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
“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
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 wave.
“You decide grandfather,” I said watching the flames consume the logs in the fireplace.
“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
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 why.
“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 sister.”
“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
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 told.
“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 so.”
“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 heavens.
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