Once there was a tribe of Indians who had always lived in the mountains. Their village was built at the foot of a very large mountain, and their cabins were made from branches of the pine-trees, covered with the skins of animals.
One day one of their hunters followed a bear’s track for many miles. By evening he found himself a great distance from the village. He noticed that the hills around him were much smaller than those he had left, so he made up his mind to continue in the direction he had been going, which was eastwards, to see if the hills would grow smaller as he went. He rested during the night, and when the sun rose next morning, he continued walking towards the east. For several days he travelled, and at last he found himself on the edge of a very large plain. Miles and miles of green prairie lay before him, and he wondered what was beyond, on the other side of this vast plain.
He travelled back joyfully to the village and told the others of the tribe what he had discovered. As they listened they became anxious to see this great prairie and what lay beyond it. So they went to their chief and begged him to let them all go and travel until they should reach the other side of the prairie. The chief told them that this was a wrong thing to ask, because they were mountain Indians and so would never be happy away from the mountains. Still they begged and coaxed, and at length he said,” I shall grant your request, my children, because my greatest wish is to see you happy. Tomorrow we shall all get ready for our journey to this great prairie. I shall go with you, although it grieves me very much to leave my mountains, but your wish shall be granted.”
By evening the next day the tribe was ready for the journey. They had taken down their cabins, and the branches of the pine-trees and the skins of the animals were packed on the mountain ponies. The chief rode in front on a small, white pony. His face looked very sad as they set out.
For many days they travelled, and at length they reached the edge of the prairie, as the hunter before them had done. They were all much astonished to see the great plain of green grass, and they told their chief that this land was much more beautiful than their mountains. He did not make any reply. For several days they travelled across the prairie in the daytime and camped at night. Each morning they said as they prepared to move forward, “Today we shall surely reach the other side of this prairie.”
Each night, however, found them with as many miles in front of them as there were behind them. At last they grew weary, and began to wonder how long they would have to travel before they could see what was beyond this prairie. They had made their camp for the night on the bank of a river. This river was too wide and deep for them to cross, and they did not know what they would do. During the night a strange thing happened. Their cabins were caught as if by unseen hands, lifted high in the air, and tossed into the river. The little children clung to their mothers in terror, while these unseen hands seemed trying to pull them away and toss them after the cabins. The Indians, terrified, gathered around their chief.
“What is this?” they cried. “What is this awful thing that has such strength and which we cannot see?”
“It is the wind, my children,” said the chief. “Far up on the mountain lives the Windmaker. This is his message to us, to tell us that he is angry, because we have left our mountain home. Let us all go back to our home and be happy once more.”
But the Indians murmured at this. They did not wish to go back to the mountains. They wished to see what was beyond the great prairie. The chief sadly shook his head and said, “Well, my children, you must suffer what the Windmaker sends us.”
Then a young warrior named Broken Arrow spoke up. He had long wished for a chance to show the chief that he was brave, for he loved the chief’s daughter and knew he could not marry her until he had proven his bravery.
“Oh, chief,” he said, “let me go to this Windmaker. Let me shoot my sharpest arrows at him, so that I may kill this wicked one who is causing so much sorrow.”
The chief smiled at the brave youth and said, “My son, you may go, but it is a useless quest. This Windmaker cannot be killed.”
Broken Arrow replied proudly, “We shall see. My arrows go far and fly straight. This Windmaker shall feel their point.”
The women of the tribe put food in a bag and several pairs of moccasins, and the young warrior set out on his journey. Day and night he travelled, and at last, after his food was all gone and his last pair of moccasins was nearly worn out, he reached the foot of the great mountain where the Windmaker lived. Looking up, he saw the monster,—a great, gray creature that seemed a part of the mountain itself. His head was crowned with snow white hair that lay around his shoulders like drifts of snow. His huge ears stood out from the sides of his head, and as he waved them, a breeze came down the mountain side that almost took the warrior off his feet. Fitting an arrow into his bow, he let it fly. It was aimed for the Windmaker’s heart, and was going straight there, when the monster moved one ear and the arrow flew to one side. The same fate overtook the next arrow, and the next. Still the warrior shot bravely on, but as each one came near the monster he waved his ears and blew it aside. At last every arrow had been spent, and the Windmaker was uninjured. There was nothing for the young warrior to do but to go back and tell of his failure. Sadly he turned away, and after many days’ travelling he arrived at the camp, faint with hunger, and with bare and bleeding feet.
The chief smiled proudly as he saw him. “Welcome, my son,” he said. “Do not feel sad. You have done nobly, and have proven to me how great a warrior you are. You shall be my son, and I am proud to call you that.”
After the wedding feast that night, the chief told the Indians that the next day he was going to the mountain to see if he could kill the Windmaker.
When they heard this, there was great weeping, and they begged him not to go. But he was firm, so they said, “Then we shall go with you. Where our chief goes, we go too, and we shall watch you fight this wicked one.”
So, after many days’ travelling, they all reached the foot of the great mountain where the Windmaker lived. Looking up, they could see him just as Broken Arrow had told them they would. The chief turned to them and said, “My children, you must remain here at the foot of this mountain, while I climb up to the top. There is no use in trying to shoot this great monster, for he will but blow my arrows away, so I must climb up and strike him with my tomahawk.”
Again they begged him not to go, but again he was firm, and they sadly watched him begin to climb up the rocky side of the mountain. Little by little, he ascended the steep, rough hill, until at last he was almost at the feet of the Windmaker. All this time the monster had been perfectly still. Then suddenly, just as the chief was within reach of him, he waved both his ears, and a terrible gale tore down the mountain side, carrying rocks and stones with it. It caught the chief, lifted him off his feet and carried him down. When he reached the bottom he lay as if insensible for a few moments. Then, recovering his breath, he began to climb again. Once more the Windmaker let him nearly reach his feet before he made a movement. This time he sent a current of air against a large boulder resting on a narrow ledge. The chief leaped just in time, for it fell with a terrible noise on the very spot where he had stood.
Angered by this, the chief grasped his tomahawk more firmly, and dashing up a few paces, aimed a blow at the monster’s feet. But before it fell, the Windmaker waved both ears again. With a roar like thunder the gale swept down, carrying the brave chief with it. It tossed him in the air, turned him around two or three times, and hurled him into a clump of fir-trees at the foot of the mountain. The Indians ran frantically to the spot and picked him up, but he was quite dead. They buried him sadly where he had fallen, at the foot of the tender firs. Then they went quietly back to their village in the mountains and have been content to live there ever since.