Manataka American Indian Council

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FEATURE STORY

December 2010

 

This Blanket is For You - an old winter story retold

By Lee Standing Bear Moore and Takatoka

 

There was once a man and his son who lived together in their tipi lodge near the ancient mountains that gave life to the Arkasaw River.

 

The man loved his son greatly and taught him everything he knew.  When they took long walks in the forest, the man stopped often to explain the wonder and medicine of flowers, herbs, trees and grasses. He spoke of the giving spirit of each plant and how each one serves as healing medicine. At night as they sat together watching the stars, the man told his son about the cycles of life and the vast beauty of the universe.  As they prepared meals, the son watched his father intently and listened to his wise instruction knowing that his health and well-being were foremost in his father's mind. He told his son about the seasons and the importance of being in balance within, and in balance with the environment and all things and especially other humans.  The father encouraged his son to make friends with all the forest animals, to sing and drum and give thanks to the Creator of All Things.  Yes, the man loved his son greatly and taught him everything he knew. 

 

As the son grew to become a young man, his father took him hunting and counseled him in the old ways of conserving sources of life; to always give more than he takes; to be kind and compassionate; to be an honorable person; to have strong faith in the Great Mystery, the Creator; and to live softly.

 

One day the son came to his father and said, "Father, it is time for me to take a woman into our lodge.  It is time to have a sits-beside-me woman.  I would like to have your permission to go to a village down river to seek my mate."

 

The father lovingly looked at his son and realized for the first time that he was no longer a just a boy, but had grown to become a strong young man who won his right of passage.  "Son, you have learned the lessons well.  You have proven to be a good person.  You have my permission to seek a mate."

 

The next morning the son arose and packed his pouch with pemmican, flint and other necessities and prepared to leave when his father came to him and said, "This blanket is for you.  May it keep you warm and safe until your return."  The young man took three of his horses hoping to use them as gifts to the family of his intended bride. His horses were all that he possessed, all that he earned.

 

The young man was gone from his father's lodge for nearly two moons.  One bright, sunny day the son returned with all three horses and a young woman riding the best of the three.  The son leapt off his horse and greeted his father with a big smile and a hug. 

 

"Father, I have found a life mate to sit beside me! 

 

The father was proud and well pleased with his son.  "You have done well dear son.  You and your bride are welcome to make our lodge yours.  Everything we have now belongs to you and your bride."

 

The young woman remained seated on the horse and stared off into the distance while the father and son renewed their friendship.  Presumably, she was shy and maybe lonely for her people.  As the men started to go into the lodge, the woman stayed on the horse and glared at the young man.  "Oh, forgive me dear one!, the young man said as he quickly ran to the horse and helped his new bride down.  "Get my things," she quietly told her husband. 

 

Later that night as they sat around the fire and the young woman busied herself with arranging her belongings where she wanted them.  The father and son just finished smoking the pipe and father quietly asked his son why he still had three horses.  "They were not required," said his son in a soft uncomfortable voice.  Even though father knew there was much more to that story, he let the subject drop and said, "Well, you must be hungry!"

 

Father and son waited patiently but no food appeared.  Finally, father said, "Forgive me, we have plenty of good things to eat, let me serve you."  Father prepared and served the meal for the newlyweds.  And that never changed.  Father prepared and served meals from then on.  Well, almost from then on.

 

From then on the young woman used her femininity to cajole her husband in carrying things, starting her fires, cleaning and storing his own game and a long list of other things.  Years went by and the new emperor of the lodge became more demanding.  She seldom kept a good family garden and grew fat from idleness.  By that time, her husband had become a slave and father was getting old and sick.  Then, it happened.

 

The woman became pregnant after twenty-years of marriage.  The baby was beautiful!  Everyone loved the baby, except by his mother when he became burdensome.  Then, it was up to grandfather to help care for his grandson.  Everyday when son went hunting or out farming and the woman was gone picking berries or walking in the flowers, grandfather taught his grandson everything he knew.

 

By the time the young grandson neared his time for the rites of passage, grandfather had become very ill and could no longer prepare and serve meals to the growing family.  The woman had two more children in the mean time, both who turned out to be copies of their mother.

 

The mother continually complained about grandfather's condition and refused to help care for him.  Finally, one day she told her husband, "He stinks!  He is old and worn out. I cannot care for him alone, so it is time for him to go!" 

 

The son looked down and said, "How can I get rid of father?  He has nowhere to go.  He taught me everything I know."

 

Days and weeks went by and the woman continued to harangue everyone, especially her husband.  Then, she announced, "You either take grandfather away to die, or you both will leave and I take my son back to my village in the south. 

 

The Father looked down and said, "I will do as you ask."

 

The Father went to his son and said, "I want you to take grandfather on a long journey tomorrow.  Take him far to the north into the sacred mountains and leave him there."

 

Grandson stood up quickly and said, "How is this possible?  This cannot be done!  Grandfather taught me everything I know."

 

Both father and mother scolded him until wee hours of the morning when grandfather said to his grandson, "Would you care to take a ride with me like we used to do? 

 

The next day as grandson and his grandfather prepared to leave the lodge, the mother could not believe her good fortune and so could not resist saying with a smile, "Here, take this old smelly blanket with him.  Maybe it will keep him warm."

 

The grandson helped strap his grandfather on his best horse and tied on the old blanket once given to his father long ago.  And, they began the long journey.

 

Many days passed and bad weather set in.  Grandfather of the north wind had begun his dance.  It was nearing a blizzard when the grandson rode up with two horses, opened the lodge door and jumped in with a blanket in his hand.  Mother said, "Good, you are home..... alone!  What is that in your hand?  I told you to give him that blanket! 

 

"I did as you asked Mother," he said. 

 

He held up the blanket and his mother said, "What is this?  This only half a blanket!  Are you crazy?  Why would you leave him only half a blanket?

 

The grandson stood firmly, looked at his mother eye-to-eye and said, "This half of the blanket is for you."

 

_____________________

 

What did you learn from Grandfather?

 

What did you learn from the story above?

 

We know that mother earned only half a blanket for her last journey because she was selfish and self-centered. 

We all earn the blessings, or lack thereof, earned in our old age.

  

 _____________________

 

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