(This is the first Story Teller story.)
Copyright 2001 Julie Weathers
All Rights Reserved
This was a writing exercise I did for the theme of winter.
The Story Teller
Lone Wolf loved children. He had once dreamed of having many sons and daughters, but he was now an old man with no children to call his own. Some men just don’t know how to pick a wife. He had taken five wives over the years and all of them were barren. His last wife was a woman named Snake who had many fertile sisters with many children. Snake was as mean as her name and she too was barren. Of all the wives, only Snake was left. Some men just don’t know how to pick a wife.
He pulled an ember from the cooking fire and lit his pipe. The flock of children surrounding him fidgeted nervously, but waited with respect while he smoked. The tiny girl next too him flashed a toothless grin at him when he at last laid the pipe aside.
“What story would my children like to hear today?” he asked.
They all shouted out their favorite stories. A crippled boy, sitting in the back inched closer, but stayed out of reach of the bigger ones who would soon be warriors.
“Lame Deer,” he called out. “You will be the tribe story teller when I am gone. Come to the front so you may hear my words clearly. What story do you want to hear today?”
The sea of children parted to make way for the chosen one. Being a story teller was a great honor.
“Old Man Winter, Grandfather. Tell us the story of Old Man Winter,” the boy said with a new confidence.
The children nodded their heads and whispered among themselves. That was a good choice.
His eyes crinkled into deep furrows as he smiled at the boy. He puffed the pipe thoughtfully, watching the smoke disappear and then began.
“Many years ago The People were starving. An evil spirit cast a spell on the buffalo and a great herd of them died of the sickness. Grandfather Pine knew his family had little food so he wandered away from the camp one cold, winter night to die.
“The Great Spirit looked down and saw what Grandfather Pine was doing for his family, but he did not want him to die. He sent the blue horse of winter to him. The old man was tired and hungry and wanted to die, but The Great Spirit needed him. The blue horse of winter returned to The Great Spirit with him.
“‘Grandfather Pine,’ The Great Spirit said. ‘You have found favor with me. I am busy with The People and I need someone to take care of Winter.'”
“‘I’m an old man,’ he said. ‘I have lived many years. I’m tired and cold. My belly is empty. Let me die. Let me rest. I deserve that. If you cannot take care of Winter, let it die also. Why do we need it anyway?’
“The Great Spirit smiled at him like a parent would smile at a child too young to understand why it’s important to gather so many berries. ‘If the earth cannot rest she will not bear much fruit in the summer. She will be too tired to make grass. The snow will not feed the lakes and rivers and she will be thirsty.'” He nodded his head toward the tent and lowered his voice. “She would look all dried up like Snake.”
The children giggled and looked expectantly at the tent to see if his wife heard him.
The Story Teller continued when the children stopped giggling. “He promised to send buffalo to Grandfather Pine’s people if he would care for Winter. The old man said he was cold and only wanted to be warm so the Great Spirit sent the blue horse of winter to the land of yellow stones and told the horse to paw the ground. Everywhere the horse pawed, a hot pool appeared. Steaming water shot from the ground and made hot falling water to warm Grandfather Pine. Pools of bubbling mud were there for him to soak his aching bones also. When Grandfather Pine saw all The Great Spirit had done for him, he agreed to become Old Man Winter.”
“Grandfather,” a boy in the front said. “We were at the steaming waters last summer. It’s beautiful to look at, but why does it stink so bad?”
Grandfather shrugged as he lifted his pipe to his lips. “He’s an old man. Sometimes old men make stink.”
He raised up on one side as if to demonstrate and the children screamed in unison. “No, no.”
They laughed and held their noses as they scrambled away from him.
Snake toddled out of the lodge and started swishing at the children with a buffalo tail.
“Shoo, shoo. You children go play now. Grandfather needs to rest. He will fry what little is left of his brains if he stays out in this sun all day.”
“Leave me be old woman. I will beat you if you don’t show me more respect.”
She swatted him with the tail. “Come inside, old man, before I beat you.”
Some men just didn’t know how to pick a wife.