Two Indian Children Of Long Ago Part 9
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At the appointed time the animals met on a smooth, gra.s.sy plain and the birds in a tree top near by.
Captain Bear was so large and heavy that he could pull down anyone who came in his way. All along the trail to the ball ground he tossed up great logs to show his strength; and he bragged of what he would do to the birds when the game began.
The turtle, at that time, was very much larger than he is now. His sh.e.l.l was so hard that the heaviest blows could not hurt him.
He, too, was a great brag. Again and again he rose on his hind feet and dropped heavily to the ground. "Look at me," he said. "See how I will crush any bird that tries to take the ball from me." The swift deer, the mountain goat, and the rabbit were at their best speed.
Indeed, the animals had a fine team.
The eagle gathered his forces together. There was the hawk, strong and swift, and the wild geese that can fly without resting. The black martin was there and the crow, with a host of other birds. The blue jay was chosen to scream in the ears of the animal players, and the humming bird to fly in their eyes.
The birds looked at the great animals on the field below, and were afraid. Just then two little things hardly larger than field mice climbed the tree where sat the bird captain.
They begged to join the game.
"You have four feet; why do you not go to the animals, where you belong?" asked the eagle.
"We did," said the little things, "but they drove us off because we are so small."
"Let them play, let them play," called out the birds in pity.
But how could they join the birds when they had no wings? The eagle and the hawk consulted, and it was decided to make wings for the little fellows. What could they find for wings?
At last someone remembered the drum they used in their dances. The head was made of ground-hog skin. So they took the drumhead, cut two wings, and made the bat.
Then they threw the ball to him. The bat dodged and circled about, keeping the ball always in the air; and the birds soon saw that he would be one of their best men.
The other little animal came for wings, but there was no more leather.
What could be done? Two birds thought they might enable him to fly by stretching his skin. Thus was the flying squirrel made.
To try him, the bird captain threw up the ball. The flying squirrel sprang off the limb after it, caught it in his teeth, and carried it to another tree below.
All were now ready. The signal was given and the game began. At the first toss the flying squirrel caught the ball and carried it up a tree. He threw it to the birds, who kept it in the air for some time, until it dropped.
The bear rushed to get it, but the martin darted after it and threw it to the bat. By dodging and doubling, the bat kept it out of the way of the swift deer. And now the game was close. The great deer could not turn as quickly as the bat, and so he lost the game. The little bat threw the ball between the posts and won the victory for the birds.
And the bear and the turtle, who had done the most bragging, did not have a chance even to touch the ball.
For saving the ball when it dropped, the martin was given a gourd to build his nest in. And he still has it, for you can often see a gourd on a post near the Indian lodges.
GATHERING WILD RICE
"Have you seen the beautiful new canoe father has just finished?"
asked White Cloud.
"Seen it! I helped make it," answered Swift Elk. "I cut nearly all the birch bark."
"Your father has it ready for the wild-rice harvest," said Good Bird.
"To-day I go to tie the stalks. You are to help me, White Cloud."
Nothing could have pleased the little girl better. All summer she had hoped for this great pleasure. From a low hill near her home she had watched the growth of the rice.
When the June berries were ripe, the first shoots came up near the sh.o.r.e of the lake. In a few weeks the rice beds looked like beautiful green islands in the water.
And when the yellow-green blossoms opened, she coaxed her father to take her in his canoe to the rice plants. She picked the flowers, shaded with reddish purple, and she saw the spreading ma.s.s of blossoms, their straw-colored anthers moving with every breeze.
Swift Elk was very proud of the new canoe. He had made the paddles, and had cut the forked sticks that would be needed to force the boat through the shallow water.
"When the rice is ripe, I'll go with you and manage the boat," he said to his mother. "When you come home to-night, White Cloud, bring some green rice to parch for supper."
"I'll have some all ready for you," promised his sister. "You shoot a deer to-day, and to-night we'll have a feast. We'll ask grandfather, and perhaps he'll tell us a story."
Soon Good Bird was paddling rapidly toward the rice beds. It was a beautiful morning, and White Cloud was as happy as any little girl could ever be.
For many weeks she had helped her mother prepare the string for tying the rice stalks. It was cut from the inner bark of the ba.s.swood tree.
The narrow bands were wound in a ball so large that the child could hardly reach around it.
"Why do you tie the wild rice stalks, Mother?" she asked.
"So that our little brothers, the birds, can not eat all our grain,"
answered Good Bird. "All the bunches we have tied are our own, and will be more easily harvested. No friendly Indian ever touches the heads of rice bound together by another."
With a curved stick Good Bird pulled a ma.s.s of stalks within her reach and bound the heads firmly together with the narrow strips of bark.
For hours she worked, forcing her way through the thick ma.s.s of water plants and tying the stalks on both sides of the canoe.
"May I come here again with you when the wild rice is ripe?" asked White Cloud.
"It will take two strong women to gather the harvest, my child; but the canoe is very long and I think you can help."
"How is it done, Mother?" asked the child.
"Swift Elk will sit at one end of the canoe and paddle. Nokomis will bend the stalks over the boat and untie the long pieces of bark, and I shall beat the heads with a stick. The grain will fall until the boat holds as much as it is safe to carry."
"Are we going to take home any to-day?" asked White Cloud.
"Oh, yes; when the rice is not quite ripe it is just right for parching. As soon as my rows are all tied, you shall help me gather the greenish kernels."
Good Bird worked until she had used all her string. The long rows of heads, neatly tied, looked very fine.
New plants were found, and the stalks beaten with a stick. The rice fell into the canoe, and White Cloud found it was good to eat even without cooking. By sunset the bottom of the canoe was covered with grain, and they started home across the quiet lake.
"May we have maple sugar with our rice to-night, Mother?"
Two Indian Children Of Long Ago Part 9
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Two Indian Children Of Long Ago Part 9 summary
You're reading Two Indian Children Of Long Ago Part 9. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Frances Taylor already has 76 views.
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