Elk Knees

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

The hunter saved them and gave them to his wife, who cut and sewed them to trade for the largest cooking pot she had ever owned. The pot trader exchanged them with a farmer for all the dried corn two of his best burden carriers could lift. The farmer traded them to the priest at the big village two days’ walk for a promise of prayers for his crops next spring. The priest offered them as tribute to the High Priest in Totec Canyon. The High Priest assigned them to Hongi, the fastest boy in this year’s barefoot race to Sun Mesa and back.

“What are these for?” Hongi asked the only person he knew, the boy he’d outrun by less than a quarter mile in the race. Hongi held them up by the strings of leather, the thick parts hanging down.

Poi glared at him. “Are you stupid?”

Hongi looked at the pieces of leather and back to Poi. “I don’t know what they are.”

“Have you ever seen Plumed Serpent Runners?”

“Sure. A couple times. Once.”

“Didn’t you look at their feet?”

Hongi stared blankly.

“Special sandals? You didn’t see their running sandals?”

Hongi looked at the pieces of leather. “These are running sandals?”

Poi closed his eyes and sighed. When he opened them, he held out his hand. “I’ll show you.”

Hongi handed Poi the sandals and watched him lace the long strips between his toes and tie the ends across the tops of his feet. Then he stood, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet under which the thickest, toughest part of the leather fitted. Then he sprinted across open scrubland between sage brush and back again.

Poi breathed hard. “They’re for running. You don’t have to slow down for rocks and sharp roots.”

Hongi looked at him, at the way he’d tied the strips of leather to his feet. “What are they made from?”

“Elk,” said Poi. “Their knees.” He bent over and began untying them. “Don’t get too used to them, though. They’ll wear out. And a guy like you who doesn’t know anything won’t likely ever get another pair.”

Poi held them out and Hongi took them with a grin. Poi made a sound of disgust and jogged away.Hongi held up the running sandals, then sat down and strapped them onto his feet. He ran and kept running, feeling as if he were floating over the roughness of the land. Far ahead he saw two Plumed Serpent Runners heading south out of Totec Canyon and he raced to them and passed them. They called out and tried to catch him, but he lost them on the flats south of Sun Mesa.

# # #

How’d that first setup paragraph work for you? Hard to follow?

Note: The Anasazi really did have special running sandals that fitted on the balls of their feet. The details are fictional (meaning I dont really know if they made them from elk knees). Hopi origins of the names: Hongi is “fast runner”; Poi is “fail to win.”

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9 Comments

Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chaco Canyon, Historial Fiction, Hopi

9 responses to “Elk Knees

  1. I had no trouble following the first paragraph, though I’m not too sure why the elk knee leather would be so valuable to non-runners. From what people were willing to give up for them they must have a deeper, more universal (spiritual) significance. But it all flowed just fine. Not just the beginning, but the whole story.
    ~jon

  2. The opening paragraph is a little challenge, as you intentionally leave me feeling like I missed the first sentence where you say what “them” refers to. But by the first line of dialogue it is absolutely clear that I’m not supposed to know. The opening paragraph might still be a little shorter, maybe cut one exchange, since the details of who traded, where they traded and what they traded care a little like tracking the coils of a snake as it slithers. I still think the whole thing works fine, though.

  3. I am enthralled by the Anasazi, so perhaps I am biased, but I found all of it fascinating-and the first paragraph fine as the title leads us in and lets us know what is being traded.

  4. I liked the first paragraph a lot. It drew me in and connected the story with the larger picture. I thought the elk knees were bones too, didn’t think of the leather. Maybe you could make that part just a little clearer. I think this is one of your most enjoyable stories yet. Thanks.

  5. Rhoda

    I like it. Gives “bigger picture” view of the community. I like Tim’s observation of the spiritual trade.

  6. The only trouble I had was with ‘elk knees’. I thought of knobby bones instead of the hide. But maybe that’s just me. 🙂

  7. Interesting that the first trades were physical and the last ones were spiritual.

    Happy new year!

  8. I liked the first paragraph very much. As David says, it builds interest while setting the scene, and I like the sort of escalation of the exchanges until the unspecified object makes its way to the runner.

    Poi is certainly not a happy bunny about being outrun by an ignoramus!

  9. An interesting opening paragraph. It builds interest while providing a brief background. I like it. Not hard to follow at all.

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