Native American Legends
Dance in a Buffalo Skull
A Lakota Legend
It was night upon the prairie. Overhead the stars were twinkling
bright their red and yellow lights. The moon was young. A silvery
thread among the stars, it soon drifted low beneath the horizon.
Upon the ground the land was pitch black.
There are night people on the plain who love the dark. Amid the
black level land they meet to frolic under the stars. Then when
their sharp ears hear any strange footfalls nigh they scamper away
into the deep shadows of night.
There they are safely hid from all dangers, they think.
Thus it was that one very black night, afar off from the edge of
the level land, out of the wooded river bottom glided forth two
balls of fire. They came farther and farther into the level land.
They grew larger and brighter. The dark hid the body of the creature
with those fiery eyes. They came on and on, just over the tops of
the prairie grass. It might have been a wildcat prowling low on
soft, stealthy feet.
Slowly but surely the terrible eyes drew nearer and nearer to the
heart of the level land. There in a huge old buffalo skull was a
gay feast and dance! Tiny little field mice were singing and dancing
in a circle to the boom-boom of a wee, wee drum. They were laughing
and talking among themselves while their chosen singers sang loud
a merry tune.
They built a small open fire within the center of their queer dance
house. The light streamed out of the buffalo skull through all the
curious sockets and holes. A light on the plain in the middle of
the night was an unusual thing.
But so merry were the mice they did not hear the "king, king"
of sleepy birds, disturbed by the unaccustomed fire.
A pack of wolves, fearing to come nigh this night fire, stood together
a little distance away, and, turning their pointed noses to the
stars, howled and yelped most dismally. Even the cry of the wolves
was unheeded by the mice within the lighted buffalo skull.
They were feasting and dancing; they were singing and laughing--those
funny little furry fellows. All the while across the dark from out
the low river bottom came that pair of fiery eyes. Now closer and
more swift, now fiercer and glaring, the eyes moved toward the buffalo
skull. All unconscious of those fearful eyes, the happy mice nibbled
at dried roots and venison. The singers had started another song.
The drummers beat the time, turning their heads from side to side
in rhythm. In a ring around the fire hopped the mice, each bouncing
hard on his two hind feet. Some carried their tails over their arms,
while others trailed them proudly along. Ah, very near are those
round yellow eyes! Very low to the ground they seem to creep--creep
toward the buffalo skull.
All of a sudden they slide into the eye-sockets of the old skull.
"Spirit of the buffalo!" squeaked a frightened mouse as
he jumped out from a hole in the back part of the skull.
"A cat! A cat!" cried other mice as they scrambled out
of holes both large and snug. Noiseless they ran away into the dark.
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