The Punishment of the Stingy and Other Indian Stories, by George Bird Grinnell, , at sacred-texts.com
p. 126 p. 127
IN ancient times, before horses had come from the south and been taught to bear burdens the people did not move camp often, but remained in one place so long as sufficient game could be found to furnish food. They shrank from taking down their lodges and travelling over the prairie to fresh hunting-grounds, for their dogs could not pack everything, and they themselves were forced to carry heavy loads on their backs. One season they had hunted on a little stream in the foot-hills since early spring. The summer passed, the leaves began to fall, and with the approach of winter the great herds of buffalo slowly grazed out on the plains, and finally disappeared to the eastward. Hardy and warmly furred as they were they feared the deep snow and the cold of the mountain country.
When the last of the buffalo had gone, a great hunter named Low Wolf thought that it was also time for him to move. He said to the chiefs: "Come, now, the buffalo have gone; they are our food; let us too move away from the mountains and follow them."
But the chiefs said they would not break camp for a while. "Snow will not fall for one or two moons," they said, "and there are still plenty of elk, deer, moose, and other small game close by. Do not be impatient. Let us wait."
Low Wolf would not listen to them. "No," he said, "I am not a hunter of small game. The buffalo are my living, and to-morrow I shall follow them, even if I go alone."
The people thought that he was joking; but the next morning they learned that he meant what he said, for when they arose they saw that already his lodge had been taken down, and his wife and daughter were busy packing the dogs and lashing the travois on them.
"Hold on," said the chiefs, coming up; "why all this hurry? It is not safe for you to go alone. It is not right for you to take your wife and daughter out on the lonely plains.
[paragraph continues] Think of all the dangers. Wait until we are ready to move."
"What the Low Wolf has said cannot be unsaid," he replied. "I told you that to-day I should start after the buffalo, and now I am going."
For several days the little family travelled eastward along the valley of the evergrowing stream, but found no buffalo. Then they turned northeast, and after four nights on the wide prairie saw before them another valley. Buffalo were all around them now, and Low Wolf said that if they could find plenty of timber and water he would be content to stay in this place until spring. There was a large river flowing through the valley, and along its banks grew groves of large cotton-woods and willows. At the edge of one of these groves the dogs were unpacked and the lodge put up where it was protected from the wind. That night, as the little family sat about the fire eating fat buffalo ribs, Low Wolf said: "Ah, how foolish were the people not to come with me; here we have a fine sheltered camp, plenty of wood, and on all sides the buffalo darken the prairie. Besides, down here it is still summer weather,
while up there where they are it is already freezing at night."
The days passed happily. Every morning Low Wolf went out to hunt, and his wife and daughter dried the meat that he brought in, tanned soft robes for sleeping and for covering, and cut great piles of fire-wood against the cold of approaching winter.
One evening, Plover Call, the daughter, went out to gather the night's wood, and while she was lashing a pile of it to carry in she happened to look up, and saw standing near a man wearing his robe hair side out. He was facing the river, his back towards her, but she supposed it was her father, although it seemed strange that he should follow her out into the timber, as there were no signs of any enemy about.
"What are you doing there?" she asked. "Come, I have gathered my wood; let us go home."
The man turned towards her and lowered his robe from his face, and she saw that he was a strangera handsome young man, with light-colored hair and a white face. Strangely enough she was not afraid of him, for he had a kind face, and his blue eyes looked pleasant.
"Ah," he said, as he slowly drew near where she stood, "I have come from a far land. I have left my people, for something told me to go in search of a wife. When I saw you I knew that you were the one I was meant to find. Let us live together."
Plover Call forgot her wood as she looked at him. "Come with me to our lodge," she said at last, "and I will find out if it may be as you ask." When they came to it she told him to stand outside for a little.
"Father, mother," she said, as she entered the doorway, "I have found a young man out in the woods who wishes to marry me; are you willing that he should?"
"Is he strong and active?" asked Low Wolf. "Is he well clothed and good-looking?" the mother inquired.
"Oh," said the girl, "he is everything you ask, and more; he is even strange-looking, for he has a white face, and his hair is the color of last year's prairie grass."
"Well," said Low Wolf, "it matters not about his looks, so long as he is an active man; yet it is strange that he is so different from us. Tell him to come in."
Plover Call went to the doorway and beckoned to the young man, and when he had entered, her father and mother motioned him to a seat, and soon began to talk to him, asking many questions. The young man replied readily to all of them, so after he had considered for a time, Low Wolf concluded to give him his daughter. The next day she and her mother began to make a new lodge, and as soon as it was finished, put up and stored with robes and clothing, food and other things, the two were married.
"I am glad that you came," the father said to the young man, "and glad to give you my good daughter. We will not be so lonely now, and if the enemy should come there will be two of us to fight them."
The fourth day after the young couple were married and had moved into the new lodge, the stranger arose early, and after a hurried meal told Plover Call that he intended to go hunting. His wife was pleased, and said that he must bring in a deer, for she wished to tan the skin and make him some moccasins.
He picked up his bow-case and quiver, slung it on his back and started, and shortly after he left the lodge, low, continuous rumbling of
thunder was heard, beginning quite near the lodges, and finally dying away in the distance. Plover Call and her parents came out of their lodges, looked around, and were surprised to see that there was not a cloud in the sky; and again it was the wrong time of year for thunder. Moreover, the young man was not to be seen in any direction, although he had gone but a moment before. It was all very strange.
Evening came; the sun had gone down, and the shadow of night covered the valley, when again thunder was heard, this time far away at first, and then coming nearer. Then presently Plover Call heard something heavy fall by the doorway, and her husband entering, said: "Well, I got the deer for you. There it lies just outside."
The young woman was uneasy; she went over and consulted her father.
"Surely mysterious things are happening about here," said Low Wolf, "and I suspect your husband is not what he seems to be. Anyhow, it is well to be on the safe side; do not eat any of the deer he brought in."
The young woman went back to her lodge, cut some meat from the deer, and cooked it for
her husband. While he was eating she skinned the animal, cut it into quarters, and hung it out on a near-by bush. After the evening meal was over her father came in, and the two men talked for a long time about hunting and war, and her husband told interesting stories about his people. Listening to him, both Plover Call and her father were ashamed of their fears, and resolved to make amends by treating the young man as kindly as they knew how.
The next day the wind changed to the north, and there came a light fall of snow; no hunting was done. The following morning Plover Call's husband again started out with his bow and arrows, and, as before, as soon as he left it thundered for a long time. The fears of the little family were again aroused, and when at night the young man returned after a long rumbling of thunder, they were all frightened, and feared that something dreadful was about to happen. The hunter had brought in another deer and told how he had killed it, and where he had been hunting.
"Why," said Low Wolf, "I was out there, too, this morning; it is strange I did not see you. I should have seen your tracks anyhow."
They learned the next day that he made no tracks. When he started out they watched him; he took four steps from the lodge door, and then suddenly vanished, the thunder beginning again and rumbling away into the distance. As he disappeared, a strange-looking bird was seen flying the way the thunder was muttering. Then they knew that this person was really the thunder bird, and their hearts were filled with a great fear.
Four times the strange husband went hunting, always disappearing at the lodge door in his mysterious way, always accompanied by thunder, going and coming, never leaving any footprints beyond the lodge. Yet when at home he was just like any other young man, light-hearted, sociable, and kind to his .wife. The morning after his fourth hunt he said that he must go and visit his people.
"It is a very long distance that I must travel," he said to them, "and I may be away many moons; but do not worry, for I shall return as soon as I can." With that he left the lodge, and peering through the folds of the doorway, they saw him vanish as before, and as the thunder rolled, saw the bird flying out
across the valley, over the rim of the plain towards the south.
The moons came, grew, and went, but Plover Call's husband did not return. She was glad of it, and so were her parents, for they all feared his terrible, mysterious ways.
One evening the young woman was again chopping wood by the river, and, again looking up, she saw a man standing near her, wearing his robe hair side out. Again she thought it was her father, but when she addressed him he turned around, and she saw it was a stranger. At first she was sure it was her husband, but as he lowered his robe she saw that he was dark-faced and black-haired like herself. "Who are you?" she asked. "Why are you here?"
"I am of your race," he said, "but from a far-away tribe. I am seeking a wife; will you marry me?"
Plover Call would not answer his question, but told him to go with her to her parents' lodge. Low Wolf decided that she might marry the stranger at once. "The other one," he said, "that Thunder Maker, has been gone a long time, and I am sure he will never return. We need another drawer of the bow in case of attack,
so put up your lodge again and try to live happily."
Although he had appeared rather strangely, and, like the Thunder Maker, had said he came from a far country, there was nothing that seemed either odd or mysterious about Plover Call's new husband. He hunted with her father, prayed to Nápi, the creator, as she did, and in no respect was different from any young Blackfoot she knew. He was very kind and gentle, and the girl soon loved him with all her heart. They lived together very happily. One day, as he sat in the lodge making some arrows, the distant rumbling of thunder was heard.
"Go!" his wife cried. "Leave here at once; the man I told you of is returning."
"I will not leave this lodge," said he, calmly, "for the Thunder person, nor any one else."
"But you must," she replied; "he will be angry; and oh, I fear him. Listen! he is coming nearer. Hurry away before it is too late."
"Ah," said her husband, "you do not love me, or you would not ask this."
"It is because I do love you that I want to have you go."
"Say no more," he replied; "now that I know you love me, I shall surely stay. I do not fear him."
Suddenly the curtain of the doorway was thrown back and the Thunder Maker bounded into the lodge. He was very angry. Streams of lightning flashed continuously from his eyes. Sheets of ill-smelling smoke, mingled with blue flame, rolled in waves from his body. Plover Call shut her eyes, nearly fainting at the dreadful sight, and her heart stood still from fear.
"What are you doing here?" he cried to the man calmly scraping his arrows. "What are you doing here in my lodge? Go at once, or I will kill you where you sit."
"Do you go yourself," the other replied, "or it will be the worse for you. This is my house, and this woman whom you deserted is my wife."
Thunder Maker sprang into the air in fury, and more fearfully than ever the lightning flashed from his eyes. Raising his hand to strike, he stepped suddenly towards his enemy, but the man as quickly held up some soft, white, downy eagle feathers, and blew them from his hand, and a terrible cold, biting wind filled the lodge. Thunder Maker fell back. The
wind increased, and the lodge shook as if it would be blown away. Fine, sharp, stinging frost-flakes hissed in through the doorway and from under the edges of the lodge skins. Colder and colder it grew; and, trembling, quivering, his lips blue, his teeth chattering, Thunder Maker staggered to a bed and fell upon it.
"You have beaten me; your power is greater than mine," he cried. "Oh, Cold Maker, have pity!"
For Plover Call's new husband was Cold Maker, he who brings the fierce storms, the biting wind, and drifting, whirling snow from out the north. And now, as he saw his enemy gasping, shaking, and begging for mercy, as he lay on the bed, he laughed. "Will you promise never to return; never to trouble us again?" he asked. "I will go, I will go," groaned the other. "You promise? Then go, and be sure you keep your word."
The cold wind and the hazy frost ceased as suddenly as they had come. Thunder Maker staggered to his feet. He reeled out of the lodge. Lightning no longer flashed from his eyes. The blue flame and stifling smoke no longer
rolled from his person. He looked very poor and sick as he disappeared.
Now that Plover Call knew who her new husband really was, she was not at all afraid of him, although he was one of the deathless ones, who, for the time, had taken the form of man. They continued to live happily together, and when summer came he went with her and her parents, and joined the great camp of the Blackfeet.
Often Cold Maker said to her people that he could not remain with them always, but he never told them when he should go away. "After I have gone," he said once, "I will try to warn you of the approach of a cold storm. When you see a raven flying about in the winter, and crying its loud notes, look out, for the cold storm will be near."
After many years Plover Call died of old age, and Cold Maker mourned. "He will leave us now," the people said. They were right. One day he disappeared and was seen no more. But his words were not forgotten. Since that time they have named the raven after him. Even to this day the raven comes to give warning of an approaching storm.