I was a young man," he said, cleaning his
black stone pipe, "there were not so many horses
as there are today. To steal a good horse was a
greater task then than to take many now. I was a
leader among the young men, and they looked to
me for brave deeds. But there was another of my
own age who had a large following of his own
larger than mine most of the time. Fine Bow, that
was his name. We did not like each other, and he
tried hard to set examples which I could not follow
or beat. The old men and warriors would watch,
and the young women took sides. But he could
never beat me. I could not beat him. If he won
an honor, I won as much but no more. And so it
went on till one night he came to me and said that
we would go together horse-stealing.

"We traveled fourteen days and many nights be-
fore we came upon the Blackfeet village. There
were more than five hundred lodges. We saw them
before the sun went down. They were not far from
here, half a day's ride up the river from this place.
There was no moon and when the night came it was
very dark and still. We were not far from the
nearest lodges, and while yet there was sunlight I
picked the horses that I would try to steal. The
Chief's lodge was not far off, and near it was a rope
corral that held four beautiful horses. I had seen
them plainly. One of them was white.

"The Blackfeet are careful of their horses. The
rope corral was so near to the big lodge that it al-
most touched it. But I would have the white horse
and another besides. I was thinking how fine it
would be to have such animals for my own. It was
growing dark. Fine Bow whispered to me. 'Go
your own way,' he said. 'I shall not help you.'


"His words angered me. 'I scorn your help/ 1
whispered. 'I would not have it. I have already
picked the horses I shall steal/

"He laughed scornfully. 'Ha !' he said. 'If you
steal more horses than I do I will join your band
with those who follow me/

" 'Good/ I whispered. 'If you reach our village
with more horses or scalps than I take, I will call
you my chief. Ho !'

"He crawled away in the darkness. As soon as
he was gone I left our hiding place and felt my way
toward the big lodge. No dogs howled and the
wind moved not. No men were stirring. Fires
were few in the village and most of the lodges were
dark. At last I reached the corral. I listened. I
waited there so that the horses would smell me and
grow used to me before I moved again. I feared
that if I startled them they might snort. That
would waken the people in the big lodge. But they
were quiet and I moved a little so that the horses
would know that I was there. Finally I crept under
the rope. They stirred a little then, and that made
me wait longer. But at last I stood up and listened.
There was no strange sound. No person was stir-
ring. I had forgotten Fine Bow. But now I won-
dered if he, too, had succeeded in getting into the
village. I stole to the side of the beautiful white
buffalo-runner of the chief. Ho ! what a beauty he
was and how sleek. I reached about his smooth
neck to tie my rope. Ho ! my hand bumped against
something strange. I nearly cried out. Then a
head a man's head rose over the white horse's
neck. I was terrified. My heart jumped like a
green frog, and I stepped backward. 'This is my


horse/ a voice whispered. And two eyes looked into
my own.

"Then anger came to me. It was Fine Bow who
looked at me, who whispered across the neck of the
white horse. He had crawled to the same corral.
He was after the horses that I wanted.

" 'No/ I whispered, when I could. 'I saw this
horse first. He is mine because I touched him be-
fore you did/

" 'I want this horse, this white one !' His voice
was growing louder. It was too loud. He was

" 'Shh !' I warned him. 'You will wake the peo-
ple in the lodge. Take any other horse but this
white one and let us go/ I begged.

"'Ho!' He struck the Chief's lodge with his
rope's end. It cracked like a shot. 'Ho, Blackf eet !'
he cried. 'A Cree is stealing your white horse !'

"I ran away. So did he. It was a dark night,
but we both ran fast. I was ahead.

" 'Here he goes, Blackf eet ! I am chasing the
Cree!' Fine Bow's voice was loud. 'He runs well
and his scalp is a fine one!'

"He was crazy I thought. Fine Bow had lost his
reason. I tried to run faster but my strength was
leaving me. I was almost without breath.

"Then I heard him laughing. We were far from
the lodges now, and I turned and seized him. 'You
fool !' I panted. Anger was stronger than my fear.

" 'You are the fool/ he laughed. His voice was
choked with glee.

'"Why did you do that?' I demanded, pushing
him from me.

" 'To see how brave you are/ he said and fell
upon the ground, laughing loud.


" 'But we have stolen no horses/ I cried angrily.

" 'No/ he said, 'but I made you run by speaking
Cree to Blackf eet !' He got up to laugh again.

"It was so. The village laughed a long time after
the story was told. And while it laughed I became
the friend of Fine Bow."

Left Hand stirred the lodge-fire and re-filled the
black pipe. "There are men yet living who remem-

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Online LibraryFrank Bird LindermanLige Mounts: free trapper → online text (page 14 of 21)