The ground shook as hundreds of massive bison, each adult approaching a thousand pounds, ran in fear from the two hunters chasing them with flaming torches. The panicked animals ran towards the other hunters, gathered in a draw, and mostly devoid of trees, which acted as a natural funnel. It was with a triumphant thrill that Dry Otter breathed his thanks onto one of his newest spears, placed it on his Atlatl, then drew back and hurled the spear.
With great force, the spear flew through the air, piercing deep into the side of a young cow, puncturing her lung. She stumbled, tripped, and fell into the brush, sliding to a stop only a few paces from where Howling Wolf stood.
Three more times he threw spears. Twice, Dry Otter thought he missed, but the third one slid between two ribs, the tip of the spear tearing into the animal’s heart, and thereby bringing death to the running bull.
By the time the last stragglers of the stampede passed by, all the spears were thrown, and nine animals lay dead or dying in the brush. Afraid of Bear and White Bear came jogging up behind the herd, and placed their torches on the ground against a dry, dead brush. Moments later, it crackled and burned in a roaring blaze.
Two Cranes walked into the trees several paces away to gather more wood, while Dark Coyote ran back to alert the tribe of the successful hunt. The hunters would normally begin the process of butchering and skinning the game, but this hunt was special. For Dry Otter’s manhood rites, Dazzled Light and Three Eagles, as well as the other tribal elders, had to be present before the first cut could be made.
By the time the sun peeked halfway over the horizon, throwing long morning shadows over the group of proud hunters, Dark Coyote returned. Behind him walked most of the village. The women, older girls and younger men, as well as the elders followed. The carried the tools and travois’ needed to make quick work of the butchering.
When everyone was gathered, Dry Otter kneeled in front of Dazzled Light. The old man painted his face black with a mixture of charcoal and rendered bear fat. He then gave to the young man a ceremonial blade with which to make the first cut on the young cow that had been the first to die.
With prayers to the Gods to attend to the ritual at hand, the men surrounded Dry Otter as he approached the cow, cut her throat, then from throat to anus. Reaching into the steaming, wet carcass, the liver was cut away and removed.
Dry Otter held the steaming piece of raw meat high above his head, singing the songs of manhood, of gratitude and promise, then upon ending the prayer, he put the meat to his lips, and took a large bite. Blood flooded into his mouth even as it dripped down his arm and onto his bared chest. As he swallowed, cheers erupted from the tribe. Dry Otter was now a man. That night, once the butchering was done, the meat set out to be smoked and dried, and the hides stretched, scraped, and rolled, there would be a great feast in honor of the successful hunt, and the new hunter who now joined the ranks of the other men. It was a proud day for the boy now become a man. One he would remember for all his days. Looking into the eyes of his father, Dazzled Light, he saw pride. He’d done well, and there was meat for everyone. It was a glorious day indeed.
© 2016, Tim Hillebrant. All rights reserved.
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