Short Stories » Hootay of the Little Rosebud

Hootay of the Little Rosebud - Page 3 of 5

Again he took the lead and the wild hunter followed. The wolf looked back now and then as if to see whether the man were coming.

At last he paused upon a projecting bank commanding the bottom of the gulch. The Sioux approached him. When he had come very near, the wolf went on down the slope.

'Hi, hi!" Zechah spoke his thanks with arms outstretched toward the rising sun. Through a rift in the bank he saw a lone bison, ploughing up the deep snow in search of grass. He was well covered with snow and had not seen the two hunters appear above. Zechah at once dodged backward in order to approach his game behind cover and stealthily.

He was now almost over the gulch, partly concealed by a bunch of dead thistles. There was no suspicion in the mind of Tatanka. Zechah examined his arrows and bow. He placed the sharpest one to his bow-string, and with all the strength that he could muster he let the arrow fly. In another instant he saw Tatanka snort and plough up the snow like mad, with the arrow buried deep in his side. The bison did not know who or what had dealt him such a deadly thrust. He ran in a circle and fell upon the snow, while blood coursed from his nostrils, staining its whiteness.

Zechah was almost overcome by his good-fortune. Again he held his right hand outstretched toward the sun, and stood motionless.

"Hi, hi, hi, hi! tunkashela!" Thus he blessed the Father of all.

When the March thaw set in, the snow was melted off the south side of the hills. Hootay had doubtless had this danger in mind, for he could not have selected a more excellent place to avoid the catastrophe. But, alas! the best calculations will sometimes miscarry. It was nothing more than a stray root of the cedar-tree at his door which deviated the course of the water, running harmlessly down the hill, into Hootay's home. In a short time the old medicine-man was compelled to come out, drenching wet.

He sat down on a dry corner of the mound to meditate upon his future course. In his younger days he would have thought nothing of this misfortune, but now he was old and rheumatic. No inhabitant of that country knew better than he that it is not safe to sleep in the woods on the bottom-lands in the spring of the year. Hootay is a boastful hunter, often over - confident, yet wise in wood- craft, and what he has once learned he never forgets. He knew that when a thaw comes all the hills contribute their snow and water to the Little Rosebud, and for a few days it runs a mighty river. Even Chapa, the beaver, is wont at such times to use his utmost precautions to guard against disaster.

Hootay carefully considered the direction of the wind, sniffed the air to discover if any other wild hunter were near, and finally set out in a southwesterly direction toward the head of the Little Rosebud.

He had not gone far when he felt that he was scarcely equal to tramping through the slush and mud. More than this, he was leaving too broad a trail behind him. These considerations led him along the pine ridges, and for this course there was still another reason. He was hungry now, but there was little hope of meeting with any big game. Along the ridges there is early exposure of the ground where edible roots may be obtained, and where he hoped also to find dry bedding.

He had fair success in this, and had made himself somewhat comfortable when the blizzard set in. He had found tolerable shelter but very little food, and since his winter rest was so unexpectedly broken up, food he must have. As soon as the storm ceased, he had to venture out in search of it. He could no longer depend upon roots the snow was far too deep for that. He must catch what he could. The old fellow was now almost hopelessly slow and weak, but he still had a good deal of confidence in himself.

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