One of the best-known legends, related by George Bird Grinnell, illustrates the power of animals in changing the fortunes of those who listened to their behests.
An old woman lived on the outskirts of a village located on the bank of the Platte River. At one time she had been the wife of a brave hunter and warrior. During his life there was always a comfortable lodge, as well as plenty of buffalo meat and robes. No one of the nation was more successful in stealing horses from the enemy, which was considered a highly honorable feat. He was killed in a great battle with the Sioux, and the poor woman had never ceased to mourn. Now, in old age, there remained but one relative, a grandson of sixteen years. Being reduced to poverty, they were in the habit, when the tribe moved, of following in the rear, in order to pick up anything that might have been left behind as worthless. Once, to the delight of the boy, an old dun horse was abandoned by its owner. The animal was blind in one eye and had a sore back and a swollen leg; but was nevertheless valuable to the poor woman, inasmuch as it could carry the cooking utensils and the worn-out skin used for a lodge when traveling.
The village was moved to Court House Rock. Soon after arrival the young men sent out to look for buffaloes returned with information that there was a large herd in the vicinity, and among the animals was a spotted calf.
The head chief had a young and beautiful daughter. He announced that whosoever should kill the spotted calf should marry the girl. Since the buffaloes were only four miles away, it was decided that the charge should be made from the village. The one who had the fastest steed would be most likely to obtain the calf. The poor boy made preparations to ride the old dun horse. He was ridiculed to such an extent that he withdrew to the bank of a creek, nearby. The animal turned its head and said:
"Plaster me all over with mud. Cover my head, neck, body and legs."
The boy obeyed and the horse then ordered that he remain where they were and make the charge from the creek. The men were drawn up in line and at the word Loo ah (go), leaned forward, yelled and galloped away. At one side, some distance away, the dun horse flew over the ground; he seemed young and strong of limb and sure of foot. As they neared the buffaloes, he dashed in among the herd and stopped beside the spotted calf. His rider killed it, and taking another arrow, shot a fat cow, then dismounting, secured the spotted skin. Cutting out certain portions of the meat, the boy packed them upon the horse. Putting the skin on top of the load, he led the animal back to camp. It pranced and curveted and showed much spirit. The warriors were filled with astonishment. A rich chief rode up to the boy and tried to buy the spotted robe, but without success.
Some of the hunters reached the village in advance and informed the old woman of her grandson's triumph. She could hardly believe the story, and wondered if they were still ridiculing her boy. His appearance with the coveted robe and more meat than they had had for many a long day, ended her doubts; and there were great rejoicings in the tent.
At night the horse spoke to the boy, saying:
"To-morrow the Sioux are coming. There will be a battle. When they are drawn up in line, jump on me and ride as hard as you can up to the head chief and kill him and ride back. Ride up to them four times and kill four of the bravest Sioux; but do not go the fifth time or you will get killed or lose me."
The next morning, just at day-break, the Sioux rode over the top of the hill and drew up in line of battle. They were attired in all the trappings of war, and looked ferocious in their paint. The Pawnees had no time for decoration, but hastily seized their weapons, cut the lariats that bound their ponies, sprang upon them and rushed out of the camp, when at the proper distance, forming in battle array opposite the enemy.
It was the custom of these tribes, when ready for a fight, to confront one another in two long lines. After a few moments of silence, some man, desiring to distinguish himself, rode out from the attacking party and exhorted his people, telling them of brave deeds in the past and of what he now intended to do; then, turning quickly, he dashed toward the enemy, hanging over the side of his pony and riding along in front of the foe, discharging one arrow after another, in rapid succession. If the brave were killed, his own people made no sign, until a man rode out from the other side to challenge; but if he were fiercely set upon, they united in a general attack.
The boy mounted the dun horse and joined the warriors. They looked askance but were too excited to make comment. The wonderful horse galloped out from the line and made for the head chief of the Sioux. The boy quickly despatched the leader and rode back to the Pawnees. Four times he went forward, and each time killed one of the bravest of the enemy. Then, forgetting the warning, the boy charged again. An arrow struck his horse and the rider had a narrow escape from death. The Sioux cut and chopped the horse in pieces.
After a spirited conflict, the Pawnees were victorious. The following day the boy went out to where the horse lay. Gathering up the pieces of flesh, he put them in a pile, and wrapping himself in his blanket, sat on the top of a hill not far away. He drew the robe over his head and mourned. A storm arose suddenly. The wind blew and rain fell. Removing the blanket from his face, the boy saw the pieces coming together and taking form. Another storm succeeded. When it cleared away, he beheld a slight movement of the horse's tail. Then the animal lifted its head from the ground. After a fourth storm had spent its fury, the horse arose and its owner hastened down the hill and led it home. It cautioned him to render perfect obedience in the future, and said:
"Lead me away from the camp, behind that hill. Leave me there to-night and come for me in the morning."
The boy did as directed and found, standing beside his old friend, a beautiful white horse.
Leaving the dun horse a second night, the owner discovered a fine black gelding in the morning. After ten nights, there were ten horses, each of a different color. The boy was now rich and married the daughter of the chief. Many years later he became the head of the nation. The old grandmother was well cared for, and the dun horse, being considered sacred, was never mounted except at a doctor's dance; but was led around with the chief wherever he went.
The Pawnees believed that the Na-hu´-rac held council in five places. At Pa-huk´ (White Island) on the south side of the Platte River, opposite Fremont, Nebraska; under an island in the Platte River, near Central City (Dark Island), on the Loup Fork, opposite the mouth of Cedar River (White Bank); and on the Solomon River, Kitz-a-witz´-uk, (Water-on-a-Bank). This was a mound with a hole in the middle, through which water might be seen. Articles were thrown in, as offerings to Ti-ra´-wa. The fifth place, a hole in the side of a hill, was in Kansas. It was indicated by a rock called Pa-hur´ (Hill-that-points-the-Way).
An old story, current among the people, says that in the early days, in one of the Pawnee tribes, was a boy, smaller than others of his age. He refused to play with the children, preferring to spend much time alone. His manner was strange and the child was frequently in tears. The father and mother observed that he often pasted mud upon his head. This was the sign of a doctor and designated faith in the earth. As the boy grew to be a young