(photo courtesy of Ron YellowBird)
The summer day was stretching long into the night's time. Late
in the afternoon, I sat with grandma under the cabin porch as the
dry hot breeze remained well into summer. The heat lingered from
mid-morning to supper time. The only relief was under the porch.
I can still remember the incense released in the breeze from the
Sagebrush Forest. I would lie on the wooden porch and find myself
complaining about the long, hot days.
I said, "I wonder how the animals feel on this hot day?" Listening
to my complaints, my grandmother always answered my curiosity with
One evening after supper, we moved to the cabin porch, she on
her rocking chair with me lying by her. The heat of the day was
cooling and as the evening came on, I felt relief from the daylight
that was casting shadows from the Sagebrush Forest and soon the
evening star appeared. I had always felt comfortable in the gradual
descent of darkness while walking barefoot on the warm sand until
the footpath ended in a maze beneath the canopy of the Sagebrush
Forest. It was there I met Mr. Badger as he was preparing to venture
out from his burrow in search of something to eat. He stood up and
asked me if I was the Ute boy who lived on the edge of the Sagebrush
"In a cabin I believe, and with the medicine women of long ago,
does she still collect herbs from the surrounding hills?" asked
Mr Badger. "Is there something wrong or do you not speak?"
"Of course, I can talk and how come you can speak my language?"
I asked. "Do you live there beneath that thicket? How come I've
never seen you before until now?"
"Actually, I've lived here for quite some time. I met the WeNuchu
(old Utes) when I was a kid and I remember how they looked, how
they lived and most of all, how their spiritual belief of coexisting
with all life around them was pervasive. I did not fear them, nor
did they wish to eat me, but we shared our taste of prairie dogs.
Yes, I can remember hearing you cry in pain and yes it was a day
that we all will never forget." All my neighbors here were told
by magpie and blue jay. They told of an infant Ute boy who was given
to his grandmother, the medicine woman for doctoring and left with
her. Throughout the night the crying persisted and in the background,
you could hear her chanting and praying. The scent of herbal rub
and drink drifted about the cabin, it brought calm to the living
air. Glowing dim from the lantern light within the cabin, I saw
a mystical appearance of spiritual angels. We all sat around the
cabin that night and there in the heavens was a sign! The night
sky was without moon and the stars were endless. Warm breezes blew
from the southwest and all the bugs, toads and the classical night
sounds were silent. Even in the darkness one can see the ridgeline
against a backdrop of the universe. We waited and listened for the
passing, the medicine woman was talking to the child's great grandmother's
spirit. That night in the soft glow of the kerosene lantern that
sat on the wooden table, next to the kitchen window, there were
Nuchu talking and whispers of agreement and then appeared a spiritual
angel who would watch over the Ute boy. The old Raven says that
the great-grandmothers returned in spirit form upon hearing the
chanting and smelling the essence from oils long forgotten. The
one angel spirit smudged the Ute boy with cedar before she took
the infected spirit out of him and left his little soul with him.
In that moment was born again, the Ute boy who is standing before
me. The screaming from the infant stopped, the pain disappeared,
and a new life began.
"The scar from that night remains in your walk," said Badger
"You have not cried since and there is a presence around you, that
is visible only to a kindred spirit." "Yes, I have lived here for
sometime now," said Badger, then he reminded me of how vulnerable
my physical strength was and how I stood out from everyone. What
they didn't know was the bond I had with my inner spirit. Although
I would not listen to my intuitions, I would find myself in trouble
on occasion. Maybe my curiosity would lead me to find out about
how others live. Certainly, I have experienced an out of body travel
in consuming a bitter herbal tea, that is when the exchange was
made and now here I stand."
"Yes, here I stand talking with Badger," said I.
That must have been a sight there in the Sagebrush Forest. After
all, we stood eye to eye having of many talks to come. Before I
say anything else, I had to ask of the white stripes on his face.
Badger looked at me and said, "That is a story that happened a very
long time ago. If there is one creature in this world not to trust
it would be Coyote. My old friend and a lifelong prankster, I knew
not to listen to his brazened talk. Here, sit down and I will tell
how events came to be. Before I do though, let me offer some dried
"Now one fine day, I met Coyote on the trail while we were going
to a gathering." I asked him, "What's in the sack that you are holding
so tightly? Of course, Coyote replied without haste."
"What's in your bag?" he shot back.
"I asked you first
and he would object wildly and throw
a tantrum, right there on the trail."
Coyote said that the contents of his sack was very powerful,
and he couldn't show anyone it's powers. He held up the sack near
his face with a smile and a wink. "I should have known better, however
my curious nature was getting the best of me,"
"Come on, let me have a look," I pleaded.
Coyote asked me, "What's in your bag that you have been holding
since we met. I bet it's something good to eat or is it a prized
possession from your collection of odd and ends?"
"Neither guess is correct. However, I will tell you that my
bag of darkness is of greatest importance, when you show me what
is in your sack and why are you holding it behind your back" I looked
at him carefully, especially his eyes. One could see his thinking
was becoming a burden. Suddenly, Coyote with his mischievous smile
and the shifting of a nervous foot surprised me by agreeing to let
me see first the contents in the sack.
"In this sack contains light and it is as bright as the sun,"
he said. As I was starting to look for the sack to come out from
the owner's clutches, Coyote pulled a fast one and opened the sack
to surprise Badger. The light streaked out across the face of Badger
and burned his face with white stripes. The unprepared look into
Coyote's sack caused such a fright, that Badger burrowed into the
ground and there he remained, taking with him his bag of darkness
and a sign for rest.
Coyote was howling up the country and could be heard with his
pack of thieves. They were celebrating another successful prank.
The motley crew began laughing about Badger, for now a permanent
streak ran along his face. Coyote and his band of misfits didn't
notice that the temperature was rising and getting uncomfortable.
The day was getting longer and hotter. Everyone was miserable and
crabby. Soon, the howling began to sound of someone in pain and
in dire straits. Coyote was not laughing anymore, in fact he ran
back to Badger's burrow. He was panting so hard that he could hardly
B Badger my old friend, I came to say that your bag
of darkness is more important than my sack of light. I know you
can hear me, if you only could see me for a moment. I'm dehydrated
and burning up. Hey bud, I was just joking, and I didn't mean to
scar your face!"
Now, Badger was still smarting from the burn and he could hear
Coyote complaining outside his burrow.
it sounds as if he's had enough, thought
Badger and I shall be the better critter."
Slowly Badger emerged from his home, cautious of Coyote. Afterall,
he is commonly known in the ghetto of prairie dog town, as the "Sultan
of Prank." The Badger however, is a scrappy customer and can stand
his ground with any grunt. Still, Coyote was his old friend and
he sounded desperate.
In the shade of the Sagebrush Forest the Badger popped out of
his home and screamed, "Oh My God, what happen to you! You look
like my old bathroom throw rug and what's that smell?" "Hey, watch
it you're drooling on my fur and what's with you, why aren't you
gloating about your mean trick?" said Badger. "That's okay, tell
me why the commotion outside my home?"
"Well, first of all I wish to apologize for my behavior and
the underhanded prank that left your face with those white streaks.
Let me confess that your bag of darkness is important and is very
much needed. Please, open your bag so I can get some much-needed
Feeling sorry for his old friend, Badger opened his bag of darkness.
"Now remember that darkness is slow in coming and with the appearance
of the evening star, darkness soon follows," proclaimed Badger.
I can still hear grandmother say, "That's why the days are long
and hot in the summer, and in the winter the night remains longer."