2420 Summers Ago

Reid Dickie

Rustakoomaw crouched in the shade of the cottonwood that grew next to a dry streambed. It was the only tree for miles, an imposing sentinel against the sky. He held a small round drum made of hide and wood that he beat steadily and quickly with a fur-tipped stick. His voice accompanied the persistent beat, sailing across the still prairie, mixing with the whispers of cottonwood leaves the slight breeze spurred. Eyes tightly shut; his body weaving slightly, Rustakoomaw approached the trance with awe and respect. He stepped inside.

Immediately his power animals were with him, ready to accept and follow through on his intent. Rustakoomaw had come to the trance for help. His people were sick and dying, the rain had not appeared for many moons and the buffalo herds had deserted the prairie for the wetter north country. The grass was drying up on the hills, creeks and sloughs were now just smooth stones and crusted earth. He was asking Great Spirit to feed his people and bring the rain so the buffalo grass would grow again. His power animal Wolf linked the shaman with the Divine. Tears rolled down Rustakoomaw’s dark face, landing on his bare chest. He beat the drum harder. Wolf beckoned him.

The shaman found himself being lead toward a high hill that he knew very well. It was at the eastern edge of the region he and his people hunted. It overlooked a vast rolling plain; below it was the white shore of Bad Water Lake. The grass grew tall and green surrounding the hill. He stopped at the foot of the hill and looked up. At the top of the rise, he saw a wavering vision begin to take shape. Emerging from the shimmer of the heat and the clear cloudless blue beyond, Rustakoomaw began to make out a shape, an animal shape.

Like a jewel atop the verdant hill, the image of a huge white buffalo appeared. It turned and looked Rustakoomaw in the eye, nodding its shaggy head. He began to climb the hill toward the buffalo. As he approached, he realized he was suddenly getting wet. It had begun to rain. The vision of the white buffalo dissolved in the sheets of rain that slashed at the land. The sky was still bright blue and cloudless but the rain continued to fall in Rustakoomaw’s trance.

That evening as the small band devoured a thin white-tailed buck, a lucky hunt by one of Rustakoomaw’s sons, clouds began to roll in from the west. A gentle rain began that persisted all night and into the next day. Every evening that week the rain came. The parched earth drank every fresh drop and the grass returned to the prairie, along with it the buffalo and the health of Rustakoomaw’s people.

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Filed under Fiction, shaman, shamanism, Spirit

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