The younger boy now begged permission to catch eagles also. The elder refused him three times. The fourth time he consented, but warned the lad not to touch a big red eagle. So the boy concealed himself in the trap.
One of the smaller eagles soared down and began to eat the meat. The boy caught and killed it without difficulty. Another settled on the trap, then a third. Those also he killed. Then came a big red eagle. Forgetting his brother’s warning and tempted by its bright feathers, he seized its wing and tried to drag it down. The eagle, however, was too strong. It pulled him out of the trap and carried him far away. His brother looked for him that evening, saw the gaping hole in the trap, and knowing what had happened sat down and wept. He wept and wept, until he shriveled up and became a tiny baby again.
An old woman who was traveling to one side of a party happened to hear the baby cry. She picked it up, wrapped it in her blanket, gathered some of the feathers that were strewn about, and hurried on to rejoin her people.
In the party were her ten sons. As the eldest was pitching his tent that evening, she said to him, “Back yonder on the hill I found a little baby and brought it along with me. May we sleep in your tent tonight?”
“No”, he answered gruffly. “The child will disturb us too much.”
She approached the second son, the third, the fourth; each rejected her in almost the same words. Last of all, she approached the tenth and youngest. “Yes, mother, come in and bring your baby with you. He will be a little brother to me.”
So the old woman lodged with her youngest son, to whom she gave her eagle feathers. The years passed by, and her baby grew into a sturdy youth. One winter the Indians set up their tents beside a large pond and began to scour the countryside for buffalo. Not an animal could they find anywhere. Before long their supply of food ran low, yet they would not move away, for they still hoped that one or more herds would appear in their neighbourhood.
While they were idly waiting, the chief of the band tried to capture two foxes that had made their dens in the vicinity, but the animals were too cunning for him. Annoyed at the failure, he sent a crier round the camp to proclaim that the man who brought him their skins might marry one of his daughters. All the best hunters went out to try their skill but failed — the foxes outwitted every one.
One day the boy brought some sticks into his foster-grandmother’s tent and began to make a bow and arrows. She said to him, “What are you going to shoot, my grandson?”
“I am going to try for the foxes.”
“Foolish boy. If the best hunters in the camp can’t catch them, you certainly will not succeed.”
“I can at least try. It may be that I can shoot them with my arrows.”
The grandmother only laughed; she said no more.
Unnoticed by anyone in the camp, the boy slipped away the next morning and hid near one of the dens. A fox emerged and wandered away. As soon as it disappeared, he planted a circle of pointed sticks around the hole, then hid again and waited. Not long afterwards the fox returned, spied the watching lad, and darted for its hole. The sharp sticks pierced its neck and killed it. The boy killed the other fox in exactly the same manner and, concealing the furs under his coat, he started for home. As he trudged along, snow fell and obliterated his tracks so that no one discovered where he had been.
Outside his tent he stopped, glanced quickly round, and concealed his furs in a heap of firewood. Then he went inside and sat down without saying a word. His grandmother looked up and asked:
“Where have you been?”
“Oh, I just went out and caught the foxes.”
She laughed again.
“Oh, but I will prove it,” he said. And going outside he plucked a few hairs from the furs and brought them in to her.
“You shouldn’t pull the hair out of our dogs,” she said. “The weather is very cold, and they need all their fur.”
Three times he brought in scraps of the fox fur, and each time she declared that he had pulled them out of the dogs. The fourth time he brought in the furs themselves.
The old woman gazed at them in amazement. At last she said, “My grandchild, you have been very lucky. But you are too young to marry one of the chief’s daughters. You had better give the furs to one of your brothers.”
The boy did not answer. In the evening she told her younger son what had happened. Loudly he voiced his praise and said to the boy:
“Don’t give the furs to anyone else. Take them to the chief yourself.”
At dawn the people discovered that the foxes were missing and informed the chief, who walked through the camp crying before every tent, “Who killed the foxes?”
No one answered him. None of the hunters could produce the furs, and no one thought of the poor orphan lad. Greatly perplexed, the chief retired to his tent again.
The sun had reached noon when the old woman, concealing the furs under her robe, stole inside the tent and sat down humbly at the right of the door.
The chief looked up and said to his family, “This old woman has never visited me before. Feed her well, and then let her tell us what she wants.”
They fed her, but instead of announcing why she had come, she quietly slipped through the door and returned home.
“I brought the furs back,” she said to the boy. “You are such a poor wretched orphan that I was ashamed to tell him.”
Before he could reply, her own son spoke up, “You did wrong, mother. You should have told the chief. Go back now and give him the furs.”
The old woman went out slowly. Presently she returned with her message again undelivered. He sent her a third time but shame still sealed her lips. Driven back for the fourth time, she sat with bowed head inside the doorway vainly trying to muster up her courage. At last she rose to steal outside again but as she stooped to pass through the door, the fox’s tail slipped down into view below her robe. With one bound the chief pulled it away from her, seized the other fox fur also, and cried, “Now — which of your sons was it that killed them?”
“It was my foster-grandson”, she murmured. “I was too ashamed to give you the furs before.”
The chief sat down in silence, and his elder daughter turned her face away in disgust. But the younger girl cried out, “If her grandson has killed the foxes, I will marry him.”
So the younger girl returned with the old woman and married the youth, while her sister remained with her father. Three days passed without incident. On the fourth, the youth said to his bride, “Tell your father to build the pound higher and to keep a sharp watch, for tomorrow I am going to drive in some buffalo”.
The girl carried his message to her father, who issued the necessary orders to his people. He was a wise old man and realized that the orphan possessed great medicine-power. Most of the hunters, however, ridiculed the youth, and the boys in the camp pelted him with clods when he started out at dawn for the hunting grounds.
All that morning the camp waited expectantly. A party that left before the orphan had returned empty-handed and reported that there was no sign of game. The sun was already low when a watchman excitedly signaled that a large herd of buffalo was approaching the pound, driven by someone he could not distinguish. It was the orphan, who, having changed himself into a wolf as soon as the camp was out of sight, had rounded up the animals and now in his proper form was herding them toward the corral. Glowing with pride, the old chief shouted to his followers, “Come and watch my son-in-law drive in the buffalo.”
As the last of the buffalo stampeded into the pound, the Indians closed the barrier, mounted the ramparts, and shot them down. Not one escaped. Then they butchered them and divided the meat and hides among all the families in the camp.
Next day the youth drove in more buffalo, and still more on the third day. At daybreak on the fourth he said to his wife, “Tell your father to strengthen the pound, because in today’s herd will come the biggest animal he has ever seen. That animal he must reserve for me to kill.”
The herd he drove in that day was even larger than the three earlier ones. He did not stay to watch the massacre, but retired to his tent, where he ordered his wife to comb and dress her hair. Then from behind his sleeping place he mysteriously produced two beautiful costumes, one for her and one for himself. Arraying themselves in these garments, they proceeded to the pound, where the hunters had killed all the buffalo except the giant animal he had specially reserved for his own arrows. He shot this last buffalo, and his wife carried the meat in a precious otter skin to his tent. There she disdained to wash the skin, but scornfully threw it away, for now she and her husband were so prosperous that even an otter skin possessed little value in their eyes.
Henceforth the camp recognized the orphan youth as its leader and promptly obeyed whatever commands he issued through the old chief, his father-in-law. Yet there was one person who hated him — his wife’s older sister, the girl who had scorned him in the days of his poverty. If her parents offered her meat from any buffalo he had driven into the pound, she flung it to the ground in contempt.
Constantly did she spy on his movements in the hope that her “medicine”, which was a mole, might be able to work him some injury.
Now the youth frequently visited a hilltop above the camp and often slept there. One day the girl discovered him asleep and sent her mole-spirit to tunnel the ground under his body. The mole did its work so well that the earth collapsed and precipitated him into a deep pit, from which he could not get out. Then day after day his sister-in-law climbed the hill and mockingly threw dirt in his face. In vain he cried for mercy and begged her to help him out, or a t least to tell his people. She merely derided his misery. Not knowing what had become of him, his people concluded that he had perished. Even his own wife gave up all hope and went into mourning for him.
Now that they had no one to drive the buffalo into their pound the Indians moved away. Then a wolf that was prowling for food round the deserted campsite discovered the youth, and howled. Soon a whole pack gathered about the pit. The mother wolf said to them:
“Whoever succeeds in extricating this man may take him for her son.”
The animals scratched vigorously, but no sooner had they loosened the earth all around than the old wolf herself caught hold of him and pulled him out. She adopted him as her son and allowed him to join the wanderings of her pack. At night, because he no longer owned a blanket, the wolves made a soft mattress for him by spreading their tails together on the ground; but within two or three days they killed a buffalo, whose hide provided him with a warm robe.
This pack of wolves roaming in the vicinity spoiled the hunting of the youth’s people, who set traps to catch them. But the youth protected his companions by breaking the traps. The old chief awakened one night and listened to their howling.
“Hark,” he said. “I seem to hear a man calling to those wolves.”
He roused the hunters, who intercepted the pack and seized the youth as he ran in front of it. The prisoner tried to bite them, but they said, “Don’t bite. You haven’t yet changed to a wolf.”
They then led him quietly home, where he settled down again with his wife and people.
Every night thereafter he lay awake in his tent, listening for the howl of his foster-mother. For several nights he could not hear it. Then one day he saw her skin drying outside a hunter’s tent for she had wandered away from the pack and had been caught in a trap. The youth sent his grandmother to ask for the skin. When she handed it to him, he grunted over it four times, at the fourth grunt it became a live wolf again. He set the animal free and it returned to the prairies. Thus he repaid his debt to his foster-mother.
He now resumed his hunting and rounded up a large herd of buffalo. As the animals trotted over the plain, he called to a young heifer, “When my arrow strikes you, leap over the rampart of the pound and flee to that tall poplar beyond the hill. Then lie down and die.”
The Indians slaughtered all the buffalo he drove into the pound except the young heifer, which leaped the rampart and fled over the hill. The youth shouted to his wife, “Come with me. We will follow it”.
“Let me go too”, cried his sister-in-law.
“Yes, you may come”, he answered.
So the two women accompanied him to the dead heifer and watched him butcher it. “There is your load,” he said to his wife. “Carry it to our tent.”
“Give me a load also”, his sister-in-law demanded.
“Yes here is a load for you too. You can use the intestine of the heifer for your pack-strap.”
The two women started back with their loads but had traveled only a very short distance when the intestine broke and the elder woman’s pack fell to the ground. While she was retying it, her sister walked on and disappeared over the top of the hill. Then the youth, who had lingered behind, began to howl like a wolf.
“Why do you howl like that?” his sister-in-law asked anxiously.
Without answering he turned his back to her and howled three times again. Suddenly a pack of wolves appeared –his foster family. They pounced on the woman and devoured her.