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Age suitability 8 Plus
Cold makers medicine.
From Blackfeet Indian Stories by George Bird Grinnell.
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Start of Story
The last lodge had been set up in the Blackfeet winter camp. Evening
was closing over the travel-tired people. The sun had dropped beyond
the hills not far away. Women were bringing water from the river at
the edge of the great circle. Men gathered in quiet groups, weary
after the long march of the day. Children called sleepily to each
other, and the dogs sniffed about in well-fed content.
Lone Feather wrapped his robe more closely around him and walked
slowly from his lodge door and from the camp, off toward the north.
He was thinking of many things, and hardly noticed where he was
going. Presently as he walked, he heard the sound of persons
talking. He stopped to listen. The sound came from a lodge made of
stone, close by the river. Quietly he went toward the lodge and saw
a thin blue line of smoke coming from the top.
As he approached, an old woman, bent with age and crippled, came
from the lodge door and looked at him.
"Will you come into my lodge?" she said, greeting him.
Lone Feather looked at her for a moment in silence. She spoke again.
He could not understand her speech, for she belonged to another
tribe. By signs she made him know that she wished him to come into
her lodge and rest. Lone Feather entered.
Far back from the door crouched two big grizzly bears. She made
signs to show that the bears were friendly, and Lone Feather sat
down near the door. She stirred the fire, and as she put on fresh
wood the sparks flew up toward the smoke hole, which was opened only
a little way.
By signs she told him she would go out and open the smoke hole
wider, so that the fire might burn more brightly. She was gone for
some time, and Lone Feather sat looking into the fire, still
thinking of many things, when the air became thick with smoke. He
looked up and saw that the smoke hole was closed. He sprang up and
went to the door, but the door covering was down. He raised it, and
as he put his head out the old woman hit him with a large stone club
and he was dead.
Before his spirit started for the Sand Hills he saw that with a
large knife she cut up his body and put the pieces into a pot. Soon
they were well cooked and the old woman and the two bears feasted on
They threw his bones out of the door, where they fell among many
others like them. The ground was strewn with the bones of the
persons she had trapped and killed.
Day by day other persons disappeared from the winter camp, and more
and more bones whitened on the ground outside the stone lodge on the
As Cold Maker was bringing the snow to the Blackfeet winter camp, he
passed the Sand Hills. Lone Feather and other ghosts from the
Blackfeet tribe were telling each other how the old woman had sent
them there. Cold Maker heard their stories and he was angry.
When he reached the camp he went to the lodge of Broken Bow--a
brave young man, but very poor.
He shivered when Cold Maker entered his lodge and drew his ragged
robe about him. They were close friends.
"Would you like to have a new robe?" asked Cold Maker.
"Yes," said Broken Bow.
"Come with me. You may kill two grizzly bears," said Cold Maker.
"My bow is broken. I cannot," said Broken Bow sadly.
"I will help you. Bring only a knife."
Together they went from the lodges toward the north. The sun was
already hidden behind the nearby hills.
After they had travelled some distance they heard the sound of
voices. They listened. Two bears were complaining that they wanted
meat. A woman told them they must wait. The men saw the line of thin
blue smoke rising from the top of the lodge of stone. All about
whitening bones covered the ground. They went nearer.
Soon an old woman, bent with age and crippled, came from the door
and smiled as she saw the two persons coming.
"Come in and rest," she said. Broken Bow did not understand her
language, but Cold Maker, who understands all tribes, said, "We are
cold. Will you let us sit by your fire?"
The old woman smiled again.
"You are welcome," she said; "come in. Do not fear my bears. They
are friendly. They will not harm you." The two friends entered the
lodge, where a smouldering fire sent a feeble smoke up to the smoke
hole, that was partly open. She put fresh wood on the fire and said,
"I will open the smoke hole wider," and went out, dropping the door
covering as she went.
Then she closed the smoke hole. The smoke began to fill the top of
the lodge. It settled lower and lower. Broken Bow was afraid.
"Give me your pipe," said Cold Maker.
Broken Bow filled his pipe and, handed it to him. He lighted it by a
brand from the fire, and sent great puffs of smoke curling upward.
This smoke met the other smoke and stopped it. It could not descend
Broken Bow saw the wonderful medicine of his friend. He was no
longer afraid, but wondered what Cold Maker would do next. The
grizzly bears growled low.
The old woman outside called to them, "Friends, is it smoking in
"Not a bit," replied Cold Maker. "We are very comfortable."
stone club was ready. She grew impatient. She wondered what had gone
wrong with her plans. The two friends were silent. She looked at the
smoke hole, but it was closed securely. She lifted the door covering
to see if the friends within had died. They sat perfectly still. She
entered to look more closely, and as soon as she was fairly inside
Cold Maker and Broken Bow rushed out and dropped the door covering.
Before she could move they piled great heaps of stone in the
door-way. The bears growled. She called for help. Cold Maker and
Broken Bow went on down the river.
Then Cold Maker took from a little sack a few white eagle-down
feathers. He blew them from him. At once a fierce storm blew across
the valley. The bitter cold froze the water, but only in this one
place. It dammed the stream with fast forming ice. The water rose
higher and higher. It spread out over the banks. Cold Maker and
Broken Bow went far off on the hills and watched it. Little by
little it rose. It reached the stone lodge. The bears roared. The
woman screamed. The water reached the top and covered the lodge from
sight. All sound ceased. A moment more, and the water was quiet.
Once more Cold Maker blew from him a few white eagle-down feathers.
The storm subsided. It became warm again. The ice melted. The water
retreated to its channel.
Cold Maker and Broken Bow went to the stone lodge. The woman was
lying beside the pot. The grizzly bears were close to the stones
which blocked the door-way.
Cold Maker said, "Here is your new robe," and Broken Bow took from
the bears their thick, warm skins.
On his way home Cold Maker again passed the Sand Hills. Entering
the country was an old woman bent with age and crippled.
He hurried on.