THE STORY OF THE PET CRANE
There was once upon a time a man who did not care to live with his
tribe in a crowded village, but preferred a secluded spot in the
deep forest, there to live with his wife and family of five
children. The oldest of the children (a boy) was twelve years of
age, and being the son of a distinguished hunter, soon took to
roaming through the forest in search of small game.
One day during his ramblings, he discovered a crane's nest, with
only one young crane occupying it. No doubt some fox or traveling
weasel had eaten the rest of the crane's brothers and sisters. The
boy said to himself, "I will take this poor little crane home and
will raise him as a pet for our baby. If I leave him here some
hungry fox will be sure to eat the poor little fellow." He carried
the young crane home and it grew to be nearly as tall as the boy's
Being brought up in a human circle, it soon grew to understand all
the family said. Although it could not speak it took part in all
the games played by the children. The father of the family was, as
I have before mentioned, a great hunter. He always had a
plentiful supply of deer, antelope, buffalo and beaver meats on
hand, but there came a change. The game migrated to some other
locality, where no deadly shot like "Kutesan" (Never Miss) would be
around to annihilate their fast decreasing droves. The hunter
started out early one morning in hopes of discovering some of the
game which had disappeared as suddenly as though the earth had
swallowed them. The hunter traveled the whole day, all to no
purpose. It was late in the evening when he staggered into camp.
He was nearly dead with fatigue. Hastily swallowing a cup of
cherry bark tea (the only article of food they had in store), he at
once retired and was soon in the sweet land of dreams. The
children soon joined their father and the poor woman sat thinking
how they could save their dear children from starvation. Suddenly
out upon the night air rang the cry of a crane. Instantly the pet
crane awoke, stepped outside and answered the call. The crane
which had given the cry was the father of the pet crane, and
learning from Mr. Fox of the starving condition of his son and his
friends, he flew to the hunting grounds of the tribe, and as there
had been a good kill that day, the crane found no trouble in
securing a great quantity of fat. This he carried to the tent of
the hunter and, hovering over the tent he suddenly let the fat drop
to the earth and at once the pet crane picked it up and carried it
to the woman.
Wishing to surprise the family on their awakening in the morning
she got a good stick for a light, heaped up sticks on the dying
embers, and started up a rousing fire and proceeded to melt or try
out the fat, as melted fat is considered a favorite dish.
Although busily occupied she kept her ears open for any strange
noises coming out of the forest, there being usually some enemies
lurking around. She held her pan in such a position that after the
fat started to melt and quite a lot of the hot grease accumulated
in the pan, she could plainly see the tent door reflected in the
hot grease, as though she used a mirror.
When she had nearly completed her task, she heard a noise as though
some footsteps were approaching. Instantly her heart began to beat
a tattoo on her ribs, but she sat perfectly quiet, calling all her
self-control into play to keep from making an outcry. This smart
woman had already studied out a way in which to best this enemy, in
case an enemy it should be. The footsteps, or noise, continued to
advance, until at last the woman saw reflected in the pan of grease
a hand slowly protruding through the tent door, and the finger
pointed, as if counting, to the sleeping father, then to each one
of the sleeping children, then to her who sat at the fire. Little
did Mr. Enemy suppose that the brave woman who sat so composed at
her fire, was watching every motion he was making. The hand slowly
withdrew, and as the footsteps slowly died away, there rang out on
the still night air the deep fierce howl of the prairie wolf.
(This imitation of a prairie wolf is the signal to the war party
that an enemy has been discovered by the scout whom they have sent
out in advance). At once she aroused her husband and children.
Annoyed at being so unceremoniously disturbed from his deep sleep,
the husband crossly asked why she had awakened him so roughly. The
wife explained what she had seen and heard. She at once pinned an
old blanket around the crane's shoulders and an old piece of
buffalo hide on his head for a hat or head covering. Heaping piles
of wood onto the fire she instructed him to run around outside of
the hut until the family returned, as they were going to see if
they could find some roots to mix up with the fat. Hurriedly she
tied her blanket around her middle, put her baby inside of it, and
then grabbed her three year old son and packed him on her back.
The father also hurriedly packed the next two and the older boy
took care of himself.
Immediately upon leaving the tent they took three different
directions, to meet again on the high hill west of their home. The
reflection from the fire in the tent disclosed to them the poor pet
crane running around the tent. It looked exactly like a child with
its blanket and hat on.
Suddenly there rang out a score of shots and war whoops of the
dreaded Crow Indians. Finding the tent deserted they disgustedly
filed off and were swallowed up in the darkness of the deep forest.
The next morning the family returned to see what had become of
their pet crane. There, riddled to pieces, lay the poor bird who
had given up his life to save his dear friends.