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‘Boom!’ a sharp crack of thunder pulls me from a restful slumber. I sit up and blink into the darkness. ‘pit-pat, pit-pit’ the soft padding of rain drums on the roof like the constant ticking of a grandfather clock. ‘I’ll never get back to sleep’ I think wearily drawing the sheets high over my head. After a few minutes of feebly attempting to drown out the storm I throw a thick fleece blanket around my shoulders, much like a shaw, and stagger down the creaky wooden steps of Grandpa’s cabin. Like I seen so many times before Grandpa was resting in front of the fire in an old oak rocking chair. Little white puffs of smoke from his pipe rise into the air and settle near the ceiling.
“Grace you should be in bed,” Grandpa says as I sneak up next to him.
“I couldn’t sleep. The storm… it’s loud,” I complain plopping onto the foot stool. “Do you think you could tell me a story? Maybe the about your great grandpa?” The flames leap up and warm me allowing the blanket to tumble onto the couch; its heat no longer required.
“Oh Grace, it’s late and I’ll be off to bed soon,” Grandpa declares.
“Please Grandpa! I love that story! It won’t take you long! Please…” I turn on the water works and huge round puppy dog eyes.
“Oh alright.” He pulls me onto his lap. “It was some time in the 1700’s when your great, great, great granddaddy, Haywa, was only a young boy that the great migration began.”
“How young was he?” I ask knowing the answer.
“Oh well, about your age, I suppose,” Grandpa says. “Haywa was hunting. His bow and quiver full of arrows were strung neatly across his chest. The forest was heavily scented with the after rain pines and cider. The deep canopy of trees provided him with little light. ‘Just one deer’ Haywa thought fiercely. He stooped down to examine the fresh tracks left in the mud. ‘These are fresh deer!’ then there it was, nestled in a radiate patch of sunlight. It stood like a god, looking directly at Haywa. Drawing the bow and an arrow over one shoulder he steadied himself, loaded, and released.
“Did he hit it?”
“Don’t interrupt Grace and I can tell you. His eyes flew shut the moment the arrow left the string. A gentle ‘thump’ and warrior cries signaled a hit. Haywa opened his eyes only a tiny bit. The arrow was indeed a hit; right in the heart. The shouts continue as he receives high praises form his father. The deer was soon loaded into one of the canoes and hunting party was rowing back across the lake. ‘Mother will be so proud’ Haywa thought happily to himself as he mindlessly pulled his paddle back and forth.”
“Was his mother happy?”
“Yes but she was also worried,” Grandpa’s gaze wanders to the window as a bright flash of lighting illuminates the room.
“Why was she worried? Wasn’t she a clan mother? Was it because of the white settlers? Is that why they migrated to Canada?” I spit out a billion questions.
“Let me finish the story. Haywa’s mother brought up the white men and her son at the great council meeting. The topic of protecting the newest warriors broke out and the decision for the Mohawk tribe to move was made that night.”
“Just like that,” I ask.
“Yes. Haywa packed his things from the longhouse onto Rain, his dog. Gently he brushed down her silky golden fur in a feeble attempt to calm her before the long trek to their new home his mother and sister had spent a good portion of the morning gather and loading vegetables and natural herbs from the garden. Others sat cross legged on the ground painting masks or making bead work in honor of Hahwediyu, the creator. A sweet music flew through the village as young children played their drums and flutes. Haywa adjusted the three eagle feathers on top of his head dress and slipped it on.”
“Oh! I bet he was really handsome!”
“Just listen Grace. Haywa hiked for weeks with his tribe, shooting small creatures as they walked. On the fifth night of the third week Haywa sat up weaving together a strange pattern of porcupine quills. No sleep came to the tribe that night. Weeks passed and the snow came. A heavy snow so deep it took sleds and snowshoes to move through the Northern end of the New York state.”
“Wow! That deep! I wish it could snow like that here! It would be really fun!”
“Hmm… maybe? Winter turned to spring and spring turned to summer before they reached their new home. There were so many new rival tribes, animals, and plants, but the Mohawk adapted quickly. There was a creek on the most Southern boundary of the territory. Haywa was washing a thick coat of mud from his moccasins when the brush to his left shook hard. A giant creature barreled out of the trees right for Haywa. Of course he didn’t know it was a moose and was quickly pinned beneath it.”
“Did he die?!”
“Listen Grace. Haywa struggled under the massive weigh of the moose. He felt a sickening ‘crunch’ as one of his ribs snapped beneath his skin and he screamed. Other warriors burst through the brush, bows strung; clubs raised; spears at the ready; and attacked the foreign monstrous beast. It was rolled off Haywa and his wounds were healed. Haywa was later given the title of chief and went on to lead many great battles and have two of his own children. The end.”
“I love that story,” I say returning Grandpa’s pipe to its stand next to the tobacco pot.
“Bedtime he tells me as I climb the stairs and sink beneath the covers of the guest room bed. The storm passed sometime during Grandfather’s story. That night I dream of running with my great, great, great grandpa, Haywa.