Ee Sa Rah N'eah's Story


The Sooner Magazine, Pawhuska, May 2, 1931


By John Joseph Mathews


            Ee Sa Rah N'eah's hands were copper colored, long and graceful, and his feet in his buckskin moccasins seemed too small to bear his tall body. They were almost ludicrously small. The black roach his shaven head seemed to compensate for the board-flattened rear of skull and add inches to his great height. Many small wrinkles converged to the outside corners of his black rather cruel, understanding eyes. But, they always sparkled when Ee Sa Rah N'eah told a story.


            When the women were decorating their men for the June dances, he could always be found on the edge of the camp sitting cross-legged in utter detachment, and I always searched for him there. Though I loved the kettle-drum and its circle of singers and of course was fascinated by the gyrations of the gorgeous dancers, I grew weary of this spectacle through long familiarity. Of course a boy couldn't be expected to spend the whole of a delightful June day listening to harangue and experience which only a full appreciation could create and maintain, especially since Ee Sa Rah N'cah told stories, and at this time one was happiest in the realm of fantasy. Of course Ee Sa Rah N'eah had been a great hunter.


            One morning we were seated on the grass at the edge of the camp. At times, the sound of the drums was carried to us in full volume, then it died to distant thumping. At times the wind carried the singers' voices to us and then carried them away. But neither of us really heard the singers or the drums. Ee Sa Rah N'eah sat singing softly to himself, beating time with his fingers. "He-ooooh, ho-ooooh, ho-ooooh, ho-ooooh," he sang. Suddenly he stopped and pointed to where my sorrel mare was dragging her reins as she grazed. "Tompa" he said, "that horse peesha."


            "No," I said, "She's a good horse."


             "Looks like you'd tell me why you think she's bad then."


            "Ho," his eyes almost danced, "he can't climb tree, aint it."


            He laughed heartily and enjoyed my embarrassment. Then he became serious and sat for some minutes. Suddenly his face cracked into wrinkles again, and he pointed to the 22 caliber rifle hanging on my saddle. "You shoot little birds?" Of course I could not tell him that I just came from a buffalo hunt on the hills north of Soldier creek. I couldn't tell him that with the aid of jack-rabbits, a flexible imagination, and a wise old mare, who patronized with tired tolerance my crazy whims, that I had a most successful hunt. I said evasively: "Some day I'm gonna kill a panther."


            "Sure, someday you kill a panther; maybe panther he go away then."


            "Poppa gonna take me deer huntin' too when I get bigger."


            "Lo-o-o-ong time ago we kill panther; your poppa, he kill 'em too."


            "How does a panther go?"


            He looked at me steadily for some time, then, pointed north. "You know creek up there?" I knew the creeks in the northern part of the reservation, but I wanted to be sure that I could name the one he referred to, so, I hesitated. He then took a stick and drew the drainage system of the northern region. He followed one of the streams with his finger, then, placed a small pebble on a spot about three-fourths of the way up the stream.


            "One time, lo-o-o-o-ong time ago, we go find deer here---me and young Pawnee. He was a young man, this Pawnee. He had just started to pull hair from his face. I didn't know if it would be good to find deer with this Pawnee. I didn't know if he was good man. They said he eat weed and go crazy. They said he kill his mother when he eat this weed, and he run away from his uncles, so he would live. They said he was no Pawnee. They said he come from l-o-o-o-o-ong way, but he said he was Pawnee. I say, 'I am not afraid of this young man.' I say, 'well, I go.' "


            "We sleep one time, then, we find place. I said, 'Well, there are lots of signs here; we will find deer here,' I said. 'When we go to canyon it is late and the sun is not purty (pretty) high. I said to young Pawnee 'lagony,' I said. 'You wait here,' I said, 'I go to head of canyon; I wait for deer and then you go up canyon,' I said. 'If they smell you they come by me,' I said. 'Lagony.' "


            "I go south edge of canyon. Wind come from north. Deer can smell purty good. When I get to head of canyon, I hide and wait. Everything is purty still. Seem like everything sleep. L-o-oong time I wait. A squirrel come down a tree and look at me, and I say he look funny and do like white man---tryin' to see everything and don't know nothin'. Purty soon he make noise---barkin' like white man talkin,' cause he don't know what I am, and I say, 'he's foolish.' " 


            "I hear sounds. Sometimes a leaf fall in the canyon, but I know it ain't no deer. A little bird go up and down a tree makin' a little noise, and I know it ain't no deer neither. Purty soon, the sun, he go down lower, and I say, 'Where is this Pawnee?' 'Gu-whiz!' I say, 'He sure is slow,' this Pawnee.


            Many thoughts come to my head. I think about what my wife say three days ago. I think what kind of man is the new agent. I say, 'maybe he is good to Indian.' L-o-o-ong time I sit like this with many thoughts in my head, but the Pawnee, he don't come. I say, 'It sure is getttin' cold.' I look, and the sun, he is nearly down. I watch him change. He make yellow and pink, and then, he make red. I say, 'he sure is raisin' hell in the West.' And I say, 'It sure is purty,' but I say, 'that Pawnee sure is slow.' "


            "Purty soon, the Pawnee shoots, and I hear him down in the canyon when he shoots. I hear a funny noise too. I say, 'I don't know what it is?' I say, 'It ain't no woman screamin' like some one stick a knife in him.' It sure sound like that---like someone stickin' a knife in a woman. I say, 'It can't be a woman dyin' there---ain't no woman here,' I say. Everything seem like it's fraid. Everything's quiet like everything fraid of woman screamin'. The squirrel, he quit barkin' and he think I don't see him flat on a limb. but I know it ain't no woman screamin' and I say, 'I go down in the canyon and see.' "


            "Pury soon, I see this Pawnee and I say, 'he is dead, this Pawnee.' He is on his face, and his gun is in his hand, and I say, 'Sure, he is dead.' L-o-ong time I stand and look at the cliff. I look up the canyon. I can't see nothin'. I walk around this Pawnee. Many times I walk round him, until I'm far away from him, and I say, 'I see no sign---this is funny,' I say. Purty soon, I look back and see this Pawnee move. I go over to him and he sit up and look at me. I said, 'what sound like a woman screamin'?' He look at me scared, and then, he look foolish."


            He said, "panther, he stand on that cliff and knock me down."


            "You do not shoot good," I said.


            "Yes, he said, "I shoot good."


            "No, I believe you do not shoot good," I said.


            "This panther has in him the evil spirit," he said.


            "Ho, a panther can't carry the evil spirit," I said.


            "Yes," he said, "It is the evil spirit."


            "I go down to the cliff where the panther was and I look good. Purty soon, I see the panther at the foot of the cliff, and I say, 'he is dead.' I go there and he is dead. I see that he is shot in the heart, and I say, 'the Pawnee is weak and he is faint.' 'This Pawnee faint when the panther scream like a woman killed with a knife,' I say."