Act 21: Always a mystery... by Steve Hart

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“You don’t need to worry about your son’s acceptance,” Grandmother Ama spoke up again.

She seemed to always know what Swift Deer was thinking.

“You and your sons were accepted long ago into Anisahoni, our Blue Clan,” Grandmother said. “When Yufala made you his wife, the wife of a Wolf Clan leader, any thoughts vanished that you might not be of our people.”

Swift Deer was always a mystery to many of the town’s people.

The legend said she came from, was once a part of, the Anigusa people in the lower lands, a beloved woman in one of the towns along the Anigusa Long Man. She was said to have fled her town after her husband was killed by British soldiers on a scouting mission.

It was also said Cornstalk was the son of her Anigusa husband and Timpoochee the son of a white trader with whom Swift Deer lived for a while after fleeing her town and dead husband.

No one knew for sure.

All the town’s people really knew was that while still a young man Yufala ventured south on a very long hunting trip to the lowlands and that when he returned he was not alone. He returned with Swift Deer and her very young sons. Timpoochee still a baby.

“He left a boy,” the town’s people used to say. “But returned a man - with a family.”

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Act 22: "You are as a fish!" by Steve Hart

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The years of growing into adolescence were peaceful, enjoyable for Timpoochee and his people.

They lived their lives in relative isolation in the ancient mountains of Shaconage, connected to other only by a few well-known trails and, of course, other towns of Long Man.

It was a time of great discovery for Timpoochee and Cornstalk, even though the elder brother struggled in comparison to the other boys. He certainly seemed slower and dimmer than his younger brother.

Cornstalk was never able to quite grasp the intricate ceremonies and rituals of the Medicine, which taught the young ones the ways of Tsalagi but also helped the elders spot and nurture the future leaders.

Cornstalk never performed well and that worried Yufala.

When Isti Poldalgai, the teachers or diviners, “fasting men,” took youngsters for instruction Cornstalk seemed less willing to endure the fasts, less capable of maintaining the necessary concentration. This was never more evident than during Poskita, Green Corn.

In the woods, along a small creek which fed Long Man, the students dug up the red roots of gray willow, miko hoyanidja, pounded them into pulp and dumped them into boiling water over the fire.

The diviners blew into the mixture and sang a song over it. The students drank the mixture four times before highest sun and spend the afternoon purifying their bodies in cleasening and evacuation.

As sunset approached, diviners instructed the students in the simplest songs of the Medicine.

Cornstalk could not follow.

“You fool little child!,” the diviner scolded Cornstalk. “You are as a fish, knowing nothing but what is in front of you! Perhaps you belong in the creek, swimming helplessly into our traps and nets!”

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Act 23: What the old Tcki say... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee always regretted his brother’s punishments but he could do nothing to help him learn even the simplest chants and songs of the Medicine.

And it always caused the two to argue. But mental acuities weren’t the only reason why the two fought and the fighting had only increased since the white man’s visit and the catastrophe.

It was physical, too.

Since the white men arrived, Timpoochee was struck with the notion his own skin color was much more like them than like his own people. His hair was the same deep black but he was suddenly aware his skin was different. He began to wonder endlessly about this. Had the make of life decreed such a difference?

This new awareness along with what seemed like increased attention from his mother and father since the earth-shaking he could not help but wonder if he was intended for something special. Leadership, maybe. But he also knew his elder brother stood in line ahead of him.

“I am only trying to help,” Timpoochee said.

“You care for nothing but yourself,” Cornstalk shot back.

“Why do you say these things?” Timpoochee implored. “Are you not anxious to learn? Do you not want to go with Yufala on a trading trip?

“Have you not heard what the old Tcki say?” shot back Cornstalk. “They say Yufala is not even my father, nor yours. They say he merely bought us in the south as the price for our mother.”

“What is this nonsense you are speaking?” Timpoochee was aghast.

“What I tell you is true. He is not our father. They say you are part white man’s blood.”

“Do they also say that accounts for your gullibility and lack of wit?”

Cornstalk lunged across the room at Timpoochee, hurling himself into Timpoochee’s stomach and out the narrow house door.

The two struggled, exchanging insults and fists, rolling over and over toward the town fire and to the approaching feet of Yufala.   

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Act 24: There is something else... by Steve Hart

“What is going on here?” demanded Yufala. “Why are my two sons fighting like wolves?”

The two said nothing but shuffled off in the direction of the river.

“Why do we fight, brother?” Timpoochee called out to Cornstalk as the two scurried away from Yufala.

“What I said is true, “ Cornstalk said, stopping and turning toward the younger one.

“You will see. I am right. It will make a difference.”

 

Timpoochee sat silently along the river bank, watching schools to fish dart back and forth but mostly upstream.

“My son,” Yufala’s voice thundered from immediately behind him. “It is time we talk.”

Timpoochee was so startled by his father’s appearance he nearly jumped into the river on top of a large turtle.

“It is time you make a trip with me, you and your brother,” Yufala said. “I have already spoken to Cornstalk.”

“Thank you, father!” Timpoochee shouted and leaped for joy. “I have been waiting for many years to to with you. I have dreamed of the land beyond our mountains and what lies at the feet of Long Man.”

For Tsalagi, the central river - Long Man - was seen to have his head in the mountains and his feet in a great ocean.

“I am prepared to go!” Timpoochee said loudly, bravely. “I felt this day was fast approaching and have kept preparations ready!”

“Not yet,” Yufala said. “There is something else.”

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Act 25: Just as much mastery... by Steve Hart

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“Osiyo,” Timpoochee interrupted the silence of the students’ council to ask a question of Yufala, who was leading the council.

“Why is it important to learn the Medicine? Why is it important to dwell on the lessons of the ancient time when our people face more important lessons we have to learn with the white man coming to us?”

Yufala cleared his throat. Big questions coming from his son. But before ulagu could answer a voice barked from the second row of the council.

“Always your questions concern Yonega, Timpoochee,” Raven Wing’s accusation shot through the discussion like an arrow through a clear winter sky.

“Yonega do not concern us except as a resource for trade,” Raven Wing shouted. “He is like any other creature. We must deal with him just as we deal with the other creatures.”

“That’s where you are wrong, Raven Wing,” Timpoochee calmly replied. “Yonega is - and will be - a very big part of our lives. For better or worse they will be part of our world. They have just as much mastery of the world as do we.”

“Ever since they came to our town you have been consumed by the Yonega,” Raven Wing shot back. “Maybe what the old women say is true.”

Raven Wing’s eyes widened. He clasped his hand over this mouth. Yufala winced but did not move. Timpoochee raised his head slowly and glared at Raven Wing with an icy, deathly stare. The rest of the council moved silently back.

“Raven Wing, your mind is sharp but your tongue is even sharper,” Timpoochee said calmly but severely. “You should be careful your head is not someday severed from your body by your tongue’s rampant voyages.”

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Act 26: Not a world of your own... by Steve Hart

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“That is enough!” ordered Yufala. “You both should be more concerned with the study of the Medicine and less with the differences between you. I will hear no more of this talk from either or you will both be banished from council.”

Silence consumed the tension-wracked room. After a moment Yufala continued, his eyes fixed on Raven Wing.

“Timpoochee’s question deserves a thoughtful answer,” he said. “Yonega is becoming a bigger part of our world with each passing moon."

He turned to face the rest of the assembly.

“Learning the Medicine is important for you as future leaders. You must know our history before you can understand - and learn how to live with - Yonega.”

“Osiyo,” Timpoochee interrupted again. “Should we not learn how to deal with the white man, know his ways, just as much as we should earn our own?”

“You and Yufala are not in a world of your own,” Cornstalk shouted out from the back of the council house. “Always you dominate these talks; and even though Raven Wing is simple he is right when he says you are too concerned with the affairs of Yonega.”

“I have already said that is enough!” bellowed Yufala. “If you are finally ready to enter into the discussion, Cornstalk, what would be your answer to Timpoochee’s question?”

“I...uh...don’t have an answer,” Cornstalk slinked further away from the council.

“I didn’t think so,” Yufala said, heaving a sigh. “Why do you never listen? Your mind wanders like a flood-swollen river; and all too often thinks only dark thoughts. Timpoochee listens and participates. That is far different from you, my elder son.

“The study of Medicine is important for you, too. It is the beginning of your life as a leader. You are fortunate to have been included at all.”

Cornstalk made no reply. The rest of the council sat in silence.

“The lessons of the Medicine and of our history tell us how to deal with Yonega,” Yufala continued quietly but forcefully. “It is through the lessons of Medicine we learn what moves Yonega to his sometimes violent actions. He is a difficult animal to understand. Our lessons tell us how we will meet him.”

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Act 27: We must learn to respect... by Steve Hart

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“Osiyo,” Timpoochee jumped into the discussion again, to grumbles from behind him.

“I know the Medicine should not be forsaken. I know it has sustained our people since we came into being.

“But the Medicine does not seem to be helping our Anigusa, Anistata or Anita cousins deal with Yonega in the flat lands. More and more Yonega trouble them with each passing moon. Will it be only time before they move against us in the same way?

Yufala rose to address the entire council.

“Perhaps in the impatience of your youth it does not seem the lessons of ancient time are help our cousins in the low lands,” he said. “Indeed, they may not be helping. Our Medicine comes from our land, our plants, our animals, all creatures. Without the knowledge to extract it we remain ignorant to the ways of Shaconage.

“The plants and animals have sustained us for thousands and thousands of seasons. We must learn to respect the other creatures and help them so they will, in turn, respect and help us.”

Yufala bent over to stir the fire. Its flames suddenly leaped ferociously into the air.

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Act 28: The creatures held councils... by Steve Hart

Photo by Chris Geirman on Unsplash

“In the old days, the Hilahiyu, all the creatures could talk,” Yufala began one of his stories of the Medicine. “They lived in harmony with the people of the time, our ancestors.

“Because all the creatures could talk to each other - the beasts, the birds, the fishes, the plants - the world was peaceful, full of love, respect and friendship.

“But as time passed the world grew so rapidly that settlements of people sprang up all over the land. The people began to squeeze the creatures out of their settlements.

“To make the creatures even more uncomfortable, the people learned how to make bows, knives, spears, blowguns and hooks and with them learned how to capture the creatures and use their meat and skins and leaves for their own purposes.

“People began to slaughter the larger animals and trample the smaller animals under foot without once thinking of the creatures.

“Because of the people’s carelessness and contempt the creatures decided to hold great councils and discuss what measures to talk for their common safety.

“The bears met first under Mulberry Mountain, Kuwahi. The old White Bear Chief presided.

“After each bear in the council had spoken and complained about how man had killed his friends and used their skins and flesh for their own purposes, the council decided to go to war against the people.

“Their discussion rambled around to what weapons should be used against man.

“‘The weapons they use against us,’ someone said. ‘Bows and arrows.'

“‘Of what are the bows and arrows made?’ another asked.

“The old White Bear Chief replied, ‘the bows are made of wood and the string is made of our own entrails.'

“Silence fell over the council.”

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Act 29: Cannot starve to win a battle... by Steve Hart

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Yufala resumed his story.

“It was decided a bow could be fashioned from a nearby tree of black locust,” he said of the bear council.

“One of the bears agreed to sacrifice himself for the good of the others so string for the bow could be fashioned from his entrails.

“After the bow and arrow were crafted, the sacrificial bear’s body used to make the string, the bears tried out their new weapons.

“They found they could not fire the bow because their long claws prevented the string from releasing. The council cut back the claws of one warrior bear and found he could shoot the arrow with ease.

“‘This is no good,’ pronounced the old White Bear Chief. ‘With trimmed claws we will be able to shoot the bow but we will not be able to to climb trees for food. One of us has already died to make the bow. We cannot all starve to win a battle. It will be better to trust the teeth and claws nature gave us rather than the weapons of people.’

“No one could think of a better argument so the council ended without the bear find a way to prevent the spread of people.”

Yufala broke from his story. But only for a moment.

“Had that not happened, my sons of the village, we might still be at war with the bear today. But as it is we don’t even have to ask permission before we kill a bear.”

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Act 30: Just like Old Hunter... by Steve Hart

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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Act 31: Each has its use... by Steve Hart

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“The next to hold council were the fish, reptiles and amphibians,” Yufala returned to his story of the Medicine.

“They decided to send dreams of snakes and hellbenders to each hunter who killed one of their tribe. That is why even today we still dream of snakes sometimes.

“Finally it was the birds, insects and smallest animals’ time to hold a council,” Yufala continued. “Grubworm sat as chief.

“Each animal was given a chance to tell of the various crimes committed against them by humans. The frog claim his back was covered with sores because a human had kicked him. The bird claimed its feet were burned when man roasted him over the fire.

“After each animal gave its own version of human wrong, the council held a vote to decide man’s guilt and decided to punish humans by creating diseases to inflict offenders after their crimes.

“Grubworm grew more excited and happy with each new disease.

“At last, the animals decided to make menstruation sometimes fatal to women. That excited the Grubworm so much he leaped into the air with joy and fell right off his stool. He fell so hard he could not regain his feet and has been forced to crawl around on his belly ever since.

“When the plants, who were friendly with the humans, heard what the small animal council decided they took it upon themselves to provide a cure for each of the diseases devised by the animals.

“All the trees, shrubs and herbs, even the grass and moss came to the humans’ rescue with a cure to nearly every disease named by the animals.

“Thus came the Medicine,” said Yufala. “And each of the plants has a use if only we learn how to use them.”

He stood up, turned and walked toward the door of the council house.

“So, you see, if we learn the ways of Yonega we can learn the Medicine for him just as our ancestors learned the Medicine to use against disease.”

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Act 32: We must know our own Medicine... by Steve Hart

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“But what of our Anigusa, Anistata or Anita cousins?” Timpoochee shouted as several more behind him grumbled.

“They know the medicine but they are being devoured by Yonega. Their land is becoming his.”

“Just as some of the knowledge of the medicine contains poison if not treating the proper disease so does only some knowledge of the white man contain a fatal poison - loss of a people’s pride and history. Perhaps our cousins are learning only some knowledge. If one refuses to use the Medicine it cannot help.”

Yufala started out the door, stopped, returned.

“Be careful as leaders of our next generation you do not fall victim to the same half-knowledge of the Medicine,” he said. “Our people are few compared to the other great nations. To survive the threat of Yonega we must know our own Medicine - all of it - and not fall victim to others’ ways.”

He turned and disappeared through the door into the bright sunshine of the afternoon.

“Yonega has the blood of a buzzard,” cried Cornstalk from the back of the room. “He soars overhead until he can dip down to earth and take from us whatever he can carry away.”

All eyes shifted to the elder son of the chief, teacher.

“Our own leaders, my own father, tell us to use our ways to fight Yonega. But that does not work for our cousins in the low lands. It will not work for the people of Shaconage.

“When I am leader we will fight Yonega with our weapons! Keep him from our land!

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Act 33: The rumble grew louder... by Steve Hart

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“Quiet that talk!” Timpoochee barked at this brother.

“We will have no more talk of “when I am leader.’ No one has been selected Ugvwiyuhi to follow Yufala. It’s foolish for you to talk that way.”

“From where you sit it is foolish, brother,” shot back Cornstalk. “It interferes with your own designs. And those of others.”

Cornstalk glared at Raven Wing.

“No one has any designs except to learn what is intended for the future of our people,” Timpoochee retorted. “Why must you always make trouble for yourself and others by your foolish and narrow ways?”

The argument was interrupted by a low, rumbling noise in the distance, well away from the town but loud and building. The council house suddenly shook violently.

The students looked at each other, surprise and fear gripped them all.

The rumble grew louder. The earth shook again.

The noise came from the west, toward Long Man.

Yufala burst into the council house as the noise became deafening and the ground shook so ferociously Timpoochee could barely keep his balance.

“Run for cover!” screamed a voice from outside, high up a tree. “Animals!”

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Act 34: "Run for cover!" by Steve Hart

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In the chaos, warriors grabbed bows, arrows, tomahawks and anything the could find to try to fend off the charging animals frightened by the shaking ground.

Trees crashed to the ground as the rumbling continued. Bushes and shrubs shook and uprooted or were smashed by the thundering hooves of deer and bear.

Yelling war hoops at the top of their lungs, warriors hurled arrows and spears at the animals, trying to steer them away from the village. Spears felled some of the large animals as most of the hurdling dark mass veered just north of the town.

Still, several bears bears charged helter-skelter into the community, knocking over cooking pots and racks of drying fish and animal skins.

Houses shook, some falling. Others moved intact some distance from their original spot.

Women grabbed young ones and dashed into shelters as the terrified beasts charged through the village.

Timpoochee ran for his own house.

“Swift Deer!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. “Mother! Run for cover!”

He ran with all his speed toward the house in the center of town as the echoing thunder of moving earth and trampling beats tore into the plaza.

Across the way, Old Hunter and Grandmother Ama were slowly making their way toward safety in Yufala’s house. Old Hunter struggled in his pain to help his old friend reach safety before a wild creature ripped them apart.

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Act 35: Thunder ripped past the house... by Steve Hart

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“Help us!” bellowed Old Hunter when he saw Timpoochee running toward them.

“Take her, quickly,” he shouted above the roar. “I will make it home by myself.”

Timpoochee had no time to argue. He scooped up Grandmother Ama and ran for the house.

The Beloved Woman of the village could not hear much of the commotion nor see much of the entire village scurrying to hide from the calamity.

The terror in her face was all Timpoochee saw. He grabbed her arms and legs with too much force, ran across the plaza and into his house.

He hurdled through the doorway and threw Grandmother Ama on a palate in the corner of the room. She screamed at the pain of her rough treatment.

“Uji!” he yelled to Swift Deer. “Quickly! Barricade the door!”

“Where is Cornstalk?” Swift Deer shouted over the din outside as tables and chairs were thrown against the opening.

“Why are you concerned about him? He is off somewhere hiding in the woods as always. He’s not the one who is home trying to save his family!”

“That is no reason not to be concerned about your brother, Timpoochee,” Swift Deer shouted back.

“Forgive me, Uji. As soon as I can I will go and try to find him.”

The thundering sound came ripping past the house. The structure shook and in the distance the crash of trees sounded the town’s disaster.

Just as suddenly as it began, the trembling ground grew still. The harsh echo of rampaging animals trailed off along the riverbank toward the north.

“I will return as soon as I can,” Timpoochee said in the strange stillness of the subsiding terror. “Stay inside until Yufala returns. Keep Grandmother safe.”

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Act 36: May be one more to bury... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee leaped into the town plaza and raced back to the council house where several other students, including Cornstalk, stood shaken with glazed-over eyes looking at their surroundings and each other.

From out of the settling dust and smoke Yufala limped into the gathering.

“The white man has caused this in some way,” he grunted to one of the elders. “I have warned them not to hunt so close to our land.”

Timpoochee and Cornstalk, leaning into the council house, overheard their father’s talk among the elders.

“Our people will need a leader who will stand strong against Yonega,” Cornstalk said to his brother, his face displaying a certain self-satisfaction.

“Our people will need a leader who will try to understand Yonega,” Timpoochee replied.

“You both dream silly dreams,” blurted Raven Wing, still steaming from his argument with Timpoochee. “You are both an embarrassment to the study of the Medicine.”

“Watch your tongue, crow-fly, or you will find it lying in front of you in the sand,” Cornstalk shot back.

If anything, he was always ready for a fight.

“Your mouth should be shut, laha,” Timpoochee stepped in between Cornstalk and Raven Wing.

“Stay out of this, little brother,” ordered Cornstalk. “This is between the crow and me.”

“I’m trying to save you both from banishment. We can’t do this just now. Look around you, at what has happened - the shaking ground and trampling animals. Yufala needs all the strongest hands to help him repair our town and bury the dead.”

“There may be one more to bury,” shouted Cornstalk as he shoved Timpoochee to the side and lunged into Raven Wing with fury.

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Act 37: Know the Medicine, my son... by Steve Hart

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The fighters fell to the ground under the force of Cornstalk’s initial blow.

Raven Wing countered with repeated blow to his wiry opponent's back as they rolled closer to the fire.

There was nothing Timpoochee could do to stop it.

Raven Wing threw Cornstalk from on top of him and leaped back to his feet in time to defend himself against another attack. As Cornstalk lunged again Raven Wing stepped aside kicking the skinny boy in the butt as he slid past him.

The others around Timpoochee shouted their approval at the action as the shadow of Yufala covered the fighters.

Cornstalk slid head first into the chief’s stout legs as if he’d hit a wall.

Yufala looked down at the pair, fury in his face.

“Our town lies in ruins,” he shouted, grabbing Cornstalk’s arm and nearly twisting it off.

“Some of our people are dead, including Old Hunter, and yet here are the students of the Medicine brawling like dogs!”

Panic gripped Timpoochee’s heart at hearing of the old man’s death.

In tears, he ran from the council house to the chungke yard.

A heap of broken bones and trampled flesh lay just beside the chungke mound in a pile of drying blood.

Timpoochee gazed silently at the bruised, scarred remains of the old man as Yufala moved slowly to his side.

“A frightened and confused bear took Old Hunter’s life,” Yufala whispered as he placed his right hand on Timpoochee’s shoulder. “It was a life scarred many years ago by not know the Medicine well enough.

“Know the Medicine, my son. All of it. And all its lessons in the winds so your people will not also become victims. It is our only defense.”

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Act 38: The Sun was shining bright... by Steve Hart

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The days following the earth-sharking and bear rampage were dark days for Timpoochee and his people.

The restoration of the town, the public displays of mourning and ceremonies of burial were difficult, days the town had not experienced - ever.

Following the burials, the most celebrated of which was Old Hunter, the fire in the council house was extinguished and replaced with a new fire which would see the town through until Green Corn.

The entire community immersed itself in the water of Long Man to purify it from the tragedy.

Yufala’s family felt the pain especially hard. Old Hunter had been close to the family, a member really, because of Grandmother Ama. Now, as the oldest living member of the town she was taking the loss in severe pain, physical and emotional.

“How is Grandmother” Timpoochee said as he stepped gingerly into the house to help his mother apply some of the Medicine prepared for the old woman.”

“She is resting,” Swift Deer replied, quietly. “The Medicine is relieving her outward pain but not her inward pain.”

Timpoochee moved closer, bent down, kissed his grandmother on her forehead.

“Rest, Grandmother,” Swift Deer said softly. “I will soak your bruised arms and legs with this mud of frost-root and burdock.”

The sun was shining bright on the town, the first time it had done so since the ground-shaking. That was a good sign.

“Would you like to feel the warmth of the sun,” Swift Deer asked Grandmother, who could barely hear.

She knew the answer, of course. Timpoochee helped lift Grandmother Ama outside the house, into the sun where they reclined her on a palate already warmed by the bright sun.

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Act 39: I would not be surprised... by Steve Hart

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Swift Deer sat down beside her husband’s mother and started preparations for the family meal.

She glanced across the town center and saw Timpoochee deep into a game of chungke with some of the other boys.

His short, stout but still muscular body swayed back and forth waiting for his chance to shoot a stick at the chungke stone as it rolled along its  path.

Each of the boys in the game took his turn at the stone and each missed. The muscles in Timpoochee’s back bulged as he raised his hand to stril the stick as the stone passed his position.

He shot with the swiftness of a spear and as was the case more often than not struck the stone in its center and knocked it to the other side of the yard. Smiling and laughing, the other players jumped on Timpoochee and smothered him in the ground as a playful acknowledgment of his victory.

Getting up from the pile of boys, Timpoochee saw his grandmother and mother smiling at him and came running to them.

“How wonderful to see Grandmother Ama enjoying the sunshine,” he said to Swift Deer as he sat down beside the old woman and took her hand.

“She seems to be enjoying the warmth,” Swift Deer said. “Almost as much as she enjoys your company.”

“I hope she does not think ill of me for bruising her.”

“But you saved her life, my son. How can she think ill of you after such a brave act?”

“I should have saved Old Hunter,” Timpoochee said, eyes dropping to the ground.

“None of that talk,” Swift Deer countered. “There was nothing more you could have done. Your courage took you as far as your young body could go. You did well and brought honor to our house.”

“Still, I wish Old Hunter could be with us and share his tales,” Timpoochee sighed.

“I said none of it,” Swift Deer sharply ordered. “I will hear no more of that talk.

“Now, look down the row of houses, to the house of Rising Fawn. I would not be surprised to find a bowl of sofkee awaiting a certain young boy who might happen upon it.”

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Act 40: A fire stirring within... by Steve Hart

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Timpoochee squinted his eyes, trying to see if he could spot a bowl of sofkee on the ground outside Rising Fawn’s house.

“You have repeated the conversation we had the other day, haven’t you mother.”

“Perhaps I had a word or two with Rising Fawn’s household,” Swift Deer replied in mock defense. “There is nothing wrong with that. It's time you start thinking about young women.”

For some time a fire had been stirring in Timpoochee. He wanted desperately to experience the same pleasure with a girl described by the older students of the Medicine.

There was in the community an easy sexual climate for the young, as there was in most towns in those days. The young girls and boys were encouraged to experiment with each other before getting married. After marriage, polygamous relationships were strictly forbidden and punishable by death if discovered. Courtship or marriage within one’s clan was forbidden, too, considered incestuous.

Timpoochee paid attention to Rising Fawn often since the days when they were young. She was a delight to watch. Her shining skin the same beautiful color of the cedar branch after it’s rubbed to a golden hue. Timpoochee watched her at public ceremonies, her bright black hair shimmering like a crow’s feathers, her breasts bouncing with her graceful rhythm only just enough to display their firmness and through them the strength that is within her.

Just a season younger than Timpoochee, Rising Fawn had been watching him, too. He noticed.

It was not only the color of his skin which made Timpoochee stand out nor, even, his stature as son of Duweuwewanidatsi but also the sharpness of his features and his manner, the way he smiled patiently, his attentiveness to the elders, his physical strength and his abilities on the water.

Timpoochee was not the only in whom a fire was growing. It was growing within Rising Fawn, too.

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