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Iktomi's Blanket






Source: Old Indian Legends

ALONE within his teepee sat Iktomi. The sun was but a handsbreadth from
the western edge of land.

"Those, bad, bad gray wolves! They ate up all my nice fat ducks!"
muttered he, rocking his body to and fro.

He was cuddling the evil memory he bore those hungry wolves. At last he
ceased to sway his body backward and forward, but sat still and stiff as
a stone image.

"Oh! I'll go to Inyan, the great-grandfather, and pray for food!" he
exclaimed.

At once he hurried forth from his teepee and, with his blanket over one
shoulder, drew nigh to a huge rock on a hillside.

With half-crouching, half-running strides, he fell upon Inyan with
outspread hands.

"Grandfather! pity me. I am hungry. I am starving. Give me food.
Great-grandfather, give me meat to eat!" he cried. All the while he
stroked and caressed the face of the great stone god.

The all-powerful Great Spirit, who makes the trees and grass, can hear
the voice of those who pray in many varied ways. The hearing of
Inyan, the large hard stone, was the one most sought after. He was the
great-grandfather, for he had sat upon the hillside many, many seasons.
He had seen the prairie put on a snow-white blanket and then change it
for a bright green robe more than a thousand times.

Still unaffected by the myriad moons he rested on the everlasting hill,
listening to the prayers of Indian warriors. Before the finding of the
magic arrow he had sat there.

Now, as Iktomi prayed and wept before the great-grandfather, the sky in
the west was red like a glowing face. The sunset poured a soft mellow
light upon the huge gray stone and the solitary figure beside it. It
was the smile of the Great Spirit upon the grandfather and the wayward
child.

The prayer was heard. Iktomi knew it. "Now, grandfather, accept my
offering; 'tis all I have," said Iktomi as he spread his half-worn
blanket upon Inyan's cold shoulders. Then Iktomi, happy with the smile
of the sunset sky, followed a footpath leading toward a thicketed
ravine. He had not gone many paces into the shrubbery when before him
lay a freshly wounded deer!

"This is the answer from the red western sky!" cried Iktomi with hands
uplifted.

Slipping a long thin blade from out his belt, he cut large chunks of
choice meat. Sharpening some willow sticks, he planted them around a
wood-pile he had ready to kindle. On these stakes he meant to roast the
venison.

While he was rubbing briskly two long sticks to start a fire, the sun in
the west fell out of the sky below the edge of land. Twilight was over
all. Iktomi felt the cold night air upon his bare neck and shoulders.
"Ough!" he shivered as he wiped his knife on the grass. Tucking it in a
beaded case hanging from his belt, Iktomi stood erect, looking about.
He shivered again. "Ough! Ah! I am cold. I wish I had my blanket!"
whispered he, hovering over the pile of dry sticks and the sharp stakes
round about it. Suddenly he paused and dropped his hands at his sides.

"The old great-grandfather does not feel the cold as I do. He does not
need my old blanket as I do. I wish I had not given it to him. Oh! I
think I'll run up there and take it back!" said he, pointing his long
chin toward the large gray stone.

Iktomi, in the warm sunshine, had no need of his blanket, and it had
been very easy to part with a thing which he could not miss. But the
chilly night wind quite froze his ardent thank-offering.

Thus running up the hillside, his teeth chattering all the way, he drew
near to Inyan, the sacred symbol. Seizing one corner of the half-worn
blanket, Iktomi pulled it off with a jerk.

"Give my blanket back, old grandfather! You do not need it. I do!" This
was very wrong, yet Iktomi did it, for his wit was not wisdom. Drawing
the blanket tight over his shoulders, he descended the hill with
hurrying feet.

He was soon upon the edge of the ravine. A young moon, like a bright
bent bow, climbed up from the southwest horizon a little way into the
sky.

In this pale light Iktomi stood motionless as a ghost amid the thicket.
His woodpile was not yet kindled. His pointed stakes were still bare as
he had left them. But where was the deer--the venison he had felt warm
in his hands a moment ago? It was gone. Only the dry rib bones lay on
the ground like giant fingers from an open grave. Iktomi was troubled.
At length, stooping over the white dried bones, he took hold of one and
shook it. The bones, loose in their sockets, rattled together at his
touch. Iktomi let go his hold. He sprang back amazed. And though he wore
a blanket his teeth chattered more than ever. Then his blunted sense
will surprise you, little reader; for instead of being grieved that he
had taken back his blanket, he cried aloud, "Hin-hin-hin! If only I had
eaten the venison before going for my blanket!"

Those tears no longer moved the hand of the Generous Giver. They were
selfish tears. The Great Spirit does not heed them ever.





Next: Iktomi And The Muskrat

Previous: Iktomi And The Ducks



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