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Wa-pee Moos-tooch
Chapter XI
He Shows His Class as a Runner


AS WAS THE MANNER of these nomads, they moved the next day from the scene of the fight, and took their course up along the north bank of the Chain of Lakes River. White Buffalo had now ample opportunity to indulge in his favorite pursuit of hunting. Choice buffalo and elk and antelope, and white and black-tailed deer were his prey. It was the season when all game is prime, and many a fine chase White Buffalo and Snake Skin enjoyed together, for they were even as David and Jonathan in their companionship. Of the horses White Buffalo brought from his last expedition, he gave Wapastim to his mother and Wepatim to his father, and let the Big Grey run most of the time, to be the admired of all the camp. For had he not already set this beautiful horse aside for a special purpose, one he was forever thinking about? In the meantime, as this camp was moving slowly northward, making provisions, and dressing skins, and renewing lodges, and providing for the daily food of this multitude, and keeping all hands busy in this work, they fell in with another camp of their own nation, Crees from the Touchwood Hill and Quill Lake region, and the countries to the north and west of these. And now visiting and feasting and war dances and scalp dances, and buffalo and wolf dances were engaged in, and games, such as horse and foot racing, were gone into between these camps. These were friendly contests, though at times an immense amount of betting was indulged in. In the western camp there was a famous long distance runner, and the people of that camp challenged the camp of our hero to produce a man fit to run with him. Snake Skin knew of no one equal to White Buffalo as a runner, and finally succeeded in persuading him to run with the champion. The race was to be a test of speed and endurance. The course was from the large gathering of the lodges of both camps out and around a big hill away in the distance and back. Horsemen were to accompany the runners and see that the race was a fair one. The distance might be from twenty to twenty-five miles; as the Indian would say, " Just a wind-tester." Both sections of this big camp took a lively interest in the race. It was the sole topic of conversation. Snake Skin said to the people of his camp:

Fear not, if you have anything to place on White Buffalo, do so with a clear heart, he will win, I know." And when the time came, piles of robes and leather, and furs, were carried out onto the hill which was to act as the grand-stand, and the champion's friends covered these article for article of its kind. And the big good- natured crowd watched the start, and shading their eyes sat and stood and peered across the long course, and because of the distance, lost track of their man, and anxiously wondered which was leading. And all this time Snake Skin was encouraging his friends to bet freely and largely on White Buffalo, and himself led up a horse, and shortly was met by one of the other party with his horse, and soon several other horses were on string in bets, and piles of stuff dotted the bill, and the excitement was at high pitch. The women and girls took part in the fun. Those of White Buffalo's camp brought out bits of finery and articles of apparel, and challenged their friends of the other camp to wager with them. All this time the runners were stretching away for the hill in the distance. And White Buffalo was pushing the champion, and the horses were beginning to feel the strain of the long swinging stride of the speedy men. Ali, that was running indeed. Across plain, and down and up hill, over undulating surface, through patches of herbage, and long grass, no smooth and rolled course had our contestants at that time. It was steady hard work, and only the naturally strong could take part in such a race.

At three-fourths of the way out White Buffalo, having kept behind the champion, as was the proper thing to do, began to shove him. The older runner responded bravely, and the speed was terrific, but White Buffalo pushed him again, and as he did not move faster, and as now there was a long uphill run, White Buffalo tried the champion and passed him and took his own gait from thence on. And by the time he had turned the hill, lie was far in the lead, and running easily and steady and as without effort. Coming in on the home stretch it was as if the race was between the horsemen and the lone footman. In due time, the leading runner was clearly in sight of the crowd.

"Look," said the friends of the hitherto champion.

"See, your man is not in sight, and ours is coming like the wind." "Look again," said the forever believing friend, Snake Skin, "look again, does your man run like that man yonder, who is coming faster than the horses?" For the ponies were now dropping behind, and White Buffalo was a quick-moving speck coming on ahead of everybody.

"Look again, oh my friends," said Snake Skin; "we did not send out any sort of a man to run with your champion. We believed you when you claimed you had a great runner in your camp, and so we sent out a great runner against him. See, he is coming fast, our runner, our war chief, our great man, as well as all else. Look now, watch him, as he flies before both horse and man."

And soon it was apparent to all that it was White Buffalo who was running in as if he only now after the long race was catching his wind and gathering up his loins for the run. Fresh horses with both exultant and anxious riders went out to meet this wonderful man. And with these at swift gallop on either side of him, as he ran lightly and quickly, did he win this great race.

And now the whole camp shouted, winners and losers alike shouted in acclamation, because of White Buffalo's marvellous speed. And his mother smiled, and was truly glad, and his father smoked and was happy, and Snake Skin was beside himself with joy, and the former champion when he came in long after said:

"It is no dishonor to be left by such a man!"

"That is right," said his Chief, "we are all Crees and we are all proud of White Buffalo." Then he said:

"You have beaten us on foot, but we have some good horses, and we will, if you like, try a horse race."

"What you say, my brother, is good," was the answer of the Chief of White Buffalo's camp. "After two nights we will be ready to run our horses with yours."

This was agreed to by all. It was to be a long race, and the whole big moving encampment was truly on a whirl of extra excitement over the coming race.

For centuries in the old world men had grown enthusiastic, and sometimes wild, over horse racing, and here in this new world, where, until a short time since, this noble animal was unknown, already he is the centre of absorbing interest. White Buffalo's horse, Blackfoot, and Snake Skin's Moosehair, were the choice of the one section; and the other picked out Arnikwatim, a bright bay, and Wapastim, a white horse, as their choice. And for that afternoon and night, and the next day and night, these horses were the object of their owners care and watching, and also almost the sole topic of conversation in all the camps. On the morning of the third day, everybody was astir early, and as each horse had his friends the betting was fast and furious. Horses, clogs, lodges, pelts, choice garments, trinkets, guns, bows and quivers, were laid in piles. These were covered by corresponding piles, and in the case of the live stock the horses and dogs were stood in line beside those offered in wager against them. In due time the race started. There was no calling back, no false starts, no shams or humbugs; no falderol, and silly wasting of time, as is now so often the case in race starting. What signified a few yards or feet?

"If your horse or man was the real thing, he would make good anywhere." So these men said and did.

Yonder in the distance are two men on horseback. They are stationed some half a mile apart. The race is around them and back to camp. Each section has sent a man and horse out to become the living turning posts, and also watch and check the racers.

White Buffalo and Snake Skin are riding their own horses. Snake Skin had said to White Buffalo:

"I know your horse will leave mine, but if I should come in next to you, then I will be glad, and our portion of the camp will greatly rejoice."

Both the bay and the white were fine-looking horses. White Buffalo as he looked at them was not too sure of the race. However, Blackfoot was in prime condition, and he knew that the old favorite had great staving quality. Yonder they go, four in a bunch as yet. Now they are in full view, and again they disappear in the dip of the valley. The crowd is tense, much is up in wager, but very much more in sectional and tribal relation and prestige. Two large districts are here represented, and the people of these portions of this great West have their special types and characteristics. Here in this gathering, these are in full force, and now all interest is centred on this race. In groups and solitary, all are watching the progress of yonder specks out on the plain. These are changing position fast. Now they begin to string out. They are three-quarters of the way to the first lone horseman. They must turn outside of him, then lead away to the other, always outside as they run. White Buffalo felt Blackfoot under him warming to his work. He was running with great ease, so he let him out a little, this quickened all the horses. But could they stand this long? was the question each rider was asking. Again White Buffalo watched his horse, and saw the little ears turned back just a bit to say: "Let me out some more," and so he did, and now the steady jumps were longer, and only for a short time did the other horses keep the pace, and White Buffalo and his horse felt, "If we can but keep this gait, we will win and no mistake!" Already they were some distance ahead, and by the time they turned the first horseman there were a hundred steps between Blackfoot and the nearest horse. As White Buffalo turned, he was glad to note that this was Moosehair, and he sent an encouraging signal to Snake Skin, which was answered with a smile. On across to the next horseman, the jump of Blackfoot was as the tick of a well regulated clock, and his breathing was normal and true, and his rider felt strangely elated, and gave him a gentle pat which the horse was quick to feel, and on they went, this man and horse, as if they were made for each other. There was perfect harmony between them. When White Buffalo leaned with his horse around the living post, he saw that he was a long distance ahead, and that his friend was next. So he said to Blackfoot:

"This is fast enough, my fine old fellow." And Blackfoot answered: "There is plenty more if we need it." The distance was too great for the crowd to distinguish between the horses, and speculation was rife and wild as to who this might be so far ahead. Soon all had made the turns, and the living posts, horses and riders, were following up the race as best they could. Everybody now was on the home stretch. Down the slope, across the valley, up the gently climbing ridge, on thundered the great horse, and White Buffalo felt sure that if he met with no accidents, his horse would win. But Black-foot was not in doubt. He had plenty of reserve in stock, and was running with care. His master was sitting him as lightly as possible, and yonder was the camp, and he felt as fresh as ever. Indeed, he was in lung and limb freer than when he started. Now he was in full view of the camp, and his friends were waving him in. Robes were being swung by many an arm. Voices of encouragement were coming to his ear. Blackfoot heard these, and said: "Just let me go, and we will show these strange people how we can run."

"As you please, my good horse," was the answer, and Blackfoot cleared his lungs and spurted into camp many arrow-shots ahead. And when White Buffalo threw himself from his horse, he looked and saw with pride that Moosehair was coming next. Blackfoot and Moosehair had won this long race. The Chief of the other camp shouted out the fact in his own way. Said he:

"Oh, my people, again are we beaten! Our friends have better men and horses than we have. Let us be thankful that we are all Crees, and be proud together, that among our people are such men and such horses. Some day the spirits will smile on us, and then we will win back from our friends all we have lost." White Buffalo was proud for the sake of Nagos, for her he had run his best, for her to had ridden for victory. Snake Skin was gloriously glad. His friend had won, and he had come next. All their camp rejoiced with them, and White Buffalo and Blackfoot were in everybody's thought and talk for days after this great race.


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