Welcome to another terrific Tuesday! Hope y’all are doing well today.
I’ll be giving away a free e-book of BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER today. You only have to leave a thought on the post in order to enter into the drawing.
And I thought I’d leave you with another excerpt from the book. Hope you’ll enjoy it!
BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER Excerpt
The Season of Festivals
The Forks of the Big and Little Piney Creeks
As he stood within the great circle of the many camps, the boy, Maká Cí?ala, Little Skunk, squared his shoulders and raised his head, ready to receive the honors that were due him. As was tradition, all the tribes of the Lakota people were gathered together for the summer races, games and festivals. Although it was only midday, all of his family surrounded him in the center of the circle, and, as was also tradition, his band’s highest chief, Kicízapi Wa?té, Good Fight, held the two eagle feathers that Little Skunk was to receive.
Little Skunk was proud both of himself and his nation, the Hú?kpap?a, which he represented. Although he was only twelve winters old, he was already acting as a man—he’d been a scout for several of the war parties this summer and had brought many honors to his family. But this… This was an accomplishment a boy of his age had never before won: for the past two days, he had competed with adults in his tribe’s foot races, and he’d won every event.
It was a bright day, and a warm one, with the afternoon sun shining upon him as though to touch him with the care and respect of a father. He felt the tender sunlight on the top of his head and shoulders, and he held his head high. Then, the drums began to beat, and the singers commenced to chant the honoring song.
Holding up the two feathers to the wind, the chief, Kicízapi Wa?té, said, “Today, Maká Cí?ala becomes a man. He has gained the highest achievement in our foot races, and, because he has bested even the greatest men amongst us, he has won the right to earn himself a new name. In honor of this great occasion, Maká Cí?ala’s grandfather, Waki?ya? Paza Tosa?, Blue Thunder Striking, has given his name to his grandson, who shall bear his name with great honor.”
The old chief paused as Little Skunk’s mother stepped forward to offer the chief a newly-made blanket, which the chief accepted. He nodded and, opening the blanket, threw it around Little Skunk’s shoulders before offering the two eagle feathers to him. “Blue Thunder Striking,” the chief said, “we of the Hú?kpap?a know that, from this day forward, we will look to you for many good deeds. I give you these feathers to forever tell of your accomplishments.” The old chief smiled at Little Skunk, then said in closing, “The honoring ceremony is now done.”
Blue Thunder’s mother and aunties stepped forward to give him the hand-stitched quilts that had been several months in the making. Blue Thunder smiled and accepted the many gifts from them. Traditionally, these blankets were not his to keep; rather, he was to give them to the people to honor his deeds this summer. Stepping lively toward the side of the circle where people were sitting, he paced around it, offering the gifts to as many people as he could reach until all but one of the gifts was left. This present was special, for he had made it himself. This gift was for her.
Ci?cá Wací, Dancing Child, was about two winters younger than he. But, though the distance between their ages might have been great for their young hearts, Blue Thunder couldn’t recall a time when he hadn’t loved her.
Her mother came from the Brulé band of the Lakota. However, because her mother didn’t live with the Brulé, he saw Ci?cá Wací only during the summer when she was visiting her grandmother.
He still remembered the first time he had seen her. He had been seven winters that summer and she, five, and he remembered it as a great occasion, for her grandmother had made a miniature lodge and given it to Ci?cá Wací:
She had invited him to play with her in the miniature tepee, and he’d accepted his role in her game as being her pretend husband. That day, as soon as he’d ducked down to enter the lodge, he had seen that she had placed two different dolls upon small, buckskin blankets within the little tepee.
She had cautioned him to remain silent, since the dolls were “sleeping.” Then, she’d gone to the women’s side of the tepee and had made a “soup” consisting of water and berries which she had served him in a large turtle shell. From her tanned skin to her nearly-black eyes and the two dark-haired braids which fell down her back, she had captivated him, and his young heart had rejoiced.
They had played then, pretending to be married, and had continued their game into the coming days of summer. Indeed, at summer’s close, he had begun to think of her as his wife in reality. And, on that late summer day when she had told him she was to leave the next day, he had been so distressed, he’d said to her, “Since you are my wife, I would like to give you a gift before you go.”
She giggled and looked away.
“Well, what do you say?”
She stared up at him, her black eyes round and big, and smiled at him. “I would like that.”
He didn’t know what to give her and, in the end, handed her the only possession that was truly his—a single strand of white deerskin with an image of a lone, blue prairie flower upon it. He had, himself, painted the picture of the flower on the slender string.
Taking hold of the deerskin from her, he tied it as a necklace at the back of her neck, then said, “It is yours now. I will never ask for it back.”
As she smoothed her hand over the necklace, she said, “I will love this and treasure it all my life.”
“Wa?cá Skúya, Sweet Flower; it is your new name in honor of this gift. I give it to you. It is a good name and is a better name than Dancing Child. Tell your people. It is your new name.”
“You give me great honor, and I will tell my people.”
From that day forward he had addressed her as Sweet Flower. That her own people had still called her Dancing Child hadn’t caused him any worry, for he’d always known someday he would make her his wife, and, when that day came, she would become known as Sweet Flower.
At last, he found her in the crowd of people and, stepping near her, grinned at her.
She smiled while looking down, then said, “I am very proud of you.”
He laughed. “As well you should be.”
Once again, she smiled.
Taking her hand in his, he led her toward the side of the crowd, out of view from most of the people. As soon as they reached a private spot, he turned to her and said, “I have a special gift for you.”
Her smile widened, and she looked down as a proper, young Lakota maiden was expected to do, her demeanor shy.
“Hold out your hand,” he said, reaching into a bag and extracting something from it.
She did so, and he placed two strings of blue, white and pink-beaded earrings in her hand.
“Hau, hau. There is a woman from the Oglala tribe who makes the owi?la like these. When I saw the earrings she was creating, I knew I had to make a pair for you. She taught me how to do it.”
“They are very beautiful, and I love them,” she said. “I will always love them because they are so pretty and because you made them for me. But, since I thought you might win today, I made something special for you, too. If we go to my lodge, I will show you what I crafted for you this day.”
“Hau, hau,” he said. Then, because a man must always lead a girl and never walk behind her, he added, “Follow me.”
She did as he instructed. As soon as they entered her little tepee, she stepped to the back of the lodge, and, turning so she faced him, she presented him with a recently-picked bouquet of flowers. They were prairie violets and were very pretty.
As was the Indian way, she stared down at the floor of the tepee, which was little more than grass and dirt. When he took the flowers from her and their hands touched, he felt so good inside, he knew he would love Sweet Flower always.
He said, “Have you any water, for I would keep them alive so they will always remind me of you.”
She laughed, then said, “I do have water, and it is in a pouch. It will be perfect for them. I give you not only the flowers, but my own parfleche bag.” She giggled a little and looked away from him.
Carefully, he placed a finger under her chin and turned her face toward his own. “Tell me, when we get older, will you marry me?”
Still not looking up at him, she said, “I will, if you would still want me to.”
He brought her chin up so she was forced to look into his eyes and said, “I will always want you to be my wife, for I would spend my life with you. You are first in my heart, and I swear it will always be so.”
“Ha?, ha?. I feel the same as you.”
He grinned at her. “Then let us commit ourselves to one another. I wish we could marry now, but we are still too young. Our parents would never allow it.”
“I know what we might do.”
“Hmm…” He frowned.
“Let us tattoo one another with our own design,” she suggested. “In this way we will always know we belong together.”
“This is a fine idea.” He smiled.
She grinned back at him, then said, “I have a sharp bone that I use for sewing. My grandmother gave it to me. We might use it to prick our skin.”
“This is good,” he replied. “And the violets you have given me will make a blue color for the tattoo. But what design should we make?”
She shook her head.
“It should be simple, perhaps four small dots,” he said. “One dot would show that we are of one mind; another could say we are of one heart. The third dot might be one to indicate we will be of one body when we are older, and the fourth dot should be to signify that we have met soul to soul.”
She laughed and said, “What you say is pleasing to me.”
“Do you agree?”
“Oh yes,” she laughed. “Always I will love you.”
“And I, you.”
“Stay here,” she said, “while I go to my grandmother and ask her to give me the sharp bone I use to sew.”
“I will. But where should we put the tattoo?”
“Perhaps on the neck?”
“Maybe. But, wherever we decide it should be, it must be in a place on our bodies that will be hard for others to see, for it is to be our secret…at least until we marry.”
“I know where we could put it: we will place this tattoo on the upper back, close to and within the hairline, so it will not be seen by others. Yours will be on the right side, and mine will be on the left.”
She smiled up at him shyly. “I will go at once to my grandmother and ask for my sharpened bone. Will you wait here for me?”
“Hau, I will.” He looked at her longingly. “I would wait a lifetime for you.”
She giggled and bent to leave the little lodge to run to her grandmother’s tepee. Soon, she returned with the prized bone she used for sewing.
As the afternoon turned to evening, they etched their tattoos onto each other, the small dots hidden by their hairlines. When, at last, it was done, he reached out to take her hand in his own.
“It is done,” he said. “We are married now, and someday soon we will be old enough to live together so others will know we two are of one heart.”
Shyly, she smiled at him and said, “Ha?, it is done, and I am glad of it. With all my heart, I will always love you.”
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