The Fire Leggings
There had been a sudden change in the
weather. A cold rain was falling, and the
night comes early when the clouds hang low.
The children loved a bright fire, and
tonight War Eagle's lodge was light as day.
Away off on the plains a wolf was howling, and
the rain pattered upon the lodge as though
it never intended to quit. It was a splendid
night for storytelling, and War Eagle filled and
lighted the great stone pipe, while the children
made themselves comfortable about the fire.
A spark sprang from the burning sticks, and
fell upon Fine Bow's bare leg. They all laughed
heartily at the boy's antics to rid himself of
the burning coal; and as soon as the laughing
ceased War Eagle laid aside the pipe. An
Indian's pipe is large to look at, but holds
"See your shadows on the lodge
asked the old warrior. The children said they
saw them, and he continued:
"Some day I will tell you a story
and how they drew the arrows of our enemies,
but tonight I am going to tell you of the great
"It was long before there were
women on the world, but my grandfather told
me what I shall now tell you.
"The gray light that hides the
was creeping through the forests, and the
wind the Sun sends to warn the people of his
coming was among the fir tops. Flowers, on
slender stems, bent their heads out of respect
for the herald wind's Master, and from the
dead top of a pinetree the Yellowhammer
beat upon his drum and called 'the Sun is
awake - all hail the Sun!'
"Then the bush birds began to
sing the song
of the morning, and from alders the Robins
joined, until all live things were awakened by
the great music. Where the tall ferns grew,
the Doe waked her Fawns, and taught them
to do homage to the Great Light. In the
creeks, where the water was still and clear,
and where throughout the day, like a delicate
damaskeen, the shadows of leaves that overhang would lie, the
Speckled Trout broke the surface of the pool in his gladness
of the coming day. Pine-squirrels chattered gayly, and
loudly proclaimed what the wind had told;
and all the shadows were preparing for a great
journey to the Sand Hills, where the ghost-people dwell.
"Under a great spruce tree - where
ground was soft and dry, OLD-man slept. The
joy that thrilled creation disturbed him not,
although the Sun was near. The bird-people
looked at the sleeper in wonder, but the Pine
squirrel climbed the great spruce tree with a
pinecone in his mouth. Quickly he ran out
on the limb that spread over OLD-man, and
dropped the cone on the sleeper's face. Then
he scolded OLD-man, saying: 'Get up - get
up - lazy one - lazy one - get up - get up.'
"Rubbing his eyes in anger, OLD-man
up and saw the Sun coming - his hunting leggings slipping through
the thickets - setting them afire, till all the Deer and Elk
ran out and sought new places to hide.
"'Ho, Sun!' called OLD-man, 'those
leggings you wear. No wonder you are a great
hunter. Your leggings set fire to all the thickets, and by the
light you can easily see the Deer and Elk; they cannot hide.
Ho! Give them to me and I shall then be the great hunter
and never be hungry.'
"'Good,' said the Sun, 'take them,
me see you wear my leggings.'
"OLD-man was glad in his heart,
for he was
lazy, and now he thought he could kill the
game without much work, and that he could
be a great hunter - as great as the Sun. He
put on the leggings and at once began to hunt
the thickets, for he was hungry. Very soon
the leggings began to burn his legs. The faster
he travelled the hotter they grew, until in pain
he cried out to the Sun to come and take back
his leggings; but the Sun would not hear him.
On and on OLD-man ran. Faster and faster he
flew through the country, setting fire to the
brush and grass as he passed. Finally he came
to a great river, and jumped in. Sizzzzzzz -
the water said, when OLD-man's legs touched it.
It cried out, as it does when it is sprinkled upon
hot stones in the sweat-lodge, for the leggings
were very hot. But standing in the cool water
OLD-man took off the leggings and threw them
out upon the shore, where the Sun found them
later in the day.
"The Sun's clothes were too big
for OLD-man, and his work too great.
"We should never ask to do the
Manitou did not intend us to do. If we keep
this always in mind we shall never get into
"Be yourselves always. That is
what Mantou intended. Never blame the Wolf for what
he does. He was made to do such things.
Now I want you to go to your fathers' lodges
and sleep. Tomorrow night I will tell you
why there are so many snakes in the world.