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The Legend of Eagleman

A Pima Legend

It was on a summer morning in the days before Se-eh-ha lost the love of the River People. Just as the sun came over the eastern hills, the Chief of Cactus Village stood on his brush arbor and shouted, "My people! The gods have favored us. We have stored enough food to last all winter. Our families are well fed. Tomorrow at dawn the warriors will go on a rabbit drive. Each man must have four arrows. Get busy and repair your weapons."

The day was a busy one for the people. The men joked with one another and the village hummed with excitement. The women were busy roasting wheat, grinding it fine on their metates (stone grinders). Pinole would be good to take on the rabbit drive.

Tall Flowers, a beautiful maiden, took the children to clean gourds at the spring.

"Fill the gourds with fresh water," she said. The children all loved Tall Flowers and willingly obeyed her. Everyone worked for this special day.

Before sunrise the hunters departed for their usual hunting grounds near Gagaurke-Slanting Mountain-or Superstition Mountain as we know it now.

Suddenly a young brave whose name was Hick-vick (Woodpecker), cried, "I have only two arrows instead of four."

"Go home and get the rest of your arrows," ordered the Chief. "We'll wait for you in the shade of this mesquite tree."

Hick-vick ran back to the village. When he reached the spring near Slanting Mountain, he stopped to get a cool drink of water. He was surprised to hear a woman's voice.

"I have some good pinole in this bowl. Please drink it, you look hungry." The young brave eagerly drank the pinole. Every swallow caused little pin feathers to come out all over his body.

"What is happening to me? I feel so strange," wailed Hick-vick. Soon he was changed into a huge eagle.

"Ha, ha, ha," laughed the old witch. "I mixed ground eagle feathers in the pinole. Hereafter you will be Eagleman."

In the meantime the hunters waited for Hick-vick to return. The Chief grew impatient.

"What is keeping the boy?"

He sent a runner to find out what was detaining him.

The runner started at once. When he reached Slanting Mountain, he saw a large eagle sitting by the spring. The eagle had the head of Hick-vick but his body, wings, and talons were those of a huge eagle.

Immediately the runner returned to tell the hunters his discovery.

"Hick-vick has been changed to a big eagle. I saw an ugly old woman running to the mountain. She was carrying a bowl," related the runner.

The Chief sadly nodded his head and recalled past events. He told the young braves about the legend.

"Once the witch was a beautiful maiden. But she was proud and disobeyed her parents; the gods changed her into an ugly old witch. She lives in a cave on the side of Slanting Mountain, and now and then she comes out to bewitch someone," explained the Chief. "It means the gods are angry. Let us return to our village at once."

When they passed near the spring they found Eagleman sitting with his bow and two arrows. The hunters aimed their sharp arrows at the bird, but he deftly caught the arrows with his talons. He flew to a palo verde tree and alighted on one of the branches, which broke under his heavy body. Then he flew away. When the hunters saw this they decided there was nothing to do but to return home and warn their people.

Eagleman flew over the land until he found a big cave near the top of a high cliff. There he made his home and hunted for game to satisfy his great appetite.

When all the game was gone, Eagleman started to kill the people of Cactus Village. Those who escaped him lived in fear and anxiety.

One day Eagleman swooped down on the home of Tall Flowers and carried her away to make her his bride. The people heard her cries for help, but were powerless to help her. The village of Cactus went into mourning for their beloved daughter. The Chief and his counselors held meetings to find a way to kill Eagleman.

"He'll wipe out the whole tribe," reasoned the Chief.

Tall Flowers' uncle remembered Elder Brother, a wise old man. "He'll help us."

The next day a young runner went to the home of Elder Brother on top of Greasy Mountain (South Mountain). He returned with distressing words. "Elder Brother is not there. His house is deserted."

The people were deeply disappointed. Every so often someone would go to see if Elder Brother had returned to his house, only to find it still empty.

Finally, after a year, only a small number of the tribe remained alive in Cactus Village. A runner went again to Elder Brother's home and was relieved to find him there at last.

"Elder Brother, I've been told to come and ask you to help us," explained the runner.

"What's the trouble?" asked Elder Brother.

"Eagleman has been killing our people and we're unable to stop him."

"Go home and tell your people I'll come after four days have passed," said Elder Brother.

The runner returned to his village and told the Chief that Elder Brother would not come to their aid for another four days. It was discouraging news. During those days Eagleman made his regular raids without trouble.

At last the four days passed, and Elder Brother came to the village to give help to the people. The warriors went with Elder Brother to show him the high cliff where Eagleman lived.

When they arrived, Elder Brother took out some stakes cut from very hard wood. He drove the first stake into the side of the cliff, using his stone axe.

"Before I climb the cliff I want to ask you to return to your village and tell the people to watch my mountain home. If they see white clouds floating over Greasy Mountain, it is a sign I have killed Eagleman. But if black clouds appear you will know I've been killed by Eagleman," said Elder Brother.

Elder Brother slowly ascended the high cliff, driving the hard stakes and using them as an isk-liff (ladder). It was a slow, difficult climb, but Elder Brother was used to all kinds of hardships. Besides, he wanted to help the people.

When he reached the top of the cliff he found the cave, the home of Eagleman. Cautiously he peered into the dark cave, shading his eyes with his hands so as to see clearly.

A small cry came from the dark cave. It was the glad cry of Tall Flowers.

"My Elder Brother, you ought not to have come. It's risky," sobbed Tall Flowers.

"I'll risk my life to save you, Tall Flowers. Stop your crying and tell me, when does Eagleman come home?"

"He generally gets home at noon," answered Tall Flowers, drying her eyes.

They quickly decided what course of action to take, for time was running short.

"But the child will reveal your presence. He's very much like his father and takes great delight in killing the helpless little insects around here."

"Don't worry. I'll be safe." Elder Brother took some ashes from the fireplace and made a mark across the child's mouth, rendering him unintelligible. In the distance they heard a great noise like peals of thunder. Eagleman was on his way home. Elder Brother quickly changed himself into a little fly and hid under a corpse which was in one part of the cave.

When Eagleman arrived he dumped his load on top of the corpse, hiding Elder Brother more securely. His little son ran to his father and exclaimed, "A-pa- pa Chu-vich! A-pa-pa Chu-vich!"

"What is the boy trying to tell me? I command you, Tall Flowers, to tell me."

"There is nothing to tell. No one ever comes here, as you well know."

"But someone is here." Eagleman searched the cave for any living creature but did not find anyone. He sat down and ate his meal. Afterwards he put his head on Tall Flowers' lap and took a nap.

Tall Flowers sang a soft lullaby, whistling after each stanza. Eagleman heard and asked sleepily, "Why do you sing and whistle?"

"Because I'm so happy to see you bring home plenty of meat.

Eagleman finally went into a deep sleep and did not hear Tall Flowers' whistle.

Elder Brother came out very quietly. With his stone axe he gave Eagleman a hard blow on his head, killing him instantly. The child met the same treatment. Elder Brother knew it was not a nice thing to do, but the people's safety was his first concern, and he wanted to make certain of their safety forever. He cut off the eagle's head and threw it to the east, and his body he tossed to the west.

Tall Flowers buried her face against the cliff outside the cave. Her heart was badly torn but she, too, felt that the safety of her people came first. So she leaned against the hard cliff to give her strength.

Elder Brother came out after he had made sure his task was completed. As he started to help Tall Flowers climb down the ladder of stakes, the cliff swayed back and forth. Eagleman's power was felt even in death.

When the rocking of the cliff stopped, Tall Flowers and Elder Brother descended. Her uncle welcomed her joyously and took her home.

Meanwhile, the people patiently watched the mountain home of their Elder Brother. Their hearts were glad when they saw white clouds floating over Greasy Mountain. Eagleman was destroyed at last!

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