Short Stories » A Founder of Ten Towns

A Founder of Ten Towns - Page 3 of 5

He did not go far, but when he had found a level, grassy plateau, commanding all the approaches, he began without delay to dig a home for himself, for he is not safe a moment without a home. The herald sat a little way off upon a stray bowlder, and occasionally he would fly out for a short distance and then return.

The sun hovered over Fox Ridge, and long columns of shadow were cast by the hills. Pezpeza, weary with his journey and the work of digging a home at least deep enough for a night's occupancy, had laid himself away in it to sleep. The herald, as usual, constituted himself a night-watch, and perched upon the newly made mound. There he sat with his head sunk deep in his soft feathers.

No sooner had the sun set in the west than the full moon appeared in the east, but the owl still sat motionless. He did not move even when a gray wolf came trotting along the buffalo- trail. When he came opposite the mound he stopped and held his muzzle low. At last he cautiously advanced, and when he was dangerously near the owl flew away and the wolf rushed upon the mound, and stood for a while peering into the hole.

It was now the herald's turn to annoy. It is true he cannot do anything more than bluff, but he is skilled in that. Especially at night, his gleaming eyes and the snapping of his bill, together with his pretentious swoop, make even the gray wolf nervous, and it was not long before he had decided to go farther.

The next morning the enterprising town- builder earnestly went about completing his home, although one could see only the little mound and the cup-shaped entrance all else was deep underground. Every day there were arrivals, singly or in couples, and now and then a whole family. Nearly all brought their heralds with them, and these, likewise, came singly or in pairs. Immediately, each couple would go to work to prepare a dwelling for themselves, for they are not safe with- out them, and, besides, they seem to believe in independent homes. Thus in one moon the town became a respectably large one.

Shunkmanitoo, the wolf, had many a time trotted over the plateau and seen either a lone buffalo bull grazing or lying down chewing his cud, or an antelope standing cautiously in the middle that he might better see the approach of any danger. Now, after a few days' absence, he found a flourishing village, and one by no means devoid of interest and attraction.

Every bright day the little people played "catch-the-laugh." It is so called by the Red people. When all were outside their houses, one would jump into the air and make a peculiar sound, half squeak and half growl. The nearest one would take it up, and so on throughout the village. All would rise on their hind-feet and bob up and down, at the same time giving the peculiar cry. This performance they repeat whenever they are happy.

Pezpeza's town was now quite populous. But he was not the mayor; he did not get any credit for the founding of the town; at least as far as the Red people could observe. Their life and government seemed to be highly democratic. Usually the concentration of population produced a certain weed which provided abundance of food for them. But under some conditions it will not grow; and in that case, as soon as the native buffalo- grass is eaten up the town is threatened with a famine, and the inhabitants are compelled to seek food at a distance from their houses. This is quite opposed to the habit and safety of the helpless little people. Finally the only alternative will be the desertion of the town.

Thus it happened that Pezpeza, when the buffalo-grass was all gone about his place, began to realize the necessity of finding a new home. The ground was not adapted to the crop that generally grew in a prairie- dog town. One morning he was compelled to go beyond the limits of the village to get his breakfast, and all at once the thought of going off in search of a good town-site seized him strongly. He consulted no one, not even his best friend, the owl. He simply ran away up the river.

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