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American History
Little Brown Men Legend


Please allow me to make a brief acknowledgment to Mary Williamson, granddaughter of Chief Red Leaf for kindly sharing this story with me.

Little Brown Men

"I'm going out on my own to hunt,"  Chief Red Leaf told his wife.

"You should not go out alone, it is not a good thing.  Our hunters will bring back meat soon enough."

"There is nothing sure about when they will be back. The buffalo are gone. They may need to go for days before they come upon anything, if they do,"  Red Leaf told her.

The aging Red Leaf would not be turned aside from his need to provide for his family and he was up and gone early the next morning. He was traveling light. The hunters had taken the horses and he had to make his way as best he could on foot.

Red  Leaf had the intelligence above the commonplace and he was using this to keep a search for the buffalo he hoped to come upon. As he walked he was ever holding his power to observe to look for a marking of the land by the great beast. Would he find a bit of their wool looking fur clinging to a tall blade of grass?  Maybe he would see where they had crossed the trail as they seemed to like the paths men made. Or possibly he would see a tree where they had rubbed against it in their constant need to scratch and push off some of the woolly looking winter coat they were shedding. He covered higher places and ridges, and he followed the ravines as well but no where did he see a buffalo calf, cow or bull.

All at once he realized he had almost walked right up on one of the tremendous beasts. He stopped, making himself as still as a tall blade of grass all the while reaching for his arrow out of his quiver. "Thud,"  he could hear the arrow strike at the heart of the animal and it dropped to the ground, dead.  In a few steps he planned to walk across the short distance to reclaim his arrow when all at once directly in front of him standing between him and his buffalo was a tiny little man.

"Wah!"  Red Leaf was incredulous. "Who,  What?  are you, Red Leaf spoke to the tiny little man.

The little man was perfect in every way. His body could have been that of a mighty warrior but in miniature size. His face was different, it was wizened like that of an old man. It was so squenched up he would have looked like a monkey if his body had not been so perfectly human. To add to his odd appearance he was dressed totally in brown. This was the thing to make Red Leaf know about this little creature.

The little man was furious as he jumped up and down in one place his anger had so overcome him.  If he was respectful of Red Leaf's size he didn't mind launching a verbal attack, "You, you, rude person. What gives you the right to push in on my hunt!"  and with that he reached down, much to Red Leaf's surprise,  to pull a tiny arrow from the great animal at the exact same spot as where Red Leaf's arrow had penetrated. "This is my kill, and I'm claiming it for myself."

Red Leaf was the epitome of self-control. As much as the little man was verbal Red Leaf was quiet. His concentration was so centered on the little brown man seeming to hold him in a hypnotic stare. If the little man had not been so angry he would have used more caution.

Just as quickly Red Leaf reached out with a quick grab for his arm which was surely no bigger than a branch off a tree. "Caught! Caught! you are. Now I have you, impertinent somebody. Do you dare think you can talk to the Chief of the Poncas in such a surly disrespectful way. I have you now, and you are mine to do with as I please."

All at once the little man was so contrite. Oh my! Oh my! I didn't mean to be so disrespectful of someone so mighty and of one who is so honorable. The little person was all at once such a model of a placid humble behavior. He hung his head only to look up with pleading eyes while holding a defeated attitude. Really, yes really, you have the upper hand. Look at me I am just so very pitiful. Can't you see I'm no match for you, with your grand size and your quick action to lay hold of me in such a brilliant capture."

It was disgusting to Red Leaf  the little man was at all once so persuasive in his speech trying to charm his way out. "I've heard about all your tricks, little man, and you won't be practicing them on me
today," Red Lead held him within his tight grasp.

"Please, oh please, you who are so blessed with strength and cunning, let me go, please. If you let me go I promise I will take you to where I live........."

Red Leaf was listening. "Hm-m, he thought, maybe I should think about this. I've heard these  little folk have untold wealth. This might be an opportunity for me," and he looked directly into the eyes of the now subdued little scalawag.. "All right, you will take me to your residence, but I still will not let you go. I intend to keep a close hold on you the one who has such  impish little  ways, " Red Leaf was leaving him no avenue for escape.

As Red Leaf held to the arm of the little person he was led to what looked like no more than a bank on the side of a small cliff. Just as Red Leaf was sure they were going to walk right into it his captive began to pull branches of low growing shrubs away from what looked to be a hole in the side of the embankment. The taller man had to stoop in order to walk through with his host. As they came to the inside of the space there were two large dog looking wolves resting just inside the entrance. Their eyes flashed and glowed yellow in the darkness of the area. At an order and wave of a hand the two beast quietly and obediently moved aside for them, where upon the two now began their walk in a descent downward.

Now they were coming toward and upon something to sound like the clatter and noise of a village. Red Leaf could hear people calling out to each other in conversation. He could smell wood smoke and there was a light below them at the entrance ahead of them. All at once they were through the entrance and what looked to be like a great room was actually a cavern. There were torches burning and it lit the place. He could see the families there were  involved in their chores of daily living. There were women with babies who were so tiny they actually looked like toys. The camps were complete with utensils for cooking and their places of residence with small teepees set at their own space.

"Come, join my family, my wife will have a meal prepared," the now gracious little man all at once had become a host and offered hospitality to Red Leaf. Since he had walked far and  was tired and hungry, Red Leaf agreed. Indeed, the little women had a meal fit for a king. There were berries from the tree of the Hawthorne. Tubers of the wild potato, buffalo cooked to a supreme place of tenderness, and wild fried onions.  The bread she made was not unlike what Red Leaf's wife would have prepared. Wild greens  were of the sort to be compared with none other, something to simply melt in one's mouth. With the wild grape, the  possum berries, the woman had  created a pleasant smooth desert. The drink the little man offered his guest was of something Red Leaf had never tasted. It was a deliciously flavored tea of some sort.

The fact that Red Leaf was out in the open was apparent to the man as he was now looking up into blue skies when he opened his heavy lidded eyes. " Huh?  Where am I?" came his groggy questions. He felt numb and barely able to connect his thoughts. And then all at once he knew. "That little trickster. He did this. Where is my buffalo?"

Red Leaf rallied his being and saw he was outwitted by that cunning little person. He simply had nothing more to do than return home, empty handed.

"Red Leaf, Red Leaf, where have you been!" his wife ran to greet him as he approached the camp.  "We thought you were dead, you've been gone for a month."

Red Leaf was quiet. He gave no explanation and made no confession as to what had happened to him. He was just too embarrassed to admit he had been outwitted by the clever little man dressed in brown.  He shook his head and muttered under his breath, "no one will  hear it from me, at least of all,  not right now, not about "The Little Brown Men."


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