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Rolling Thunder
The story teller

To the east of the Black Mountains stretched a carpet of grass as far as the eye could see. Among the grass were wild flowers of many colors and streams that wound their way through the land. Along the streams grew large cottonwood trees and there were animals everywhere. There were buffalo, elk and deer on the grassland and ducks, grouse and many small birds along the streams. Hawks and eagles rode the wind above the land and badgers, prairie dogs and snakes lived beneath it.

There were people here, too, who lived in many small bands throughout the land. The people had to learn to live with each other and to teach their children to live as a part of nature. The children were taught in many different ways, but most often they learned through the stories that were passed on from generation to generation.

I will tell you now of one of the first of these stories.

It was during a thunderstorm, on the first day of spring, that Rolling Thunder was born. He was given his name because of the rolling thunder in the heavens at the time of his birth. He was born to a family of the people who lived east of the Black Mountains, and who were at one with the land.

Rolling Thunder was taught that the earth was his mother, and that all things of the earth were his brothers and sisters. He was taught that he did not control his mother the earth, or his animal brothers and sisters, or the other things of the earth; but that he was part of them.

Rolling Thunder's family did not have many possessions, for his father had a bad limp and could not acquire them as easily as other fathers. But they always had enough food to eat, and they had each other.

When other children had new bows to play with or a new pony to ride, Rolling Thunder instead had his father there with him. His father showed him the many pictures in the sky that were made by the clouds, and taught him to listen to the news carried upon the wind. He taught him to notice all the creatures about him, and even taught him to use his nose. There were so many messages in the scents carried on the breeze. The fragrance of the flowers, the majesty of the sage, and even the coolness of the morning mist could be smelled.

Because Rolling Thunder did not have all that the other children had, he learned to find joy in the things that we all have!

The other children were so busy playing with their given things that they failed to notice the rainbow in the sky or the butterflies of many colors. They were often bored if they did not have some new or exciting possession.

Rolling Thunder was never bored, because he was aware of all the wonders about him. As a young child he learned to pretend. He could make a stick into a canoe, a rock into an enemy, or leaves into a tipi. He had a wonderful imagination and it was always with him.

Sometimes the old people of the village would stop to watch and listen to the young boy as he played. There was the time when he had drawn a river in the sand and filled it with many sticks, which were canoes. The river went into a big lake he had also drawn there, and on one side of the lake he had several piles of leaves, representing many tepees. Acorns were horses, and lots of twigs stuck into the ground were people. On the other side of the imaginary lake were several rocks that were enemies.

Rolling Thunder was telling the story as he played; "The enemy is coming! The enemy is coming! Move the horses! Move the horses!" Then he picked up a rock and threw it at the twigs that represented the people. Several twigs were knocked over and the acorn horses were moved away. The canoe sticks landed on the side of the lake, and out jumped many twig people. The boy put many twigs in the ground there.

Just then a dog from the village ran among the boy's leaf tepees and scattered them to the four winds. Rolling Thunder threw the rocks at the dog and chased him away. Then he had the twig people thank the rock people for scaring away the dog monster. He put the rock people in the stick canoes, and moved them across the imaginary lake to where the leaf teepee village had been destroyed. The twig people and the rock people were all placed throughout the make-believe village, and more leaves were put back into little piles to make new tepees.

All the while, Rolling Thunder was telling the story of what was happening. And when the leaf village was rebuilt the old people who were watching all yelled "Hoya, Hoya!"

As Rolling Thunder grew older, not only did the old people of the village take time out of their day to watch and listen to him, other children came to watch and play with him too. They left their given toys, and went instead to join Rolling Thunder and his imaginary ones. There they could use and develop their own imaginations.

When Rolling Thunder was still a boy a war party from a village to the West of the Black Mountains came upon his village. All the men were off on a buffalo hunt, and the older boys left to guard the village were easily overcome. The enemy war party gathered all the people in the village by the river, and made them sit there with no food and no water. Everyone was very afraid.

As the people sat in fear, Rolling Thunder started to tell them a story to help them feel better. Soon the enemy guards were interested and listening to Rolling Thunder's story. They were so busy listening that they did not notice one of the other boys of the village sneak away. Rolling Thunder noticed though, and he kept telling his story. Soon one of the guards got the leader of the war party and he too sat and listened to the story, for in those days a good story was highly valued.

When the Sun started to set, Rolling Thunder stopped and said to the leader of the enemy war party, "If you bring food for my people and allow them to drink from the river, I will continue the story."

The war party did bring food and allowed the people to drink. The boy continued his story into the night and when the night was getting late, the boy said, "I will continue in the morning."

The story being told was so good that the war party gave the people blankets, and anxiously awaited the return of the sun. Runs Fast, the boy who had snuck away, had not slept all night; and he ran until his feet had blood on them and the eastern sky began to glow. Then he stopped, for he was a long way from his people and knew that his enemies back at the village could not see the smoke he was about to make. He made a signal fire that soon his own warriors saw.

Back at the village, Rolling Thunder was so good at telling his story and his imagination was so developed that he held the attention of the enemy war party even after the sun had moved half way across the sky. He had them laughing, cheering, and even looking sad. They were so engrossed in Rolling Thunder's story that they did not hear the warriors of Rolling Thunder's people sneak up on them. All were easily captured, but were not harmed because they had not harmed any of the people.

When the warriors of Rolling Thunder's people found out that the warriors of the West had treated their people well, they treated them well in return and then allowed them to go free.

To this day, the people from beyond the Black Mountains to the West, and Rolling Thunder's people from beyond the Black Mountains to the east, are friends and help each other in times of need. They gather once a year to exchange gifts and tell stories. The story most often told is that of Rolling Thunder.

Rolling Thunder, the boy with the great imagination;

The boy who brought the people of the East and the people of the West together;

The boy who became, the greatest of all storytellers.
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