Teaser: Poor Slim, outnumbered again and always amazed by his pardner and little brother and what they will bring to the ranch next.
I want to thank my beta reader, Cheryl, once again. Without her, this story wouldn’t be as expressive. Wish I had her talent for the right adjectives, but she sure can suggest the perfect ones to punch up my story. Thanks, again, Cheryl.
In the beginning of the world, all was water. Whee-me-me-ow-ah, the Great Chief. Above, lived up in the sky all alone. When he decided to make the world, he went down to the shallow places in the water and began to throw up great handfuls of mud that became land.
He piled some of the mud so high that it froze hard and made the mountains. When the rain came, it turned into ice and snow on top of the high mountains. Some of the mud was hardened into rocks. Since that time the rocks have not changed - they have only become harder.
The Great Chief Above made trees grow on the earth, and also roots and berries. He made a man out of a ball of mud and told him to take fish from the waters, and deer and other game from the forests. When the man became lonely, the Great Chief Above made a woman to be his companion and taught her how to dress skins, how to find bark and roots, and how to make baskets out of them. He taught her which berries to gather for food and how to pick them and dry them. He showed her how to cook the salmon and the game that the man brought.
Once when the woman was asleep, she had a dream, and in it she wondered what more she could do to please the man. She prayed to the Great Chief Above for help. He answered her prayer by blowing his breath on her and giving her something which she could not see or hear, smell or touch. This invisible something was preserved in a basket. Through it, the first woman taught her daughters and granddaughters the designs and skills which had been taught her.
But in spite of all the things the Great Chief Above did for them, the new people quarreled. They bickered so much that Mother Earth was angry, and in her anger she shook the mountains so hard that those hanging over the narrow part of Big River fell down. The rocks, falling into the water, dammed the stream and also made rapids and waterfalls. Many people and animals were killed and buried under the rocks and mountains.
Someday the Great Chief Above will overturn those mountains and rocks. Then the spirits that once lived in the bones buried there will go back into them. At present those spirits live in the tops of the mountains, watching their children on the earth and waiting for the great change which is to come. The voices of these spirits can be heard in the mountains at all times. Mourners who wail for their dead hear spirit voices reply, and thus they know that their lost ones are always near.
We did not know all this by ourselves; we were told it by our fathers and grandfathers, who learned it from their fathers and grandfathers. No one knows when the Great Chief Above will overturn the mountains. But we do know this: the spirits will return only to the remains of people who in life kept the beliefs of their grandfathers. Only their bones will be preserved under the mountains.
One summer so long ago that nobody knows how long, the Oceti-Sakowin, the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Oyate, the nation, came together and camped. The sun shone all the time, but there was no game and the people were starving. Every day they sent scouts to look for game, but the scouts found nothing.
Among the bands assembled were the Itazipcho, the Without-Bows, who had their own camp circle under their chief, Standing Hollow Horn.
Early one morning the chief sent two of his young men to hunt for game. They went on foot, because at that time the Sioux didn't yet have horses.
They searched everywhere but could find nothing. Seeing a high hill, they decided to climb it in order to look over the whole country. Halfway up, they saw something coming toward them from far off, but the figure was floating instead of walking. From this they knew that the person was "wakan", holy.
At first they could make out only a small moving speck and had to squint to see that it was a human form. But as it came nearer, they realized that it was a beautiful young woman, more beautiful than any they had ever seen, with two round, red dots of face paint on her cheeks.
She wore a wonderful white buckskin outfit, tanned until it shone a long way in the sun. It was embroidered with sacred and marvelous designs of porcupine quill, in radiant colors no ordinary woman could have made.
This wakan stranger was Ptesan-Wi, White Buffalo Calf Woman. In her hands she carried a large bundle and a fan of sage leaves. She wore her blue-black hair loose except for a strand at the left side, which was tied up with buffalo fur. Her eyes shone dark and sparkling, with great power in them.
The two men looked at her open-mouthed. One was overawed, but the other desired her body and stretched his hand out to touch her. This woman was "lila wakan", very sacred, and could not be treated with disrespect. Lightning instantly struck the brash young man and burned him up, so that only a small heap of blackened bones was left. Or some say that he was suddenly covered by a cloud, and within it he was eaten up by snakes that left only his skeleton, just as a man can be eaten up by lust.
To the other scout who had behaved rightly, the White Buffalo Calf Woman said: "Good things I am bringing, something holy to your nation. A message I carry for your people from the buffalo nation. Go back to the camp and tell the people to prepare for my arrival. Tell your chief to put up a medicine lodge with twenty- four poles. Let it be made holy for my coming."
This young hunter returned to the camp. He told the chief, he told the people, what the sacred woman had commanded. The chief told the *eyapaha*, the crier, and the crier went through the camp circle calling: "Someone sacred is coming. A holy woman approaches. Make all things ready for her." So the people put up the big medicine tipi and waited.
After four days they saw the White Buffalo Calf Woman approaching, carrying her bundle before her. Her wonderful white buckskin dress shone from afar. The chief, Standing Hollow Horn, invited her to enter the medicine lodge. She went in and circled the interior sun-wise.
The chief addressed her respectfully, saying: "Sister, we are glad you have come to instruct us. " She told him what she wanted done.
In the center of the tipi they were to put an *owanka wakan*, a sacred altar, made of red earth, with a buffalo skull and a three- stick rack for a holy thing she was bringing. They did what she directed, and she traced a design with her finger on the smoothed earth of the altar.
She showed them how to do all this, then circled the lodge again sun-wise. Halting before the chief, she now opened the bundle. The holy thing it contained was *chanunpa*, the sacred pipe.
She held it out to the people and let them look at it. She was grasping the stem with her right hand and the bowl with her left,and thus the pipe has been held ever since.
Again the chief spoke, saying: "Sister, we are glad. We have had no meat for some time. All we can give you is water." They dipped some *wacanga*, sweet grass, into a skin bag of water and gave it to her, and to this day the people dip sweet grass or an eagle wing in water and sprinkle it on a person to be purified.
White Buffalo Calf Woman showed the people how to use the pipe. She filled it with *chan-shasha*, red willow-bark tobacco. She walked around the lodge four times after the manner of Anpetu-Wi, the great sun. This represented the circle without end, the sacred hoop, the road of life.
The woman placed a dry buffalo chip on the fire and lit the pipe with it. This was *peta-owihankeshni*, the fire without end, the flame to be passed on from generation to generation.
She told them that the smoke rising from the bowl was Tunkashila's breath, the living breath of the great Grandfather Mystery.
The White Buffalo Calf Woman showed the people the right way to pray, the right words and the right gestures. She taught them how to sing the pipe-filling song and how to lift the pipe up to the sky, toward Grandfather, and down toward Grandmother Earth, to Unci, and then to the four directions of the universe.
"With this holy pipe," she said, "you will walk like a living prayer. With your feet resting upon the earth and the pipe stem reaching into the sky, your body forms a living bridge between the Sacred Beneath and the Sacred Above.
Wakan Tanka smiles upon us, because now we are as one: earth, sky, all living things, the two- legged, the four-legged, the winged ones, the trees, the grasses. Together with the people, they are all related, one family. The pipe holds them all together."
"Look at this bowl," said the White Buffalo Woman. "Its stone represents the buffalo, but also the flesh and blood of the red man. The buffalo represents the universe and the four directions, because he stands on four legs, for the four ages of creation.
The buffalo was put in the west by Wakan Tanka at the making of the world, to hold back the waters. Every year he loses one hair, and in every one of the four ages he loses a leg.
The sacred hoop will end when all the hair and legs of the great buffalo are gone, and the water comes back to cover the Earth. The wooden stem of this *chanunpa* stands for all that grows on the earth.
Twelve feathers hanging from where the stem - the backbone - joins the bowl - the skull - are from Wanblee Galeshka, the spotted eagle, the very sacred bird who is the Great Spirit's messenger and the wisest of all flying ones. You are joined to all things of the universe, for they all cry out to Tunkashila.
Look at the bowl: engraved in it are seven circles of various sizes. They stand for the seven sacred ceremonies you will practice with this pipe, and for the Oceti Sakowin, the seven sacred campfires of our Lakota nation."
The White Buffalo Calf Woman then spoke to the women,
telling them that it was the work of their hands and the fruit of their bodies
which kept the people alive.
"You are from the mother earth," she told them. "What you are doing is as great as what the warriors do." And therefore the sacred pipe is also something that binds men and women together in a circle of love.
It is the one holy object in the making of which both men and women have a hand. The men carve the bowl and make the stem; the women decorate it with bands of colored porcupine quills. When a man takes a wife, they both hold the pipe at the same time and red trade cloth is wound around their hands, thus tying them together for life.
The White Buffalo Woman had many things for her Lakota sisters in her sacred womb bag - corn, *wasna* (pemmican), wild turnip. She taught them how to make the hearth fire. She filled a buffalo paunch with cold water and dropped a red-hot stone into it. "This way you shall cook the corn and the meat," she told them.
The White Buffalo Calf Woman also talked to the children, because they have an understanding beyond their years. She told them that what their mothers and fathers did was for them, that their parents could remember being little once, and that they, the children, would grow up to have little ones of their own.
She told them: "You are the coming generation, that's why you are the most important and precious ones. Some day you will hold this pipe and smoke it. Some day you will pray with it."
She spoke once more to all the people: "The pipe is alive; it is a red being showing you a red life and a red road. And this is the first ceremony for which you will use the pipe. You will use it to keep the soul of a dead person, because through it you can talk to Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery Spirit.
The day a human dies is always a sacred day. The day when the soul is released to the Great Spirit is another. Four women will become sacred on such a day. They will be the one to cut the sacred tree - the *can-wakan* - for the sun dance."
She told the Lakota that they were the purest among the tribes, and for that reason Tunkashila had bestowed upon them the holy *chanunpa*. They had been chosen to take care of it for all the Indian people on this turtle continent.
She spoke one last time to Standing Hollow Horn, the chief, saying, "Remember: this pipe is very sacred. Respect it and it will take you to the end of the road. The four ages of creation are in me; I am the four ages. I will come to see you in every generation cycle. I shall come back to you."
The sacred woman then took leave of the people, saying: "Toksha ake wancinyankin (/wacinyanktin) ktelo - I shall see you again."
The people saw her walking off in the same direction from which she had come, outlined against the red ball of the setting sun. As she went, she stopped and rolled over four times. The first time, she turned into a black buffalo; the second into a brown one; the third into a red one; and finally, the fourth time she rolled over, she turned into a white female buffalo calf.
A white buffalo is the most sacred living thing you could ever encounter. The White Buffalo Calf Woman disappeared over the horizon. Sometime she might come back.
As soon as she had vanished, buffalo in great herds appeared, allowing themselves to be killed so that the people might survive.
And from that day on, our relations, the buffalo, furnished the people with everything they needed meat for their food, skins for their clothes and tipi's, bones for their many tools.
- Told by Lame Deer at Winner, Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota, 1967
The afternoon was waning as Slim pushed the straggled lock of hair from his forehead while sitting at the roll-top desk and working on the ranch books. Things just weren’t adding up as they should. He was only off by a couple of dollars, but that was more than his senses would allow. He just had to find the mistake in addition or subtraction. His patience was wearing thin when Andy came running excitedly into the house, leaving the door wide open, “Slim, Slim, ya gotta come quick,” the boy was close to shouting.
“Calm down and close the door,” Slim said, only slightly turning away from the desk, showing his irritation at being rudely interrupted. “I thought you were out with Jess riding the fences.”
“I was. Slim, ya gotta come quick. Jess sent me to get ya,” the anxious boy urged as he turned to close the door then wheeled back around to face his older brother.
“So what’s so all fired important?” the tall rancher demanded as he heavily closed the accounting book and spun around on his seat to meet his brother with a frown.
“We found a buffalo layin’ out in the field beyond the south pasture. Jess thinks she might be in labor an’ havin’ a hard time givin’ birth,” the trepidation strong in his cracking, adolescent voice. “He wants you to bring the block an’ tackle out in case we need it. We gotta help her!”
“You two got close enough to a wild buffalo for Jess to determine that she’s having trouble with labor?” the astounded blonde questioned, shaking his head as he stood up to tower over his younger sibling.
Looking sheepishly at the floor, Andy replied, “Well, Jess did. I stayed up on my horse an’ watched.”
“Dern fool’s going to get himself killed one of these days,” Slim said, under his breath, as he rubbed the back of his stiff neck with his hand. “Okay, go get a couple of horses from the corral and bring them to the barn. I’ll get the equipment on the wagon.”
Before the rancher had finished giving his orders, the teen was out the door and running toward the corral, once again leaving the door open.
Slim reached for his gun belt, strapped it on, put on his hat and grabbed his jacket off the peg. Slipping it on he walked out the door, closing it quietly behind him. He wished that Jonesy were at home, not sequestered in town doing jury duty. They could probably use the help, and he surely didn’t want Andy getting anywhere near the downed animal, no matter what the situation. Bison were far too dangerous for anyone to be doctoring. ‘What on earth had gotten into Jess’ mind? And to have gotten close enough to determine that she was calving!’, Slim could only shake his head in wonder and disbelief as his long legs quickly carried him to the barn.
Once the rancher had the wagon loaded, he met Andy outside the barn door. The boy was already harnessing the horses and Slim helped to complete the readying then lead the team into the barn to the waiting buckboard.
Jess sat back on his heels, stroking the laboring beast’s neck while talking calmly to her. A few times she tried to get up and grunted as she quickly gave in to the pain and laid her huge head back down in the matted grass; her eyes rolling, hating the man who stroked her. She was about to give birth and did not want this human near her newborn. Man was always trouble, bringing death to her herd. If only she could rise and run away. Once again she tried to raise her head, but she was even more weakened now and put her head down heavily, eying the human who continued to try and comfort her.
“Easy girl, come on, you’re only wearin’ yourself out. Now lie easy, let me see if the calf is comin’ yet,” Jess said stroking her forehead lightly as he rose to walk toward her hind quarters, hoping to see forelegs presenting . With no sign of the calf showing, Jess slowly and calmly moved back toward the Buffalo’s head, marveling when he stroked the curly mantle of wooly hair for which the term Buffalo soldiers was coined. “Nothin’ yet,” Jess told the giant mother, as he once again stooped down to stroke her great head and neck. He observed that the animal rolled her eyes again, not knowing if it were due to the pain or in annoyance of him being so close and touching her.
The creak of wood, clatter of chains and squeaking of leather drew the cowboy’s attention. Standing up, he saw the buckboard bouncing its way slowly in his direction. The buffalo and he were well off any road and coming through the fields was tedious and rough going for the buckboard. Nervously, he bent down to the cow, “Now stay easy. I know you’re scared. Me, too.,” he said with a nervous smile. “The wagon is comin’ to help. With luck, you won’t need it. I’m goin’ to meet ‘em. I’ll be right back, so just lie easy,” Jess cooed as he stood up and backed away from the buffalo, who lifted her head and eyed him again before settling it back down in the trampled grass.
“Slim,” Jess shouted, “Stay there. Leave the wagon there unless we need it.”
The rancher pulled back on the reins and set the brake, as Andy jumped down from the wagon and ran toward Jess. “Andy,” Slim yelled, but Andy was at Jess’ side before he stopped running. Climbing down from the buckboard, Slim strode toward where the pair stood gazing off at a flattened patch of grass where a huge mass of brown lay.
“Shouldn’t we be helpin’ her?” Andy asked, looking up at the dark-haired cowboy.
“I reckon she needs some help, but,”
Slim interrupted, “You’re not going to help, Andy! You stay back. I don’t want you to get any where near her and I’m ordering you that you will not go near her. Do you understand?”
“But she needs help,” Andy persisted, showing some defiance.
“We don’t know that,” the older brother countered.
“I think Andy’s right,” Jess responded in a hushed tone. “How often have ya seen a buffalo cow down for birthin’? If she were one of our beeves ya’d be out here helpin’ her. That cow needs our help an’ if we don’t, she’s gonna die.”
“Maybe we should put her out of her misery,” Slim suggested, causing Andy to quickly turn to look at him in despair.
Grabbing his brother’s sleeve, Andy pleaded, “Ya can’t do that Slim! Ya can’t!”
Jess’ eyes pleaded the same.
Slim removed his hat and ran his hand through his hair to replace the few strands that had escaped to his forehead, then, replaced his hat. Outnumbered, he reckoned he’d have to give in or there would be no living with the pair if he didn’t relent to their appeal. “Okay. We’ll try to help, but this isn’t one stray you’ll be taking back home with you, Andy! You stay back with the wagon. Jess and I will see what we can do for that cow. Come on, Jess,” the taller man said as he cautiously went toward the large animal.
Jess tossed Andy a smile and a wink before he turned to follow Slim. Bravely, Andy returned the smile before turning to go wait on the wagon. From his vantage point, he wished that it were closer so he had a better view of what was going on, but was glad that Slim had given in and decided to not kill the pregnant creature
The weakening mother lifted her head at the approach of the two humans. Dropping her head to the ground, she groaned in frustration, fear and exhaustion. She feebly moved her legs, trying hard to get to her feet but the strength wasn’t there. Another pain hit her hard and she snorted before giving out a loud, painful moan.
Looking at her hindquarters, Slim knew that the animal was, indeed, in trouble. The calf’s rear, bloodied legs were presenting themselves. It was going to be a breach birth. If the mother survived, Slim would be very much surprised. She’d been in labor far too long and was very weak. None of this was good. A scared, wild animal and two men who had never dealt with buffalo, other than to see them grazing in the Indian hunting grounds, all trying to pull together to get a live calf on the ground. Slim wondered how the mother would react once relieved of her burden. Would she find the strength to stand up and fight the humans who’d just helped her and try to destroy them for intruding on her and her young? He’d seen downed heifers that they’d helped recover quickly and become extremely protective of their calves, sometimes charging after them. This mother was much larger than the cattle he’d dealt with, and far more dangerous. Slim hoped that they were doing the right thing.
“We’re gonna haveta turn the calf,” Jess said, noting that the tail of the small bison was resting on top of the presenting legs.
“We?” Slim queried. “Nope, Pard, this one’s your baby. You found her and you’re the one who wanted to save this family. You’re the doc, midwife and can be the proud papa. I’ll watch. If you need the block and tackle, I’ll help you then.
A frown formed on Jess’ brow as he glanced from his pardner’s determined face and back to the long-suffering animal. “Can ya at least go soothe her? Talk to her? She’s kinda weak and gentled. Just keep her attention up at that end,” Jess said with frustration as he pointed to the buffalo cow’s head.
Reluctantly, Slim shook his head in affirmation and moved toward the animal’s head, reaching down to touch her shoulder and moved forward toward her neck and then her massive head. Once he saw that she was docile enough, he stooped down to stroke her face, calmly speaking to her. “It’s okay, girl. Papa Jess is helping you. Easy, easy,” he crooned to her as Jess removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves.
Bending down, Jess touched the hindquarters of the laboring mother. He stroked the large loins then moved to touch the hooves of the small animal trying to come into the world. The mother lay still as Jess, after a sigh of resignation, tried to put the legs of the calf back into the birth canal. He wished that the cow could stand, knowing that it would make it far easier to get both of his arms into the birth canal.
He pushed the calf back into the uterus as far as he possibly could. He held it forward with one hand and grasped a leg with the other, bent the hock and lifted it upward, rotating it as he lifted. He then drew the foot backward and into an ark, keeping the hock joint flexed tightly and the calf pushed as far forward as possible. He then cupped his hand around the calf’s foot, so it wouldn’t tear the uterus, and lifted it over the cow’s pelvis. After that was completed, he did the same for the other leg. Once both were in the birth canal Jess called to Slim, “It’s a big calf. I think we’ll need the block and tackle. I’ll hold things here. Get that wagon here real quick, Pard, before she starts pushin’ again.
Slim stood up slowly to not scare the mother. Once a few feet away he ran toward the wagon.
“What’s happenin’?” Andy asked as Slim quickly climbed into the wagon.
“She needs help. We have to pull that calf out. I want you to stay up here on the wagon! If we need you, we’ll tell you. Just stay out of the way. I don’t want you to get hurt if that cow decides that she doesn’t want our help.”
Slim slapped the reins on the horses, but pulled back on them to keep them moving the rig slowly toward Jess. Once he set the brake, Slim went to the back of the wagon to set up the block and tackle with the proper length of chains, then got off the wagon bringing the chains to Jess. Jess removed one hand from where he’d been holding the calf and took hold of the chain to reach back into the massive mother and attached the chains to the appropriate place on the calf, hoping to do little to no damage to either mother or baby.
In a team effort, the two cowboys were able to help the calf be delivered into the world. The weak mother turned her head to look at her baby, took a deep breath, her last. She was far too exhausted to survive the ordeal. Her baby was an orphan.
“Look,” Andy shouted. “It’ white! The calf is white! I ain’t never seen a white buffalo before!’ he marveled, almost hopping down from the wagon, but was stopped by his brother’s quick reach for the neck of his jacket.
“I told you, you stay on the wagon.”
“No bother,” Jess said as he felt the chest of the newborn in his lap behind its left leg, feeling for a heartbeat, “the mother didn’t make it.” The flutter of a heartbeat in the calf brought a smile of satisfaction to the soiled cowboy. “Now we gotta get this little one breathin’.” He tried to stimulate coughing by sticking a piece of straw up one of the calf’s nostrils. It appeared unconscious and blue and wouldn’t cough. Jess closed its mouth and covered one nostril with his hand and blew into the other nostril. Giving the calf artificial respiration kept the animal alive and put enough oxygen in his system to revive it. He then cleared the mucus from the calf’s nostrils and laid the calf on its side with the head and neck outstretched, hoping that the air blown into the calf would enter the windpipe instead of the esophagus. Then Jess held the calf’s mouth closed and covering one nostril, he continued to try to revive the animal. Gently, but steadily, he blew a full breath into the other nostril until the chest wall of the baby rose, then let the air escape on its own before blowing in another breath. After about eight tries, the calf was finally breathing on her own.
Andy was speechless and awed watching the process. He knew that this was something that happened on a cattle ranch from time to time, but it was the first time he’d witnessed it. He’d forgotten about jumping down from the wagon, and stood watching the whole ordeal with his big brother’s hand resting on his shoulder. Once it was all over and the calf was breathing, Slim squeezed his brother’s shoulder breaking the boy’s spell. “He’s white,” Andy uttered again.
“She,” Jess corrected him. “And an orphan.”
This was the first that Andy realized that the mother buffalo had died. Looking up at his brother, Andy said, “Now we have to keep her,” he said, hopefully.
Slim and Jess’ eyes met, Jess giving an almost imperceptible nod.
“For a while,” Slim agreed. “A white buffalo has special meaning to the Sioux. I don’t know what to do about this. This isn’t just any buffalo. It has special meaning to them. I…”
At a loss for words, Jess wisely stepped in, “This little gal needs some food right away no matter who’s gonna care for her. We need to take her home. Slim, help me get her up on the wagon. Andy, get that tarp. She needs to be kept warm.”
Andy did as he was told, pulling out the tarp that was under the seat and unfolding it on the bed of the wagon behind the seat. Jess picked up the calf and it bleated upon being lifted up. Being heavier than expected, Slim helped to boost the large baby onto the buckboard. The two men then climbed up to lift the calf on to the tarp and covered her over.
Once the calf was settled, Slim climbed up on the seat and set the horses to moving toward home while Andy and Jess sat on the floor in back with the buffalo calf. Andy was grinning nervously, while stroking the newborn’s head. “What should we call her?” Andy wondered aloud.
“You’re not keeping her,” Slim quickly warned.
“She still needs a name,” Andy insisted.
During supper Slim related the legend of the white buffalo as he’d been told as a youngster. “So you see Andy, we really should let the Sioux people know that we have one of their sacred animals.”
“But Slim,” Andy pleaded, “can’t we keep her for a while? She’s so little an’ needs us.”
“Andy, I think what Slim is sayin’ is that we’ll keep her until she can go to live with the Sioux. It’s only right. Besides, they’ll take real good care of her, I’m sure.” Jess was siding with Slim, not really wanting to see them raising up a buffalo and then having the battle of letting it go after Andy was attached to it. His only question was, how were they to contact the Sioux? They weren’t a white-friendly tribe. Wisely, he held his tongue regarding that aspect of the ordeal. He’d ask Slim after they’d turned in for the night and hope that the rancher already had it figured out.
In their bunks Jess asked Slim about how he would contact the Sioux to take the little bison off their hands.
“I think Henry Stalking Wolf can contact the medicine man, Bull Head,” Slim responded to Jess’ query. “Henry works for the blacksmith in town. I know he goes back and forth quite often. Tom says that Henry has taken a wife so he has to be in good standing in the tribe. I’m sure they will welcome the calf.”
“Miracle,” Jess mumbled, as he rolled over on his back, putting his one hand behind his head, glad that Slim had already thought about how to connect with the tribal people.
“What?” Slim asked, rolling on his side to face, but not see his pardner in the darkened room.
“Miracle. Andy named the calf Miracle,” Jess said, with a grin. “He told ya, the calf needed a name. He reckoned it fit. He said she’s alive and she’s white so she’s a miracle.”
Slim rolled to his back, clasping his hands behind his head. A smile came to his lips as he contemplated how much thought Andy had given to name the orphaned animal, but then he always did to the names given his charges. At least she had a name for the time they would have her at the ranch. What the Sioux would rename her he wondered, but he’d let Henry know what she was being called for the time being. Perhaps the Sioux would retain the name or some Sioux derivative of it. As the story went, a white buffalo would bring peace to all men. Slim could only hope. The heated battle between the white-people and the Indians was well understood by the tall rancher. If it took a small, white, baby buffalo to bring peace he’d be so glad to give the symbol to the Sioux Nation to bring that tranquility. He was sure that Andy would understand, not like giving up the orphan, but he would understand.
Miracle drank eagerly from the bottle, taking a lot of milk at each feeding. Andy was thrilled that she was so easy to care for and she avidly looked forward to seeing him coming toward her with the feeding bottle. She would gallop to him and once nearly bowled him over with her enthusiasm.
Even Jonesy, now home after doing his civil duty, took to the small buffalo. He could often be seen leaning over the gate to the pen that held the orphan, sometimes rubbing the little one’s head and talking baby talk to her, very unlike the irascible foreman. The little charmer was putting a spell over everyone at the ranch, but Slim remained adamant that Miracle had to go to her rightful place.
After a few days in the pen, Andy risked letting the calf out to follow him around for a while. If he ran away from her, she’d chase after him, kicking up her little heels. Sniffing at a hen would send her snorting and loping around in circles, then running to Andy as if to ask him if he thought she was brave. If she started to wander off Andy only called to her saying, “Time to eat,” and she’d come running back, since that was what he always said to her before offering her the bottle. Jonesy admonished him for teasing her, by saying that she could eat and then not giving her the bottle. So, Andy would always have a bottle waiting on the porch, close at hand if he needed to call her and she didn’t come back immediately. If he said she was going to eat, he was sure that he had something to give her.
After a month of caring for Miracle, Slim told Andy that it was time to think about giving her to her rightful caretakers. Andy put up a fuss claiming he was her rightful owner since he was the one who cared for her since she was born. She belonged to the ranch, was his way of thinking, but Slim was insistent that the calf had to go live with the Sioux, as he’d contended from the minute they brought the white calf to the ranch. He warned Andy that as soon as he was able to talk with Henry Stalking Wolf and arrange for Miracle to go to the Sioux Nation, it would be done.
Andy sulked over the proclamation, but was resigned that it was going to happen. When it was pointed out how impractical it would be to have a large, white buffalo roaming around the ranch, Andy had to admit, even to himself, that it was unrealistic. It wasn’t like having a small raccoon or crow or some other small, harmless creature around.
In the meantime, Andy took every chance to spend with Miracle while she was still at the ranch. If school had been in session, it would have been a battle getting him to leave the animal behind for the day.
The day finally came that Andy dreaded. A small party of Sioux rode into the yard. They were a menacing sight, considering that those at the relay station were always afraid of a Sioux raiding party coming to the ranch. It was always part of the danger living in the Wyoming territory.
Andy was the first to see them coming over the ridge and ran to get Jess and Slim. Jess reached for a rifle, but Slim put his hand on the dark-haired cowboy’s arm to prevent him from picking it up. “They have to be the people coming for the buffalo,” he said, taking a deep breath and stepping forward, hoping that he was right. He’d sent a message to the tribe with Henry less than a week ago and was expecting to hear something. In the party Slim recognized Henry, today dressed in traditional Sioux garb, unlike what Slim was use to seeing him wearing when working in town.
The medicine man rode forward holding up his hand and lowering his lance in peace. Slim raised his hand in greeting as well, flashing a nervous smile. Andy and Jess stood close to the barn to watch. Jess didn’t want to be more than a few steps away from the rifle and near enough to the door to push Andy through into some semblance of safety if necessary. A lowered lance and hand raised in peace could always change with a misunderstood sneeze Jess reasoned.
Immediately the medicine man, Bull Head, spotted the buffalo calf in the pen. He dismounted and strode quickly toward it, his eyes focused only on the small animal. When he reached the fenced area, the medicine man put his hand down and Miracle promptly ran to him and began suckling his outstretched fingers. A smile of pleasure spread across the man’s face and he turned to the men in his party and motioned for them to come join him.
All dismounted and hurried to stand at Bull Head’s side, admiring the small, white animal, except Henry, who went to stand with Slim watching the veneration with which his tribal brothers were gazing at their sacred symbol. Miracle was a miracle, Slim thought. He never would have believed that a Sioux party would come to his ranch in peace. Henry shook Slim’s hand, pleased to see that his people were interacting with Slim in a peaceful manner. Maybe the white buffalo calf would bring peace to their people, as promised.
Bull Head strutted to where Slim stood with Henry Stalking Wolf. The others continued to admire the calf, chattering lightly amongst themselves, totally enchanted by her.
‘”Mr. Sherman,” the medicine man began, “Stalking Wolf tells me that you helped this calf to be born into our world. The mother died?”
Slim nodded his head that it was true. “My brother Andy,” Slim pointed to the boy, who now came forward to join him, “he’s been caring for her since she was born. It was a breach birth and we couldn’t save her mother or this baby would be out on the prairie with the herd. We believe that she should belong to your people.”
Jess continued to stand wide-eyed near the barn door, still not believing that a Sioux party, of any kind, was in the ranch yard and there were no bullets, arrows, or lances flying.
Nervously, Andy said, “I’ve named her Miracle, sir.”
“Hmmm, Miracle. It may be a good name for her,” Bull Head said, as he bent down to look eye to eye with the boy. “You love her, I can tell,” he smiled and gently touched the boy’s face with his forefinger and thumb. “We will care for her. She is to be worshiped by our people. Your land is blessed, Mr. Sherman,” Bull Head continued as he stood back up straight and tall. “There will be peace. Your ranch shall remain sacred land to my people as the birthplace of the White Buffalo Woman. Any on this land will be spared. My people will not harm anyone found here. This I promise,” the medicine man pledged. “In time, maybe there will be peace for us all. Maybe this white buffalo calf will help us all settle our differences, as promised.”
“How will you take her back with you?” Slim asked, noticing that they hadn’t brought a wagon or any way to convey the calf back with them. He was sure she wasn’t quite able to keep up with them on their horses. Though had she been running with the herd she probably would be strong enough to travel the great distances the herd would cover.
“I will bring a cart with me from town tomorrow,” Henry Stalking Wolf responded.
“Yes,” Bull Head agreed, “we must build an enclosure for her.
“Sir?” Andy interrupted.
“Yes, young Mr. Sherman?” Bull Head turned to the youngster.
“How will you feed her? Do you have a bottle for her?”
“A bottle? No. We will give her a goat to nurse on,” Bull Head replied.
“She’ll outgrow a goat long before she’s weaned,” Slim predicted. “We’ll give you the bottle for her. I’ll send it along with her when Henry picks her up.”
“Appreciated.” Bull Head replied, glancing back at the white calf.
“She likes to play,” Andy added. “I take her out to run every day. If ya have the bottle with ya, she’ll chase ya anywhere ya go.”
Bull Head smiled his acceptance of the advice he received from the boy. “I am sure there are many young braves who will be happy to take her out to play. It is good to know that she will not run away.”
“Well, not right now,” Slim added.
“We will do for her. She will have a good home with my people. Do not fear. It will be White Buffalo Woman’s choice if she stays or returns to her herd when she is grown.”
When the Sioux party left, Jess came forward to stand with Slim and Andy to watch them ride up and over the ridge. “I can’t believe I saw that,” he said with a mystified grin on his lips.
“Neither can I, Pard, neither can I,” Slim agreed, putting his arm over his pardner’s shoulder as they strolled toward the house where Jonesy was standing on the porch watching all the goings on.
When they all entered the house, Jonesy picked up the shotgun that was propped next to the door, “I reckon we don’t need this,” the older man said and walked it to the corner where it generally rested.
“Sacred land,” Jess reflected, “He called this sacred land n’ that anyone here would always be safe. Do we believe him?”
“If it’s anything like the white-man’s treaties, I don’t,” Jonesy declared before heading for the kitchen. “Coffee’s hot. Anyone interested?”
The next morning, after giving Miracle her morning bottle, Andy let the calf out of her enclosure and she followed him into the barn while he took a brush down from a shelf. Outside he took the brush to the calf. Unused to being curried the calf decided to play tag with Andy scampering from him first, then turning and running into him, knocking him down a few times, much to the boy’s amusement. “Come on, Miracle, we gotta pretty ya up. You’re goin’ to your new home.”
Even with Andy’s explanation Miracle wasn’t going to cooperate and the boy finally gave up, just grateful to be able to hug the calf and frolic with her in the yard. As the morning wore on, Andy became more and more anxious about Miracle leaving. He wished he could hide her, but knew that it wouldn’t work, at least not for long. It would be hard enough to hide her the size she was, let alone when she’d be grown. Tears welled up in his eyes when he realized that it would be impossible for him to visit her. It surely didn’t make much sense to ask. She would be on Sioux territory, purely off limits for white people.
Henry arrived around noon and Jonesy invited him to have lunch with the family, which he accepted.
Andy was morose and hardly said a word through the meal of stew and cornbread.
“I’m sorry that I’m taking your friend away,” Henry finally said when he noticed the boy’s long face. “I think I can arrange for you to come with me to visit her from time to time, if you’d like.”
Andy’s eyes brightened as he said, “Are ya sure?”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Jonesy cautioned, as he stood up to start clearing the table and get more coffee from the stove.
“Why?” burst from Andy’s mouth.
“Slim?” was Jonesy’s reply, looking to the rancher to give a good reason to his brother.
“I don’t know, Andy,” was Slim’s answer. “I reckon we’ll have to see what happens. I have to agree with Jonesy, we don’t know for sure how peaceful this whole thing is going to really end up. Sure, we’ve done what we can to try and make peace with the Sioux. Giving them the white calf means a lot, but…”
“He would be safe with me, Slim. Jonesy. I wouldn’t take him if there was anything stirring up. I know how you feel, but I would never put the boy in danger. You have my word on that,” Henry pledged.
Andy looked from face to face, none of them giving him any indication of accepting Henry’s offer.
Again, Slim said, “We’ll see, Andy. I can’t promise you any more than that.”
When Andy entered the barn he found Jess brushing Traveler. Picking up another brush, the boy walked to the other side of the bay horse and started brushing the animal’s neck. He looked at Jess a few times before hesitantly asking, “Jess? Do you think Slim will let me go with Stalking Wolf to see Miracle some day? He didn’t sound real convincin’ when I asked.”
“Well, Andy, you know your brother’s only lookin’ out for your best interest,” Jess responded as he leaned over his horse’s back to watch Andy industriously currying under the horse’s mane. “I miss the little fella, too. Maybe in time we can both go see ‘er. I trust Stalking Wolf that he’d feel things out n’ that we’d be safe. Just give it a little time for Slim to feel that trust, too”
Jess walked to the other side of Traveler and started brushing the horse’s hindquarters. Andy turned to look at the cowboy and said thoughtfully, “Do ya really think that the white buffalo could mean peace between us and the Sioux?”
Throwing his arm over Andy’s shoulder, Jess pulled him closer, “We can sure hope so. But in the meantime, if we do go to see the calf, you know that Slim is gonna be awfully mad at us if we both come back with real bad haircuts,” he joked with a grin as he ruffled the boy’s hair.
“Aw, Jess,” Andy replied, trying to smooth down the rat’s nest Jess created.
“Come on, let’s go see if that pie I smelled bakin’ earlier today is ready for eatin’,” the dark-haired cowboy urged as he took Andy’s brush and tossed both brushes in the tack box then put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and steered him toward the barn door.
Miracle is born, 1994. (Copyright Davals, 1994)
The White Buffalo prophecy may have begun to be fulfilled with the birth of Miracle on a Wisconsin farm in 1994. Miracle lived for ten years on same the Janesville farm. It is interesting to note that Miracle, the first pure white buffalo to be born since 1933, was cared for by the Heider Family – Dave, Valerie and Corey. A white family being the caretakers of such a sacred Native American symbol may seem ironic to some. However, White Buffalo Calf Woman said she would come again, and it would be a time of healing among all the races. What better symbol of healing could there be?
From the Miracle Website: The Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations (known collectively as the Sioux) were considered Miracle’s primary spiritual guardians and she played a pivotal role in the fulfillment of their most revered prophecies. However, her place in the prophecies and beliefs of many tribes made her a highly sacred symbol to many of the American Indian Nations across the continent. She was seen by a vast number of people as a symbol of hope and renewal for humanity and for harmony between all peoples, all races, in our world today.
Although not American Indian, the Heider family came to view Miracle as a special gift which belonged to the hearts of all people. Commercialization was not allowed. They opened their farm to visitors free of charge seven days a week so that people could visit Miracle at the pasture fence. For safety reasons, visitors were not allowed into the pasture. Miracle was, after all, a wild buffalo as are the rest of the buffalo on the farm. Many people came to offer prayers in her presence, some came simply out of curiosity. Whatever their reason for visiting Miracle and this simple farm, thousands came and few people left unaffected by their time there….
Mitakuye Oyasin…. We Are All Related in the Sacred Hoop of Life.
May It Ever Be So.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
Post postscript: Sadly, Miracle died of natural causes in 2004.
Desert Rose Spirit a female, born June 16, 2012 to Joyful Spirit, sired by Chief Hiawatha is the latest white buffalo born to full blooded buffalo. White beefalo have been reported but they are not accepted by the tribal nations. Albinos, as well, are not recognized. Only white buffalo with dark eyes and dark points, such as nose, ears and skin are acknowledged.