Short Stories » Hootay of the Little Rosebud
Hootay of the Little Rosebud - Page 1 of 5
ON the south side of Scout Butte there is a crescent-shaped opening, walled in by the curving sides of the hill. This little plain cannot be seen from the top of the butte. There is a terrace upon its brow on which a few scrub pines grow, so regularly that one would think them set there by human hands. Half-way up the incline there stood at one time a lone cedar-tree, and at its foot there might have been discerned a flat, soft mound. It consisted of earth thrown up from the diggings of a cavern. The wild people approaching from the south could see this mound, but would scarcely note the entrance to the immense den hidden behind it. One coming down from the butte would not notice it, as there were no signs other than the earth pile. The Little Rose-bud River takes its rise at the threshold of this natural barricade.
This was the home of Hootay, the aged medicine-man of the Little Rosebud country. He was a fighter of many battles, this great and wise grizzly, who was familiarly called Hootay, or Stubby Claws, by the Sioux hunters. They had all known of him for many years. It was believed of him that he had scalped not less than eight braves, and killed even more ponies and dogs. No less than three and ten times the Sioux had made expeditions against him, but each time they had failed. For this reason they declared that he had good war-medicine. Among the warriors it had long been understood that he who takes Hootay 's scalp may wear a war-bonnet. This acknowledgment of his prowess, of course, was not made known to the aged yet still formidable bear.
Up and down the Little Rosebud he had left his well-known imprint, for he had lost two toes on one foot. Aside from the loss of his big claws, he had received several arrow and knife wounds during his warlike career.
Early in the fall, Hootay had felt a severe aching of his old hurts. He had eaten of every root-medicine that he knew, but there was no relief. Instinct led him to early retirement and hibernation.
His new home was a commodious one, well filled with dry grass and pine-needles. It is the custom of his people to remain quiet until the spring, unless serious danger threatens. A series of heavy storms in early winter had covered and concealed all his rakings of dry grass and other signs of his presence, therefore he thought himself se- cured from molestation. There he lay most of the time in a deep sleep.
The Sechangu Sioux never altogether leave this region. It is true that many wander away to the Missouri, the Muddy Water, or follow the buffalo down to the Platte River, but some would always rather trust to the winter hunt upon this familiar stream. This winter, High Head, with his little band of eleven men, was wintering at the old place. Among them was Zechah, a renowned hunter, who had followed this band because of his love for Hintola, the chief's daughter. It had been a long courtship, but they were married at last. Zechah's skill had been proved by his father-in-law, and the arrow test was only sport to him. His unerring aim was now the pride of the old chief.
The party encamped on the Little Rose-bud had eaten all of their fresh meat. They must seek for game. Accordingly, three teepees went farther up the river. The winter was wellnigh over when there came a heavy thaw, and snow-shoes were made for the use of the hunters.
They pitched the* teepees, looking like a trio of white conical bowlders, in a well- protected bottom. Winding gulches diverged from the main stream like the ribs of a huge snake, until they lost themselves in the hills. These dry creek-beds were sentinelled by cedar-trees, erect and soldier-like, which at a distance looked very black, but near by they appeared green.
The party was cheerful. High Head was in the best of spirits, telling the history, traditions and legends of the region.