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A Water Journey

 

The children’s story of an Indian boy, Wind Spirit,

and his river journey to meet
his friend, Raven Maiden

Samuel Bowman Cookson

and his grandfather, Mark Allen North

The journey of a young Indian boy to visit a likable girl began many years ago.  Several tribes of Indians lived on the shores of a series of large lakes.  The tribal leaders provided a cheerful place for children to live and learn the ways of Earth Mother and Father Sky.

*      *      *

They called the boy Wind Spirit, sometimes shortened to Windy.  He was learning many tribal tasks.  A young brave needed to learn how to survive in the wilderness.  His father, Golden Bear, taught him the ways of the forest and the habits of the four-legged animals.  Windy learned how to make hooks and spears to catch the finned, and weapons to capture the hooved and winged.  All these skills would be important in his search for self-discovery—his Quest—while on an adventurous journey.

*      *      *

Just as important was the work performed by his mother, White Dove.  She was in charge of the camp’s daily activities.  Wind Spirit was shown how the women prepared food, and how they selected healing plants from the forest and swamps.  He learned to treat animal skins with tanning solutions that changed them to beautiful leather and pelts.  He was shown how women of the tribe sewed many types of leather together to make shoes, pants, and decorative shields.  White Dove also showed him how she weaved yarn into clothing on a loom.

She showed him how to make soap, which was highly valued.  Very few knew how to make it from animal fat and fire ash.  Being part plant and part animal, it seemed as if it were almost alive.  While his mother washed clothes for the family, Wind Spirit often bathed nearby.  Sometimes he talked to his soap as if a friend.

*      *      *

One day Wind Spirit sat alone on the river bank, washing up after cleaning a deer hide.  He daydreamed of the charming Indian girl, Raven Maiden, who lived downriver.  He had met her on a trip to her village earlier in the year.  Wind Spirit wanted to be with her again, but he was too young to leave camp alone.  Still thinking of her, he washed the tanning liquids off his body.  Suddenly he felt a rush of wind from the river, followed by a bright light.

*      *      *

Holding his hand up to his eyes to shield the glare, Wind Spirit saw what looked like a “spirit being” hovering over the water.  It raised its hands and spoke: “I have heard your wish.  You are a good young man, so I will answer your request.  There is a way to let Raven Maiden know your feelings for her.  I will tell her that you will visit her soon with a gift of soap.  The gift will be special, since the soap was made by your own hands.  It is indeed a personal present.  What happens next will be up to her.  Go in peace, my son.”

“But…  Ah…  How…?” Wind Spirit mumbled.

The spirit form vanished as quickly as it appeared.

*      *      *

Not expecting an answer, Windy stood in silence, in wonder of The Spirits visit.  He thought, Mom and Dad told me that The Great Spirit visits His people in times of need.  I guess I’m a very lucky boy.  He picked up the soap and described to it what had happened.  Windy put the large, pearl-gray bar of soap in his pack.  He gathered up his tanning tools and hide.  He looked down the river one more time, and ran back to camp.

*      *      *

Wind Spirit told his mother everything that happened.

Based on her wisdom of many moons, White Dove told him, “The Great Spirit acts in mysterious ways.  The spirit may have big plans for you.  Remember, the soap is indeed a living part of Earth.  By taking the soap to the girl, The Spirit may be providing you with some problem-solving experiences.  It may be a test of your ability to survive hardships.”

“But Mom, I have no way to travel down the river.”

“True, my son, but with the skills you have learned from your dad, I’m sure you will find a way.”

He thought about it and remembered his father showing him how to make a raft.  “Yes!  I’ll make a very good raft!”

Very quickly, Wind Spirit built a raft of logs, and tied the soap on it.  He asked his Mother, “Isn’t it risky to float down the river?  There are many dangers along the way.”

“True, my son, but do not worry.  Although you are very young, you should go.  The Great Spirit will find a way to be at your side and help you.  Sometimes He appears to us as a raven.”

*      *      *

Wind Spirit drifted along the banks of the river.  He floated past large rocks, beautiful pines, and pleasing sandy shores.  As he paddled with a single oar, he kept checking the ties holding the soap.

Little by little, the current slowed, then almost stopped.  He drifted into a beautiful, smooth pool.  He came to a complete stop at the far end where a dam crossed the river.  Windy caught his breath and thanked the Great Spirit for a safe journey.  He rested, but not for long.  A series of small waves led to very fast rockin’-and-rollin’ waves.  He rubbed the water from his eyes and looked around.  He was being held captive by the current on the dam of a beaver pond.  Worse yet, two playful young beaver kits were headed his way.

*      *      *

Treating Wind Spirit’s raft as if a toy, the kits pushed him back and forth.  They separated more and more to see how far they could push the raft between them.  Losing interest in the game, the beaver kits started rocking the raft.

“Yikes!” Wind Spirit yelled, “I hope they’re not going to tip me over!”  Luckily, Mother Beaver called for the kits to leave the raft alone.  Seeing the bar of soap, she asked if she could use it for her daily wash.

He answered, “Of course.”

Mother Beaver washed her clothes, and returned the soap with a big “Thank you.”

Wind Spirit made his way slowly to the edge of the dam.  Giggling, the kits suddenly pushed the raft over.  He coasted safely into the current below.  “Hooray!” he shouted.

He got the break he needed to escape the playful young beaver kits.

*      *      *

Wind Spirit noticed that the soap was rounder and smaller now.  Still, he smiled after the tiring time in the pond.  The downriver current effortlessly weaved him between large boulders.  Many of them displayed Native Indian drawings of deer, bear, the sun, and other symbols.  He enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine, and took pleasure in his time alone as he traveled Earth Mother’s waters.  Soon he floated under low-hanging branches covering the river.  The sun was partially blocked as he entered the arch-shaped overhanging trees.  In the dark shadows, he found himself in a swampy section of the river.  Some of the branches were so low the leaves rubbed against his body, causing a little tickle.

As it became darker, the raft slowed down like a lazy mud turtle.  Misty rays of light pierced the trees’ canopy like flaming arrows.  The current wound around little islands of ferns, moss, and fallen logs.  This boggy swamp was indeed a silent and peaceful place.  He wondered where the outlet was to the faster-moving river.

Was he alone?

*      *      *

He was not!

Two black bear cubs barreled toward him as if racing to see who could catch him first.  Thankfully, they looked curious and playful, not like they wanted to chomp on him.  Just like the beaver kits, the bear cubs just wanted to play with the raft.  It must have been something they rarely saw on the river.  They used their outstretched paws to swat the edge of the raft.  Back and forth they swatted.  The calm waters soon turned into a torrent of waves like the lake’s shoreline in a storm.

Mother Bear came to investigate the commotion.  She silenced the cubs with a short grunt.  She asked Wind Spirit if she could use the soap to wash her cubs.  Wind Spirit granted her wish.

*      *      *

Delighted with the bar’s lather, she scrubbed her cubs.  Then she returned the soap to Windy with a big “Thank you.”

He happily said, “You’re welcome,” then paddled into the main current and out of the swamp.  But he realized his soap was slowly wearing away and was even more rounded on the edges.

“Ah,” he said, “I’m finally back to the big river.  I’m away from the young beavers and bears—and their mothers’ wash.”

*      *      *

Tired from his romp in the swamp, Windy managed a smile.  He lay back and enjoyed the warm afternoon sun.

Later, he traveled between many fog-covered islands near the river’s end.  He was getting close to the big lake.  He rode a gentle current to the rippling waves of the river’s shoreline.

Surprised, he bumped up against an elevated nest.  It held a bunch of eggs.  As he looked inside, the mother swan returned to her nest and pounced on Windy.  The swan beat Windy with her powerful wings again and again.  Windy held the bar of soap tightly.  She must have thought the soap was one of her eggs.  Windy lowered his head and paddled away.  She chased him and kept beating him with her wings.  Windy held out the soap for her to see.  She looked closely.  Seeing her mistake, she smiled.  Windy laughed, too, and wished her good luck with her young cygnets that were about to hatch.

Slightly wing-beaten, Windy paddled on.  Misty fog grew so heavy it was hard to see.

*      *      *

Soon the current started going faster.  Waves began breaking over the front of the raft.  Windy thought he heard the wind picking up as he approached the big lake.

The raft gained more speed.  That sound was not the wind; it was rushing water!  Rapids roared, there was whitewater—dead ahead!  Too late to portage around the rapids, he held on tightly.  The front of the raft bobbed up and down in and out of the water.

Klunk!  The raft slammed into a half-buried rock.  Splinters flew as the raft spun around and turned over.  Windy and the soap broke loose.  He went one way, and the soap went another.  After struggling and tumbling underwater, he suddenly surfaced near the bobbing soap—and grabbed it.  With a heroic lunge, he exploded out of the water, grabbed the paddle, and climbed back onto the raft.  He continued downstream, holding tightly to the damaged raft with one hand, cradling his soap with the other.

He finally found some quiet water and relaxed.  The current carried them toward the big lake.  A raven followed.

*      *      *

After drifting a while, Windy heard another rushing sound ahead.  It sounded strange.  He was concerned.  Much to his surprise, the entire river was blocked by a fragile fish weir.  It stretched across the water and directed the fish to a trap in its center.  “Oh no!” he shouted.  “Either I have to break through the sticks forming the funnel, or go to shore and portage around the weir.”

The decision was quickly made for him.  He crashed into the side of the funnel-shaped sticks and rode over the top of the weir.  The sticks sprung back to their original position.  He moved on with only slight damage to the weir.  He still had a firm grip on the soap!

*      *      *

As the river flowed into the lake, the water felt warmer.  When the current slowed, he paddled toward the shore.  He rubbed his eyes and watched for Raven Maiden.  He hoped that she would be doing her wash today.

He found her!  She was at the washing station.  He paddled to her and smiled, keeping hidden his gift of soap.

*      *      *

When she saw Windy, she broke into a big smile, too.  “You made it!  I’m so excited!  Come over here and clean up.  You look like the river has tossed you around a bit.  Come.”

When he stepped off the raft, he dropped the soap in the water.  His gift being discovered, he banded her the soap.

She said, “Oh, that’s just what I need.  I’ve run out of soap while washing my family’s clothes.  It looks like this soap has been on a long voyage, too!”

She gave Wind Spirit a quick hug!  He was indeed a happy fellow as he helped her finish washing the clothes, a task not normally done by a young brave.

Later, he sat with Raven Maiden on the beach.  They thanked the Great Spirit for protecting him on the exciting journey down the river.  Both realized the soap he had made was a sign, a symbol of Windy’s desire to reunite with her.

A raven croaked and perched nearby.

*      *      *

Wind Spirit held Raven Maiden’s hand as she showed him her village.  He met their chief, Soaring Eagle.  Everybody welcomed him and made him feel very comfortable.

Proud that he had completed his journey—his Quest—Windy joined Raven for a swim in the lake.  Then they sat close on a log and watched the sun set across the lake.

Windy smiled, happy that Raven Maiden would always be his friend.

The End

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Published by markallennorth

Retired educator, Bendix Aerospace designer/engineer, industrialist, and Michigan native Mark Allen North has published numerous technical and academic articles, primarily in the field of human-factors design. More recently, he published his memoir, Time Past—Time Present. Studies of Native American spirituality led to Valiant Lady, his third novel in the series that began with Intreprid Lady and Courageous Lady. He also writes children’s books, including A Water Journey, the story of a young Indian boy’s adventures; and Bugle Boy, the story of a young boy serving in his grandfather’s company during the Civil War.

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