THERE was once a boy on the earth who was old enough to have a bow and arrows, but who had never seen a summer. He had no idea how it would look to have leaves on the trees, for he had never seen any such things. As for the songs of birds, he may have heard them in his dreams, but he never heard them when he was not asleep. If any one had asked, "Do you not like to walk on the soft grass?" he would have answered, "What is grass? I never saw any."
The reason why this boy had never heard of summer was because there had never been a summer on the earth. Far to the north the earth was covered with thick ice, and even farther south, where the boy lived, the ground was rarely free from ice and snow.
The boy's father was called the fisher. He taught his little son to hunt, and made him a bow like his own, only smaller. The boy was proud of his arrows, and was always happy when he went out to hunt. He had often shot a lynx, and once or twice he had shot a wolverine. Sometimes it chanced that he found nothing to shoot, and then he was not happy, for he realized how cold it was. His fingers ached, and his feet ached, and the end of his nose ached. "Oh, if I could only carry the wigwam fire about with me!" he cried, for he had no idea of any other warmth than that which came from the fire.
Now it chanced that Adjidaumo, the squirrel, was on a tree over the boy's head, and he heard this cry. He dropped a piece of ice upon the end of the boy's little red nose, and the boy bent his bow. Then he realized who it was, and he cried, "O Adjidaumo, you are warm. You have no fingers to ache with the cold. I am warm just twice a day, once in the morning and once at night."
"Boys do not know much," replied Adjidaumo, dancing lightly on the topmost bough. "The end of my nose is warm, and I have no fingers like yours to be cold, but if I had chanced to have any, I have an idea that would have kept them warm."
"What is an idea?" asked the boy.
"An idea is something that is better than a fire," replied the squirrel, "for you can carry an idea about with you, and you have to leave the fire at home. A lynx has an idea sometimes, and a wolverine has one sometimes, but a squirrel has one twice as often as a boy."
The poor boy was too cold to be angry, and he begged, "Adjidaumo, if there is any way for me to keep warm, will you not tell me what it is? A lynx would be more kind to me than you are, and I am sure a wolverine would tell me."
Adjidaumo had rarely been cold, but when he realized how cold the boy was, he was sorry for him, and he said, "All you have to do is to go home and cry. When your father says, 'Why do you cry?' answer nothing but 'Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo! Get me summer, get me summer!'"
Now this boy rarely cried, but his hands and feet were so very cold that he thought he would do as the squirrel had told him, and he started for home. As soon as he reached the wigwam, he threw himself down upon the ground and cried. He cried so hard that his tears made a river that ran out of the wigwam door. It was a frozen river, of course, but when the fisher saw it, he knew it was made of the tears of his little son. "What are you crying for?" he asked, but all the boy answered was "Boo-hoo, boo-hoo! Get me summer, father, get me summer!"
"Summer," repeated the fisher thoughtfully. "It is not easy to get summer, but I will find it if I can."
The fisher made a great feast for the animals that he thought could help him to find summer. The otter, the lynx, the badger, and the wolverine came. After they had eaten, the hunter told them what he wished to do, and they all set out to find summer.
For many days they traveled, and at last they came to a high mountain upon whose summit the sky seemed to rest.
"That is where summer is," declared the badger. "All we have to do is to climb to the summit and take it from the heavens." So they all climbed and climbed, till it seemed as if they would never reach the top. After a long time they were on the very highest summit, but the heavens were above them.
"We cannot reach it," said the fisher.
"Let us try," said the lynx.
I will try first," said the otter. So the otter sprang up with all his might, but he could not touch the heavens. He rolled down the side of the mountain, and then he ran home. The badger tried, and the beaver tried, and the lynx tried, but not one of them could leap far enough to reach the heavens. "Now I will try," said the wolverine. "I am not going to climb away up here for nothing." The fisher watched most eagerly, for he thought, "There's my boy at home crying, and what shall I do if I cannot get the summer for him?"
The wolverine leaped farther than any wolverine ever leaped before, and he went where no animal on the earth had ever been before, for he went straight through the floor of the heavens. Of course the fisher followed, and there they were in a more lovely place than any one on the earth had ever dreamed of, for they were in the land of summer, and summer had never come to the earth.
The soft, warm air went down through the hole in the floor and spread over the earth. Birds flew down, singing happily as they flew, and all kinds of flowers that are on the earth to-day made their way through the hole as fast as they could, for they knew all about the little boy in the wigwam who was wishing that summer would come.
Now there were people in the heavens, and when they found that summer was going down to the earth through the hole in the floor, they cried out to the Great Spirit, "Take summer away from him, take it away from him!" and they shot their arrows at the fisher and the wolverine. The wolverine dropped through the hole, but the fisher was not quick enough, and he could not get away.
The Great Spirit said, "The heavens have the summer all the year, but the earth shall have summer half the year. I shall close the hole in the floor so the fisher cannot go down to earth again, but I will make him into a fish and give him a place in the heavens."
When the Indians look up at the sky, they see a fish in the stars, and they say, "That is the good fisher who gave us the beautiful summer."