The Hermit Or The Gift Of Corn
In a deep forest, far from the villages of his people, lived a hermit.
His tent was made of buffalo skins, and his dress was made of deer skin.
Far from the haunts of any human being this old hermit was content to
spend his days.
All day long he would wander through the forest studying the different
plants of nature and collecting precious roots, which he used as
medicine. At long intervals some warrior w
uld arrive at the tent of
the old hermit and get medicine roots from him for the tribe, the old
hermit's medicine being considered far superior to all others.
After a long day's ramble in the woods, the hermit came home late, and
being very tired, at once lay down on his bed and was just dozing off
to sleep, when he felt something rub against his foot. Awakening with a
start, he noticed a dark object and an arm was extended to him, holding
in its hand a flint pointed arrow.
The hermit thought, "This must be a spirit, as there is no human being
around here but myself!" A voice then said: "Hermit, I have come to
invite you to my home." "How (yes), I will come," said the old hermit.
Wherewith he arose, wrapped his robe about him and followed.
Outside the door he stopped and looked around, but could see no signs of
the dark object.
"Whoever you are, or whatever you be, wait for me, as I don't know
where to go to find your house," said the hermit. Not an answer did
he receive, nor could he hear any noises as though anyone was walking
through the brush. Re-entering his tent he retired and was soon fast
asleep. The next night the same thing occurred again, and the hermit
followed the object out, only to be left as before.
He was very angry to think that anyone should be trying to make sport of
him, and he determined to find out who this could be who was disturbing
his night's rest.
The next evening he cut a hole in the tent large enough to stick an
arrow through, and stood by the door watching. Soon the dark object came
and stopped outside of the door, and said: "Grandfather, I came to--,"
but he never finished the sentence, for the old man let go his arrow,
and he heard the arrow strike something which produced a sound as though
he had shot into a sack of pebbles. He did not go out that night to see
what his arrow had struck, but early next morning he went out and looked
at the spot about where he thought the object had stood. There on the
ground lay a little heap of corn, and from this little heap a small line
of corn lay scattered along a path. This he followed far into the woods.
When he came to a very small knoll the trail ended. At the end of the
trail was a large circle, from which the grass had been scraped off
"The corn trail stops at the edge of this circle," said the old man, "so
this must be the home of whoever it was that invited me." He took his
bone knife and hatchet and proceeded to dig down into the center of the
circle. When he had got down to the length of his arm, he came to a sack
of dried meat. Next he found a sack of Indian turnips, then a sack of
dried cherries; then a sack of corn, and last of all another sack, empty
except that there was about a cupful of corn in one corner of it, and
that the sack had a hole in the other corner where his arrow had pierced
it. From this hole in the sack the corn was scattered along the trail,
which guided the old man to the cache.*
From this the hermit taught the tribes how to keep their provisions when
traveling and were overloaded. He explained to them how they should dig
a pit and put their provisions into it and cover them with earth. By
this method the Indians used to keep provisions all summer, and when
fall came they would return to their cache, and on opening it would find
everything as fresh as the day they were placed there.
The old hermit was also thanked as the discoverer of corn, which had
never been known to the Indians until discovered by the old hermit.