Short Stories » The Challenge

The Challenge - Page 4 of 8

“Flying Bee, you have hunted in this region longer than the rest of us. Tell us of the wisdom of other years," suggested one.

'Ho, kola, hechetu!" again came the approving chorus.

The feast was eaten, the pipe was laid aside, and Flying Bee began thus:

' It was in the same year that the great battle was fought between the Omahas and the Yankton Sioux, under this high ridge. We were hunting upon the other side, and I saw then as many elk and deer as there are now. I was a young man and had just begun to know the ways of the elk and his weaknesses.

'You must never allow him to get your scent, but you can let him see you, provided he does not understand. If he thinks you are some other animal, he will not trouble to move away, but if you make him curious he will come to you. If you put on a brown suit and appear and disappear in the edge of the woods at evening or early morning, the doe will approach you curiously. In the spring moons you can deceive her with the doe-caller, and a little later than this you can deceive her with the call of the buck elk.

" If you have a 'mysterious iron' you can shoot down any number of them. A woman or a white man could do as much. Also, if you have a swift pony you can run down almost any game. This is no true test of skill. Do as we are doing now hunt on foot with only the bow and arrow or the knife and stone for weapons, for these were the weapons of our people for untold years.

"There are no finer animals than the elk folk. I have studied their ways, because, as you know, we have followed their customs in courtship and warfare as much as those of any nation. Doubtless all our manners and customs were first copied from the ways of the best animal people," added the speaker.

"Ho, kola, hechetu!" was the unanimous endorsement of his friends.

“From now on the great elk chieftain gathers his herd. The smaller herds are kept by smaller chiefs, and there are many duels. I say again, no duel is brave and honest as that of the elk. When the challenge comes, it means a death-notice and must be accepted. The elk is no coward ; he never refuses, although he knows that one at least must die in the fight.

"The elk woman, too, is the most truly coquettish of all animals. She is pretty and graceful, but she is ready to elope with the first suitor. Therefore, we call the young man who is especially successful in court- ship the elk young man. The girlish and coquettish young woman we call the elk maiden.

"The bear and the buffalo are people of much mouth. They make a great deal of noise when they fight. The elk is always silent and does nothing that is unbecoming. Those others are something like the white men, who curse and broil much among one another," Bee concluded, with an air of triumph.

"I have several times witnessed a com- bat between the elk and the grizzly. I have also seen the battle between the buffalo bull and the elk, and victory is usually with the latter, although I have known him to be mortally wounded."

"And I have witnessed many times the duels between great elk chiefs," joined in Many Arrows.

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