Archive for March, 2019

This is a chapter from my book “Alphabet Animals”. If you enjoy it and want to read more, there are 26 in total. One for each letter of the alphabet, ergo “Alphabet Animals”. Order a copy from Amazon or Lulu or BN and look for it by entering “Alphabet Animals Hilary”. Happy reading!

Billy was a 7-year-old Blackfoot Indian. He lived in a tepee on the great plains of the mid-west. It was a time when millions of buffalo roamed freely. The rhythms of Billy’s tribe followed the buffalo as they arrived at the summer feeding grounds. Summer was a time of great rejoicing and feasting. The buffalo provided everything the Blackfoot required for their existence. The thick furs would keep Billy warm in winter and provide a soft cushion for sleeping. Even the bones found a use in various tools. And the wide shoulder clavicle ended up as a kind of hockey stick which the children used in their stick-ball game. It is said that our modern ice hockey game has its roots in the stick-ball game these Blackfoot boys and girls played on prairie grass. They used a round stone which was passed on from generation to generation. Stones were a rare commodity on the prairie, especially perfectly round ones, so the keeper of the stone was a very special person in the tribe. He was responsible for ensuring it was never lost or lent to anybody without the keeper also being present. As a result, the stone-keeper usually ended up being one of the best stick-ball players because of all the ‘grass-time’ he got.

Well, on this particular day, a breezy blue sky kind of day, with prairie grasses not yet so high that the ball disappeared under waves of gold and green, Billy was running around trying to keep up with the older boys in an early morning game of stick-ball. Smoke was drifting among the teepees as breakfast fires were urged into action. Billy’s Mom shouted to him;

“Don’t forget you have a meeting this morning with ‘Sun in her hair’” .

“Yeah, yeah momma” replied Billy. ‘Sun in her hair’ was the teacher of the younger boys, and she enjoyed meeting all her new students before classes started. Since the tribe would be living at this site for some weeks, hunting buffalo in their summer grazing grounds, it was a good time to organize lessons for the younger children.

“I won’t forget momma” he shouted, and quickly disappeared over a ridge in hot pursuit of the ball. The whooping and hollering of the boys mimicked the shouting and singing of the men who would hunt buffalo in the coming weeks.

The ball had been struck very hard, and kept on rolling down the steep slope heading for the river. The older boys did not want to go after it, being just a tad lazy at this early hour. They also knew from experience the return trip up the ridge was quite exhausting. But Billy saw an opportunity to curry favour with the older boys so he volunteered to go after the ball.

“I’ll go get it guys, I’ll get the ball”. And so he ran and jumped and tripped his way down the ridge. Unbeknownst to him, at the same time a small herd of about 50 bison were winding their way along the riverbank, munching on green tall grasses and blueberries that thrived along this stretch of river. Billy could not see them, nor could he hear the warning cries from the older boys waiting at the top of the ridge. They had a clearer sight line and saw the potential for disaster. Billy just barreled his way along the river bank to where he guessed the ball had stopped. As he lifted his head, he came eye to eye with the male bison leader of the pack!

They both stopped dead in their tracks, equally surprised to see each other. The stone ball was right at Billy’s feet. The Bison snorted and pawed the ground, readying itself for a charge. All it saw was a danger to the herd. Billy snatched up the stone ball. Just as the bison hunched its shoulders, readying to demolish Billy where he stood, some kind of instinctive connection in his brain snapped Billy to action. He whipped the ball as hard as he could at the bison. Whether it was pure luck or intervention of Billy’s guiding spirit (which of course had not yet been officially recognized since he was not yet of age to undergo the spirit ceremony) was a topic that would be debated for years amongst Billy’s friends. Whatever it was, the stone ball struck the bison square on its nose causing blood to spurt out like a geyser. The bison cried out in pain, wheeled around and ran in the other direction, hooves churning in the mud, desperate to escape this assault on his nose. The rest of the herd did an about face and charged with the leader, back along the river bank and out of sight.

This entire scene was witnessed by the rest of the boys at the ridge top, their jaws dropping in unison, at first shaking their heads, not believing what they had just witnessed. There was no denying the thundering echo of the bison hooves as they rushed away from Billy, splashing up water and mud in their wake. The boys erupted into shouts of joy and young boy war whoops, attracting many of their kin to come and see what the commotion was all about. Billy retrieved the stone and made his way back up the ridge, his beaming smile threatening to split his face in half. The boys hoisted him onto their shoulders and danced their way back to the village, recounting the story to everybody who was rushing from the morning campfires to participate in this swelling crescendo of joy.

When ‘Sun in her hair’ and the medicine man got wind of this episode, they decided it must be a magical sign of good providence. Orders were given to prepare a morning feast with all the trimmings and special treats for the boys. There was no limit to the amount of aged bison jerky the boys indulged in. It was a rare occasion to partake of such a celebration before the first full moon was out, and everybody sang and danced the day and night away. The stone stick-ball that Billy had heaved at the Bison, was placed on the tip of the medicine man’s ceremonial wooden staff. It was to become a sacred object under protection of the elders. But whenever Billy wanted to play stick-ball, he was the only one allowed to take this sacred stone for use in a game, such was the prestige he had acquired thru his daring act.
So of course, whenever a stick-ball game was planned, Billy was the first one asked to join, since all his buddies wanted to associate themselves with his heroic act. Billy was a hero, and from that day on, the new stone-keeper with the official name ‘Billy beating bison.’

Confront difficult obstacles head on, don’t back down from a challenge.

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