Howdy! Welcome to another terrific Tuesday.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to watch a Rain Dance? And to watch it from the “roof” of a 19th Century Mandan lodge?
Ever wonder if the men who tried to make it rain all those years ago were successful?
Interestingly, George Catlin — who visited the West in the 1830’s — wrote much about the Mandan Indians, about their rain dances, their ceremonies and religious practices, even the way their lodges looked. Of course we who write historical romances often find ourselves completely captivated by the facts and outright interesting characters and happenings that we find in our research. Often the facts of the matter are so outrageous, that an author might feel no one would believe it, and so she might write a scene around it, but “tone it down” a bit — just to make it believable.
I think the rain dance is one of those kinds of ceremonies, and yet it is a fact that many men tried to make it rain by testing their “medicine” against the elements, and that many were quite successful. The following scene is written within the Minataree village. The Minataree were a tribe of Indians who lived on the cliffs above the Missouri River. They had a permanent village and very interesting customs. These scene of course is romantic, but it also takes into account the terrific sight of a man pitting his strength against the elements in order to help his tribe by making it rain.
THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF
As they approached the Minatarree village, they were at once treated to the sight of a horse race in full swing. The track was set upon the prairie and a good deal of the village had turned out to watch.
From a distance, unobserved, unnoticed, High Wolf and Sierra sat and watched the race for several moments, before deciding to go on. At last, they approached the main Minatarree village, and Sierra was the first to note the sounds of many drums from within the village.
“There seem to be more drums beating there than what I remember. Do you know why?”
“Perhaps the Minatarree are having a dance. Or maybe, if my vision is correct from this distance, we might find that there are Rain Makers on top of the council house.”
“I have never heard of such a thing. What are they?”
High Wolf, who had been crawling through the shrub, stopped and turned toward her, his manner relaxed and full of good humor. He enlightened her, saying, “Have you seen that the Minatarree raise a great deal of corn and vegetables?”
“Have you also noticed that there has been no rain since we have been in this country, which is almost three weeks? That is a long time to go without rain, if one is raising crops.”
“Ah, I begin to understand.”
“Do you? Here is what happens. When the crops are failing, the women, who raise the corn, appeal to the medicine men of the tribe to help. And if the women’s cries are sufficient, these wise, old men will parley in the council lodge. Here they will burn sage and other medicine herbs, and then they will appeal to the Creator for help.
“Now, this lodge is closed to all but a few—perhaps fifteen young men. These are the young men who are willing to risk their reputations against the force of nature. With their own medicine, they appeal to the spirits to make it rain.
“If one of them fails, he will, then, never become a medicine man. But if he succeeds, he will become a man of some importance. Now, if I am correct, this could be the source of the drumming. Would you like to go and see?”
“Most definitely. But if this is a ceremony, won’t we interrupt it?”
“No one will notice our coming and going. There is too much taking place here today, and people will be watching the dancers, not us. But hurry, let us go there quickly and find a good location where we could sit and watch, for I believe you will find it interesting.”
Slowly, he turned around and started in the direction of the river, where they might wash the mud from their bodies before approaching the village. But Sierra tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Tell me, have any of these young men ever made it rain?”
“If their medicine is good.”
“It is so..”
“And do you believe that one of them will do so now?”
“All because they implore the Creator for help?”
“That,” he agreed, “and because some of them have much medicine of their own, and can talk to the spirits. I have known such people.”
Her eyes filled with humor, and she laughed. “Well, I, for one, don’t believe it.”
He grinned at her. “Would you like to make a bet?”
“Hmmm. Perhaps,” she felt non-committal. “What would we be betting?”
His eyes twinkled as he suggested, “It is my opinion that a good, long back rub would be in order.”
“Very well.” She raised an eyebrow at him. “I seem to remember you asking for a massage once before. However, I feel I should warn you that in this case, I will be the winner.” She gave him a merry, lopsided grin. “What do you think?”
He stretched, yawning. “Ah, I’ve always loved a good back rub…”
Entering the village as unobtrusively as possible, they made their way toward Yellow Moccasin’s lodge. Once there, they were able to quickly find a seat atop his earth lodge, sitting directly at the hut’s apex. That they shared their seat with several of the youngsters made it seem to Sierra as though she were on a picnic.
“Now there”—High Wolf pointed to a particular earth lodge—“is the council lodge, and inside are the medicine men who are singing and beating the drum. Do you smell the herbs? They are burning them, so that the Creator will be pleased and will take pity on them.”
“And the man on top of the lodge?”
“That is one of the young men, who is determined to test his prowess. This man I am told is Gray Elk. Look, he is about to start.”
Gray Elk was certainly an extraordinary man, Sierra decided. Tall, big-boned and well built, he wore a most beautiful costume of what must be elk skin, for it was bleached white. He also carried in one hand a war shield, and in his other, his bow and two arrows.
Then, taking position and brandishing his bow and arrows toward the skies, he began to sing, as though the very air were filled with spirits.
“What is he saying?”
High Wolf leaned close, and whispered, “At present, he is telling the crowd that on this day, their woes are at an end. He is here to sacrifice himself to the task of making it rain, for he knows well that if he fails, he will be disgraced. He says that his shield will draw a great cloud, which will give them all rain.”
Sierra glanced around her, at the cloudless heavens overhead, and queried with good humor, “Is he a dreamer?”
“Perhaps. But he is given all day to make the rain fall from the sky. We have happened upon the fourth man to try.”
“Haa’he, and Gray Elk will be on top of that lodge most of the day, pleading to the heavens.”
“Do you think he will make it rain and win you the bet?”
Again, she smiled. Such strange customs. Still, she glanced right and left, noticing that behind her, arising, from the west, was a small cloud.
“High Wolf,” she pointed. “Look there.”
He did so, then slanted her a look of delight. “Ah, I will enjoy that back rub very much.”
She chuckled, her glance skimming over the heads of the villagers, who had also spotted the cloud. As Gray Elk’s pleas became more urgent, Sierra suddenly caught sight of something…someone on one of the other rooftops. An image of someone familiar…someone with dark hair, hair that was liberally sprinkled with gray, an oddity for one so young.
But it was not a Minatarree man. It was a white man. A white man she recognized… Dear Lord, it was the prince.
Prince Alathom? Here?
But wasn’t he dead? Hadn’t they sung songs over his grave?
Was he a ghost?
No, he looked real, for he was talking and laughing with some children, who were gathered round him.
Her head spun. What did this mean? Or more importantly, what was she supposed to feel? Relief that a friend was still among the living?
That’s when it happened. The reality of what this would mean to her, to High Wolf, to them, took hold of her.
“Someday, I will have to leave this place, and when that day arrives, there will be no room in my life, nor in my heart for you. If you would love me, then you must do so knowing that this day will yet come.”
It had come. She would lose High Wolf.
No! This could not be. She could change her mind, couldn’t she? She shut her eyes, rubbing her forehead as her very own words came back to haunt her.
“We are not bound by rules so much as we are by duty. Duty to do the best that we can for our people and our countries. Rules can always be changed; duty cannot.”
High Wolf could return home with her. High Wolf would become her prince. Not…not Alathom.
“I was adopted by the prince’s father and mother. Perhaps I could ease the situation between your countries.”
“I’m afraid that would make little difference,” Sierra had told him. “Your relationship to Alathom’s family is not that of a blood lineage. You cannot inherit the throne or rule. It has to be the prince or no one.”
She and High Wolf had at last found happiness, had at last obtained peace with themselves. Hadn’t they only realized that they would be blessed with the rest of their lives together?
Yet her duty would be to…
Perhaps it didn’t matter. Hadn’t she and High Wolf decided that Alathom had done what he had for them? So that the two of them could spend the rest of their lives together?
“A man can steal the wife of an enemy with little regard for his actions. But not so a brother. If your brother lives, you must give her up.”
Even Grandfather’s words came back to consume her.
No! Perhaps she could pretend she hadn’t seen him. Could she sneak away? Or was that a coward’s way out?
Surreptitiously, she glanced to the side, where High Wolf still sat beside her, unaware of the momentous occasion so unceremoniously thrust upon them. She caught him in the throes of a great deal of humor, as, leaning toward her, he so very sexually suggested, “Would you like to start that back rub now?”
But then he looked at her, really looked at her, and he must have sensed what was in her mind, in her heart, and most likely emblazed upon her countenance, for he asked, “Princess, are you all right? You look pale. Is something wrong?”
It took Sierra a few moments to speak, and even then, she had no idea what to say. So when she at last spoke, saying, “He is alive,” it was no wonder that High Wolf frowned, gazing at her as though she had taken leave of her senses.
What was wrong with her? she wondered. Surely she could talk, although her tongue seemed oddly thick for her mouth. She found herself stumbling over her own words, as though she were a child of two. However, at last she managed to utter, “The prince…he’s alive.” And that’s when she pointed…
The Princess and the Wolf