Myths And Legends Of The Sioux
The Story Of The Pet Crane
There was once upon a time a man who did not care to live with his tribe in a crowded village, but preferred a secluded spot in the deep forest, there to live with his wife and family of five children. The oldest of the children (a boy) was twelve years of age, and being the son of a distinguished hunter, soon took to roaming through the forest in search of small game.
One day during his ramblings, he discovered a crane’s nest, with only one young crane occupying it. No doubt some fox or traveling weasel had eaten the rest of the crane’s brothers and sisters. The boy said to himself, “I will take this poor little crane home and will raise him as a pet for our baby. If I leave him here some hungry fox will be sure to eat the poor little fellow.” He carried the young crane home and it grew to be nearly as tall as the boy’s five-year-old sister.
Being brought up in a human circle, it soon grew to understand all the family said. Although it could not speak it took part in all the games played by the children. The father of the family was, as I have before mentioned, a great hunter. He always had a plentiful supply of deer, antelope, buffalo and beaver meats on hand, but there came a change.
The game migrated to some other locality, where no deadly shot like “Kutesan” (Never Miss) would be around to annihilate their fast decreasing droves. The hunter started out early one morning in hopes of discovering some of the game which had disappeared as suddenly as though the earth had swallowed them. The hunter traveled the whole day, all to no purpose. It was late in the evening when he staggered into camp. He was nearly dead with fatigue. Hastily swallowing a cup of cherry bark tea (the only article of food they had in store), he at once retired and was soon in the sweet land of dreams. The children soon joined their father and the poor woman sat thinking how they could save their dear children from starvation.
Suddenly out upon the night air rang the cry of a crane. Instantly the pet crane awoke, stepped outside and answered the call. The crane which had given the cry was the father of the pet crane, and learning from Mr. Fox of the starving condition of his son and his friends, he flew to the hunting grounds of the tribe, and as there had been a good kill that day, the crane found no trouble in securing a great quantity of fat. This he carried to the tent of the hunter and, hovering over the tent he suddenly let the fat drop to the earth and at once the pet crane picked it up and carried it to the woman.
Wishing to surprise the family on their awakening in the morning she got a good stick for a light, heaped up sticks on the dying embers, and started up a rousing fire and proceeded to melt or try out the fat, as melted fat is considered a favorite dish. Although busily occupied she kept her ears open for any strange noises coming out of the forest, there being usually some enemies lurking around. She held her pan in such a position that after the fat started to melt and quite a lot of the hot grease accumulated in the pan, she could plainly see the tent door reflected in the hot grease, as though she used a mirror.
When she had nearly completed her task, she heard a noise as though some footsteps were approaching Instantly her heart began to beat a tattoo on her ribs, but she sat perfectly quiet, calling all her self-control into play to keep from making an outcry. This smart woman had already studied out a way in which to best this enemy, in case an enemy it should be.
The footsteps, or noise, continued to advance, until at last the woman saw reflected in the pan of grease a hand slowly protruding through the tent door, and the finger pointed, as if counting, to the sleeping father, then to each one of the sleeping children, then to her who sat at the fire. Little did Mr. Enemy suppose that the brave woman who sat so composed at her fire, was watching every motion he was making. The hand slowly withdrew, and as the footsteps slowly died away, there rang out on the still night air the deep fierce howl of the prairie wolf. (This imitation of a prairie wolf is the signal to the war party that an enemy has been discovered by the scout whom they have sent out in advance). At once she aroused her husband and children.
Annoyed at being so unceremoniously disturbed from his deep sleep, the husband crossly asked why she had awakened him so roughly. The wife explained what she had seen and heard. She at once pinned an old blanket around the crane’s shoulders and an old piece of buffalo hide on his head for a hat or head covering. Heaping piles of wood onto the fire she instructed him to run around outside of the hut until the family returned, as they were going to see if they could find some roots to mix up with the fat. Hurriedly she tied her blanket around her middle, put her baby inside of it, and then grabbed her three year old son and packed him on her back. The father also hurriedly packed the next two and the older boy took care of himself.
Immediately upon leaving the tent they took three different directions, to meet again on the high hill west of their home. The reflection from the fire in the tent disclosed to them the poor pet crane running around the tent. It looked exactly like a child with its blanket and hat on.
Suddenly there rang out a score of shots and war whoops of the dreaded Crow Indians. Finding the tent deserted they disgustedly filed off and were swallowed up in the darkness of the deep forest.
The next morning the family returned to see what had become of their pet crane. There, riddled to pieces, lay the poor bird who had given up his life to save his dear friends.