A DISOBEDIENT child is something I have never seen among the Pueblos, in all the years I have lived with them. The parents are very kind, too. My little amigos in Isleta and the other Pueblo towns--for they are my friends in all--are never spoiled; but neither are they punished much. 1 Personal acquaintance with a spanking is what very few of them have. The idea of obedience is inborn and inbred. A word is generally enough; and for extreme cases it only needs the threat: "Look out, or I will send for the Grandfathers!"
Now, perhaps you do not know who the Grandfathers are; but every Pueblo youngster does. It has nothing to do with the "truly" grandpa, who is as lovely an institution among the Tée-wahn as anywhere else. No, the Abuelos were of an altogether different sort. That name is Spanish, and has three applications in Isleta: real grandparents; the remarkable masked officials of a certain dance; and the bad Old Ones. These last
are called in the Tée-wahn tongue T'ai-kár-nin (Those-Who-Eat-People). They were, in fact, aboriginal Ogres, who once sadly ravaged Isleta.
The T'ai-kár-nin had no town, but dwelt in caves of the lava mountain a couple of miles west of this village--the Kú-mai hill. It is a bad place at best: bleak, black, rough, and forbidding--just the place that a properly constituted Ogre would choose for his habitation. In the first place, it is to the west of the town, which is "bad medicine" in itself to any Indian, for that point of the compass belongs to the dead and to bad spirits. Then its color is against it; and, still worse, it is to this day the common stamping-ground of all the witches in this part of the country, where they gather at night for their diabolical caucuses. Of its serious disrepute I can convey no better idea to the enlightened and superstition less American mind than by saying that it is a sort of aboriginal "haunted house."
So the hill of Kú-mai was a peculiarly fit place for the Ogres to dwell in. Deep in its gloomy bowels they huddled on the white sand which floors all the caves there; and crannies overhead carried away the smoke from their fires, which curled from crevices at the top of the peak far above them. Ignorant Americans would probably have taken it for a volcanic emission; but the good people of Shee-eh-whíb-bak knew better.
These Ogres were larger than ordinary men, but otherwise carried no outward sign of their odious calling. Their teeth were just like anybody's good teeth, and they had neither "tushes" nor
horns nor hoofs. Indeed, except for their unusual size, they would have been easily mistaken for Indians of some distant tribe. But, ay de mi! How strong they were! One could easily whip five common men in a bunch--"men even as strong as my son, Francisco," says Desiderio; and Francisco is as stout as a horse.
They were people of very fastidious palates, these Ogres. Nothing was good enough for them except human flesh--and young at that. Their fare was entirely baby--baby young, baby brown, and baby very fat. They never molested the adults; but as often as they found an appetite they descended upon the village, scooped up what children they could lay their hands upon, and carried them off to their caves. There they had enormous ollas, into which half a dozen children could be thrown at once.
There seemed to be some spell about these Ogres--besides their frequent hungry spells--for the Pueblos, who were so brave in the face of other foes, never dared fight these terrible cave-dwellers. They continued to devastate the village, until babies were at a premium, and few to be had at any price; and the only way the people dared to try to circumvent them was by strategy. In time it came about that every house where there were children, or a reasonable hope of them, had secret cubby-holes back of the thick adobe walls; with little doors which shut flush with the wall and were also plastered with adobe, so that when they were shut a stranger--even if he were a sharp-eyed Indian--would never dream of their existence. [paragraph continues]
And whenever arose the dreaded cry, "Here come the T'ai-kár-nin!" the children were hustled, shivering and noiseless, into the secret recesses, and the doors were shut. Then Mr. Ogre could come in and peer and sniff about as he liked, but no chance to fill his market-basket could he find. And when parents were forced to go away and leave the babies behind, the poor young ones were inclosed in their safe but gloomy prisons, and there in darkness and silence had to await the parental home-coming. These inconveniences were gladly borne, however, since they preserved the children--and we all know that preserved baby is better than baby-stew. It was, of course, rather rough on the Ogres, who began to find all their belts most distressfully loose; but no one seemed to consider their feelings. They were pretty well starved when the Spaniards came and delivered the suffering Isleteños by driving off these savage neighbors. This looks suspiciously as if the whole myth of the Ogres had sprung from the attacks of the cruel Apaches and Navajos in the old days.
There was one queer thing about these Ogres on their forages they always wore buckskin masks, just like those of the Abuelos of the sacred dance. Their bare faces were seen sometimes by hunters who encountered them on the llano, but never here in town. It was in connection with these masks that Isleta had a great sensation recently. The Hungry Grandfathers had been almost forgotten, except as a word to change: the minds of children who had about quarter of a mind to be naughty; but interest was revived by a discovery
of which my venerable friend Desiderio Peralta was the hero.
This dear old man--news of his death has come to me as I write this very chapter--was a remarkable character. He was one of "the oldest inhabitants" of New Mexico--older than any other Indian among the twelve hundred of Isleta, except tottering Diego; and that is saying a great deal. His hair was very gray, and his kindly old face such an incredible mass of wrinkles that I used to fancy Father Time himself must have said: "No, no! You apprentices never do a thing right! Here, this is the way to put on wrinkles!" and that he then and there took old Desiderio, for a model, and showed the journeymen wrinkle-makers a trick they never dreamed of. Certainly the job was never so well done before. From chin to hair-roots, from ear to ear, was such a crowded, tangled, inextricable maze of furrows and cross-harrow lines as I firmly believe never dwelt together on any other one human face. Why, Desiderio, could have furnished an army of old men with wrinkles! I never saw him smile without fearing that some of those wrinkles were going to fall off the edge, so crowded were they at best!
But if his face was arrugada, his brain was not. He was bright and chipper as a young blackbird, and it was only of late that a touch of rheumatism took the youth out of his legs. Until recently he held the important position of Captain of War for the pueblo; and only two years ago I had the pleasure of going with two hundred other Indians on a huge rabbit-hunt which was under his personal
supervision, and in which he was as active as any one, both on his feet and with the unerring boomerang. His eyes were good to find about as much through the sights of a rifle as anybody's; and on the whole he was worth a good deal more than I expect to be some seventy years from now. He was a good neighbor, too; and I had few pleasanter hours than those spent in talking with this genial old shrivel, who was muy sabio in all the folk-lore and wisdom of his unfathomable race; and very close-mouthed about it, too--as they all are. Still, there were some things which he seemed willing to confide to me; and he always had. an attentive listener.
Desiderio was not yet too old to herd his own cattle during the season when they roam abroad; and, while thus engaged, he made a discovery which set the whole quiet village agog, though no other outsider ever heard of it.
One day in 1889 Desiderio started out from the village, driving his cattle. Having steered them across the acequia and up the sand-hills to the beginning of the plain, he climbed to the top of the Kú-mai to watch them through the day--as has been the custom of Isleta herders from time immemorial. In wandering over the rocky top of the peak, he came to a ledge of rocks on the southeast spur of the hill; and there found a fissure, at one end of which was a hole as large as a man's head. Desiderio put his face and his wrinkles down to the hole to see what he could see; and all was dark inside. But if his eyes strained in vain, his ears did not. From far down in the bowels of the
mountain came a strange roaring, as of a heavy wind. Desiderio was somewhat dismayed at this; for he knew at once that he had found one of the chimneys of the Ogres; but he did not run away. Hunting around awhile, he found in the fissures of the rocks some ancient buckskin masks--the very ones worn by the Ogres, of course. He put them back, and coming to town straightway told the medicine-men of the Black Eyes--one of the two parties here. They held a junta; and after mature deliberation decided to go and get the masks. This was done, and the masks are now treasured in the Black Eye medicine-house.
I have several times carefully explored the Kú-mai--a difficult and tiresome task, thanks to the knife-like lava fragments which cover it everywhere, and which will cut a pair of new strong shoes to pieces in an afternoon. It is true that in this hill of bad repute there are several lava-caves, with floors of white sand blown in from the llano; and that in these caves there are a few human bones. No doubt some of the savage nomads camped or lived there. None of those famous ollas are visible; nor have I ever been able to find any other relics of the Hungry Grandfathers.
215:1 must qualify this now. In the last two years I have seen one spoiled child--just one, in ten years' acquaintance with 9000 Pueblos!