[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Native American Marriage Tales unit. Story source: Tales of the North American Indians by Stith Thompson (1929).
Then they sent the blackbird, which lit on his back and began to sing. But the bull said to it also: "Go away, I do not want you about."
The blackbird flew back to the men and said, " I can do nothing to help you to get your daughter back, but I will tell you of two animals that work unseen and are very cunning: they are the mole and the badger. If you get their help you will surely recover the girl."
Then the young men got the mole and the badger, and they started at night, taking arrows with them. They went underground, the mole going ahead. The badger followed and made the hole larger.
They came under the place where the girl was sitting and the mole emerged under her blanket. He gave her the arrows which he had brought, and she stuck them into the ground and rested her robe on them, and then the badger came under this too. The two animals said to her, "We have come to take you back."
She said, " I am afraid," but they urged her to flee.
Finally she consented and, leaving her robe in the position in which she always sat, went back through the hole with the mole and the badger to the house of the young men.
When she arrived they started to flee. The girl had become tired, when they came to the stone and asked it to help them. The stone said, "I can do nothing for you, the bull is too powerful to contend with."
They rested by the side of the stone; then they continued on their way, one of them carrying the girl. But they went more slowly on account of her.
They crossed a river, went through the timber, and on the prairie the girl walked again for a distance. In front of them they saw a lone immense cottonwood tree. They said to it: "We are pursued by a powerful animal and come to you for help."
The tree told them, "Run around me four times," and they did this. The tree had seven large branches, the lowest of them high enough to be out of the reach of the buffalo, and at the top was a fork in which was a nest. They climbed the tree, each of the men sitting on one of the branches, and the girl getting into the nest. So they waited for the bull who would pursue them.
When the bull touched his wife in order to go to water, she did not move. He spoke to her angrily and touched her again. The third time he tried to hook her with his horn, but tossed the empty robe away.
"They cannot escape me," he said.
He noticed the fresh ground which the badger had thrown up in order to close the hole. He hooked the ground and threw it to one side, and the other bulls got up and did the same, throwing the ground as if they were making a ditch and following the course of the underground passage until they came to the place where the people had lived. The camp was already broken up, but they followed the people's trail.
Coming to the stone, the bull asked, "Have you hidden the people or done anything to help them?"
The stone said: "I have not helped them for fear of you."
But the bull insisted: "Tell me where you hid them. I know that they reached you and are somewhere about."
"No, I did not hide them; they reached this place but went on," said the stone.
"Yes, you have hidden them; I can smell them and see their tracks about here."
"The girl rested here a short time; that is what you smell," said the stone.
Then the buffalo followed the trail again and crossed the river, the bull leading. One calf which was becoming very tired tried hard to keep up with the rest. It became exhausted at the lone cottonwood tree and stopped to rest. But the herd went on, not having seen the people in the tree. They went far on.
The girl was so tired that she had a slight hemorrhage. Then she spat down. As the calf was resting in the shade below, the bloody spittle fell down before it. The calf smelled it, knew it, got up, and went after the rest of the buffalo.
Coming near the herd, it cried out to the bull: "Stop! I have found a girl in the top of a tree. She is the one who is your wife." Then the whole herd turned back to the tree.
When they reached it, the bull said: "We will surely get you."
The tree said: "You have four parts of strength. I give you a chance to do something to me." Then the buffalo began to attack the tree; those with least strength began. They butted it until its thick bark was peeled off. Meanwhile the young men were shooting them from the tree.
The tree said: "Let some of them break their horns." Then came the large bulls, who split the wood of the tree, but some stuck fast, and others broke their horns or lost the covering.
The bull said, "I will be the last one and will make the tree fall." At last he came on, charging against the tree from the southeast, striking it, and making a big gash. Then, coming from the southwest, he made a larger hole. Going to the northwest, he charged from there, and again cut deeper, but broke his right horn. Going then to the northeast, he charged the tree with his left horn and made a still larger hole.
The fifth time he went straight east, intending to strike the tree in the center and break it down. He pranced about, raising the dust, but the tree said to him: "You can do nothing. So come on quickly." This made him angry and he charged.
The tree said: "This time you will stick fast," and he ran his left horn far into the middle of the wood and stuck fast. Then the tree told the young men to shoot him in the soft part of his neck and sides, for he could not get loose or injure them. Then they shot him and killed him, so that he hung there. Then they cut him loose.
The tree told them to gather all the chips and pieces of wood that had been knocked off and cover the bull with them, and they did so. All the buffalo that had not been killed went away.
The tree said to them: "Hereafter you will be overcome by human beings. You will have horns, but when they come to hunt you, you will be afraid. You will be killed and eaten by them and they will use your skins." Then the buffalo scattered over the land with half-broken, short horns.
Next: Splinter-Foot-Girl (end)