Bears all his sons away;

I wrote this story today. I am not Native American. As far as I know, I am white, but then, I have not done any genetic testing so who knows? This was inspired by a poem of the same title: https://everything2.com/user/etouffee/writeups/Bears+all+his+sons+away%253B

One
I am wailing. I am crying. The Bear came today, our bear, the tribe’s bear, our Spirit.

But he didn’t just walk through camp and take fish and his tribute.

He took my son.

He walked right up to where my wife stood still, as we must when he comes, and he lifted the boy in his paws. The boy was quiet and still, he did well, he was brave, but when the bear turned to leave, he called once.

Then our bear dropped to three legs, my son in the fourth, and turned and left.

My son, my son, my heart, my joy. Spirit Bear, return him to me!

Two

We fought, argued, for a very short time. The Shaman said that if Spirit Bear wants my son, he shall have him.

He does have him, I said, but I want him back. The Shaman knew that was true. Some shook their heads and say that my son is already dead, but most agreed with me. We were on the trail nearly immediately. The bear should not be able to move as quickly as usual when he is carrying my son. I dread evidence of my son’s loss, that he will be eaten. But that has never happened, in the history, in the songs. The Shaman said as much. But neither has a bear taken a chief’s son.

Three
Spirit Bear is moving amazingly fast on three legs. He is headed for the mountains. Not a surprise. My son may get cold. But bears are warm. My son has not been eaten.

Four

We have to make camp. I am so angry that we have not caught Spirit Bear. Out of our home camp he is fair game.

We do the Bear Dance, four times. We did not bring the masks and the young men dance the women’s part and one sings the woman’s part. We made quick rough masks and costumes. The Spirits will forgive us. This is past all understanding.

What does a Spirit Bear want with my son? Four years. No one knows.

Five
Day again. I am up before dawn praying for light, for my son, to find the Spirit Bear.

Six

We are hot on the trail. We find that Spirit Bear did sleep and rest. My son is dropping beads. Smart boy. Each bead means that he is still alive and relatively unhurt.

Seven

We have spotted them. Spirit Bear stood and looked down at us, my son tucked against his side. My son very slowly raised his arm, so he knows.

Eight

We are approaching the peak. Everyone is tired from the climb and hungry and thirsty. Yet we keep going. No one complains.

Nine

We reach the peak and Spirit Bear and my son. We arm our spears and arrows, but my son shouts “No! Look!” We turn. We see the water. There is something in the water. It has tannish wings that are filled with wind. It is huge compared with our boats.

We turn to my son. He stands and Spirit Bear leaves, ambling down the mountain, quickly, gone. I hurry to my son, sweep him up. He starts shaking and then cries, leaning his head into me.

We turn and watch the tan winged thing, which is coming against the wind. It comes at an angle and then turns, to the opposite angle, yet still it comes. We know this is new and that there can be terror or joy, we do not know which. There will be learning, we know that.

My son falls asleep. We carry him down to water and camp. We are all singing quietly, the song of new things, fear and joy. The Shaman will welcome us when we are home, and we will prepare for the winged thing. We do not know what it will bring.

We thank the Spirit Bear for warning us, for telling us to prepare.

Songs to raise girls: Billy Barlow

I knew the song “Billy Barlow” as “Let’s go hunting”. It was one of the silly songs that we recorded. I adored this song when I was little for two reasons. One was that it was funny. The other was that I interpreted it as a song that could be changed and sung about more than one animal. I can remember when I realized that no, the adults sang it the same way each time and they would not change the animal. I was disappointed but I still loved the song. And I could change the animal on my own.

It’s a good song to raise girls: an illustration of a group of guys….

Let’s go hunting, says Risky Rob
Let’s go hunting, says Robin to Bob
Let’s go hunting, says Dan’l and Joe
Let’s go hunting, says Billy Barlow

When my son was a teen, another parent commented that the IQ dropped in half for each teen added to a group. Two boys cut the IQ in half, three had it to one quarter and four was trouble.

What’ll we hunt for, says Risky Rob
What’ll we hunt for,
What’ll we hunt for,
Let’s hunt rats, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we catch them,
How’ll we catch them,
How’ll we catch them,
Let’s borrow a shotgun, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them, says Billy Barlow

I also loved this song because the last line changed. Sometimes Billy Barlow said the same thing and sometimes he said something different. When I was very small and still learning the song, that was part of the joy of it, to see what Billy Barlow would do. And clearly he was wicked, like Coyote or Pan or Loki and going to lead the group to trouble if he could….

I’ll take shoulders,
I’ll take sides,
I’ll take hams
Tailbone mine, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,

I’ll fry shoulders,
I’ll boil sides
I’ll bake hams,
Tailbone raw, says Billy Barlow

Oh, delicious ickiness, raw rat tailbone… It would give my sister and me shivers….

Let’s go hunting, says Risky Rob
Let’s go hunting, says Robin to Bob
Let’s go hunting, says Dan’l and Joe
Let’s stay home, says Billy Barlow

And relief. Billy was messing with them all the time and he doesn’t want to go and he never did, which is why he suggested a shotgun to hunt rats…. I like this Billy.

When I search on Billy Barlow, here is an entirely different song, a civil war marching song for Company B from New York City that marched into Maryland in 1863 and had a 63% loss. My sister had a civil war marching band play at her rehearsal dinner and we ended up marching in pea gravel for a couple hours. It turns out that my oldest cousin had ambitions to be a marching band drum leader. The band thought we were so funny that they offered to return. But the civil war fighters on both sides had marching bands with them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1ZlfsP7dZA

And here is Pete Seeger with our song, in a slightly different style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrgTOPufru4

And here is another site that says the song is a version of “The Cutty Wren” or “The Hunting of the Wren”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_oAPCVkMP0

The picture is my daughter. She was playing alone and was having a wonderful time with her imagination. I am not sure who took this picture…..