The Old Chief

The old chief climbed to the top of the hill. He pulled himself up holding onto the limbs of mesquite and cedar, as the shale slipped under his moccasins. Occasionally a rock would slide off down the hill. Avoiding prickly pear thorns and skirting steep rocky drop offs he at last grunted to the top of the great mound. 

Many times since his youth he had been here. He had seen the plains, the waving grasslands to the north, and the broken canyons of red clay to the south. It was as it had always been. The breeze made his sparse gray hair dance lightly on his cheeks.

 He built a small fire there on top of the sacred mound. Lighting some fluff he brought which was made up of bird feather down, thin dried grass, and dry wood shavings by rotating a notched stick in a knot of bois d’arc wood he carried. As a spark ignited the fluff, he lightly blew on it, and as it burst into a tiny flame he nestled it in some very thin dry twigs of cedar. Adding slowly some more twigs he soon had a small smokeless crackling fire. 

In the pre dawn it was providing just enough light to allow him to prepare his sacred pipe for a ceremony. He drew out an ancient red stone pipe from his raccoon skin medicine bag and filled it with shredded tobacco from a smaller beaded deerskin sack. 

Standing up and facing east he lit the pipe with a twig from the fire. Drawing smoke through the hollow wooden stem. Holding the smoking pipe high as he faced East he said, “To the East wind, represented by the yellow bead on the pipe stem, which symbolizes the coming of the day, our birth, and all beginnings!” 

He puffed the pipe three times, and turning to his right he said, “To the South wind, represented by the red bead, which symbolizes the summer’s heat, which brings our crops, and also the passion of our youth.”  

Again he puffed and turned right, holding out the pipe chanting, “To the West wind, represented by the black bead, which symbolizes the going down of the sun, and the darkness of death, and doubt and uncertainty of our middle years.” 

Finally, turning once again to his right, and puffing the pipe he held it out and said, “To the North, represented by the white bead, which symbolizes the coming of winter, the white of our hair in old age, and hopefully,” he chuckled, “Wisdom.” He grinned a little. 

Turning again to face the East and the rising sun he held the pipe high above his head, looking upward, saying, “To the Man-God above, the great mystery that moves through it all!” 

Then holding the pipe pointing downward, prayed, “and to the Earth who is our mother, from whom we are made.” And he sat down by the fire to puff the pipe and to pray. 

In his thoughts he prayed for the best outcome for members of his tribe,’ for those who were ill, or who were troubled, or in doubt or fear.’ Then he chuckled softly to himself, his wrinkles deepening around his eyes and mouth, ‘For me, I ask nothing, for you have given me much, I am so blessed. Thanks.’

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