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Native American Legends

Climbing the Mountain

A Cahuillan Legend

Here in the dry desert, of the southwestern part of our country, there lived the Cahuillan Indian Tribe, and just to the north of them, off in the distance, was the very high range of mountains we today call the San Bernardino Mountains. It was considered a great and important achievement to be able to climb this mountain, and so all the young boys of the village looked forward to the day when they were old enough that they could try it on their own.

One night, during the Fall season of the year, the Chief called all the boys together and said to them, "Now, boys, you are of the proper age to accept this challenge, and you may now all go out tomorrow and seek to climb that mountain with my blessings. Start right after breakfast, and each of you, go as far as you can, and, when you are tired, come back, but you must bring back a twig from the place where you turned."

The boys were so excited they could hardly sleep that night.

The next morning, away they all went, full of hope and dreams, each feeling that he could surely reach the top.

Soon a fat, pudgy boy come slowly back, puffing and sweating all the way. As he stood before his Chief, he showed in his hand, that he held a piece of green Beavertail Cactus. "My boy," the Chief smiled in disbelief, "I can see you did not reach the foot of the mountain. In fact you did not get across the desert to even start the climb."

An hour passed. Then another boy returned carrying a twig of Black Sagebrush. "Well," said the Chief, "I can see you did reach the mountain's foot, but you did not start to climb."

Another hour passed, and a third boy returned. He held a young Cottonwood sapling. "Good work," said the Chief, "you got up as far as the springs! Very good!"

A bit of a longer wait, and there came a boy with a part of some Buckthorn. The Chief smiled when he saw it, and said, "You were actually climbing! I can see you were up to that first rock-slide. You are a hard working boy."

Later in the afternoon, one arrived with an Incense Cedar frond. "Well done, my boy," said the Chief. "You made it half way up! You have seen the heart of the mountain. Very good job."

An hour after that, one came with a branch of Ponderosa Pine, and to him the Chief said, "Good job. You went to the third life zone. It looks like you made it three quarters of the way. I bet if you keep trying, next year you will undoubtedly reach the top!"

The sun was low, and even the Chief was starting to worry a bit. There were many pitfalls on that mountain to overcome, and the last of his boys was still outside of camp. Could a Grizzly Bear have ambushed him? Or maybe he fell off a tall rock facing somewhere, never to be heard from again ? Maybe he had lost his way, or ran out of water.

As it happened, just when the Chief was to send out a search party to look for the boy, he was at last returned. He was a tall, splendid boy of noble character, everyone already knew he was marked to be successful in life. He approached the Chief and held out his hand. It was empty, but his face was glowing with happiness when the boy said, "My Chief, there were no trees where I came from. I saw no twigs, no living thing up on that peak. And far away I could see the glorious sight of the sun shining off the sea."

Now the old man's face started to glow too! He turned around, and said aloud with an almost musical tone in his voice, "I knew it! I just knew it when I looked upon your face. You have been all the way to the top! It was written in your eyes! It rings in your voice! And it is alive in the way you carry your body! My boy, you need no twigs for token. You have felt the uplift in your spirit because you have seen the glory of the mountain!"

Dearest Scouts, keep this in mind, that the badges that are offered you for your achievements, are not "prizes" to be "won". For prizes are things of value, taken by force or contest from their rightful owners. These badges, are then, just tokens, of what you have done, and where you have been. Remember this that as fun as these badges are to earn, they are just twigs collected from the trail, to show how far you got, during your climb to manhood.

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