An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.
His father and older brothers gathered round him.
“We leave you here now,” said his father. Salt from dried sweat crusted his father’s eyebrows. His brothers shifted and grinned behind their father. “Watch the fields and protect them. Run home if you become afraid and I will send a son more brave than you.”
“All of us are more brave than him,” said the brother closest to him in age.
“He will run home tomorrow, my father,” said the eldest, the firstborn. “Remember the time he ran from the badger? Or when he thought that huge fire-blackened tree trunk was a bear?”
The brothers laughed. The brother closest in age said, “He ran away so fast he almost flew off the cliff like a falcon.” The brothers laughed harder, and his father pressed his lips flat as if to keep himself from laughing.
“Enough,” his father said. “You stay. We go.” Then his father chanted sacred words to ask the spirits to protect these newly planted fields and help his untried youngest son be brave. He threw pinches of cornmeal and cedar ash and dried corn pollen onto the boy, then they turned and left him.
In the darkness of the first night, something crashed through the brush by the river and he ran halfway back to the village before he stopped. He imagined mountain lions stalking him or grizzly bears snapping the trees like twigs to get to him. He found a crack between rocks and huddled there until morning, and then went back to the fields. His stomach grumbled and his head ached as if a tight band wound tightly above his eyes, but he felt better in the sunlight.
He decided to walk the periphery of the fields they had so laboriously cleared of brush and planted in raked-up mounds of soil. He munched parched corn and drank from the little river and found a place where he could sit in the warm sun and see nearly every seed mound. The world felt safe and calm.
He dozed and dreamed that he ran so fast off a cliff that he flew like a falcon, as swift as an arrow, so high in the sky that he could see all the bears and mountain lions and seed mounds and all his brothers loafing about the village. High toward the sun, he flew, until it grew so hot it awakened him, and he blinked, the noon sun blinding him and baking his face.
When he sat up he saw a mountain lion, its long tail twitching, staring across his father’s fields to where a grizzly bear stood on its hind legs looking at the lion. Overhead he heard a screech and looked up to see two golden eagles tumbling through the air, momentarily locking talons as they fell toward the fresh earth of the cornfield, and then they separated and flapped their strong, thick wings as both the bear and the lion turned their heads to watch.
Something spiraled in the air, a feather from one of the eagles, and without a thought of worry about the lion or the bear, he went to where the feather had fallen and picked it up, a long middle tail feather, pristine and iridescent in the sun.
He remembered the bear and the lion and he looked for them, but they had gone.
From strips of rawhide, he wove a band to wrap around his head above his eyes and he fit the feather into it. He stood and felt, perhaps for the first time in his life, unafraid of the world. The fighting eagles had blessed him, and even the bear and the lion had fled his presence.
At the edge of the cornfield he built snares of twisted-grass string and that evening he ate roast rabbit. He did not return to the village until after the fall harvest, the largest from the fields of his father since he had begun farming as a young man.
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There is plenty of evidence that small groups of Anasazi, perhaps single individuals, stayed with certain fields during the growing season. And you know, sooner or later, they’d make the youngest son do it.