Children of the Coyote
The History of the Fug-a-we
It has been many seasons since a skinny youngster
without a name was called by Coyote to leave his village on an important quest, returning
with the gift of fire, song and dance.The young man is now in the automn of life and a
respected elder of the tribe.
The camp of the Fug-a-we has also changed over the years and
has moved several times, as game in the area is depleted or the smell of the piles of
human waste around the camp becomes intolerable. Then the elders call for a council and
hunters are sent out to find another suitable campsite.
The present location of the village is south and west of the original
site by many miles and closer to the shining mountains. The hunters have chosen well. The
great herds of grass eaters blacken the prairie in all directions. The stream runs fast
and clear as it meanders through the long line of cottonwoods along its banks. The camp is
located on a large oxbow of the stream. Trees are spread throughout the area, providing
shade, and protection from the winds that sweep across the plains. There is also an
abundance of fire wood.
In the intervening years the shelters have become more than just
brush covered huts. To keep out the rain and cold the people have begun covering their
dwellings with the hides of the animals they hunt. When the ground is soft enough, or when
the cold season is approaching, the villagers dig out an area two to three feet deep and
large enough to accommodate several people. This is time consuming and difficult work
since few tools have been developed. The digging is done with sticks, the scapulas of
large animals, and bare hands. They then construct a framework of poles and occasionally
the scavenged tusks or bones of the rare mammoth. This frame is tied together with strips
of moistened animal hide. Fresh, or soaked skins are then stretched over the frame and
stitched together with hide laceing. A hole is left in the center of the roof to allow
smoke to exit. The framework is made wider than the excavation to form a shelf that is
used for a sleeping platform and storage area. The shelf is covered with hides to keep the
cold of the earth from the sleepers. The floor is also covered in the same way. The
excavated dirt is piled around the outside edges of the shelter to keep out drafts and
rain water. There is always at least one such lodge built to house the elders and to be
used as a meeting house in bad weather.
In the warm months of summer the ruder huts of brush are still used by
most of the tribe, a single fire is built in the middle of the camp for communal cooking
or the ceremonies and celebrations that are becoming more a part of village life.
The "family" lodges are considered the property of the women.
Although the construction is a group effort, the maintenance of the dwellings is the
responsibility of the females. Each day they and their older children can be seen making
repairs, or collecting fire wood and stacking it around their homes.
Until males become adults, they live in their mother's hut, then they
move into a communal lodge with other young men. With in a short time after entering
puberty women generally move into their own shelters and begin entertaining young men.
Occasionally an old man and woman will share a dwelling but that is rare.
Customs are beginning to develop. Fewer women go on the hunts now. Only
the pubescent young girls still participate. They wait until the animals are slain, then
they take charge of the butchering. Skinning a large carcass with the very crude naturally
formed rock flakes which they use for knives is difficult work but the girls fall to the
task with good humor and energy. They chat and laugh as they open the stomachs of the
animals and remove the tastiest morsels passing them around to be eaten as they work. The
men help out when any particularly large animal has to be rolled over or some other heavy
work is required. The animals they are able to kill are of the smaller variety, deer,
antelope goats, and rabbits. It is virtually impossible for the sharpened, fire hardened
sticks they use as spears, to penetrate the hide of an elk or bison or especially that of
the mammoth but they work to good effect on smaller game.
Occasionally the hunters are able to catch a mammoth or bison who has
mired in a mud hole or swamp. When this happens, the men wait until the unfortunate beast
becomes too weak to resist, then they wade into the mud and bludgeon it to death with
their crude clubs. It takes the combined effort of all the males and females to extricate
one of these large herbivores from the mire.
While butchering is being done the men stand guard to repel the large
predators and scavengers that gather to steal the humans hard won groceries.
With a large animal such as a buffalo the meat is cut up, and packaged
for transport back to the camp. They place it on the fresh hides and tie the corners and
edges together. If there are poles available the bundles are suspended from the poles and
carried by two people walking one behind the other with the pole on their shoulder. If
there are no poles then the meat is put into smaller packages, and each individual carries
a bundle home. Smaller game such as deer are carried back to the camp whole. A division of
labor is beginning to take place among this group of what will some day become the most
efficient predators on the planet.
Bringer of fire lives alone. His hut is a dome shaped structure of
sticks and brush. Feathers, skulls and bones of many creatures adorn the hut suspended
from any branch that happens to protrude from the structure. Above the low entrance
suspended from two crossed poles and stretched on a hoop is the long beard of an ancient
buffalo. The horns of the beast cap the poles. Bringer is considered something of a shaman
by the people, or as much of one as the Fug-a-we have, and he prefers to practice his
skills and experiments in private.
It is now mid summer, a young man sits near the entrance to Bringer Of
Fire's hut, as he has every morning for the last two moons. As the sun begins to rise, the
old man emerges from the hut. Bending low to clear the doorway, he acknowledges the youth
with a nod of his head. The youngster nods in return, stands and follows Bringer to the
center of the village where the old man performs the fire ritual. Taking a hand full of
sticks from the stack near the fire pit he mumbles a few words under his breath and places
the kindling on the pile of hot coals, just so. After some more incantations he blows
gently on the embers. The sticks begin to smolder then burst into flame. When the flames
are well established, Bringer nods to the youth.
The boy moves to the wood pile near by and selects a few pieces he
judges to be just the right size. Some are about the thickness of his thump others
slightly larger. He places them carefully on the fire then looks at the old man for
The old man nods his head again then says, "Bring some of the
larger logs for the flames to eat.
The boy goes to the stack and drags two limbs as thick as his arm and
as long as his height to the fire.
"Place them across the fire" Bringer instructs. "Yes
like that, one across the other. "Now bring two more and lay them across in the other
direction." He says.
The boy complies.
While this is being done, a woman emerges from one of the huts at the
inner circle of dwellings and approaches the fire. When she arrives, she addresses Bringer
"I will tend the flames now Bringer Of Fire, thank you for the
gift." She says softly, with a slight nod of her head.
"Thank you for your attendance to the flames."Bringer replies
formally as he rises to his feet and starts back to his hut. The boy follows.
When they arrive at Bringer's hut the old man reaches inside the
doorway and retrieves the buffalo scull with its puffball and hands it to the boy. The
youngster accepts it with reverence . He knows what to do and retraces his steps to the
fire. After retrieving a few of the hottest colas, and placing them in the mushroom, he
returns to Bringer's hut and sets the scull before the door. He then sits down and waits
for the old man to come out.
Presently, Bringer's head appears at the low doorway. He reaches down
to collect the scull and as he does so, he notices the boy sitting on the ground.
"Why do you sit on the ground in front of my hut, young one?"
He asks. "Don't you have chores to do for your mother. Or games to play with the
other children?" He asks, with a twinkle in his eye.
"I have no chores to do, and I am not a child." The boy says
defiantly, his voice cracking.
"Oh, then why are you not with the hunters making meat for the
tribe?" Bringer says through his smile.
"There will be no hunting today." The young man
replies."Yesterdays hunt was very successful, there is enough meet in camp to keep
the women busy making jerky and cooking for several days." He takes a deep breath and
comes to the point.
"For the last two cycles of the night traveler, I have been your
apprentice. I have watched you very carefully and I know the secrets of making a fire, and
keeping the magic of the coals alive. I know that you are very wise and I know that you
are the only one of the Fug-a-we to have completed a quest."
He takes another breath, then continues.
"I know that the great Coyote gave you the secret of the flames
and that you successfully returned with that secret to the tribe, thus earning your
The old man nods hid head and watches the boy fidget.
The young fellow clears his throat and continues. "For many nights
now I have had a dream."
He stops and looks at the ground, then at the old man standing above
him. "I don't know what to make of it" he says. "I need your advice."
He looks into the old ones' eyes and can see in them, the reflection of
a frightened boy.
Bringer Of Fire sits down in front of the youth and takes both of the
boys' hands in his own and says. "You must tell me everything you can remember about
your dream. Then perhaps I can advise you as to the correct trail for you to follow."
The youngster relaxes and begins to speak more freely.
"I dream that I am a long ways from the village of the Fug-a-we,
in a land that I do not recognize. There is no grass, only piles of stone, but not like
any stone I have ever seen before."
The boy swallows, then continues. "The stone is all black and
shiny it glints in the sun light and dazzles my eyes. When I can see again Coyote is
standing in front of me. He speaks to me but I can not hear his words. Then he turns and
walks away from me to the Northwest . He stops and speaks but again I can not hear the
words. He continues moving away and speaking until he is out of site. Then I awake, and it
is morning. I spend the whole day thinking about the dream."
The boy looks deep into the old mans eyes and asks. "What does it
mean uncle? Does it mean that I must go on a quest as you did?"
The old one looks at their hands and then into the eyes of the young
man before him. He takes a breath, lets out a sigh and nods.
"Yes" he says softly. You must go on a long journey to the
Northwest there you will find the land of the black rocks. There you will hear the words
of Coyote and he will give you knoledge that will be very important to the people. You
will find your true name in that land and you will bring honor to yourself and prosperity
to the Fug-a-we."
Again the old man looks down at their hands then looks back at the boys
"I too, have had troubling dreams" he says. "I dreamed
of a young man in the wilderness. A young man on a quest. I did not know his face until
now. This ones journey is froth with danger. The four legged people are against him. Even
the great forces of this world attempt to hinder his progress. His only allies are Coyote
and him self."
The old man brightens, as he smiles at the youngster.
"Unlike, when I wandered off onto the prairie as a young man,
without food or weapons. You will be well prepared. We, the Fug-a-we will see to it. You,
make this journey on our behalf so it is our duty to you, as well as to ourselves to give
you every possibility of success. I will call a council. The tribe will decide what you
With that, Bringer stands and begins pacing back and forth in front of
his hut, talking to himself under his breath. After a moment he notices that the yungster
is still sitting on the ground looking very small and very frightened.
"What's the mater boy?" Bringer asks gently.
"I.... I'm afraid" the young man replies quietly.
"Hmmmm, yes I understand, of coarse" Bringer mumbles
scratching his ear. "But.... but" he stammeres . "This is a very important
mission that you are being asked to perform by the Great Coyote."
"I am just a boy, and I am afraid I will fail" the youngster
says, slowly, quietly.
"Nonsense" the old man blusters. "We will outfit you
with the very best that the Fug-a-we have. You are a smart young man and you will have the
help of Coyote him self. It will be a grate adventure and you will return a man, and a
hero." Bringer marches off to convene the council, rubbing his hands together and,
"I am so relieved" He mumbles."When I had the dreams I
thought Coyote was calling me but he is only asking me to help this youngster, and help
him I will. Anything that's in my power to do I will do. This is obviously some thing of
The young man sits in the dirt looking at his hands. "But, I'm
just a boy" he says to him self. "Just a boy." His mind turned inward, he
does not hear the approaching foot steps. When the hand touches his shoulder his head
jerks up and he turns to see a young female standing behind him.
"What has happened, my friend?" Inquires the girl. "You
look as though there is something very wrong."
"I am afraid there is" he answers.
"What is it? Can I do anything to help?" She asks.
"No, there is nothing you can do" he says dismally.
The girl sits down next to him. She places a hand on his and says.
"Tell me about it maybe there is something that this one can do."
He looks at her face. A face he knows well. Since she was old enough to
walk this girl has followed him where ever he went. Tagging along when he and the other
boys went to trap fish, and pestering to be taken along when the boys went out to hunt the
long eared hair of the plains. For some reason she always wanted to be included in every
thing he did, always close by, always ready to help.
He did not understand why but in resent years, when the other young men
would try to chase her off he would come to her defense. He would remind them that she was
as good a hunter and fish trapper as they, and that if she was not allowed to go, then he
would not go ether.
Often the other boys would go off with out them. At these times he and
the girl would hunt alone. They made a good team. They successfully hunted rabbits,
bringing back more than the other youngsters. They consistently brought home more fish
than any of the boys. Together they even managed to bring down a deer by chasing it into a
bog and bludgeoning it to death.
In all that time together he had never seen her the way he saw her now.
He looks deep into her dark brown eyes. A strange tingle goes through him as she looks
back. He looks away. He knows that he will miss this girl, his best friend, when he is
away on his quest.
She reaches a hand up and touches his cheek, bringing his face around
so that she can look at his eyes again. "What ever it is, you must tell me" she
He sighs, then explains about his dreams, and about the conversation
with the old one. He tells her how afraid he is. He also tells her that no mater how much
fear he has, he will do what he must for the tribe.
"I will go with you" she announces.
"No"! He says, a little to harshly. "No" he says
again, more gently. "You can not go. It will be to dangerous."
"I am not afraid" she replies. "Have I not always been
at your side?" She asks. "There are just as many dangers here, and you will need
some one to help with this undertaking. I have the same skills as you. Together we learned
how to hunt and how not to be seen by the large predators of this land. We are a
team" she argues.
"No! The old one told me that every hand will be against me on
this quest, even the forces of nature. I can't risk something happening to you." He
'Why not" she asks looking deep into his eyes.
"Because I..... I just cant, that's why." He turns his head
away from her so she can not look into his eyes.
They sit silently for some moments, then the girl rises and walks away
with out another word.
The young man sighs. "That was too easy" he thinks.
"She's planing something, I know it." With a shrug and a shake of his
head, the youth stands and heads toward the central fire to see if he can find
anything there to eat. All this talk has made him hungry.
As the girl walks away she is already rehearsing what she will say to
the council to convince them that she be allowed to accompany her friend on this dangerous
journey. "And if they refuse" she thinks. "I will find another
The council fire burns high, sending sparks flying into the night sky.
The elders sit in the inner circle around the fire. The rest of the
tribe arrange them selves around the outer ring, conversing in low tones, waiting for the
council to begin. When all have arrived, Speaks First In Council shakily struggles to his
feet his arthritic old legs quivering under his slight frame.
He peers around at his people myopically. Leaning on the staff that is
his constant companion these days. He takes a deep breath and addresses the tribe.
"My people, I am Speaks First In Council" he begins.His voice
rasps like sand blowing across the rocks of the southern prairie.
"There is something of great importance that we must discuss this
night." A rattling cough racks his old frame. He wipes spital from his lips and
"Our old friend, Bringer Of Fire informs me that one of our young
men has been summoned by Coyote to undertake a mission of great importance to the
people." Again the cough rattles in the old man's chest. He waits untill his breath
returns, then continues.
"We must listen to the words of Bringre Of Fire and those of the
boy then decide in what way we can best serve this quest, and this brave young man."
He indicates Bringer with a nod of his head and sits down, coughing up
phlegm and spiting it into the fire.
Bringer Of Fire stands and walks around the fire with his arms folded
across his chest an expression of thoughtfulness on his old lined face.
"You know me. I am Bringer Of Fire." He begins.
He Then proceeds to recite the history of the Fug-a-we. He tells of how
they were called into the world of light by Coyote and all that they had endured and
learned since that day. He relates the story of his own quest. Altho they have heard these
stories many times the people listen with raped attention. The have great respect for
their elders, especially this ancient hero, and they all enjoy hearing the story of their
origin and the deeds of valor performed by their tribesmen.
Finally he comes to the reason for calling this council. He tells them
of his dream and how he interprets it. When Bringer has finished, he points a finger at
his young apprentice and in a gentile voice bids him to rise and address the council.
The boy stands and uncertainly makes his way to the space in the circle
between the elders and the fire. He shuffles his feet, looking at the ground. He clears
his throat and begins to speak softly.
"I a.. am Fug-a-we he mumbles."
"Speak up" says a voice from the group surrounding him.
"Speak up that we may here your words of wisdom oh great 'Lizardfoot'" A chuckle
rises from the young people in the group. Lizardfoot knows that voice. It's the voice of
his life long rival. He, that the young ones call 'Bigmouth.'
It is the tradition among the Fug-a-we that adults earn their names by doing some thing
for the good of the tribe. It has become no less a tradition among the young people of the
tribe to give eachother names. Generally these are some what uncomplimentary, denoting
some physical abnormality or characteristics that are outstanding. In our hero's case, he
is called 'Lizardfoot' because of his extra long toes. 'Bigmouth' got his name for obvious
reasons. Not all the Fug-a-we can do outstanding service to the tribe and in resent times
some of the adults have been given names by friends, or have taken names for them selves.
Many retain their childhood names. Of coarse there are the older ones who hold on to
tradition and simply refer to them selves as Fug-a-we.
There has been animosity between Lizardfoot and Bigmouth ever since the
girl 'Tagalong' attached her self to Lizardfoot.
He stares at his antagonist until the chuckles of the young people
subside. Then he begins again, speaking loudly and attempting to control the occasional
octave changes that characterize the speech of males of his age. He relates his dreams to
the audience, and pronounces his willingness to under take the commission that Coyote has
given him. He promises to do his best to fulfill what ever duties are placed upon him and
to return with the grate secret or knowledge that Coyote will disclose to him. When he
finishes speaking, he returns to his place in the outer circle.
There are many who speak before the council that night, some have a
contribution to make to the discussion, others just enjoy speaking to hear themselves
Big Mouth stands before the group relating his achievements as a hunter
"Why do you send this child on a mission of such great importance.
I should be the one to go I am older and stronger. I am a great hunter. I should be the
one to go on this quest, not this.... this.... boy!"
He turns his back on the council, struts to his place in the outer
circle and sits down with his arms folded across his chest.
A ripple of discussion goes through the group around the fire, then one
of the elders, a woman, stands and addressed the tribe.
"Fug-a-we. You know me," she begins. "I am Jerks Meat
In a proud voice she describes her achievements as the inventor of the
method used to dry meat for future consumption. Eventually she comes to her point.
"I say, the young one, who is known as 'Lizardfoot' was called by
Coyote to perform this task. It is not up to the Fug-a-we to decide. The decision has
already been made and we must do every thing in our power to insure the success of his
mission." After a breath she continues. "I will prepare a pack of jerky from the
best cuts of meet for this young man to take with him on his journey."
With a nod of her head to Lizardfoot she sits back down.
One of the adult males stands and looks around at the crowd.
"You know me" He says. "I am, Spear Maker."
After relating all his past achievements he says, "I also believe
that it is the choice of Coyote, not of the council, to decide who is to go. I am known
for the quality of my spears, and I will contribute to the success of this undertaking by
making a new spear of the finest hardwood, and I will scrape the end to the sharpest point
achievable. I will perform the fire hardening ritual with great care. It will be the
finest weapon I can produce." He nods to Lizard Foot and returns to his place.
An old lady shuffles to the center of the circle, squints around at the
group and commences to speak.
"I am Fug-a-we" she begins. "I have seen many seasons
and have lived without a name." She pauses to collect her thoughts.
"Over the years I have learned a thing or two. One of the things I
have learned, I learned from the one called Grass Twister." She Indicates the woman
elder with a nod of her head. "Grass Twister taught me how to make strong cordage
from the fibrous plants that grow in the bottom lands along the streams."
She takes in a rasping breath, and then continues.
"I listen to the telling of the young ones dream and the mention
of the land of rocks. I think to my self. What can this old woman do to help our young
hero? I have the answer."
Again the woman pauses and looks at Lizard Foot.
"I have been working on a way to cover the feet of the people with
twisted grasses. I am close to a solution and I will work to complete a pair of foot
coverings for the youth to ware on his long journey." With that said, the woman
shuffles back to the edge of the circle and sits down.
Another of the old ones stands and slowly makes his way to the area in
front of the fire using a stick for support. He peers around at his fellow tribesmen, and
after a few moments begins to speak.
"Fug-a-we" he says in his shaky old mans voice. "I too,
have seen many seasons both bellow and above the ground. I too have lived without a name.
I am proud to be called simply Fug-a-we. I am old and in a few seasons I will be taken to
the ridge above the first camp and placed on a scaffold as the friends who have gone
before me have. Before I leave this world for what ever is next, I want to make a lasting
contribution to my people."
He stops and thinks for a moment, clears his throat, then continues.
"I have been working on a way to throw rocks farther and harder
than a man can throw with his arm alone. I will have my rock throwing device ready in time
for this youngster to take on his journey."
The old man points at Lizard Foot with his cane. "He will need
some instruction and practice before he is proficient with this new tool. I can instruct
him and he can practice while on his journey. That is all I have to say."
With that, he returns to his seat.
On and on it goes, each member of the tribe having his or her say. Some
offering physical assistance, others moral support.
Finally a young girl stand's, and strides into the circle.
"I am Fug-a-we" she begins, in the accepted manner of
addressing the council. "I am young and strong and I am a good hunter. I have many
skills to offer, but most of all, I am a friend of the one called Lizardfoot. I ask this
council to allow me to go with him on his quest."
She turns to look at the elders hoping for some sign that they might
agree but their old faces remain impassive, unreadable. She turns back to other members of
Lizard Foot is looking at her with wide eyes, his mouth hanging open in
disbelief. Finely coming to his senses he leaps to his feet.
"No"! He shouts. "It is too dangerous. You can not allow
this little girl to go on such a dangerous mission"
He looks pleadingly at the elders, who are speaking quietly amongst
"She is too young. She will be just one more thing for me to worry
about." He continues.
"I am not a little girl!" She replies loudly, looking at the
young man defiantly, with her hands on hips her head held high. "I am a
woman" She declares. "My woman's blood came to me two hands of days ago and I am
no longer a little girl."
"How could this be," Lizardfoot thinks looking at the
girl, as if for the first time. "How could this have happened with out my even
noticing? How had I missed the signs? The subtle changes in her shape. The
budding breasts, the curve of her hips. Have I been blind, or have I just not
wanted to see?"
"Close your mouth, Lizardfoot," the young woman says with one
corner of her mouth curving up into a suppressed smile. "Put your eyes back in your
With a snap, Lizardfoot, comes back to the present and the council.
Bringer Of Fire, rises to his feet and clears his throat loudly to get
the attention of the two young people and the rest of the tribe.
"The elders have heard your request, young ah... woman and we
appreciate that which you have offered" He begins. "We have discussed
the mater and have made a decision."
He pauses looking at the circle of elders. They all nod, so he
continues. "Since in neither the dream of the one you call Lizardfoot, or in my own
dream, was there any indication of another person on the quest. The council of elders feal
that Coyote ment for only the young man to follow this trail. Therefor it is our decision
that Lizardfoot go alone into the land of black rocks."
"But!" The girl begins to protest.
"That is our decision!" Says Bringer holding up his hand to
silence any further argument.
With clenched fists the young woman spins around, stomps from the
council fire and heads across the village toward her mother's shelter.
Lizardfoot, catches up with Tagalong just as she reaches the hut.
"Wait!" he calls out, taking hold of her elbow.
Spinning around with her fists clenched she punches him hard in the
"Woofff" he says as he doubles over. "What the? Why did
you do that"? He gasps
"I'm angry! Just leave me alone!" She barks, and disappears
into the shelter.
"But I...... We.... you." He stammers. "Humph" he
He turns and walks sulkily to his own mothers dwelling. He goes inside,
throws himself on his sleeping furs and stares at the sealing.
"I don't understand" he mutters. "We were friends this
morning and now she punches me in the stomach and acts like she hates me. I'm only trying
to protect her. I don't under stand" he groans.
Big Mouth, nudges one of his cronies, winks and nods in the direction
of Tagalong as she stomps from the council circle.
By announcing her womanhood Tagalong has announced to the males of the
tribe that she is old enough for breeding. Now she can choose any male with whom she wants
There are strict rules among the Fug-a-we concerning the rights of
females when it comes to copulation. Although occasionaly couples form monogamous
relationships. Most of the women couple with whomever catches their fancy at the time. All
offspring are considered to be the children of the tribe and seldom know who their fathers
are. Adult males are referred to as "uncle" by the younger members of the tribe.
The women generally have an idea of which child is sired by which male, and It is the
their responsibility to see that inbreeding is held to a minimum.
Occasionally there will be a child who is born with a genetic deformity
but this is rare. Life is so hard for the people of the prairie that these children often
die within the first year. If the deformity is sever enough the child is taken out
secretly at birth by the mother or grandmother and left on the plains as an offering to
the wolves ( the women's own private deity).
Men never force them selves on a female. To do so is to be banished
from the tribe for ever. This is the strongest punishment the Fug-a-we impose, it is
tantamount to a sentence of death, for no one can survive alone on the prairie with out
weapons or provisions for long.
As with all important expeditions and community efforts, this one is
plagued with delays. Lizardfoot hoped to be on his way within a day of the council. The
sun has risen five times and he is still not underway.
The spear maker had not found just the right sapling for his spear
until the third day.
The old lady who offered the foot coverings is having problems
The rock thrower is complete but difficult to use, and even though a
rock can indeed be thrown harder and farther with this device, accuracy is very difficult
to achieve. The thrower is also bulky. It is made from a piece of wood slightly longer
than a man's forearm and shaped something like a ladle. The old man is working on another
idea but feels it will not be perfected by the time Lizardfoot is ready to leave.
The most difficult thing for Lizardfoot, is to learn the new technique
Bringer Of Fire has developed to actually make fire, almost on demand.
Bringer has been trying to perfect a reliable method for starting fires
for many seasons. Within only the last six months he has made a significant breakthrough.
Over the years when time permitted, Bringer tried many different ideas. He knew from
working with coals that once one has a glowing ember he can build that ember into a fire
with little difficulty. The trick (the magic) is in producing that initial ember. His
first great discovery was that friction causes heat. From that point it has been a process
of trial and error, experimenting with many methods and materials. Eventually he obtained
results by using one flat piece of very dry cottonwood for a base, and a cottonwood branch
as a sort of scraper. By bering down and scraping a groove, length wise into the base
board he creates a small pile of dust at one end of the groove. If he continues vigorously
rubbing, after considerable labor, occasionally, a small ember will form. The next thing
to do is to transfer that ember to a nest of tinder, breathe life into the coal and
"viola" The magic of fire. Bringer, feels that it is very significant that he
has discovered this magic just in time for his apprentice's and by extension, the tribe's
Lizardfoot, ducks his head and enters Bringer of fire's hut. The old
man is off on some business but Lizardfoot knows what he needs and where to find it. Soon
he is busy practicing with the fire making tools. After a long time and considerable
effort, he notices a small curl of smoke rising from the pile of dust at the end of the
groove on the baseboard. He breaths softly on the dust pile and sees it begin to glow
brightly. Lizardfoot picks up the board and gently transfers the glowing pile of wood dust
to the nest of tinder he has prepared. Again he blows gently on the small ember, it
brightens. He folds the nest loosely around the coal and continues to blow. The shredded
cottonwood bark begins to glow. He blows harder, the glow increases and smoke begins to
rise from the nest. Again he blows. The smoke begins to thicken, then the nest bursts into
flame, singing his eyebrows and causing him to drop it. Excitedly he jumps to his feet,
strikes his head on the old mans stone club that is hanging above him, and sits back down.
He rubs the top of his head and stares at the small blaze before him. He watches as the
tiny flame consumes the nest and flickers out. Then he stands, more carefully this time,
and leaves the hut to find Bringer and tell him of his success.
As he is exiting the hut he notices Bringer approaching. He waits for
the old man.
"I have good news uncle. I have made a fire with the magic fire
sticks. I have finally performed the ritual correctly and the magic works!" He cries
"That's excellent! My boy, excellent!" Bringer exclaims
rubbing his hands together. "I also have good news" he adds. "All the
preparations for your journey are completed. You may leave in the morning.
"But first" he says, holding up a forefinger. "All
those who have prepared something for your trip will gather at the central fire to present
their gifts to you."
Placing a hand on the youths back, he begins maneuvering him toward the
center of the village.
As they walk, Bringer continues to speak.
"Now, After we collect all the equipment, we will return to my
dwelling to sort it out and decided what you will actually take with you. The people are
so enthusiastic about your adventure that every one wants to contribute something."
Bringer Of Fire chuckles, then continues. "There will be far more
than you can possibly carry."
"Tonight, There will be a celebration. The women are even now
preparing food for the feast, and when the feasting is over the tribe will sing and dance
in your honor."
When they arrive at the village center, The tribe is gathered near the
fire pit. A knee-high platform of stacked logs has been set up to one side of the pit.
Bringer Of Fire guides Lizardfoot to the platform and motions him to mount it and sit.
Lizradfoot does as he is instructed and waits as the people arrange themselves before him.
There is some jostling for position but in a short time all find their
places. The elders sit on the ground in a semicircle in front of his platform with the
rest of the tribe standing to either side of them. When all are settled and most of the
conversation has subsided, Speaks First struggles to his feet and raises one hand for
attention. The other hand is clenching his staff firmly. The conversation stops, as Speaks
First squints around at the gathering.
"Fug-a-we" he rasps. Pointing with his free hand at
Lizardfoot, he says. "We are here to present to this young man. All that he will need
to perform his quest successfully."
A hacking cough racks the old mans body and he spits out a wad of
phlegm. Visibly weakened he takes in a raged breath and continues.
Each of you may approach him and present your gift one at a time. That
is all I have to say." Two young men who are standing near, step forward to help the
old man sit back down. He waves them off and manages to seat him self with the help of his
The first to approach Lizardfoot is, Jerks Meat Woman. She presents
Lizardfoot with a large parflech container. "This is the finest dried bison meat that
I am able to produce" she says, as she lays it on the ground before him. "May it
give you strength on your journey."
He nods and says. "Thank you, I know it will."
The next to step forward is the old man who is now being called, Rock
Thrower. He hands Lizardfoot the ladle like implement and a rawhide bag of hand selected,
approximately, spherical river rocks.
"Take this my young friend it will help you to fend off any
enemies you may encounter, and it will aid you in making meat."
He turns and hobbles away on his cane.
"Thank you" Lizardfoot calls after him.
Spear Maker makes his presentation.
Then the old woman who made the sandals, approaches and hands
Lizardfoot two pairs of the foot ware.
On and on it goes. After each has made their presentation, they retire
to their own lodges to prepare for the evening's celebration.
Finally when the last one has departed, the elders stand and approach
Speaks First clears his throat and begins to speak. "I have lived
many seasons below and above ground and my eyes have seen much but I have never seen the
Fug-a-we produce so much in such a short time. Along with this pile of equipment, all our
good thoughts go with you. If this means anything to what ever forces control this world
you will be successful on your quest."
The old man begins to cough again. An elder on each side of him reaches
out to support him. He waves them off and continues to address the youth.
"I will likely be gone to the ridge of the dead by the time you
return young man but I want you to remember that you are a human being, and your duty is
to return to the tribe safely with Coyote's secret. Keep your self safe and return to
us." With that said, the old one turns, and supported by two of the elders shuffles
off toward their communal lodge.
Soon Lizardfoot and Bringer of fire are alone. Lizardfoot is amazed at
the pile of goods. There are crude baskets of grain, piles of rocks, throwing sticks, the
spear from Spear Maker, Coil's of grass-rope, two pairs of grass sandals, piles of the
stiff raw hides, with and without the hair. There are parcels and packages and bags of all
description, some containing strange substances that he does not recognize.
He looks at Bringer, eyes wide with wonder.
"I would not have believed that the people could produce all
this" he declares. "It is as you said. No way will I be able to take all this on
my journey. How will I decide what to take and what not to take? I don't want to anger any
one by not using what they have put so much effort into supplying."
Bringer laughs. "What you can not use will be redistributed among
the tribe. It will not go to waste and no one will be angered. They are not blind. They
know that one man cannot possibly carry all this but they all wished to make a
Bringer looks around and spots three young men squatting in the shade
of a tree talking in low tones.
"You there" Bringer calls out. One of the youths looks in his
direction. "Yes you" He says. "Come, give us some help with this
The young man stands and speaks quietly to his companions. They
chuckle, stand and follow there leader to where Bringer and Lizardfoot wait.
"What's the matter? "Can't the hero of the Fug-a-we carry his
own plunder across the camp with out help from lowly hunters?" He asks sarcastically.
Bigmouth's cronies guffaw and slap him on the back.
"That's a good one Bigmouth." The hooked nosed one says.
"Yeah, a good one" agrees the other. "Hero of the
Fug-a-we, haw, haw, haw."
"What is your problem, Bigmouth?" Asks Lizardfoot. "It's
not like I asked for this responsibility, I would gladly give it up to you if I
"Yeah, yeah sure. How do we know that you even had a dream about
Coyote?" Bigmouth snarls. "How do we know that you aren't just making all this
up to play the big man for your little friend Tagalong?"
"T ... Tagalong?" Lizardfoot stutters exasperated. "This
has nothing to do with her. If anything this has come between Tag and myself. She has not
spoken to me since the night of the council."
Bigmouth sees the pain in Lizard's expression and laughs cruelly.
"Good, then you won't mind if I look after her while you are
gone." He says through a wicked smile. "Since she announced her womanhood she
will no doubt need a strong man to, umm, take care of her."
Bigmouth's two companions giggle and watch the interplay between the
"Enough of this foolishness!" Bringer barks, breaking the
tension. "You will help us transport these burdens to my lodge then you will go about
He stares hard at the three youths.
They inspect their feet.
"Yes we will help you uncle" says Bigmouth, not wishing to
anger the second most politically powerful man in the tribe. He nods to his companions.
With each of the five, taking an armload, they are able to transport
all the gear to the lodge of the fire maker. Depositing their loads, Bigmouth and his
companions leave with out another word.
"Thank you" Bringer calls after them.
They ignore him, walking away in a huddle. Several yards away
Bigmouth's companions begin laughing. The one with the hooked nose turns, looks at
Lizardfoot and laughs again. Then he turns back and continues walking away. They are soon
out of sight behind the other lodges.
Bringer of Fire looks seriously at Lizardfoot. "What was that all
about?" He asks.
"Oh, I don't know, Big mouth is just a bully. He has always
disliked me." Lizard replies.
"Could it be because of the Girl you call Tagalong?" Bringer
"How could that be? She doesn't belong to me, or any one else. She
is a free woman and can choose whom ever she wants." Lizard replies, suppressing his
feelings. "Besides, this animosity toward me has been going on ever since we were
children, I have never understood it."
"Well no matter, we have work to do," the old man says.
They begin going through the pile of equipment. The first thing that
Lizard needs is some thing to carry what he is to take. There are several containers of
different sizes and construction. Some, are crudely woven baskets, others are made of raw
hide, most of these are designed to fold together and be tied with either grass or raw
There is one container maid of rectangular pieces of raw deer skin with
the hair left on. It is laced together to form a box with one end open. .
Bringer dumps the contents, various pieces and strips of hide, on the
"With a small amount of modification this should work well to
carry what you will need" he announces.
"How can I carry this?" Lizard asks. "It will take both
hands. I will not be able to carry the spear."
Bringer sifts through the pile of scraps he has dumped from the box and
finds two long strips of hide that have been pounded to be made flexible. "Ah, this
will work nicely" he mutters. Then he disappears into his lodge.
He emerges a few moments later with one of the naturally formed stone
flakes that the people use for cutting tools. He commences worrying a slot, a hand's
length from the open end of the box and centered between the sides. Bringer makes another
cut about a finger's width below the first one, then he makes more slots at strategic
locations at the bottom. With this done Bringer threads the softened strips of hide
through the slots to form two loops, then he stands.
"Stand up and turn around" he orders Lizard, holding the box
in front of him with the straps facing away.
Lizard does as he is told.
"Now put your arms through the straps" Bringer commands.
Lizard follows orders shrugging the straps up onto his shoulders. The old man pulls down
on the pack.
"How does that feel?" asks Bringer.
"Fine, I guess" Lizardfoot answers.
"Good, now we can decide what to put inside"
Lizardfoot pulls his arms from the straps, and the old man places the
pack on the ground with the open end up.
"The most important thing you will need is food. A man alone on
the prairie has a difficult time with hunting" Bringer says. "So, lets start
They dig through the pile and come up with several containers of food
stuffs. There are bags of nuts, packets of dried berries and the specially dried buffalo
jerky. Several of these packages, they throw into the pack.
Again Bringer enters his hut. When he returns he has the fire board the
scraper and tinder.
"You must keep this safe and dry" he tells Lizardfoot.
"This will be a very important part of your gear. It may even save your life, since
the Four legged ones fear fire."
Lizard reaches into the pile of goods and retrieves a folded parflech
container that is the right size to accept the fire board. He dumps the contents on the
pile and hands the envelope to Bringer.
"The fire kit will be safe in here" Lizard says.
After handing the parflech to Bringer, Lizardfoot reaches down and
picks up one of the items that he had just dumped. It is a flat, grayish cake, about the
size of his palm. It appears to be a mixture of pulverized jerky, fat, and berries. He
sniffs the cake then takes a small bite. His eyebrows rise in surprise. He takes another
"Mmmm" he exclaims as he hands the remains to Bringer.
"Here taste this" he says.
Bringer inspect's the partially eaten cake and then takes a tentative
"Not bad" he exclaims as he stuffs the remainder into his
mouth and chews happily.
"I will want to take these cakes" Lizard declares. "They
are quite good" He looks through the packages and selects one. He dumps out a supply
of dried crickets and replaces them with the cakes then drops the bag into the pack.
"That should take care of food and fire" Bringer says.
"What about weapons?" Lizardfoot asks.
"You will carry the spear of coarse." Bringer of fire
"Will you want to carry the rock thrower and the rocks in the
pack?" He asks.
"I don't think so" Lizardfoot replies. "The rock thrower
is bulky and the rocks are heavy. I can't hit anything with it. Maybe I'll just leave it
here and take a throwing stick." He goes on.
"I think you should take the rock thrower" Bringer replies.
"It could be a very effective long range weapon and you will have time to practice
along the way. You can also take a throwing stick if you like. There are several well
crafted ones in the pile. Take your pick" Bringer offers. "You should Also, take
that small one handed club over there" Bringer says, pointing to the short bludgeon
laying near the heap of equipment.
Lizardfoot lifts the weapon testing it's weight and balance. "This
will do" he says. "How will I carry all these weapons?" He asks.
"I have an idea" Bringer answers. "We can tie a length
of this pounded hide strap around your waste. You can slide the handle of the club under
it with the head up. That way it won't slip through. The rock thrower can be carried in a
similar manner on the other side. The bag of rocks can be suspended at your side for easy
access" he instructs.
"I don't know, it seams like an awful lot of stuff to be dangling
around my waste." Lizard complains.
"Trust me. You will be glad you have them." The old man
"What about these foot coverings?" The lad asks. Picking the
sandal's from the pile and inspecting them. He slips his toes under the strap and takes a
couple of experimental steps.
"They feel strange, I can't sense the ground under my feet and I
think they will slip off"
The old man looks speculatively at the boy's feet then he says
"Try tying those long strings at the back, around your ankles."
Lizard Foot, does as instructed and takes a few more steps.
"They still feel strange but at least now, they won't fall
off" he says. "I'll throw them in the pack. Maybe they will be useful, in the
land of black rocks."
Lizard picks up a coil of grass rope.
"Do you think I should take this?" He asks Bringer.
"By all means! That could be very handy," the old man
Lizard Foot, drops the coil on the pack and sighs. "That should
take care of every thing I will need" he declares. "When I am gone you can
redistribute the rest of this." He waves his arm to indicate the pile of goods.
"Now, I need to take care of some personal business."
Lizardfoot, has been so busy that he hasn't had a chance to talk to his
friend, Tagalong. He has seen her from time to time, talking to the old Rock Thrower, as
he is now being called by the people, or exiting the lodge of the old woman who made the
foot coverings. When ever he tries to approach her, she turns and walks away as if she
hasn't seen him. He doesn't understand. They have been friends since childhood and now she
ignores him, now of all times. As Lizard Foot approaches the lodge of Tagalong's mother he
can see the girl out side talking to Bigmouth. Lizard's stomach knots and he stops in his
tracks. He does not want to confront Bigmouth while Tagalong is present. He watches as the
two talk animatedly. Lizard can't understand the words from this distance but he can see
their gesticulations as they speak. Then he hears her laughing. Obviously Bigmouth is
saying something cleaver and she is enjoying his company. Lizard turns around and retreats
to his own hut.
Bigmouth is a handsome young fellow. He is tall for a
Fug-a-we, well muscled, with good features and a ready smile. Despite his arrogance and
other personality defects he is well thought of among the young females of the tribe. His
strength and aggressive nature make him a good candidate for breeding. More than one
comely maiden has warmed his robes since he entered puberty. Even now his issue is
swelling the belly of at least one Fug-a-we woman. He has come to expect women to succumb
to his charms. It comes as quite a shock to him when this scrawny little girl laughs at
his advances. She calls him a fool and an oaf and tells him to go cool his manhood in some
other pond. Then she turns from him and ducks into the entrance to her mother's shelter.
Bigmouth stands there for a moment, His face turning red the veins
standing out on his head and neck, fists clenched, and his jaw set tight. He turns from
the hut and stomps off toward the creek.
When Big mouth has gone, Tagalong peeks out of the entrance to the
lodge and sighs a sigh of relief. She is not aware that Lizard Foot witnessed the
interplay between her and Bigmouth, or that hearing her laugh he asumes she is enjoying
the conversation and had no doubt accepted Big mouth's advances. She ducks back into her
dwelling and continues her preparations.
It is almost dark when Lizard hears the scratching on the skin of the
hut and the familiar voice. "Hello the lodge," the old man says. "Boy? Are
you in there?" He calls.
"Yes uncle, I am here" Lizard replies.
"Come, my young friend the celebration is about to begin. The
tribe is gathering and if you don't hurry you may not get anything to eat." Bringer
Lizard foot is not in much of a celebrating mood. He is worried about
the coming adventure and upset over what he considers the loss of the girl to Bigmouth.
Even so, his stomach growls at the mention of food so he rises to his feet and ducks out
under the low door of the hut.
"Lets get this over with" Lizard grumbles. "I need some
food, then I need some sleep so I can leave early in the morning."
"Yes, yes of coarse" the old man agrees, as they move off
toward the center of the village.
The feast is well underway when they arrive. There is a deer roasting
on a spit over the coals. A hide is laid out to one side of the fire, on top of witch are
piles of nuts, tubers and various wild fruits. The people are milling around the fire,
tearing off strips of meat from the barbecuing venison and helping them selves to the
sundry foods that are set out.
Lizard makes his way to the fire and secures a large piece of meat. He
stops by the hide of fruits and nuts and scoops up a handful of berries. Then he moves to
a spot slightly away from the milling crowd so he can eat in peace. He sits on the ground
chewing thoughtfully on a bite of meat, watching the moon rise. A sound behind him causes
him to look around. Tagalong is standing there holding a folded hide in her arms.
"Tag"! He blurts out in surprise. "Please, sit here with
me, we must talk" he implores.
The girl lowers her self to the ground next to Lizard and holds out the
skin to him.
"Here take this" she says, offering him the robe. "I
have pounded this hide for the last several days so that it is as flexible as I can make
it. Take it on your journey to keep you warm at night and if the weather becomes cold you
can drape it over your shoulders."
"Thank you" he replies. "It will be good to have
something from you to take with me."
The girl looks at her hands.
"I'm sorry, I've been ignoring you lately but I was very angry
with you for speaking out against my going on this trek" she says a little meekly.
"Well, don't worry about it" he replies. "I'm glad you
are talking to me now. We will at least have a little time tonight."
"What about, Bigmouth? Won't he be angry if he sees us
together?" He asks
"What? Bigmouth? That pompous fool! What does he have to do with
anything?" She says, looking at him curiously.
"I saw you and he laughing together today and just assumed"
he trails off.
"Assumed!" She says, eyes flashing. "Assumed
what!?" She asks angrily.
"Men!" She complains, before he can answer. "You all
think you know everything! You assume, that just because He and I are talking together and
I laugh that I am his! He assumes that just because some of the more foolish females of
this tribe have warmed his robes a time or two, that all women must wilt in his
presence!" She stops for breath, then continues. "I belong to no one! I am a
free woman, and 'I' will chose the man I want! No stupid oaf like Bigmouth will ever have
me!" Angrily she stands to leave.
"Wait!" He pleads, as he reaches up and takes her hand.
She allows her self to be pulled back down to sit beside him.
"I'm sorry. Don't be angry with me again." He says. "I
didn't know what to think when I saw you two together and I."
"Well you could have asked" she interrupts.
"Yes I could have asked" he agrees. "But that's all in
the past" he continues. "Lets not argue about it now. This is my last night here
and who knows what may befall me in the future. Lets enjoy our last night together."
"Yes" she agrees. "Lets not argue tonight" she
whispers looking into his eyes. Again Lizard feels that strange tingling, when she looks
The people have finished eating, and are ready to celebrate. Two men carry a hollow log
over and set it down near the fire. Two other men join them with sticks. They all sit down
at the log. Each man takes a stick and begins to pound out the rhythm of a heart beat on
"Thrump thump... Thrump thump... Thrump thump... Thrump thump."
Every one begins to gather around the fire. The women
form a circle and begin to sway to the rhythm, Then as if by some silent signal they all
begin to step sideways with small steps circling the fire in a clock wise direction, the
log drum setting the pace.
Step step... Step step... Step step...... As they move they sway their
bodies to the sound of the drum.
The men form a circle around that of the women, and begin to move in
the opposite direction, swing there arms back and forth.
Thrump thump... thrump thump... thrump thump... The drum continues.
Bringer Of Fire steps up behind the drummers and begins
"HI YIY... HI YIY... HI YIY... HI YO." "HI YIY... HI
YIY... HI YIY... HI YO" he sings.
The women answer him after each line.
"HI YO... HI YO... HI YO... HI YIY" they sing back.
The men begin singing along with the women. Their male voices blending
with the alto's and soprano's of the females. After a while the
drumming ceases. The dancing stops and the people stand around the fire, laughing and
Lizard Foot and Tagalong sit and watch the silhouettes moving against
the flickering light of the fire. A shuddering sigh escapes Lizard Foot.
Tag looks at him and can see the glint of the fire on his moistened
cheek. She reaches over and touches his face.
"What's wrong?" She asks.
"I will miss the people" he says miserably. "I will miss
the singing and the dancing. I ... I will miss my best friend."
"And who might that be?" She asks in a teasing tone.
"That might be you, you silly little girl." He replies with a
grin poking a finger in her ribs. She jumps out of his reach. "I ... er, we will be
here when you return" she assures him giggling.
"But, what if I don't return? He says quietly." What if I die
out there, so far from my people. There will be no one to take my bones to the funeral
ridge. Only wolves and scavengers to scatter my remains across the plains." He looks
down at the ground shaking his head.
She places a hand on his hand. "You will return" she assures
"I need to get some sleep" he says, as he stands to leave.
"I want to get an early start tomorrow."
Taking his hand, she pulls her self up beside him. "I will walk
with you to your mothers lodge. Perhaps, when you return I will have a lodge of my
She bends down and picks up the hide she had brought him. "You
will need this" she says, handing the softened buffalo calf robe to him.
The drum begins again as they are leaving, a faster driving rhythm this
"Rum,pum, rum,pum.. rum,pum.. rum,pum." Then the high wailing
tones of the snake song begin's.
The two young people sit in the dark at the entrance to Lizard's
mother's lodge listening to the drumming and talking softly. Presently Lizard gets to his
"It's time for sleep he says" as he reaches down to her. She
takes his hands and pulls her self to her feet and into his arms. They embraced then she
pushes her self out to arm's length.
"Come back" she chokes, then she turns and walks away.
Lizard watches her as she disappears into the darkness, Then he turns
and ducks into the shelter.
For a long time he lays awake listening to the sounds of the village