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Wa-pee Moos-tooch
Chapter VII
He Takes the Warpath the Second Time


THE BUFFALO came well up into the north country that winter, and provisions were plentiful, and the making of robes, and the trapping of furs, and the gathering of hides for domestic use, and for the making of new lodges, kept the whole camp busy. And the spring came, and with the coming of the wild goose, and the re-appearing on the ground of the gopher and the crocus, and the grass springing, the warriors and young men of the camp felt that it was time for them to bestir themselves on the war-path. During the winter several large timber wolves had been killed, and White Buffalo had secured some of the best pelts, and his mother had dressed these for him. Any one entering the lodge would have immediately had their attention drawn to the decorations therein. These were almost altogether made up of the large timber wolves pelts, and, as every one knows, these skins when prime make up handsome. But why saddle cloth and lean-to cloths, and panel robes, especially on the side occupied by White Buffalo, should be made up altogether of the large wolf skins, only the initiated could tell the reason. In the minds of his parents, and in those of the older members of the tribe, the reason was patent. The big timber wolf was the visible manifestation of the spirit of White Buffalo's dream.

Furthermore, if one frequented this lodge, one would have noticed that never by those resident therein, or by visitors, were these decorations and wolf skins mentioned. On this topic there was absolute silence in this camp and lodge. Further, the stranger with any perceptive faculty would have also seen that whenever it was necessary to re-arrange these robes and mats and decorations, no matter who touched them, this act was done with scrupulous care, and in a spirit of solemn reverence. Never would any occupant of this lodge, or any of their friends, forget that all these were the spiritual emblems of the young warrior-hunter's faith.

Within the range of a wide experience the writer has never met more absolute consideration for other men's faith than that manifest among the aboriginal tribes of North America. A closer inspection would take note, moreover, of the long sash or color-looking article handsomely trimmed with crimson cloth and ermine skin, but the main portion was a strip of great wolf's pelt, being the back from the tip of the nose to the extreme end of the tail. This strip, about a handbreadth wide, had been carefully and precisely cut out, and perfectly dressed. This was White Buffalo's shoulder strap, or medicine belt. In following the customs of his father's people, he would occasionally wear this, perhaps when some great battle was imminent, or some annual religious festival was on. Then this medicine belt was produced. This especially commanded the care and constant attention of the residents in this camp or lodge. To select these skins, to have them dressed and decorated, took up the spare time of White Buffalo's mother and her women friends who might visit her during the winter months of this period. And yet while all manner of gossip might go on, the special object of this work, and the quality thereof, and him who would be the owner, were topics never mentioned.

The war expedition of that spring was a young man's enterprise. Snake Skin was the prime mover. Young men of his and White Buffalo's age were to participate. All who could were to go. Of course, he had settled it in his own mind that White Buffalo must be the leader. White Buffalo's word must be law on this trip. During the winter he had gone through the camp working up this enterprise. He did all this before he broached the subject to White Buffalo, and, being a tactful fellow, he did it through the man's love. White Buffalo of himself would not delight in war. He had not thought of hurriedly pushing on the war-path again. His delight was in hunting and trapping, and when he thought within himself, the question always arose: Why hate your fellow-man? Why kill your fellow-man? A man's language, or the name of his tribe, or the fact that his people and your people had been at enmity in the days that were gone seemed altogether insufficient reason for war in White Buffalo's mind. Snake Skin knew all this. Therefore, he took another way of securing his friend. He discoursed as they were out hunting one day on the virtue and beauty and grace of little Nagos. He told White Buffalo over again the story of the evening when the North Wind Maker was telling the people of the camp how White Buffalo had rushed in and saved his life. "Oh," said he, "you were not looking, but I was, and as her father told the story of how you rushed in and rescued him, I saw her eye kindle, and her face illume, and her whole spirit move within her. I knew she was saying to herself: ' Ah, there is a man, there is a man—one such as I can love.' It is for such deeds as these that women like Nagos worship the man they love, and we must do more of them, White Buffalo. You and I must go to war this spring. When the snow melts and the grass springs, and the young men of our camp, with you as their leader, must do great deeds, and bring, if we can, much glory back with us from the lodges and country of our enemies. Moreover, you expect to go and meet the North Wind Maker and his camp. You expect those people to give you their daughter to wife, and for her sake and for their sake it will be fitting for you to have led us to that which will bring honor and fame to our people. I will want to go with you when you go north this autumn, and I want something worth while to have to tell those people."

Thus did Snake Skin frequently reason until finally White Buffalo consented, and soon it was known all through the various camps which were now beginning to converge towards one of their favorite meeting places, and it was told far and wide:

"When the nesting moon is still small White Buffalo will lead the young men forth on the war path."

Because of this preparations went on in many a lodge. With this end in view all through the wild goose and frog moons, young men were making ready. On the surface they were making lariats and quirts and looking to bow and quiver and flintlock and war club and knife. And mothers and wives and sweethearts were making mocassins or beading robes, or helping to fix neat and strong some distinctive war dress. Inwardly and personally, and spiritually, each man was communing with his familiar spirit, seeking a sign of approval if possible, and a benediction upon the enterprise in hand. All these personal and private communings were in proportion to the religious instinct possessed by each one. Snake Skin was in his element. He visited some of the neighboring camps. He harangued the listening crowd in the dance lodges; he talked to groups of young men around many camp fires. He forever extolled the virtue and wisdom and pluck of White Buffalo. He dropped his voice almost to a hushed whisper as he spoke mysteriously of the intercourse of his great friend with the supernatural. He prophesied victory and much glory under the leadership of such a character as his young chief, White Buffalo. By the time of the waning of the frog moon a large percentage of the able young men from all the camps constituent to this gathering were eager and ready for the war path.

In the meantime White Buffalo had made a big fur hunt and killed many food animals. His zest for this work was strong and his skill becoming greater all the time. No wonder his friend Snake Skin said of him:

"The spirits love White Buffalo."

During the goose moon he rescued a couple of young men who had broken through the ice where the sun above and the current beneath had worn it thin, and the snowfall had covered these spots as with a big new blanket. And these young fellows would have drowned but for the speed and skill and strength of our young hero, who, without a moment's thought for himself, came to their help and rescued them from death. Thus White Buffalo's prestige grew, and gatherings of bands discussed him, as indeed fit to lead in all things. Many an evening he spent with Papamotao, the great traveller, and also in the lodge of the old arrow maker, studying the geography of the western and southern country, and listening to the experiences of the expeditions in which these old warriors had taken part. And, presently, when all was ready, he gave the signal call, and from the many lodges there sprang the young and brave to follow his lead into the country of their enemy. Mothers and wives and sisters and sweethearts watched the converging groups of young men, as these gathered in the growing distance into line behind the stately stepping of their leader, White Buffalo. Snake Skin, anxious that none should fail, lingered, taking stock, and speaking a word of encouragement, and when all were fully on the way hastened forward to the side of his much-loved friend.


 


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