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The Ballad of Mouse's Road

Source: The Fighting Cheyennes by George Bird Grinnell

I. - Introduction

Way back in eighteen thirty-seven
On buffalo covered plains
Where endless earth meets boundless heaven
It happened in those days

Before the Cheyenne fought the Comanches
And Kiowas in their great fight,
Some fourteen Cheyenne set out to seize
Back horses which were stolen.

"We'll raid those Kiowas at chilly midnight!"
They swore at South Platte River
And struck south in the early light
On foot loud singing warsongs.

A pipe was carried by Stone Forehead
With his Medicine Bag
Another by old Pushing Ahead,
A master of the lance.

II. - The Badger Divination

Towards the first night of the raid
A young man caught a badger;
An animal of which it's said
That he can see the future.

He quickly cut and opened the belly
Removing all the entrails
But left the blood to cool to jelly
Within the open cavity.

He laid the head towards the east
On the white sage brush.
Next morning some saw in the beast
Their future faces reflected.

When Mouse's Road looked in the mirror
His long hair wasn't there,
His skin was shrunken like some cadaver
With empty sunken eyes.

III. - The Raid

He thought long on his death-marked future
As they all moved on
And scouts came from the rough Red River
Up by the Big Sand Creek.

They said, "our enemies are there."
And so the Cheyenne waited
Till nightfall when arranged in pairs
They crept outside the camp.

The horses knew their masters' scents
And so they did not panic.
But there was an evil portent
When an owl had moaned.

Mouse's Road then mounted a horse
With others driving the herd
Beneath the chilly star lights' course
Beyond the barking dogs.

IV. - The Pursuit

By midday they had heard the cries
Of Kiowas and Comanches
Rise with the dust into the skies
White clouds upon the horizon.

Some drove the tired horses below
Down into a ravine
To hide them in the shady hollow
While others donned their war-bonnets.

Old Pushing Ahead then led a charge
Up a stony hill
To swing down on the enemy surge
That rumbled on the plain.

Mouse's Road held tight his lance
And watched the clash below;
Cacophony of deadly dance
In dust and blood and dirt.

V.- The Battle on the Hill

But from the backside of the hill
Before they launched the attack
The enemy swarmed up with shrill
War cries and arrows and bullets.

A ball broke his lance when swinging around
To fight, so Mouse's Road charged
And leapt above the dead on the ground
Into the darting foes.

He punched and swung with storming fury
In driving rain of bruises;
The metal lighting of an enemy
Knife from on his horse

Struck down against his head but broke
On his silver hair clips.
Mouse's Road with a quick stroke
Then threw him to the earth.

No arrow that flew in the air
Or burning biting bullet
Would touch on Mouse's Road up there
On the bloody hill.

He grabbed a lance a warrior dropped
And killed six riders with it.
"This is a man who can't be stopped!
We've never seen the like!

"He's more fierce than the grizzly
He's faster than the horse!"
"He's more tricky than the coyote!"
"His medicine is great!"

The warriors ran from Mouse's Road
The last Cheyenne there standing.
They signed, 'Go back to your abode
We'll leave off fighting here.'

'No! No!' he signed, 'I won't leave here
Till I've avenged my people!'
They fled, shot guns into the air
Yet still they heard his warsong.


They never knew if he did die
Out there on the plain.
To tell the truth, nor do I
And so the story ends.

-© Copyright Santiago del Dardano Turann

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