Short Stories » The Mustering of the Herds
The Mustering of the Herds - Page 2 of 4
No bull buffalo was allowed to come near while the women hovered about their dead leader. These had to return to their nurseries at last, and then it was that the buffalo men approached in great numbers. The sound of their mourning was great! They tore up the sod with their hoofs as they wailed loudly for the dead.
The sun hovered over the western hills ere the gathering dispersed. The dead was left to the silent night to cover, and the lonely poplar sang a soft funeral song over her.
Hinpoha found her baby fast asleep when she reached her nursery upon Willow Creek. The little creature was fed, and played about her mother, grazing in the quiet valley, where none might see the cradle of their future queen.
At the next mid-day, Hinpoha saw many of the bison people fleeing by her secret camp. She at once suspected the neighborhood of the Red hunters. ' I shall go away, so that they will not find my teepee and my baby," she said to herself. Accordingly she came out and followed the trail of the fugitives in order to deceive the wild man, but at night she returned to her nursery.
Upon the Shaeyela River, below the camp of the buffalo people, the wild Red men were likewise encamped in great numbers. Spring was here at last, and nearly all of the snow had gone, even from the gulches and deep ravines.
A joyous hunting song pealed forth loudly from the council-lodge of the Two Kettle band. The great drum beat a prelude to the announcement heralded throughout the camp.
"Hear ye, hear ye, warriors! The game scout has come back with the news that the south fork of the Shaeyela is full of the buffalo people. It is the will of the council that the young men should now make the great spring hunt of the bison. Fill your quivers with good arrows. Try your bows. Heya, heya, ha-a-a-a!" Thus the herald circled the large encampment.
'Woo! woo!" came from the council-lodge a soldier-call, for the young men to saddle up. At the same time, the familiar drum-beat was again heard. The old men, the council men, were now left alone to per- form those ceremonies which were held to insure good hunting.
The long- stemmed pipe was reverently lifted from the sacred ground which is its resting-place. The chief medicine-man, old Buffalo Ghost, took it in his sinewy hands, with the mouth-piece foremost. He held it toward heaven, then to the earth, and gave the "spirit talk." Having ended, he lighted and passed it around the circle from left to right. Again one struck the drum and sang in a high minor key. All joined in the refrain, and two got up and danced around the fire. This is done to call the spirits of the bison, and charm them into a happy departure for the spirit land.
Meantime, the young warriors had mounted their trained buffalo-ponies, and with a great crowd on foot were moving up the valley of the Shaeyela. From every divide they surveyed the country ahead, hop- ing to find the buffalo in great numbers and to take them unawares. The chief hunter ascended a hill in advance of the others. "Woo!" he called, and waved his right hand with the assurance of a successful hunt.
The warriors prepared for the charge just as they would prepare for an attack upon the enemy. All preliminary orders were given. The men were lined out on three sides, driving the herd toward the river. When the signal was given, ponies and men sped forward with loosened hair and flying lariat. The buffalo were compelled to run toward the river, but some refused to run, while many more broke through the attacking lines and fled across the Shaeyela and into the woods. There were some who stood their ground and formed an outward- facing circle around the low little buffalo-berry -hung grave. To this group many Red hunters came yelling and singing.
"Hanta, hanta yo!" the leader cautioned, vainly. The first man who ventured near the menacing circle was instantly tossed upon the horns of an immense bull. He lay motionless where he fell.
Now the angry bison were left alone for the time, while the hunters withdrew to a ' near-by hill for consultation. The signal of distress had been given, and soon the ridges were black with riders. The unfortunate hunter and his horse lay dead upon the plain !