Alone in a deep forest, far from the village of his
people, lived a hermit. His tent was made of buffalo skins, and his
robe was made of deerskin. Far from the haunts of any human being,
this old hermit was content to spend his many years.
All day long, he wandered through the forest, studying the different
plants and collecting roots. The roots he used as food and as
medicine. At long intervals some warrior would arrive at his tent and
get medicinal roots from him for the tribe. The old hermit's medicine
was considered far superior to all others.
One day, after a long ramble in the woods, the hermit came home so
tired that, immediately after eating, he lay down on his bed. Just as
he was dozing off to sleep, he felt something rub against his feet.
Awakening with a start, he noticed a dark object. It extended an arm
toward him. In its hand was a flint-pointed arrow.
"This must be a spirit," thought the hermit, "for there is no human
being here but me."
A voice then said, "Hermit, I have come to invite you to my home." "I
will come," the old hermit replied. So he arose, wrapped his robe
around him, and started toward the voice.
Outside his door, he looked around, but he could see no sign of the
dark object. "Whatever you are, or wherever you be," said the hermit,
"wait for me. I do not know where to go to find your house." He
received no answer, nor did he hear any sound of someone walking
through the brush. Reentering his tent, he lay down and was soon fast
The next night he again heard the voice say, "Hermit, I have come to
invite you to my home." The hermit walked out of his tent to find the
person with that voice, but again he found no one. This time he was
angry, because he thought that someone was making sport of him. He
determined to find out who was disturbing his night's rest.
The next evening he cut a hole in the tent large enough to stick an
arrow through. Then he stood by the door, watching. Soon the dark
object came, stopped outside the door, and said, "Grandfather, I came
to--" But he never finished his sentence. The old hermit had shot his
arrow. He heard it strike something that produced a sound as though he
had shot into a sack of pebbles.
Early the next morning the hermit went out and looked at the spot near
where he thought his arrow had struck some object.
There on the ground lay a little heap of corn, and from this little
heap a small line of corn lay scattered along a path. The old hermit
followed this path into the woods. When he reached a small mound, the
trail ended. At its end was a large circle from which the grass had
been scraped off clean.
"The corn trail stops at the edge of this circle," the old man said to
himself. "So this must be the home of whatever invited me."
He took his big bone axe and knife and proceeded to dig down into the
centre of the circle. When he got as far down as he could reach, he
came to a sack of dried meat. Next, he found a sack of turnips, then a
sack of dried cherries, and then a sack of corn.
Last of all was another sack, empty except for one cup of corn. In the
other corner was a hole where the hermit's arrow had pierced the sack.
From this hole the corn had been scattered along the trail, which had
guided the old man to the hiding place.
From this experience the hermit taught his people how to keep their
provisions while they were traveling. "Dig a pit," he explained to
them, "put your provisions into it, and cover them with earth."
By this method, the Sioux used to keep provisions all summer. When
fall came, they would return to their hiding place. When they opened
it, they would find all their provisions as fresh as they were the day
they had been placed there.
The people thanked the old hermit for his discovery of this method of
preserving their food. And they thanked him for his discovery of corn,
the first they had seen. It became one of the most important foods the