|THUNDER; IRD WOMAN SKIWIS AND
LITTLE big-belly boy
Three friends—Thunderbird Woman, Skiwis, and Little Big-Belly Boy—lived together in Thunderbird Woman's big grass lodge. The lodge was made of bundles of long grass tightly woven onto a willow framework. It had a door on the north side, and a door on the south side. A large cottonwood tree grew by the north door and gave them shade in the summer. Thunderbird Woman, Skiwis, and Little Big-Belly Boy shared the work among them. Thunderbird Woman did the cooking and gathered the firewood. S kiwis, who was a big, strong man, did all the hunting, and Little Big-Belly Boy carried up from the creek all the water for drinking and cooking and washing. They lived happily together there for a long time.
Once when Skiwis was out hunting, a blade of grass dropped onto his back while he was bending over a buffalo's tracks. He tried and tried, but he could not straighten up again, for though he was strong enough to lift a buffalo, somehow he never
could lift small things. For S kiwis a feather was as heavy as a buffalo would have been for Thunder bird Woman.
"Help!" he called. "Little Big-Belly Boy, wherever you are, come help me!"
Little Big-Belly Boy, when he came, laughed to see the big man groan under the weight of the grass. Instead of helping, he decided to have some fun. He sat down on the ground, frowned, and said, "But Skiwis, it is only a blade of grass. If you shrug, it will fall off."
"I cannot," Skiwis wheezed. "Help me, or it will crush me to the ground!"
But for every time the big man pleaded, "Help me!" the boy answered, "But, Skiwis . . ." At last, when Skiwis collapsed on the ground, Little Big-Belly Boy picked the blade of grass from his back.
"Ai-ee!" Skiwis cried out as he struggled to his feet. "I cannot hunt with so sore a back. You must come home with me and help me cure it."
So they went together back to the grass lodge. There, Skiwis uprooted a cottonwood tree from the grove along the creek, lay face down, and tugged the tree onto his back so that it stood upright on its roots. "Go gather firewood," he said to Little Big-Belly Boy, "and pile it up atop the tree roots, then light it. The heat will cure my soreness."
When the fire grew too hot, Skiwis shrugged it
off his back, and stood and stretched. "Much better," he said.
The next morning he went out hunting again, and did not return until late at night. With him he brought, on a strong grass rope, a large buffalo that he had caught and not killed. He led the angry beast to the north door of the grass lodge, listened to be sure that Thunderbird Woman and Little Big-Belly Boy were asleep, and tied the rope to the cottonwood tree there. In the morning, when the boy rose, took up a water jar, and went to go out, he found his way barred by the big buffalo. The very big buffalo. It bellowed.
Little Big-Belly Boy backed back into the lodge. "Skiwis, Skiwis!" he cried. "Help me! A big buffalo is standing here!"
Skiwis lay on his bed and pretended to be asleep. To tease Little Big-Belly Boy, he yawned and grunted, and turned onto his other side, with his face to the wall.
"S kiwis, S kiwis! Help me! Come and chase this big buffalo away!"
Skiwis only pulled his buffalo-robe blanket over his head, but his bed shook with his laughter. Little Big-Belly Boy came close and called out loudly into his ear, "Skiwis, Skiwis!"
Skiwis sat up and rubbed his ear.
"Skiwis, come kill this buffalo," the boy begged.
"Kill it and take the hide, and make for me a buffalo robe like yours."
So Skiwis did. He rose, stepped out, took the buffalo by the horns, gave it a great shake, andhai!—was holding a handsome buffalo robe.
Little Big-Belly Boy thanked him for it, but thought to himself that he would frighten S kiwis to pay Skiwis for frightening him. A few days later, he caught a mouse and tied a thin hide cord around its neck. That night he tied the other end of the cord around the trunk of the cottonwood tree outside the lodge door. In the morning Skiwis rose early, but when he went to go out, he backed away from the doorway when he saw the mouse, for he was afraid of it. "Boy! Little Big-Belly Boy! Help me!" he cried. "There is a mouse here."
Then, "Come kill this mouse," he called.
Little Big-Belly Boy only lay in his bed and laughed. When at last he rose, Skiwis asked him to make him a mouse robe, as he had made the buffalo robe. So Little Big-Belly Boy did. That night, though, when Skiwis went to bed, he had to ask the boy's help to pull on his mouse robe, for it was too heavy for him. In the night, he could not turn over in his bed because of its weight, and had to call Little Big-Belly Boy to pull it off before he could sleep.
As the months passed, though, the boy grew
more quiet, the teasing and playing stopped, and Skiwis saw that he was unhappy. "Why are you unhappy?" Skiwis asked.
Little Big-Belly Boy shivered. "I had a telling-dream," he said. "A terrible creature is going to come and carry me off."
"Poh!" said Skiwis. "Let it try! I will shoot it dead, like this." He took up his bow and arrows, and when he shot at the tree in front of the grass house, the arrow went all the way through the tree.
"It will not be enough," the boy said. "The creature that will come has powers too great for you."
"Do not be afraid," Skiwis said. "I will find some way to protect you."
The creature came when Little Big-Belly Boy was out playing. He saw nothing, but heard a great rushing in the air, and ran as fast as he could to the grass lodge. "It is coming! I hear it!" he cried.
Skiwis went to the door. He looked, and saw a dark cloud sweeping down from the north. He looked again, and saw that the cloud was not a cloud, but a great, dark bird. When the bird came closer still, he saw that it had sharp flint stones all over its body instead of feathers, and a beak as hard and sharp as flint. It was Sun Buzzard, a monster from the fiery darkness at the back of the sun, and it swooped down heavily to light in the top of the big cottonwood tree
Skiwis took up his bow and arrows, and stepped outside. He shot, and missed. Four times he shot. Four times he missed. When he had shot his last arrow, Sun Buzzard flew down with an angry scream, seized Skiwis in its beak, tossed him onto its stone-feathered back, and flew away. It flew far across the land until it came to a great, wide stretch of water, and then on across the water toward a small island. The sharp stones cut Skiwis's hands, but he hung on until Sun Buzzard reached around with its beak and pulled him off. It swooped down and dropped him into a nest in the top of the tallest tree on the island.
Hai! I am safe for a while, Skiwis thought when he looked up and saw Sun Buzzard flap away. He looked down over the edge of the nest and saw heaps of bones on the ground far below, and as he looked, he felt a sharp bite on his foot. When he rolled over, he saw four young buzzards with fuzz instead of feathers. "Meat, meat!" they squeaked. They began to peck at him.
"HOH!" S kiwis roared in his loudest voice. The young buzzards tumbled over one another as they backed toward the far side of the nest. Skiwis reached out and snatched up one by its neck. "HOH!" he roared again to keep the others away. "You all are too small to be Sun Buzzard's children. Whose children are you?"
"I am the child of Nice Clear Weather," piped up one.
"And I of Hard Rain Followed by Hard Wind," squeaked another.
"And I of Foggy Day."
"And I of Cold Weather Followed by Blizzard," croaked the one he held.
"People don't want you," Skiwis exclaimed, and he threw it out of the nest. Then he threw out the child of Hard Rain Followed by Hard Wind. "You two may stay," he said to the children of Nice Clear Weather and Foggy Day as he climbed over the edge of the nest and started down the tree. "Everyone likes nice, clear weather, and I like foggy days."
When he reached the ground, Skiwis took the bowstring from his bow and stretched it out longer and longer until he thought that it was long enough to reach across the water to the far shore. Then he swung the string back and with a mighty thwack! struck out and down with it like a whip. Out the string flew, and down it snapped with such a mighty blow that the water sprang up and away on both sides. Swiftly, Skiwis jumped down from the island and ran along the muddy bottom before the waters on the two sides could rush back together. When he reached the shore, he kept on running so that he could reach his own country and grass lodge, and Thunderbird Woman and Little
Big-Belly Boy, before Sun Buzzard discovered he was gone.
For a long while all was well, but at last Sun Buzzard did come. The three friends in the grass lodge heard its scream and the noise as it settled down atop the big cottonwood tree beside the north door. Skiwis shook with fright. Seeing his fear, Little Big-Belly Boy grew even more frightened.
"Come," Thunderbird Woman said. "I know what to do. Follow me." She led them out the south door and on toward the mountains not far off. When they reached the mountains, Thunderbird Woman took Skiwis and the boy up on her back and carried them straight into the rock. A way opened up before her as she went, and the rock closed up behind her. When they came out on the other side of the mountains, she sat down to rest.
"Go, Skiwis. Put your ear to the mountain and tell us whether Sun Buzzard is coming still."
Skiwis went to put his ear to the rock and heard a far-off grinding sound. "It is coming," he called.
The others came close to listen as Sun Buzzard slowly ground his way through the rock. When at last it broke through the side of the mountain, it fell flat. Unlike Thunderbird Woman, it had no magical power. Its great strength and anger alone had brought it through the rock. Its beak was broken off. Most of the stones it wore in place of
feathers were torn away. Its wings were ripped. But still it shrieked and lunged at Skiwis, until he lifted up and dropped a great rock on it, and killed it.
"Monsters!" said Thunderbird Woman. "But now all is well again." And she took Skiwis and the boy back up on her back, and set out through the rock mountain for home.