A Vision Back in Time
Almost thirty years ago, a friend in Arizona handed me this story, which was written through a process called automatic-writing. (In semi-trance, the author sits clutching a pen until his hand begins to move automatically and words are written upon the paper.) My friend was Scotish and Native-American. He is also a trance medium. He would get into a trance and spirits of Native Americans would speak through him. The story below is about a buffalo hunt. One of my favorite stories. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
A Vision Back in Time
It is late November and the massive plains which reach the Black Hills are snow covered. I am thirteen and sleep lightly for my father will take me on my first hunt of the Great Buffalo. I am impatient for him to wake me for this is a great honor for a boy. I prepared three full moons ago by making a new and stronger bow. I remember my father telling me to make one strong but not too strong where I cannot pull it back. My fatherís hand touches my shoulder as I pretend to be sleeping. He tells me to dress warm but lightly and prepare my pony. My father packed much dried meat and corn mixed with berries. Thirty to forty of us slowly rode from our camp following the direction of the scouts which went three days before to find the Great Buffalo Herd. The young girls and women began to chant and this made me ride tall upon my painted pony. You could see in their eyes wondering which of us would not come back. On all such hunts there are those who are injured and some trampled to death or horned by the big bulls.
It was now time for the hunt. We split into three groups and went into different directions. My group rode slowly and quietly at the hillís crest where the buffalo could not see us. We knew they were there because we could smell them and freshly dropped chips. We lined along the hillís crest because the other two groups would start the hunt and the stampede would come in our direction. Our group had to be the bravest of all because we had to attack head on and direct the herd. The yelling started from the other groups and a great loud sound of hoofs was like thunder, deafening.
My father was the leader of our group and he held us back until the last minute. He was a great hunter because he understood the buffalo as if he too were one. He looked at me and said, "Go quickly, and give no thought to fear. There is no time for fear now and watch the bulls, for they fear nothing." My father gave the signal and the horses took off up the hill. As I topped the crest, I could not believe my eyes. One thousand buffalo coming at us in full gallop. So many it looked as though they were the earth moving towards us. They knew they had to come to us until the last minute. The yelling was loud as I yelled also. The herd turned to our right and now we rode with them. I pulled out an arrow and let the pony go as he wished. The ponies were as brave as we and trained as we as excellent horsemen.
I looked down as the snow-mud splashed on my face. I looked directly into the eyes of a giant buffalo and he into mine. I pulled the bow string back as far as I could but I could not release it as his eyes penetrated me. I realized his greatness, his majestic being. His horn cut into my ponyís front quarter, but my pony kept pace with him. I felt my ponyís warm blood against my leg. I knew if the giant bison brought my pony down, I would be hoofed to death. I pulled my bow string as far back as I could and aimed at the place my father told me. I let loose and saw the arrow go into the giantís neck above his shoulder, but his eye did not flinch. He kept running as the breath streamed from his nostrils in the cold air.
I pulled my bow again and released it. Again it went deep. I realized I should have chosen a much smaller buffalo to kill, my bow too weak for such a one as this.
Then my horse was nudged aside as my fatherís horse came between my pony and this greatest of all buffalo. My father pulled his string as far as he could and leaned very close to the bull. They seemed as one for an instant. The arrow thrusted deeply into him but he kept his speed. He felt this arrow for his breath was even stronger. Then my father jumped from his horse onto the giant black buffalo. He grabbed the arrow and pushed it deeper. The head of the Great One roared back then the bull began to run faster. My father pushed again against the arrow where only the blood soaked feathers were visible. I was scared because I knew if my father fell he would be killed by the herd. He whistled and his great horse slowed slightly to allow him to jump onto it. He took his knife and thrust it deeply under the buffaloís neck. The giant beast broke away from the herd for his own path. He ran and ran and ran until he was drained. He slowed to a trot and snored as we faced him.
It blew breath and blood from his large inflamed nostrils and kicked at the ground as to take one last charge. I was scared and in sorrow to see such a great four legged one know this would be his last run. Then, he swayed sideways to the left and straightened back up and fell on his right side. The blow to the ground thrust my fatherís arrow all the way into him and as his head roared upward to Wakan Tanka, I saw sacredness in that eye now again looking at me. His head went down hard pushing the knife deeply through his neck. It was over, his life gone in greatness as it came into this world. I cried for him, and my father put his hand around my shoulder and said, "It is right for the true warrior to cry when such a great buffalo dies in all his warriorness for to die otherwise is not the way of a great buffalo bull as this one."
We lay against the downed bull for rest and warmth. He was even more massive than I realized. His coat alone could cover ten people in plenty. No three warriors could carry this hide. My father smiled as he said, "Now you see why your small arrows cannot bring him down, such a strong animal as this one." We lit a small piece of sage taken from my fatherís medicine bag. In honor of all the life we took and in honor of the sacred being that gives us so much. My father chanted a while and then took his large knife from the throat of the bull. He cut the bull from the bottom of his neck, then removing its entire skin we drug it by our horses to lay to the sun for drying. My father said as we returned to the bull that this one will give us many things. Bones for utensils and tools, the stomach to boil our soups and stews, sinew for thread, fur for coats and blankets, skin for tipis and on and on. My father cut the warm liver in half for us to eat. This was a prized food for warriors. I have eaten it before but not warm and immediately from the carcass. We looked around and many buffalo were down and men attending them. But only the number that was needed to feed our people. For those who did not bring down a buffalo, we all would share with them.
It took that evening and the rest of the next day and evening to finish this task and prepare for the journey home. It seemed colder now but I knew it was not, only that the anticipated hunt was now behind me. We traveled three days to our village. They prepared for our return and lined our entrance as they threw sweetgrass in celebration. After all the excitement, we gave all elders food since they could no longer join the great hunt. After much joy, we rested for the sun to go down. At that time a great fire would be lit and honor given to the great beasts of the plains. I would be invited to enter the great circle to speak of my killing a great bull. This was a great honor as the speaking of counting coup after a battle. My father and mother gleamed in pride and I was given my first eagle feather. My father told my mother and sisters that the large fur is the sonís and for his bedding.