Yufala stirred the fire and sat back down beside it. There was always a fire in the council house, even in the summer.
“The deer were the next to hold council,” he said. “Chief Little Deer presided and the council lasted from one full moon to the next.
“Finally the deer decided to send rheumatism to every hunter who killed a member of the deer clan unless the hunter first prayed for pardon.
“The deer council sent word of their decision to the nearest settlement of people, explaining how the prayer of pardon should be offered whenever it became necessary for one of their clan to be killed by a hunter.
“Even today,” said Yufala. “When a hunter has to shoot a deer the prayer of pardon is offered. Immediately, the spirit of Little Deer arrives to ask the spirit of the slain deer if the prayer of pardon was heard. If it was not, the spirit of Little Deer follows the trail of the hunter to his house and enters invisibly to inflict the offender with rheumatism, crippling him forever.”
“Just like Old Hunter,” Timpoochee shouted. “His bent and sore hands and legs come from his visit by Little Deer.”
“That is the legend,” Yufala replied. “It is said Old Hunter did not know the prayer to offer. He was inflicted shortly after he returned from a hunt. It happened when I was just a small boy, too young to remember.”
Timpoochee thought of the many times he’d listened to Old Hunter tell stories of the old days on the mountains and Long Man.
“Old Hunter is one of my favorite people,” he said to the others. “Despite the legacy of inattention and carelessness on the hunt, he still has many valuable lessons to teach if anyone had the patience to listen.
Through the dim light of the council house and out the narrow opening Timpoochee saw the dark, crinkled face of Old Hunter, beaten and molded by an eternity in the elements, bent over the placid, ruddy face of Grandmother Ama as he yelled into her bad ear instructions for weaving the basket. Even though his knotted hands wouldn’t allow him to work the reeds he new better than anyone how to make the best baskets. With his oversight and grandmother's still youthful fingers the pair made the finest baskets anyone had ever seen.
Even in the council house, Old Hunter could be heard yelling his instructions into Grandmother Ama's ear. She nodded and smiled her acknowledgement.
It seemed, in that moment, nothing would ever change.
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