In the tall meadow grass along the stream, a fluffy rabbit sat on his hind legs sniffing the cool morning breeze. His whiskers twitched ever so slightly as he searched the air for danger. Just then he saw another rabbit a short distance away. It was tense and its ears were pointing forward. A moment later he heard the sound of something coming. He and the other rabbit darted to the safety of the thicket.
White Cloud signed to his younger brother as they entered the meadow grass, see the rabbits? His brother nodded his head. The two of them continued on to a small valley on the other side of the stream. There White Cloud once again used the sign language of his people. He told his younger brother to go to the far side of the valley and wait. They were waiting for the deer that would often come this way to the stream.
Soon six deer appeared at the far end of the valley and slowly made their way towards them. From where White Cloud was hiding, his arrows could reach to the middle of the valley. His brother's arrows could reach the same distance form the other side. Just out of range the deer stopped to graze the damp morning grass. As White Cloud watched he could see that one deer always was alert and watching as the others ate. Only when another took over his watch, did he nibble the grass. White Cloud could see that they were unafraid but ever alert. Their ears constantly moved one way and then the other and their tails twitched as they ate.
White Cloud could also see his brother and he could tell that he was having trouble staying still. White Cloud tried to show him his displeasure by the look on his face but his brother did not notice. His brother continued to move a little and when he brushed a fly from his nose two deer instantly looked in his direction. The other four deer saw the tenseness in the bodies of the deer who had noticed the movement. All six were now looking at the blob in the grass. One of the deer took a few steps closer to White Cloud's brother. Then he blew air out of his nose and bounded away. The other five followed close behind.
The hunt was over and White Cloud was angry. On the way back to the village he would not even talk to his brother. When they got back White Cloud went off by himself to be alone. When he had settled down a little he came back to the tipi to find his brother holding his bow. This was too much for him. Now White Cloud was really upset. He grabbed the bow out of his brothers hand and turned to walk away. His brother pushed him in the back and he fell to the ground. White Cloud whirled around on the ground and grabbed his brother's foot. He pulled him down and they wrestled in the dirt. White Cloud was older and bigger then his brother and he was angry. Soon his brother was hurt and sobbing.
When their father heard the commotion he came and grabbed each boy by the arm. What is going on here he asked. "He pushed me down," "he had my bow", "he started it", "he started it", both boys said at once. "He spoiled the hunt this morning" White Cloud said.
Enough said their father if you must act like children then you shall not be allowed to act like men. There will be no more hunting until I tell you that you may go again.
The next morning White Cloud's brother went to his father and said, father I am sorry. I was not a good hunter and I did take White Cloud's bow and I pushed him when he took it back.
His father could see that he was really sorry. He told him to go tell White Cloud that you are sorry and ask him to come here.
When White Cloud got to his father he was still upset because he didn't think that any of this was his fault. But he did want to go hunting again, so he looked at the ground and said, sorry.
Is that all you have to say his father asked? White Cloud said nothing and just shrugged his shoulders.
The whole family was now close by and waiting for the morning meal. As they sat around the fire, everyone could see that White Cloud was still upset. His mother asked him, what is wrong?
White Cloud just hung his head and said nothing.
Answer your mother, his father said. White Cloud answered, nothing is wrong in a quite voice. His brother felt badly about the way White Cloud was feeling so he asked his father; can White Cloud go hunting again? His father replied, I will tell him when he can go again.
White Cloud did not understand. He had not spoiled the hunt. He had not taken his brother's bow and he had not pushed his brother first. Why was he still being punished and his brother was not.
When everyone had finished, his father said, White Cloud come with me. I want to show you something.
White Cloud followed his father far out from the village. They went to a hill that over looked the valley where the horses were kept. They sat there in the grass watching the horses in silence.
After a long while his father spoke. Son, would you ever tell me no? White Cloud looked surprised. I would not he answered. Would you yell at me or shout angry words at me? Once again White Cloud answered no and shook his head as he looked at the ground.
Would you dishonor me by saying I don't like you, you are wrong. White Cloud hung his head even lower and said no father. His father just sat there for an even longer while and then he rose to his feet and spoke once more.
Son I would like you to stay here for a time and watch the horses. Watch them closely. See what you can learn from them. Listen to what they tell you. Then his father left him there, alone on the hill.
White Cloud did not understand and he was still a little angry and a lot hurt. The sun slowly moved until it was half way across the sky and the horses, as far as White Cloud could tell, hadn't said a thing.
Suddenly there was a hand on his shoulder and it made him jump. When he turned around, an old man was standing there. How had he gotten so close without making a sound? Where did he come from and who was he? The grandfather spoke, what do the horses have to say?
What do you mean replied White Cloud, horses can't talk. The old man just pointed his finger at a large paint mare at the edge of the herd. Her ears were pinned back and she was facing three other mares near by.
Look at that paint mare. What do you think she is saying to those other three mares? Before White Cloud could answer grandfather continued, and look over there by that buck brush. See that young colt off by himself. Each time he tries to come back to the herd the lead mare faces him straight on and looks him in the eye. The colt knows he dare not return.
White Cloud watched with a new interest. There, now she has turned her body sideways and is no longer facing him. See, the colt returns. And what about those two young colts running and jumping and kicking? Are they telling the world that they are sad?
As White Cloud was thinking about these things he heard horses approach from the other direction. Both turned around at the same time to see two young braves ridding towards them. They were not much older then White Cloud and they were not from his village. They were strangers from another tribe. When they got to them, they gracefully slid off their horses and stood before them.
To get off their horses was a sign of friendship because an enemy would surly have stayed mounted. The old man greeted them in sign language and they signed back. White Cloud was handed the ropes that were tied around their horse's lower jaws. The two braves sat on the hill facing the old man. Their backs were towards White Cloud and he could see grandfather's face as he sat facing them.
A feeling of uneasiness came over White Cloud as he stood there watching them sign to each other. He watched intensely. One watching with less attention would not have even noticed the old man's eyes as they left those of the strangers and looked for a brief moment into White Cloud's eyes. It made him even more alert and he noticed the veins in grandfather's neck grow tense. He noticed one of the stranger's hands move closer to his knife.
When the old mans eyes once again met his, there was no mistaking the expression that demanded of him some action. When grandfather's eyes rose up and moved side ways, White Cloud cast the horses loose and swatted their rumps as they ran off. The strangers turned towards the boy and in that instant the old man sprang to his feet. He no longer looked like a grandfather but like a hardened brave with a knife in his hand. When the strangers turned and saw him they wanted nothing to do with him. They jumped up and ran as fast as they could after their horses.
"What happened" asked White Cloud, as they both watched them go.
"They made friendly signs but I could tell that they were not friends, answered grandfather. Their eyes and bodies told a very different story. When they tried to find out how far your village was, I was ready. I think they are scouts from a war party. You had better go tell your father.
White Cloud left the old man without even finding out who he was or where he came from. He went to his father and told him all of what had happened.
Later he found out that others had also spotted the strangers and when the strangers had realized that they had been seen, they left in a hurry.
That night around the fire White Cloud's father spoke of these things, but he did not tell White Cloud that no grandfather was seen and that no old man could have gotten there and left again without being noticed. His father just finished speaking by asking him, Have you learned anything this day my son.
White Cloud thought for a long while. He thought about the rabbits, the deer, the horses and about the old man. Then he spoke. I have learned that like our animal brothers and sisters, we too say things without words or sign language. Like them we can warn of danger, we can show joy, sadness, fear or strength.
And we can show honor, respect, anger or defiance, without saying a word.
White Cloud's father remained silent.
White Cloud picked up a small amount of earth and let it slowly fall out of his hand.
I know now why I am not being allowed to hunt and I am sorry for being disrespectful by the way I looked and acted.
I now understand, like my animal brothers and sisters, without even saying a word, I was speaking to you.
White Cloud's father did not have to say a thing. His whole being showed how proud, of his son he was.
All the grandfathers that had come before them could see that these two loved and respected each other very much.
That night when they prayed together, White Cloud's father told him that he was once again on the good path and that he could hunt like a man.
When his father left, White Cloud lay in the warmth of his buffalo robe and felt good just to be alive. When sleep began to come upon him he thought he heard the words of the grandfather he had met that day.
You my son have learned well.
You are on the good journey of life.