Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
WAR BONNET, TEEPEE AND COUPS
Forty yards and first shot. Well, that’s what the Injuns would call a ’_grand coup,’ and Caleb’s face wore the same pleasant look as when he made the fire with rubbing-sticks.
“What’s a grand coup?_” asked Little Beaver.
“Oh, I suppose it’s a big deed. The Injuns call a great feat a ’_coup,’ an’ an extra big one a ’grand coup.’ Sounds like French, an’ maybe ’tis, but the Injuns says it. They had a regular way of counting their coup, and for each they had the right to an Eagle feather in their bonnet, with a red tuft of hair on the end for the extra good ones. At least, they used to. I reckon now they’re forgetting it all, and any buck Injun wears just any feather he can steal and stick in his head.”
“What do you think of our head-dresses?” Yan ventured.
’Hm! You ain’t never seen a real one or you wouldn’t go at them that way at all. First place, the feathers should all be white with black tips, an’ fastened not solid like that, but loose on a cap of soft leather. Each feather, you see, has a leather loop lashed on the quill end for a lace to run through and hold it to the cap, an’ then a string running through the middle of each feather to hold it–just so. Then there are ways of marking each feather to show how it was got. I mind once I was out on a war party with a lot of Santees–that’s a brand of Sioux–an’ we done a lot o’ sneaking an’ stealing an’ scalped some of the enemy. Then we set out for home, and when we was still about thirty miles away we sent on an Injun telegram of good luck. The leader of our crowd set fire to the grass after he had sent two men half a mile away on each side to do the same thing, an’ up went three big smokes. There is always some one watching round an Injun village, an’ you bet when they seen them three smokes they knowed that we wuz a-coming back with scalps.
“The hull Council come out to meet us, but not too reckless, coz this might have been the trick of enemies to surprise them.
“Well, when we got there, maybe there wasn’t a racket. You see, we didn’t lose a man, and we brung in a hundred horses and seven scalps. Our leader never said a word to the crowd, but went right up to the Council teepee. He walked in–we followed. There was the Head Chief an’ all the Council settin’ smoking. Our leader give the ’How, an’ then we all ’Howed.’ Then we sat an’ smoked, an’ the Chief called on our leader for an account of the little trip. He stood up an’ made a speech.
“’Great Chief and Council of my Tribe,’ says he. ’After we left the village and the men had purified themselves, we travelled seven days and came to the Little Muddy River. There we found the track of a travelling band of Arapaho. In two days we found their camp, but they were too strong for us, so we hid till night; then I went alone into their camp and found that some of them were going off on a hunt next day. As I left I met a lone warrior coming in. I killed him with my knife. For that I claim a coup; and I scalped him–for that I claim another coup; an’ before I killed him I slapped his face with my hand–for this I claim a grand coup; and I brought his horse away with me–for that I claim another coup. Is it not so,’ sez he, turning to us, and we all yelled ’How! How! How!_’ For this fellow, ’Whooping Crane,’ was awful good stuff. Then the Council agreed that he should wear three Eagle feathers, the first for killing and scalping the enemy in his own camp–that was a grand coup, and the feather had a tuft of red hair on it an’ a red spot on the web. The next feather was for slapping the feller’s face first, which, of course, made it more risky. This Eagle feather had a red tuft on top an’ a red hand on the web; the one for stealing the horse had a horseshoe, but no tuft, coz it wasn’t counted A1.
“Then the other Injuns made their claims, an’ we all got some kind of honours. I mind one feller was allowed to drag a Fox tail at each heel when he danced, an’ another had ten horseshoe marks on an Eagle feather for stealing ten horses, an’ I tell you them Injuns were prouder of them feathers than a general would be of his medals.”
[Illustration: The War Bonnet (See description below)]
the Indian War Bonnet–how to Make It
1. The plain white Goose or Turkey feather.
2. The same, with tip dyed black or painted with indelible ink.
3. The same, showing ruff of white down lashed on with wax end.
4. The same, showing leather loop lashed on for the holding lace.
5. The same, viewed edge on.
6. The same, with a red flannel cover sewn and lashed on the quill. This is a ’coup feather.’
7. The same, with a tuft of red horsehair lashed on the top to mark a ’grand coup_’ and (_a_) a thread through the middle of the rib to hold feather in proper place. This feather is marked with the symbol of a grand coup in target shooting. This symbol may be drawn on an oval piece of paper gummed on the top of the feather.
8. The tip of a feather showing how the red horsehair tuft is lashed on with fine waxed thread.
9. The groundwork of the war bonnet made of any soft leather, (_a_) a broad band to go round the head, laced at the joint or seam behind; (_b_) a broad tail behind as long as needed to hold all the wearer’s feathers; (_c_) two leather thongs or straps over the top; (_d_) leather string to tie under the chin; (_e_) the buttons, conchas or side ornaments of shells, silver, horn or wooden discs, even small mirrors and circles of beadwork were used, and sometimes the conchas were left out altogether; they may have the owner’s totem on them, usually a bunch of ermine tails hung from each side of the bonnet just below the concha. A bunch of horsehair will answer as well; (_hh_) the holes in the leather for holding the lace of the feather; 24 feathers are needed for the full bonnet, without the tail, so they are put less than an inch apart; (_iii_) the lacing holes on the tail: this is as long as the wearer’s feathers call for; some never have any tail.
10. Side view of the leather framework, showing a pattern sometimes used to decorate the front.
11, 12 and 13. Beadwork designs for front band of bonnet; all have white grounds. No. 11 (Arapaho) has green band at top and bottom with red zigzag. No. 12 (Ogallala) has blue band at top and bottom, red triangles; the concha is blue with three white bars and is cut off from the band by a red bar. No. 13 (Sioux) has narrow band above and broad band below blue, the triangle red, and the two little stars blue with yellow centre.
14. The bases of three feathers, showing how the lace comes out of the cap leather, through the eye or loop on the bottom of the quill, and in again.
15. The completed bonnet, showing how the feathers of the crown should spread out, also showing the thread that passes through the middle of each feather on inner side to hold it in place; another thread passes from the point where the two straps (_c in 9) join, then down through each feather in the tail.
The Indians now often use the crown of a soft felt hat for the basis of a war bonnet.
N.B. A much easier way to mark the feather is to stick on it near the top an oval of white paper and on this draw the symbol with waterproof ink.
[Illustration: Grand Coup for taking Scalp in Enemy’s Camp G.C. for slapping his face Coup for stealing his Horse]
“My, I wish I could go out there and be with those fellows,” and Yan sighed as he compared his commonplace lot with all this romantic splendour.
“Guess you’d soon get sick of it. I know I did,” was the answer; “forever shooting and killing, never at peace, never more than three meals ahead of starvation and just as often three meals behind. No, siree, no more for me.”
“I’d just like to see you start in horse-stealing for honours round here,” observed Sam, “though I know who’d get the feathers if it was chicken stealing.”
“Say, Caleb,” said Guy, who, being friendly and of the country, never thought of calling the old man “Mr. Clark,” “didn’t they give feathers for good Deer-hunting? I’ll bet I could lick any of them at it if I had a gun.”
“Didn’t you hear me say first thing that that there shot o’ Yan’s should score a ’grand coup_’?”
“Oh, shucks! I kin lick Yan any time; that was just a chance shot. I’ll bet if you give feathers for Deer-hunting I’ll get them all.”
“We’ll take you up on that,” said the oldest Chief, but the next interrupted:
“Say, boys, we want to play Injun properly. Let’s get Mr. Clark to show us how to make a real war bonnet. Then we’ll wear only what feathers we win.”
“Ye mean by scalping the Whites an’ horse-stealing?”
“Oh, no; there’s lots of things we can do–best runner, best Deer hunter, best swimmer, best shot with bow and arrows.”
“All right.” So they set about questioning Caleb. He soon showed them how to put a war bonnet together, using, in spite of Yan’s misgivings, the crown of an old felt hat for the ground work and white goose quills trimmed and dyed black at the tips for Eagle feathers. But when it came to the deeds that were to be rewarded, each one had his own ideas.
“If Sappy will go to the orchard and pick a peck of cherries without old Cap gettin’ him, I’ll give him a feather with all sorts of fixin’s on it,” suggested Sam.
“Well, I’ll bet you can’t get a chicken out of our barn ’thout our Dog gettin’ you, Mr. Smarty.”
“Pooh! I ain’t stealing chickens. Do you take me for a nigger? I’m a noble Red-man and Head Chief at that, I want you to know, an’ I’ve a notion to collect that scalp you’re wearin’ now. You know it belongs to me and Yan,” and he sidled over, rolling his eye and working his fingers in a way that upset Guy’s composure. “And I tell you a feller with one foot in the grave should have his thoughts on seriouser things than chicken-stealing. This yere morbid cravin’ for excitement is rooinin’ all the young fellers nowadays.”
Yan happened to glance at Caleb. He was gazing off at nothing, but there was a twinkle in his eye that Yan never before saw there.
“Let’s go to the teepee. It’s too hot out here. Come in, won’t you, Mr. Clark?”
“Hm. ’Tain’t much cooler in here, even if it is shady,” remarked the old Trapper. “Ye ought to lift one side of the canvas and get some air.”
“Why, did the real Injuns do that?”
“I should say they did. There ain’t any way they didn’t turn and twist the teepee for comfort. That’s what makes it so good. Ye kin live in it forty below zero an’ fifty ’bove suffocation an’ still be happy. It’s the changeablest kind of a layout for livin’ in. Real hot weather the thing looks like a spider with skirts on and held high, an’ I tell you ye got to know the weather for a teepee. Many a hot night on the plains I’ve been woke up by hearing ’Tap-tap-tap’ all around me in the still black night and wondered why all the squaws was working, but they was up to drop the cover and drive all the pegs deeper, an’ within a half hour there never failed to come up a big storm. How they knew it was a-comin’ I never could tell. One old woman said a Coyote told her, an’ maybe that’s true, for they do change their song for trouble ahead; another said it was the flowers lookin’ queer at sundown, an’ another had a bad dream. Maybe they’re all true; it comes o’ watchin’ little things.”
“Do they never get fooled?” asked Little Beaver
’Oncet in awhile, but not near as often as a White-man would.
“I mind once seeing an artist chap, one of them there portygraf takers. He come out to the village with a machine an’ took some of the little teepees. Then I said, ’Why don’t you get Bull-calf’s squaw to put up their big teepee? I tell you that’s a howler.’ So off he goes, and after dickering awhile he got the squaw to put it up for three dollars. You bet it was a stunner, sure–all painted red, with green an’ yaller–animals an’ birds an’ scalps galore. It made that feller’s eyes bug out to see it. He started in to make some portygrafs, then was taking another by hand, so as to get the colours, an’ I bet it would have crowded him to do it, but jest when he got a-going the old squaw yelled to the other–the Chief hed two of them–an’ lighted out to take down that there teepee. That artist he hollered to stop, said he had hired it to stay up an’ a bargain was a bargain. But the old squaw she jest kept on a-jabberin’ an’ pintin’ at the west. Pretty soon they had the hull thing down and rolled up an’ that artist a-cussin’ like a cow-puncher. Well, I mind it was a fine day, but awful hot, an’ before five minutes there come a little dark cloud in the west, then in ten minutes come a-whoopin’ a regular small cyclone, an’ it went through that village and wrecked all the teepees of any size. That red one would surely have gone only for that smart old squaw.”
[Illustration: Bull-Calf’s Teepee.]
Under Caleb’s directions the breezy side of the cover was now raised a little, and the shady side much more. This changed the teepee from a stifling hothouse into a cool, breezy shade.
“An’ when ye want to know which way is the wind, if it’s light, ye wet your finger so, an’ hold it up. The windy side feels cool at once, and by that ye can set your smoke-flaps.”
“I want to know about war bonnets,” Yan now put in. “I mean about things to do to wear feathers–that is, things we can do.”
“Ye kin have races, an’ swimmin’ an bownarrer shootin’. I should say if you kin send one o’ them arrers two hundred yards that would kill a Buffalo at twenty feet. I’d think that was pretty good. Yes, I’d call that way up.”
“What–a grand coup?_”
“Yes, I reckon; an’ if you fell short on’y fifty yards that’d still kill a Deer, an’ we could call that a coup. If,” continued Caleb, “you kin hit that old gunny-sack buck plunk in the heart at fifty yards first shot I’d call that away up; an’ if you hit it at seventy-five yards in the heart no matter how many tries, I’d call you a shot. If you kin hit a nine-inch bull’s-eye two out of three at forty yards every time an’ no fluke, you’d hold your own among Injuns though I must say they don’t go in much for shooting at a target. They shoot at ’most anything they see in the woods. I’ve seen the little copper-coloured kids shooting away at butterflies. Then they have matches–they try who can have most arrers in the air at one time. To have five in the air at once is considered good. It means powerful fast work and far shooting. You got to hold a bunch handy in the left hand fur that. The most I ever seen one man have up at once was eight. That was reckoned ’big medicine,’ an’ any one that can keep up seven is considered swell.”
“Do you know any other things besides bows and arrows that would do?”
“I think that a rubbing-stick fire ought to count,” interrupted Sam. “I want that in coz Guy can’t do it. Any one who kin do it at all gets a feather, an’ any one who kin do it in one minute gets a swagger feather, or whatever you call it; that takes care of Yan and me an’ leaves Guy out in the cold.”
“I’ll bet I kin hunt Deer all round you both, I kin.”
“Oh, shut up, Sappy; we’re tired a-hearing about your Deer hunting. We’re going to abolish that game.” Then Sam continued, apparently addressing Caleb, “Do you know any Injun games?”
But Caleb took no notice.
Presently Yan said, “Don’t the Injuns play games, Mr. Clark?
“Well, yes, I kin show you two Injun games that will test your eyesight.”
“I bet I kin beat any one at it,” Guy made haste to tell. “Why, I seen that Deer before Yan could–”
“Oh, shut up, Guy,” Yan now exclaimed. A peculiar sound–"_Wheet–wheet–wheet_"–made Sappy turn. He saw Sam with an immense knife, whetting it most vigorously and casting a hungry, fishy glance from time to time to the “yaller moss-tuft” on Guy’s neck.
[Illustration: Archery Coup Feathers Their Special Marks Target Coup Feather Long-distance Five-in-air-at once]
“Time has came,” he said to nobody in particular.
“You better let me alone,” whined Guy, for that horrible “_wheet–wheet_” jarred his nerves somehow. He looked toward Yan, and seeing, as he thought, the suggestion of a smile, he felt more comfortable, but a glance at Sam dispelled his comfort; the Woodpecker’s face was absolutely inscrutable and perfectly demoniac with paint.
“Why don’t you whet up, Little Beaver? Don’t you want your share?" asked the Head Chief through his teeth.
“I vote we let him wear it till he brags again about his Deer-hunting. Then off she comes to the bone,” was the reply. “Tell us about the Injun game, Mr. Clark.”
“I pretty near forget it now, but le’s see. They make two squares on the ground or on two skins; each one is cut up in twenty-five smaller squares with lines like that. Then they have, say, ten rings an’ ten nuts or pebbles. One player takes five rings an’ five nuts an’ sets them around on the squares of one set, an’ don’t let the other see till all is ready; then the other turns an’ looks at it while some one else sings a little song that one of the boys turned into:
“’Ki yi ya–ki yi yee, You think yer smart as ye kin be, You think yer awful quick to see But yer not too quick for me, Ki yi ya–ki yi yee.’
“Then the first square is covered with a basket or anything and the second player must cover the other skin with counters just the same from memory. For every counter he gets on the right square he counts one, and loses one for each on the wrong square.”
“I’ll bet I kin––” Guy began, but Sam’s hand gripped his moss-tuft.
“Here, you let me alone. I ain’t bragging. I’m only telling the simple truth.”
“Ugh! Better tell some simple lies, then–much safer,” said the Great Woodpecker, with horrid calm and meaning. “If ever I lift that scalp you’ll catch cold and die, do ye know it?”
Again Yan could see that Caleb had to look far away to avoid taking an apparent interest.
“There’s another game. I don’t know as it’s Injun, but it’s the kind o’ game where an Injun could win. They first made two six-inch squares of white wood or card, then on each they made rings like a target or squares like the quicksight game, or else two Rabbits the same on each. One feller takes six spots of black, half an inch across, an’ sticks them on one, scattering anyhow, an’ sets it up a hundred yards off; another feller takes same number of spots an’ the other Rabbit an’ walks up till he can see to fix his Rabbit the same. If he kin do it at seventy-five yards he’s a swell; if he kin do it at sixty yards he’s away up, but less than fifty yards is no good. I seen the boys have lots o’ fun out o’ it. They try to fool each other every way, putting one spot right on another or leaving some off. It’s a sure ’nough test of good eyes.”
“I’ll bet–” began Sappy again, but a loud savage “Grrrr” from Sam, who knew perfectly well what was coming, put a stop to the bet, whatever it was.
“There was two other Injun tests of eyes that I mind now. Some old Buck would show the youngsters the Pleiades–them’s the little stars that the Injuns call the Bunch–an’ ask ’How many kin you see?’ Some could sho’ly see five or six an’ some could make out seven. Them as sees seven is mighty well off for eyes. Ye can’t see the Pleiades now–they belong to the winter nights; but you kin see the Dipper the hull year round, turning about the North Star. The Injuns call this the ’Broken Back,’ an’ I’ve heard the old fellers ask the boys: ’You see the Old Squaw–that’s the star, second from the end, the one at the bend of the handle–well, she has a papoose on her back. Kin you see the papoose?’ an’ sure enough, when my eyes was real good I could see the little baby star tucked in by the big un. It’s a mighty good test of eyes if you kin see that.”
“Eh–” began Guy.
But “Grrrrrrrrr” from Sam stopped him in time. Again Caleb’s eyes wandered afar. Then he stepped out of the teepee and Yan heard him mutter, “Consarn that whelp, he makes me laugh spite o’ myself." He went off a little way into the woods and presently called “Yan! Guy! Come here.” All three ran out. “Talking about eyes, what’s that?” An opening in the foliage gave a glimpse of the distant Burns’s clover field. “Looks like a small Bear.”
“Woodchuck! That’s our Woodchuck! That’s the ole sinner that throwed Paw off’n the mower. Where’s my bone-arrer?” and Guy went for his weapons.
The boys ran for the fence of the clover field, going more cautiously as they came near. Still the old Woodchuck heard something and sat up erect on his haunches. He was a monster, and out on the smooth clover field he did look like a very small Bear. His chestnut breast was curiously relieved by his unusually gray back and head.
“Paw says it’s his sins as turned his head gray. He’s a hoary headed sinner, an’ he ain’t repented o’ none o’ them so far, but I’mafter him now.”
“Hold on! Start even!” said Sam, seeing that Guy was prepared to shoot.
So all drew together, standing in a row like an old picture of the battle of Crecy. The arrows scattered about the Woodchuck. Most went much too far, none went near because he was closer than they had supposed, but he scuttled away into his hole, there, no doubt, to plan a new trap for the man with the mower.