Late winter winds blow pellets of snow across our faces and howl through the tree tops. Many moons have passed unseen. Not the sun nor the stars dare come out to witness this final storm of winter.
On we travel, my family, in search of the buffalo. I had been passing my share off to Sister, she must keep milk for little Ar Rah, my nephew. Now, our dried meat gone for many nights. I am too young to go ahead with the hunting party but old enough, now, to lead through the heavy snows, a trail for the tribe to follow.
We soon come to the edge of the trees and to the open lake. This is not the season to travel across frozen water, yet on we walk proud and tall. No warm days have come to hint of a spring thaw.
I turn around often to check my followers. I, just a boy, have been given a horse this day, along with the honor to lead while the other Braves have gone in search of meat. Women and children follow me, leading their horses and dogs pulling loaded travois. Elders follow behind
“Sheeeeek,” a lone hawk circles somewhere above in the empty whiteness searching for its mate. I let my mind wander, imagining his flight as he dances through the falling frost. Many moments I escape from the gnawing of my empty stomach and the sting of cold hands, lost in his graceful dives and swoops. Absorbed in feathers beating against ruthless cold winds, I dream with open eyes.
The shriek of another hawk calling in return brings me back to my cold reality. The wailing of the winds through the trees, nearby, has taken on a sorrowful moan. How long have I been dreaming? I look back again at my followers and hope they do not recognize my distrait.
There, to my horror, a dark image lingers behind, crouched in the snow, motionless. Someone has stopped. The lake is no place to stop and wait. “Not today!” I cry. Turning my horse, I lunge back to face the trouble I failed to prevent.
Sister, not taking her eyes from mine, climbs through the deep drifts. Her bundle, clutched to her breast, she stops my horse. One hand raised with an open palm she whispers, “Go back, DamMe. Be strong. Be leader.”
I understand then as I see her tear streaked face.
The two hawks scream and are reunited.
I take my bundled ArRah from Sister to lighten her load; or to keep my thundering heart quiet. My nephew and I, take back our lead.
The moaning wind sings as we climb off the lake of ice and into the sheltering pines, leaving Grandmother as she wants. Peering down into my bundle, I find her small untouched sack of seeds, Sister handed to me along with the warm baby. I eat.