IT was the evening of the 14th of March. In the valley of the Rio Grande, that stands at the end of the winter. Now it is to open the big mother-canal that comes from the river to all the fields, giving them to drink after their long thirst; and now to plow the milpas, and to uncover the buried grape-vines, and make ready for the farmer's work.
As the door opened to admit stalwart Francisco to the big flickering room where we were all sitting in silence, the long, shrill wail of a Coyote, away up on the Accursed Hill, blew in after him on the boisterous March wind. The boys pricked up their ears; and bright-faced Manuelito 1 turned to his white-headed grandfather, and said:
"Tata, why is it that Too-wháy-deh always howls so? Perhaps he has a pain; for he has been crying ever since the beginning of the world--as they told us in the story of the Fawns and the She-Wolf."
"What, Unknowing!" answered the old man, kindly. "Hast thou never heard of the Coyote's
toothache, and who was the first medicine-man in all the world? It is not well not to know that; for from that comes all that we know to cure the sick. And for that, I will tell-but it is the last story of the year. For to-morrow is Tu-shée-wim, the Spring Medicine-Dance; and the snakes are coming out from their winter houses. After that, we must not tell of the Things of Old. For it is very long ago; and if one made a mistake in telling, and said that which was not all true, Ch'áh-rah-ráh-deh would bite him, and he would die. 1 But this one I will tell thee."
In the First Days, when the people had broken through the crust of the earth, and had come up out of their dark prison, underground, and crossed Shee-p'ah-póon, the great Black Lake of Tears, they came to the shore on this side. Then it came that all the animals were made; and very soon the Coyote was sent by the Trues to carry a buckskin bag far south, and not to open it until he should come to the Peak of the White Clouds. For many days he ran south, with the bag on his back. But there was nothing to eat, and he grew very hungry. At last he thought: "Perhaps in this bag there is to eat." So he took it from his back, and untied the thongs, and looked in. But there was nothing in it except the stars; and as soon as the bag was opened they all flew up into the sky, where they are to this day.
When the Trues saw that Too-wháy-deh had disobeyed, they were angry, and made it that his punishment should be to wander up and down forever, howling with the toothache and finding no rest.
So Too-wháy-deh went out with his toothache, running all over the world groaning and crying; and when the other four-feet slept he could only sit and howl. Because he came to talk with the other animals, if they could not cure him, they caught the toothache too; and that is the reason why they sometimes cry. But none have it like the Coyote, who can find no rest.
In those times there were no medicine-men in the world,--not even of the people,--and the animals found no cure.
Time passing so, it came one day that T'hoo-chée-deh, the smallest of Mice, who lives in the little mounds around the chapparo-bush, was making his road underground, when he came to a kind of root with a sweet smell. T'hoo-chée-deh was very wise; and he took the root, and put it with others in a buckskin pouch he carried under his left arm.
In a few days Kee-oo-ée-deh, the Prairie-Dog, came with his head all fat with toothache, and said:
"Friend Field-Mouse, can you not cure me of this pain? For all say you are very wise with herbs."
"I do not know," answered T'hoo-chée-deh. "But we will try. For I have found a new root, and perhaps it is good."
So he mixed it with other roots, all pounded, and put it on the cheek of Kee-oo-ée-deh; and in a little, the toothache was gone.
In that time it was that there was so much
toothache among the animals that the Mountain Lion, Commander of Beasts, called a council to see what should be done. When every kind that walks on the ground had met, he asked each of them if they had found no cure; but none of them knew any. The Coyote was there, howling with pain; but all the other sick were at home.
At last it was to the Field-Mouse, who is the smallest of all animals, and who did not wish to seem wise until all the greater ones had spoken. When the Mountain Lion said, "And thou, T'hoo-chée-deh--hast thou a cure?" he rose in his place and came forward modestly, saying: "If the others will allow me, and with the help of the Trues, I will try what I found last."
Then he drew from his left-hand bag the roots one by one; and last of all, the root of the chee-ma-hár, explaining what it had done for Kee-oo-ée-deh. He pounded it to powder with a stone, and mixed it with fat; and spreading it on flat leaves, put it to the Coyote's jaw. And in a little the pain was gone. 1
At that the Mountain Lion, the Bear, the Buffalo, and all the other Captains of Four-feet, declared T'hoo-chée-deh the Father-of-All-Medicine. They made a strong law that from that time the body of the Field-Mouse should be held sacred, so that no animal dares to kill him or even to touch him dead. And so it remains to this day. But only the
birds and the snakes, who were not at the Council of the Four- feet, they do not respect T'hoo-chée-deh.
So the Field-Mouse was the first medicine-man. He chose one of each kind of four-feet to be his assistants, and taught them the use of all herbs, and how to cure pain, so that each might practise among his own people--a Bear-doctor for the Bears, and a Wolf-doctor for the Wolves, and so to all the tribes of the animals.
Of those he taught, there was one who was not a True Believer--the Badger. But he listened also, and made as if he believed all. With time, the teaching was done; and T'hoo-chée-deh sent all his assistant doctors home to their own peoples to heal. But whenever one of them was asked with the sacred corn-meal 1 to come and cure a sick one, he always came first to get the Father, the Field-Mouse, to accompany and help him.
But all this time Kahr-naí-deh, the Badger, was not believing; and at last he said to his wife:
"Now I will see if Old T'hoo-chée-deh is really a medicine-man. If he finds me, I will believe him."
So from that day for four days the Badger touched no food, until he was almost dead. And on the fifth day he said:
"In-hlee-oo wáy-ee, wife of me, go now and call T'hoo-chée-deh, to see if he will cure me."
So the Badger-wife went with meal to the house of the Field-Mouse, making to be very sad; and brought him back with her. When they came, the Badger was as if very sick and in great pain.
T'hoo-chée-deh asked nothing; but took off the little pouch of roots and laid it beside him. And then rubbing a little wood-ashes on his hands, he put them on the stomach and breast of the Badger, rubbing and feeling. When he had felt the Badger's stomach, he began to sing:
Wee-end-t'hú beh-hú hoo-báhn.
(Badger-Old-Man four days
Has the hunger-killing,
To know, to know surely
If Field- Mouse-Old-Man
Has the Medicine Power.
Four days, four days,
He has the hunger-killing.)
[paragraph continues] When he had finished rubbing and singing, he said to the Badger:
"There is no need of a remedy. In my teaching I found you attentive--now be true. You have wasted, in trying my power. Now get up and eat, to make up for the lost. And do not think that way again."
With that, he took his pouch of roots and went home. As soon as he was out of the house, the Badger said to his wife:
"My wife, now I believe that Mouse-Old-Man has the Power; and never again will I think that way."
Then the Badger-wife brought food, and he ate--for he was dying of hunger. When he had eaten, the animals came in to see him, for they had heard that he was very sick. He told them all
that had been, and how T'hoo-chée-deh had known his trick. At that, all the animals were afraid of the Field-Mouse, and respected him more than ever--for it was plain that he indeed had the Power.
Time passing so, it came that one day the Men of the Old made nah-kú-ah-shu, the great round-hunt. When they had made a great circle on the llano, and killed many rabbits, some of them found T'hoo-chée-deh, and made him prisoner. They brought him before the principales, who questioned him, saying:
"How do you gain your life?"
"I gain it," he answered, "by going about among the animals who are sick, and curing them.'"
Then the elders said: "If that is so, teach us your Power, and we will set you free; but if not, you shall die."
T'hoo-chée-deh agreed, and they brought him to town with honor. For twelve days and twelve nights he and the men stayed shut up in the estufa; for two days fasting, and one day making the medicine-dance, and then fasting and then dancing again, as our medicine-men do to this day.
On the last night, when he had taught the men all the herbs and how to use them, and they had become wise with practice, they sent T'hoo-chée-deh out with a strong guard, that nothing should harm him. They set him down at the door of his own house under the chapparo. A law was made, giving him full liberty of all that is grown in the fields. To this day, all True Believers honor him, so that he is not called small any more. When they sing of him in the sacred places, they make
his house great, calling it koor-óo-hlee naht-hóo, the Mountain of the Chapparo. And him they call not T'hoo-chée-deh, the Field-Mouse, but Pee-íd-deh p'ah-hláh-queer, the Deer-by-the-River, that he may not seem of little honor. 1 For he was the Father of Medicine, and taught us how to cure the sick.
"Tahb-kóon-ahm?" cried the boys. "Is that why the Coyote always cries? And is that why we must never hurt the Field-Mouse, but show him respect, as to elders?"
"That is the very why," said Manuelito's grandfather, gravely; and all the old men nodded.
"And why-----?" began 'Tonio. But his father shook his head.
"Tah! It is enough. Tóo-kwai!"
So we stepped out into the night to our homes. And from the Kú-mai, black against the starry sky, the howl of Too-wháy-deh, wandering with his toothache, swelled across the sleeping village of the Tée-wahn.
232:1 Pronounced Mahn-way-lée-to.
233:1 A fixed belief among the Pueblos, who will tell none of their myths between the Spring Medicine-Making, in March, and the Fall Medicine- Making, in October, lest the rattlesnake punish them for some slip from the truth.
235:1 This cure is still practised among the Tée-wahn. The sovereign remedy for toothache, however, is to go to the estufa after dark, carrying food in the left hand, march round inside the big circular room three times, leave the food under the secret recess in the wall where the scalps taken in old wars are kept, and then come out. The toothache is always left behind!
236:1 The necessary accompaniment, among the Pueblos, of a call for the doctor. In some cases, the sacred smoking-herb was used. Either article was wrapped in corn-husk. See, also, "Some Strange Corners of Our Country," chapters xviii and xx.
239:1 This is not an exception. Nearly all the animals known to the Tée-wahn have not only their common name, but a ceremonial and sacred one, which is used exclusively in the songs and rites.