Grandfather Panahoo sat by the
roaring fireplace. He was old and tired but his dark eyes gleamed
and danced with magic as he spoke. I loved the countless stories
he would tell as we sat on nights like this. Though I attended a
mostly white school, I still clung to the Omaha traditions,
legends, and ways. I felt my heritage was an important part of my
life. Grandfather was a full blooded Omaha and had lived in
Kansas all of his life. He had inherited the small farm at the
base of Yellow Mountain from his father and had spent his whole
life growing crops. Grandfather Panahoo had finished planting his
crop the day before under the dark of the moon but snow had
fallen and killed the seed. Even with the loss of his season's
harvest Grandfather seemed in a good humor.
"Well granddaughter," he said
to me, "what will it be tonight? Shall I tell you a story of how
we fought bravely against the other tribes or perhaps a different
sort of story?"
He sat quietly for a moment
smoking his pipe. A grey haze encircled his weathered face which
spoke to me of years he had spent working the land. I waited
impatiently for him to start. It had become a game of sorts
between the two of us. He would fish, I would bite and then the
stories would come pouring from him much as a tidal
"You decide grandfather," I
said watching the flames consume the logs in the
"Well," he finally said
knocking the contents of his pipe out into the roaring fire, "I
have never told you the story of Mimiteh and Wildfire. I guess it
would be about time I told that one."
The night air was filled with
the sound of the owl I had discovered five nights ago. A hooting
sound echoed through the darkness. I watched Grandfather's
reaction as the owl finished its cries and then flew off to hunt
for its dinner. There seemed a sadness which clouded his eyes. I
did not at the time know why, but in time I discovered
"It was many moons ago,"
Grandfather Panahoo said, "long before you were born that Mimiteh
lived here in this very house. You see she was my younger
"What happened to her?" I
asked startled I was never told of her existence.
"Mimiteh was as bright and
beautiful as a flower," he said dreamily, "so full of life, love,
and adventure. She loved all living things and had some type of
mystic connection with the spirits of nature. There were so many
wonderful moments we spent in our youth exploring the fields and
woods. So much she taught me of all the creatures and plants. I
have missed her all these years."
A mist seemed to cover
Grandfather's dark piercing eyes as he took a breath in. I knew
it would not be long and more of the story would be
"Father bought her the pony on
her fourteenth birthday," Grandfather said with a smile and a
shake of his head, "How she loved that pony. She named him
Wildfire of all things. The pinto loved her in return. It seems
the two were inseparable. She rode like she was part of the pony;
they were always together riding across the plains and up into
the foothills. Mimiteh reminded me so much of the Wind Spirit as
she thundered here and there on Wildfire's back. She was so full
of life and love, but that all ended one winter. I remember the
frost came early. The crops had not yet been harvested and the
coldness came down from the northern plains. Snow fell as my
father and I worked to salvage what we could from the fields. It
was a very cold cruel winter that attacked with a vengeance. Many
people died that winter."
Grandfather paused for a
moment. In the corner of his eye I spied a tear. He took his
rough worn hand and covered his face so that I would not see his
shame. I looked deep into the fire and wanted so desperately to
hug him, but I knew it would cause him pain.
"The blizzard came two days
later," he said after he had regained his composure, "A north
wind raked and tore across the crops we couldn't save. Snow fell
so hard you could scarce see what lay two feet ahead of you and
Wildfire for some strange reason became restless in his stall.
Father thought maybe a snake had spooked the pony, but we never
knew. Wildfire broke free of the stable and disappeared into the
hills. Mimiteh fearing her pony was lost went after him. My
parents and I heard her as she called the pony's name. Fearing
for her safety we tried to stop her, but it was too late. She had
already disappeared into the storm. We searched and searched
every nook and cranny of the plains and hills, but we found not a
trace of her or Wildfire. Father says the coyotes got her and the
pony. I know different."
An eerie sort of silence came
as he finished the story. The logs in the fire crackled and
popped. I could almost see an image of the young Indian girl who
would have been my great aunt riding her pony through the snow. I
sighed and waited to see if Grandfather was done.
"I am tired granddaughter," he
finally said rubbing his eyes, "Let's off to bed with us. I think
we might have a blizzard heading this way. My bones sure think
"Okay Grandfather," I answered
though I really wanted to hear another story.
"She's coming for me you
know," Grandfather said as he relit his pipe.
"Excuse me Grandfather," I
answered, "Did you say something?"
He sat in silence staring at
the fire. I could hear him humming a tune I did not know. I
shrugged and made my way to bed.
The wind howled and sang all
night long. I slept unaware that anything was wrong. My dreams
were those of youth and things yet undiscovered. I did not hear
as he opened the door to the cabin and walked out into the storm.
Had I known would it have been right for me to stop him? I have
wondered these things so many times over the last several years.
We searched for him or what might be left of him for many weeks
to come. No trace was ever found of Grandfather; he had vanished
as had his sister and Wildfire so many years ago. I like to think
they are together somewhere warm and safe riding across the sky
laughing at the moon as it grows large in the