Not so many miles away from the village, the great mountain
range so divides the streams that are born there, that their waters
are offered as tribute to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans.
In this wonderful range the Indians believe the winds are made,
and that they battle for supremacy over Gunsight Pass. I have heard
an old story, too, that is said to have been generally believed
by the Blackfeet, in which a monster bull elk that lives in Gunsight
Pass lords it over the winds. This elk creates the North wind by
"flapping" one of his ears, and the South wind by the same use of
his other. I am inclined to believe that the winds are made in that
Pass, myself, for there they are seldom at rest, especially at this
season of the year.
Tonight the wind was blowing from the north, and filmy white
clouds were driven across the face of the nearly full moon, momentarily
veiling her light. Lodge poles creaked and strained at every heavy
gust, and sparks from the fires inside the lodges sped down the
wind, to fade and die.
In his lodge War Eagle waited for us, and when we entered he
greeted us warmly, but failed to mention the gale. "I have been
waiting," he said. "You are late and the story I shall tell you
is longer than many of the others." Without further delay the storytelling
"Once OLD-man came upon a lodge in the forest. It was a fine
one, and painted with strange signs. Smoke was curling from the
top, and thus he knew that the person who lived there was at home.
Without calling or speaking, he entered the lodge and saw a man
sitting by the fire smoking his pipe. The man didn't speak, nor
did he offer his pipe to OLD-man, as our people do when they are
glad to see visitors. He didn't even look at his guest, but OLD-man
has no good manners at all. He couldn't see that he wasn't wanted,
as he looked about the man's lodge and made himself at home. The
linings were beautiful and were painted with fine skill. The lodge
was clean and the fire was bright, but there was no woman about.
"Leaning against a fine backrest, OLD-man filled his own pipe
and lighted it with a coal from the man's fire. Then he began to
smoke and look around, wondering why the man acted so queerly. He
saw a star that shone down through the smoke hole, and the tops
of several trees that were near the lodge. Then he saw a woman -
way up in a tree top and right over the lodge. She looked young
and beautiful and tall.
"'Whose woman is that up there in the tree top?' asked
"'She's your woman if you can catch her and will marry
her,' growled the man; 'but you will have to live here and help
me make a living.'
"'I'll try to catch her, and if I do I will marry her and
stay here, for I am a great hunter and can easily kill what meat
we want,' said Old-man.
"He went out of the lodge and climbed the tree after the
woman. She screamed, but he caught her and held her, although she
scratched him badly. He carried her into the lodge and there renewed
his promise to stay there always. The man married them, and they
were happy for four days, but on the fifth morning OLD-man was gone
- gone with all the dried meat in the lodge - the thief.
"When they were sure that the rascal had run away the woman
began to cry, but not so the man. He got his bow and arrows and
left the lodge in anger. There was snow on the ground and the man
took the track of OLD-man, intending to catch and kill him.
"The track was fresh and the man started on a run, for
he was a good hunter and as fast as a Deer. Of course he gained
on OLD-man, who was a much slower traveler; and the Sun was not
very high when the old thief stopped on a hilltop to look back.
He saw the man coming fast.
"'This will never do,' he said to himself. 'That queer
person will catch me. I know what I shall do; I shall turn myself
into a dead Bull-Elk and lie down. Then he will pass me and I can
go where I please.'
"He took off his moccasins and said to them: 'Moccasins,
go on toward the west. Keep going and making plain tracks in the
snow toward the big-water where the Sun sleeps. The queer-one will
follow you, and when you pass out of the snowy country, you can
lose him. Go quickly for he is close upon us.'
"The moccasins ran away as OLD-man wanted them to, and
they made plain tracks in the snow leading away toward the big-water.
OLD-man turned into a dead Bull-Elk and stretched himself near the
tracks the moccasins had made.
"Up the hill came the man, his breath short from running.
He saw the dead Elk, and thought it might be OLD-man playing a trick.
He was about to shoot an arrow into the dead Elk to make sure; but
just as he was about to let the arrow go, he saw the tracks the
moccasins had made. Of course he thought the moccasins were on OLD-man's
feet, and that the carcass was really that of a dead Elk. He was
badly fooled and took the tracks again. On and on he went, following
the moccasins over hills and rivers. Faster than before went the
man, and still faster traveled the empty moccasins, the trail growing
dimmer and dimmer as the daylight faded. All day long, and all of
the night the man followed the tracks without rest or food, and
just at daybreak he came to the shore of the big-water. There, right
by the water's edge, stood the empty moccasins, side by side.
"The man turned and looked back. His eyes were red and
his legs were trembling. 'Caw--caw, caw,' he heard a Crow say. Right
over his head he saw the black bird and knew him, too.
"'Ho! OLD-man, you were in that dead Bull-Elk. You fooled
me, and now you are a Crow. You think you will escape me, do you?
Well, you will not; for I, too, know magic, and am wise.'
"With a stick the man drew a circle in the sand. Then he
stood within the ring and sang a song. OLD-man was worried and watched
the strange doings from the air overhead. Inside the circle the
man began to whirl about so rapidly that he faded from sight, and
from the canter of the circle there came an Eagle. Straight at the
Crow flew the Eagle, and away toward the mountains sped the Crow,
"The Crow knew that the Eagle would catch him, so that
as soon as he reached the trees on the mountains he turned himself
into a Wren and sought the small bushes under the tall trees. The
Eagle saw the change, and at once began turning over and over in
the air. When he had reached the ground, instead of an Eagle a Sparrowhawk
chased the Wren. Now the chase was fast indeed, for no place could
the Wren find in which to hide from the Sparrowhawk. Through the
brush, into trees, among the weeds and grass, flew the Wren with
the Hawk close behind. Once the Sparrowhawk picked a feather from
the Wren's tail - so close was he to his victim. It was nearly over
with the Wren, when he suddenly came to a park along a river's side.
In this park were a hundred lodges of our people, and before a fine
lodge there sat the daughter of the chief. It was growing dark and
chilly, but still she sat there looking at the river. The Sparrowhawk
was striking at the Wren with his beak and talons, when the Wren
saw the young-woman and flew straight to her. So swift he flew that
the young-woman didn't see him at all, but she felt something strike
her hand, and when she looked she saw a bone ring on her finger.
This frightened her, and she ran inside the lodge, where the fire
kept the shadows from coming. OLD-man had changed into the ring,
of course, and the Sparrowhawk didn't dare to go into the lodge;
so he stopped outside and listened. This is what he heard OLD-man
"'Don't be frightened, young-woman, I am neither a Wren
nor a ring. I am OLD-man and that Sparrowhawk has chased me all
the day and for nothing. I have never done him harm, and he bothers
me without reason.'
"'Liar - forked-tongue,' cried the Sparrowhawk. 'Believe
him not, young-woman. He has done wrong. He is wicked and I am not
a Sparrowhawk, but conscience. Like an arrow I travel, straight
and fast. When he lies or steals from his friends I follow him.
I talk all the time and he hears me, but lies to himself, and says
he does not hear. You know who I am, young-woman, I am what talks
inside a person.'
"OLD-man heard what the Sparrowhawk said, and he was ashamed
for once in his life. He crawled out of the lodge. Into the shadows
he ran away - away into the night, and the darkness - away from
"You see," said War Eagle, as he reached for his pipe,"
OLD-man knew that he had done wrong, and his heart troubled him,
just as yours will bother you if you do not listen to the voice
that speaks within yourselves. Whenever that voice says a thing
is wicked, it is wicked - no matter who says it is not. Yes, it
is very hard for a man to hide from himself. Ho!"