Short Stories » The Mustering of the Herds
The Mustering of the Herds - Page 3 of 4
" It is not the custom of the buffalo people to fight thus. They have been known to form a ring to defend themselves against wolves, but against man never!" declared the game leader. "It is a sign of which we ought to discover the meaning."
"You have heard their lowing," remarked another. "It is their habit to mourn thus when they discover one of their number lying dead."
Suddenly the buffalo women started away in single file, the bulls following; and walking slowly, without molestation from any, they all disappeared in the direction taken by the fleeing herd. The hunters now eagerly advanced to the spot where lay dead the white bison cow, the queen of the buffalo people. The strange action of her followers was explained . Every warrior approached the place as if treading upon hallowed ground. They tied or hobbled their ponies at some distance, and all came with tobacco or arrows in their hands. They reverently addressed the dead cow and placed the tobacco gentry around her for an offering. Thus strangely ended the first spring hunt of that year upon the Shaeyela, the ancient home of the buffalo people, where always the buffalo woman chief, the white cow, is seen the most sacred and honored animal among the Sioux!
The grass of the Bad Lands region was now spread in fresh green, all beaded and porcupined with the early crocuses. The young queen was well grown for her age, and could run as well as her mother for a mile or two. Along Willow Creek she had been made to try her speed many times daily.
"Come," she signed to her, one bright May day, and they both set out for the forks of the Shaeyela, where once more the buffalo people were assembled by thousands. Many of the mothers had already taken their children back to the herd. As Hinpoha passed the lone bulls who are wont to wander away from the rest for undisturbed feeding, they all turned to gaze at her and her strange daughter. Each gave her sonorous greeting, and some even followed after at a distance in wonder and admiration.
When they reached a small group of buffalo women, there was much commotion. One of the other mothers came forward to challenge Hinpoha to a friendly contest, while the rest formed a ring around them, evidently admiring the little calf. The black eyes and hoofs setting off her creamy whiteness gave her a singularly picturesque appearance.
After the friendly tussle, the mother and daughter continued on their journey to the forks of the Shaeyela. As they passed more and more of their people, the "Moo" was given continuously, announcing the coming of the new queen of the tribe. When they arrived at the place of meeting, the excitement was great. Everywhere buffalo people were running toward them to greet them with the "Moo!" The little folks ran up full of curiosity, turned large eyes and ears on the stranger, and then fled away with up- lifted tail. The big, shaggy-haired old men came, too, and regarded her gravely. Hinpoha was proud of her conspicuous position ; yet it was a trying reception, for every kind female caller felt obliged to offer her a friendly trial of strength. At such times the little calf watched her mother with excited interest.
The day was warm, the air soft and summer-like. Whenever there is a great gathering of the bison, there are many contests and dances. So it was on this occasion. It was their festival time, and the rumble of their voices was heard by the other tribes of the prairie a great way off.
Again the herald's song pealed forth upon the sunshiny stillness of a May morning. Every ear was turned to catch the expected announcement of the wise men.
"Ye soldier hunters," was the summons, "come home to the teyoteepee!" Many of the warriors, wrapped in their robes, walked slowly toward the council-lodge in the middle of the Indian encampment.
"Hear ye, men and warriors!" exclaimed the chief of the teyoteepee, when all were met together. "Our game scout has returned with the word that upon the forks of the Shaeyela the buffalo people are holding their summer gathering. Furthermore, he says that he saw a young buffalo chief wom- an a white calf! In the morning all the hunters are commanded to make an attack upon the herd. If it be possible, we shall capture the little queen.
"Hear ye, hear ye! We shall dance the great buffalo - dance to - night ! The Great Mystery is good to us. Few men are so favored as to see the queen of the buffalo people even once in a lifetime.