ONCE IN THE land of the Yaquis there were two very amusing men. One was called Anoki'ichi and the other, Bali'ichi. Anoki'ichi was even funnier than Bali'ichi. The two friends were inseparable. Together, they traveled everywhere.
One day while walking about the countryside they killed a bear. They skinned the bear very carefully, not harming the hide a bit. Anoki'ichi then suggested to Bali'ichi, "Let's arrange this hide so that it is very pretty."
They did. They filled it with grass so that it appeared to be a live bear. That was well. They left it so for a few days. When they removed the grass the stiff hide stood alone looking just like a bear.
Then Anoki'ichi said to Bali'ichi, "Now you get inside of the skin so people will think it is really a bear. We'll go to all the rancherías about here. I'll make a drum and play and sing to you while you dance and act funny. That way we can earn money for food."
This was their plan. Bali'ichi got inside the
skin and Anoki'ichi put a thick, rawhide rope about his neck. They set off, Anoki'ichi carrying a big stick in one hand and the end of the rope in the other. They visited all the little farms and ranches for many months. Thus, one day they arrived at the house of a very rich man who lived far from any other ranch or pueblo and had a very strong carrizo fence. Anoki'ichi had Bali'ichi dance to a few songs accompanied by his drum. The bear danced, and the owner of the house threw some money out. The bear caught it, gave it to his master, and said thank you by inclining his head and twirling around and around. After the fiesta, the owner of the house decided this bear was very funny and wanted to buy him.
"How much do you want for that bear? I will buy him no matter what he may cost."
"Oh, no, no, sir, I will never sell this animal. He would die of sadness, for I raised him since he was a wee, little one. Why he earns me my living. If you should give me this house full of money, I couldn't sell my bear," said Anoki'ichi.
"Well," said the chief of the house, "then I will give you a cartload of gold for him and you can marry one of my daughters."
"Why, should you give me two cartloads and two women, I should not give you my bear. I hold him in high esteem."
"Then tell me what you would like. The question of the bear's ownership is settled; he is mine," said the householder. And he called two servants and ordered them to get two carts ready and to fill one of them with gold and the other with silver.
"Come on," the rich man said. "You will
have this money and right over there you have a woman. Leave the bear with me."
Anoki'ichi went over to the bear and said, "What do you say, my friend, do I leave you?"
The bear shook his head "no," and wiped his eyes in order that all might see that he was weeping. He stood on his hind legs and embraced his master, Anoki'ichi. Into his ear he whispered, saying, "Don't do this to me. Don't sell me!"
But Anoki'ichi already had his two carts of money and a very pretty girl. Without a bit of shame, he gave the rich man the bear, took the young Yaqui girl and all of the money and marched away. He left poor Bali'ichi, sold.
The bear was put in a big corral where there was another bear. When Bali'ichi saw the other bear lying in the shade of a ramada, he was afraid. This other bear, who was also a man in disguise, was also afraid. He got up and went slowly to meet the recently arrived bear. Each approached the other, frightened to death. They were so afraid as they neared one another, that each was reciting a prayer.
When they got very close together, each heard the other's voice and knew that they both were only human.
"Are you a man too?" asked Bali'ichi.
"Yes," said the other bear.
"Aha. Let's pretend to fight so our master will think we are really animals. Get down like this."
They threw one another about, and struggled for a long time. Then they retired to rest. Thus their master was well satisfied. They fought like this every day, giving each other swats and bites and hugs. For many months this went on.
But one day, when the master was sleeping during the siesta hour, the two bears met.
"My face is hot in this skin," said one. "I'm going to take my head off and get a breath of fresh air."
Undoing a string about his neck, he took off his mask and stuck his head out. The other bear did the same, and the two commenced to have a peaceful smoke. They chatted as they sat facing one another.
The owner awoke and saw the two bears chatting and smoking and he realized that they were men. Furious, he went for his bow and arrows. To the bears he said, "Ah, rascals, I found you out today and I am going to kill you both!"
The two bears jumped over the carrizo fence and ran so fast nobody ever caught them. To this day, no one knows where they are.