One Buffalo


Claw Foot was pushed into the wigwam of Chief Broken Wing. His two captors held him rigidly as the great chief glared at him.

“This brave hunts our buffalo,” one of the captors said. “His name is Claw Foot.”

Claw Foot winced. He disliked having his name spoken before strangers.

“The herds in this valley are ours,” the chief said.

“But my people are near starvation,” Claw Foot pleaded. “Our herds are gone. We have journeyed many moons in search of new hunting grounds. We must have fertile land on which to grow our crops.”

“This land is ours. You go!” Broken Wing commanded.

Then the chief’s intelligent eyes lingered for several moments on Claw Foot’s left foot, the clawlike shape that even the brave’s carefully made deerskin moccasin could not disguise. As Broken Wing stared at the moccasin, his left hand went instinctively to his own right arm, which Claw Foot saw was twisted like a gnarled branch.

Broken Wing spoke, “You too have a lame body.”

“I was born with a foot like a claw,” Claw Foot explained.

“My arm was not always this way,” Broken Wing said sadly. “When I was a small boy, I fell from my horse.” He paused and then spoke, “You may have one buffalo, Claw Foot.”

“Only one buffalo!” protested Claw Foot, hastening to speak before Broken Wing had a chance to draw the blanket of silence about himself. “One buffalo will supply food for my people for only a few days.”

“One buffalo!” repeated Broken Wing impatiently.

Claw Foot felt the darkness of defeat as he turned to leave. Then out of the darkness came the light of an idea.

He turned to face Broken Wing once more. “And may we have the land that this one buffalo hide will cover?” he asked.

The chief laughed. “Even if you take the largest buffalo, its hide would not cover enough ground for a single wigwam.”

“Perhaps I can stretch the hide,” suggested Claw Foot.

Broken Wing looked at Claw Foot’s left moccasin again. “You may have the land one hide will cover,” he agreed.

At sunup Claw Foot mounted his pinto and rode into the valley. With the help of his scouts, he separated the biggest and finest cow from the herd of buffalo. With strong, sure aim, his arrow hit the heart of the beast and felled it.

There was great happiness and feasting that night among his people, but Claw Foot did not partake of the food. He was too concerned with tanning the hide. All through the next day he was busy cutting the hide into little pieces and conferring with his scouts, who afterward were sent out in different directions.

When they returned, Claw Foot sought admittance to the wigwam of Chief Broken Wing. “I am here for my land,” he told the chief. “Come, I will show you.”

Broken Wing mounted his buckskin while Claw Foot took the lead on his pinto. As they rode through the valley and over the ridges, Claw Foot pointed out the small pieces of buffalo hide his scouts had scattered over the land.

“The one buffalo hide covers enough ground for many wigwams, much hunting, and fine crops,” Claw Foot explained.

Broken Wing’s eyes looked like darting black clouds. He did not reply, but instead he slapped his horse and galloped away.

Claw Foot urged his pinto to follow, and his mind raced as rapidly as his horse’s hoofs.

Back at Broken Wing’s wigwam, Claw Foot stood once more before the chief, who sat cross-legged before the fire.

Broken Wing seemed thoughtful. Looking up at Claw Foot, he finally said, “Only your body is lame, not your thoughts. You have outwitted me fairly. You may have the land.”

Claw Foot made the sign of gratitude.

Then Broken Wing continued speaking. “From this day on you will not be known as Claw Foot. Your name is He Who Thinks.

And so it was.

[illustration] Illustrated by Marvin Friedman