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
"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
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
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