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|Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2023 4:56 pm Post subject: Chapter 14 ~ The Archery Contest
CHAPTER ~ The Archery Contest
An hour later, Poke-Moh-kav, Jon Max, and Laura joined a growing crowd of people who had heard about the archery contest which was being organized by E'Taneesh. Many people had just finished their noon meal and were strolling along the banks of the river, moving towards the sandy stretch of riverbank that E'Taneesh had chosen for the contest.
The trading session between Poke-Moh-kav and his two new friends had gone very well. The trade items which Laura and Jon Max had brought in their backpacks turned out to be things which Poke-Moh-kav knew his family would need. As a result, Jon Max and Laura acquired two fine bows, two deerskin quivers, and six well-crafted arrows each.
But the trading didn't stop there. While looking over the bows and quivers among Poke-Moh-kav's collection of trade items, Jon Max and Laura discovered that the Cheyenne boy and his father had brought many wonderful items of Cheyenne clothing and jewelry to trade. There were tunics, breeches, moccasins, robes, necklaces, bracelets, headbands, and many other items.
Poke-Moh-kav explained that these items had been made by the women of his tribe, including his own mother, E'-Meho'-hoko — which Poke-Mah-kav told them meant She Loves the Rain.
And so, when the Cheyenne youth and his two friends arrived at the riverbank where the archery contest was to take place, the two time-traveling 5th graders had acquired a whole new wardrobe!
Laura and Jon Max were dressed in pale, tan, buckskin breeches with leather fringe down the legs, buckskin tunics with fringe on the arms, soft moccasins, and beaded headbands which had several beautiful feathers hanging down one side. On their backs they wore the leather quivers that held their arrows.
Jon-Max's pale skin and wild red hair made him look like the craziest, coolest Indian that had ever lived Laura looked fantastic, too, and she was thinking how great it would be to walk into school wearing her fabulous outfit and then tell all the kids that she was Sho-karee — Braver than the Beast!
Although Jon Max and Laura felt great about the way they looked, the sight of all the people waiting to watch the two young visitors show off their skills with a bow-and-arrow put butterflies in their stomachs.
"Uh-oh," said Jon Max with a worried look when he saw the gathering crowd. "I didn't know there would be such a big audience for this. What if I get nervous and accidentally shoot somebody!"
Poke-Moh-kav laughed loudly at the joke he thought Jon Max was making. The Cheyenne youth had learned during the hour he had spent with his new friends that Jon Max had a wonderful sense of humor.
What Poke-Moh-kav didn't realize was that both Laura and Jon Max really were worried about doing badly in the archery contest. After all, the 5th graders from the future had only been given a one-hour lesson in how to shoot their new bows. And now they were about to compete with a Chinook teenager who believed himself to be the best shot in his own tribe!
What if Eyult-taness really was a good shot!
A tall, handsome man walked up to the three young people and smiled at Poke-Moh-kav. "Well, my son, I see that you've been busy trading while I was meeting with the tribal elders".
"Yes, father," Poke-Moh-kav said. "We received many things that we wanted and needed. And I met two very fine new friends. This is Nu-konee and Sho-karee." Poke-Moh-kav turned to the two 5th graders. "This is my father, Hestsesta-Hoest'. His name means Heart of Fire, because whenever he believes something in his heart, this truth burns like a flame that cannot be exstinguished."
Hestsesta-Hoest' was in his early thirties, with long dark hair hanging down his back. The hair on the left side was tied into a ponytail by a leather strip attached to two decorative feathers which hung down the front of his left shoulder. He wore a buckskin tunic and breeches similar to those that the 5th graders had gotten in trade from Poke-Moh-kav. All three outfits might have been made by the same person — Poke-Moh-kav's mother. He also wore a wide, beaded neck-band which went from the base of his throat all the way up to his chin. The colorful neckband reminded Laura of the high collar of a turtleneck sweater. His eyes were dark, and they seemed to hold both a secret wisdom and a hidden joy. The tilt of his eyes and the curve of his mouth made him look as if he was just about to smile.
"I have heard of your two friends," Hestsesta-Hoest' said a quiet, pleasant voice. "My friend, E'Taneesh, told me that they are brave and smart, even though they are very young."
Both Laura and Jon Max smiled at these kind words, and hearing them helped the two nervous time travelers relax a bit.
"And now," Hestsesta-Hoest' said, turning towards the crowd that waited for the contest to begin, "It's time to show your skill with your new bows."
He lead the three young people towards the crowd. As they approached, they saw that the archer range which E'Taneesh had set up was a simple one. A straight piece of wood had been laid on the sandy riverbank to mark the spot where each shooter would stand. Forty feet further down the riverbank, a large dead tree stood on the riverbank, 20 feet from the water, halfway between the edge of the river and the trees further inland. Most of its branches had fallen off, and little was left but the gray and rotting trunk.
At about eye level, a woven mat had been tied against the trunk of the tree with a length of braided cord. The pattern of triangles in the middle of the mat was the target the shooters would aim for.
E'Taneesh greeted the three young people with a broad smile as they came up, admiring their outfits with obvious approval. "Ah, yes. I see that you two have done some shrewd trading with the son of my friend, Hestsesta-Hoest'. Truly you both look like Cheyenne hunters." He studied Jon Max's fiery red hair for a moment, then he added, "Except that I've never seen hair that color before. Your father must have been the spirit being of the fire."
Jon Max ran his fingers through the bushy mass of hair while he laughed with his two friends. As he did so, E'Taneesh stepped close to Jon Max and Laura to whisper a few words in a gentle, kindly voice.
"You must tell me truthfully, my young friends. Can you both hit that target on the tree from the marker we've placed in the sand?"
Jon Max and Laura studied the distance between the marker and the target, and they thought about the hour of practice and instruction which Poke-Moh-kav had given them. At first, Jon Max had done poorly, missing almost every shot at the rotten stump they had used for a practice target. Laura had done a bit better, but she too had missed most of the shots.
But within thirty minutes they were both able to hit the stump almost every time. They had listened carefully to Poke-Moh-kav's expert advice as they kept practicing. Finally their arms had grown so tired they decided to stop and save their strength for the contest.
"Yes, sir," Jon Max finally said to E'Taneesh. "We can hit it."
"Good," The Chinook was smiling at Jon Max. He studied the bows which Jon Max and Laura held, and he nodded with approval. "You have chosen your weapons more wisely than my arrogant and foolish nephew. I think he will learn a valuable lesson today."
E'Taneesh turned and headed for the marker where the young Eyult-taness stood. E'Taneesh called out to the crowd, warning them to step back from the dead tree and stay clear of the area between the shooter's marker and the target.
As Hestsesta-Hoest', Poke-Moh-kav, and his two new friends walked up, the boastful Chinook boy looked down at their new bows, then he gave a short laugh of contempt. He spoke in a low voice, so that his uncle wouldn't hear him.
"So these are the mighty weapons which Nu-konee and Sho-karee think they can use to bring down their imaginary beasts."
In spite of his nervousness, Jon Max made himself appear calm and cool as he replied. "I use my bigger bow when I'm competing against adults, Proud Child. To compete against you, this little one will do."
Eyult-taness' face turned red, his dark eyes narrowed to slits, and the veins in his neck stood out. For a moment, Jon Max wondered if the archery contest was about to turn into a fist fight. But Eyult-taness glanced over at his uncle and held his fury in check.
"We shall see who is the child and who is the adult, Nu-konee!" he whispered angrily, then he turned and stalked away.
"Whew!" Jon Max said, huffing a sigh of relief. "That guy sure needs to take a chill pill, huh?"
"Your words are strange," Poke-Moh-ka said. "But if they mean that Eyult-taness reminds you of the backside of a buffalo, I agree."
The three young people burst into laughter, and Jon Max felt some of the tension flow out of him. He reminded himself that no matter who won the contest, he was living a fantastic adventure — and sharing the adventure with a good friend.
At that moment, Laura was thinking exactly the same thing. She looked around at the crowd of people and was amazed by the astounding variety she saw. There were people from dozens of different tribes, and each tribe had its own customs of clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles. Even their languages were different. And yet they were laughing and enjoying themselves, eager to share the entertainment which two young visitors and one boastful Chinook boy were about to provide.
E'Taneesh raised his hand, and the crowd became quiet so that he could speak.
"Each bowman will be allowed to shoot three arrows when he gets his turn. The bowman who comes the closets to the center of the target with any of his three arrows will win the contest."
E'Taneesh turned to Laura Jon-Max, and Eyul-taness. "Nu-konee will shoot first, Sho-karee will shoot second, and Eyul-taness will shoot last."
He turned to Jon-Max and waved him towards the stick on the ground that marked the place where each shooter would stand. Nervously, Jon Max walked over to the spot and stood for a moment, looking at the target, forty feet away. Suddenly the woven mat that was tied to the tree seemed a long way off. All around him were people who watched him carefully, waiting to see if he would hit the target.
Jon Max reached over his shoulder and took hold of one the arrows in his quiver, drawing it out slowly. As he fitted the bowstring into the notched end of the arrow, he noticed his hands trembling slightly. Silently he told himself not to be nervous. All he had to do was remembered the good advice Poke-Moh-kav had given him and the skills he had learned during his practice session.
Jon Max raised the bow slowly and drew the bowstring back until his right hand was close to his right cheek. He carefully aimed the arrow the way Poke-Moh-ka had taught him. Slowly he straightened the fingers that held the bowstring until the string slipped free and the arrow shot towards the target.
The arrow struck the left side of the tree about two feet below the mat. It glanced off the rotting bark and flew further down the riverbank, angeling towards the trees above the sandy shore. A few people in the crowd beyond the target scrambled further up the bank as the arrow landed in the sand near where they had been standing. The crowd let out a mixture of cheers and laughter at the missed shoot.
Behind him, Jon Max heard Eyul-taness say, "If that's the best Nu-konee can do, I've already won the contest."
Jon Max took a deep breath and huffed it out noisily, trying to make himself relax. He closed his eyes for a moment, then he opened them again and reached back for his second arrow.
As he drew back the arrow and sited it on the target, Jon Max was careful to aim a little higher and a bit more to the left than the first arrow. Because his bow was designed for a young, beginning bowman, it was not too difficult to hold the arrow pulled back until he was sure it was aimed correctly.
When he released it, the arrow raced through the air and stabbed into the old tree less than a foot from the upper edge of the woven mat. The arrow was almost in the exact center of the tree, even though it had hit above the target.
This time the entire crowd was cheering for the fine shot. Jon Max turned and gave Poke-Moh-ka and Laura a happy grin. Poke-Moh-ka was smiling proudly, and Laura gave Jon Max an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Jon Max caught sight of Eyult-tanees, standing by his uncle a few yards away. The boastful Chinook boy didn't look quite as sure of himself, now that Jon Max had placed an arrow so close to the woven mat that served as a target.
With a look of steely-eyed determination, the 5th grader from the future turned back towards the target, reached over his shoulder, and drew out his third and final arrow. He pulled the bowstring back and held it while he carefully sighted on the target, aiming slightly lower than the last arrow.
When Jon Max release the arrow, it flashed through the air and smacked firmly into the tree, right at the upper edge of the woven pattern that occupied the center of the mat. The arrow was less than twelve inches from the exact center of the target!
The crowd roared with approval, and several people rushed forward to slap Jon Max on the back as he turned and walked triumphantly towards his friends. Both Laura and Poke-Moh-kav also slapped him on the back while the crowd slowly quieted down and waited for Laura to begin her turn at the shooting line.
Eyul-taness stood close by, carefully showing no expression. But as Laura headed for the shooting line, she knew that the cocky Chinook boy was not happy. He had not expected the two 5th graders to even hit the tree, much less get near the target. The fact that Jon Max had placed one arrow above the target and another arrow right at the edge j of the matte was causing the Chinook boy to become more than a little nervous.
Laura stood at the shooting line for a moment with her eyes fixed firmly on the target, forty feet away. She tried to remember everything Poke-Moh-kav had told (her about how to shoot the bow. She pictured in her mind the many practice shots she had made while shooting at the old tree stump which she and Jon Max had used for a practice target. But most of all, she tried [i/]not[/i] to think about the dozens of people who stood around watching and waiting for her first shot.
Slowly and carefully she reached back and drew the first arrow from the leather quiver. As she fitted the bowstring into the notch at the end of the arrow, she noticed that her hands were trembling slightly.
Calm down, Sho-karee, she said to herself. You can do this. They don't call you Braver than the Beast for nothing.
Laura raised the bow and pulled the arrow back until her right hand was next to her cheek, the feathered end of the arrow exactly even with her right eye. She lined the arrowhead up so that it was slightly to the right of the distant target, and slightly higher. Then Laura slowly uncurled the fingers of her right hand, making sure to let the bowstring slip smoothly off her fingers, just the way Poke-Moh-kav had taught her.
The crowd cheered and clapped when Laura’s first arrow socked solidly into the center of the tree, just inches above the edge of the woven mat. Laura noisily huffed out the breath she had been holding. One shoot down — two to go.
The crowd quickly became silent as Laura placed her second arrow in position, raised the bow, and aimed carefully at the target.
The arrow made a sharp sound in the silence as it pierced the tree, directly below the first arrow, less than four inches from the center of the mat! Laura’s shot was even closer to a bulls-eye than Jon Max's third arrow had been. When she looked back over her shoulder at Jon Max, the boy from 2058 was grinning from ear to ear and giving his friend a very enthusiastic thumbs up.
Eyult-tanees, on the other hand, didn't look quite as pleased. His darkly tanned face seemed pale, and he didn't seem to be standing quite as tall as he usually did. But when Eyult-tanees met Laura’s eyes, he straightened himself quickly and forced himself to raise his chin proudly and smile as if he weren't a bit worried about loosing the contest.
Laura turned back towards the target and got her third arrow ready while she thought about the fact that Eyult-tanees could still win if he placed at least two of his arrows very close to the bulls-eye.
Another troubling thought came to Laura. When it became Eyult-tanees' turn, he might realize that his new bow was too strong for him when he tried to draw back the first arrow. If that happened, perhaps the Chinook boy would decide to use his old bow — the bow he had been using for years, the bow that would allow the experienced young Chinook to shoot much better than both Jon Max and Laura.
The nervous 5th grader forced these thoughts out of her mind as she raised the bow and drew back the third and final arrow. She sighted it with care, remembering what she had learned about exactly where it should be aim, based on the first two arrows.
When Laura released the arrow, the crowd was stunned when her third shot stabbed almost exactly into the center of the mat! It was just inches from being a perfect bulls-eye! After a split second of shocked disbelief, the whole crowd erupted into thunderous applause, cheering, and joyful laughter.
Bursting with pride at her performance, Laura ran to her waiting friends, both of whom threw their arms around her and hugged the triumphant 5th grader while they jumped up and down on the sandy riverbank.
It took a while for the excited crowd to calm down, but when they finally did, Eyult-tanees started moving towards the shooting line. As he did, Laura hurried towards him, wearing a mild and polite smile. Eyult-tanees paused when she stepped up to him, a look of annoyance on his face.
"What do you want?" he said in a rude tone.
"Well, I was just wondering if you'd like to borrow my bow to shot with. I mean, it seems to be a real lucky bow or something."
Eyult-tanees looked down at the bow Laura held, then he looked with pride at his new, heavier bow. He sneered with contempt as he said, "I do not need a child's bow, Sho-karee! With this bow, I will show these people how an adult can shoot!"
"Oh," Laura said, looking disappointed. "Well, okay. Suit yourself," She smiled sweetly, turned around, and rejoined her friends.
Jon Max wore a look of amazement as he stared at Laura. "Why in the world did you do that? He might have said yes and used your bow instead of his!"
Laura wore a faint smile and a sleepy look of confidence as she replied. "I knew he wouldn't do that."
Eyult-tanees stepped up to the shooting line and tried to ignore the noisy chatter of the excited crowd as they watched him get ready for his first shot. The Chinook boy was absolutely convinced that he was about to dazzle the crowd with his own amazing abilities with his new bow. He looked forward to showing the two visitors, Nu-knoee and Shokaree, the way a real warrior shot a bow-and-arrow!
Eyult-tanees pulled his first arrow from the quiver, fitted it onto the string, and raised the bow towards the target. The crowd became silent, waiting with eager anticipation to see just how well the boastful Chinook youth could shot.
When Eyult-tanees tensed his muscles and tried to draw the arrow back, a look of alarm came over his face. The feathered end of the arrow came halfway back to his cheek — but there it stopped! He struggled for a long moment to pull it back further, but his arms began to tremble and his face turned red as he fought against the power of his new bow.
After a few seconds he gave up, relaxed his arm, and lowered the bow. A few people in the crowd began to chuckle as they realized just what was causing Eyult-tanees's problem.
Again the Chinook boy raised the bow and tried to pull the arrow back to his cheek so he could aim it properly. But try as he may, he was not strong enough to draw the arrow its full length. Again he lowered the bow.
More people in the crowd began to chuckle.
Standing in front of the large crowd, looking down at the bow he had been so proud of, Eyult-tanees realized that he was in a very bad situation. If he gave up, everyone would laugh at him for bragging about what a great archer he was. But if he admitted that he had to use his old, smaller bow, they would still laugh at him — even if he shot well and won the contest!
And so, Eyult-tanees knew that he had to win the contest with the new bow, no matter how difficult it was. If was his only hope of escaping public humiliation.
Wearing a grim look of fierce determination, Eyult-tanees raised the bow, pulled back as hard as he could on the bowstring, and released the arrow before his arms could start shaking too badly.
The arrow streaked through the air like a rocket and glanced off the left side of the tree more than six feet above the target. Rotten bark flew off the tree and rained down onto the sand while the arrow sailed a hundred feet down the riverbank and landed in the sand, well beyond the edge of the watching crowd.
The crowd burst into laughter, and Eyult-tanees fumed with anger, glaring at the people around him. But when he glanced over at Jon Max, Poke-Moh-kav, and Laura they were standing with their arms folded, wearing blank expressions without a trace of a smile.
When Eyult-tanees turned his attention back towards the target, he didn't see the three young people break into huge grins and struggle to keep from laughing out loud.
While Eyult-tanees got his second arrow ready, the crowd forced themselves to quiet down. Behind him, Eyult-tanees uncle watched his young nephew with a barely visible smile, knowing that the boy was learning a hard — but much-needed — lesson in humility.
Eyult-tanees took two deep breaths, then drew a third one in and held it as he hauled back on the bowstring with all his might. He actually managed to pull the feathered end of the arrow almost to his cheek. But his arms were trembling so badly from the effort that when he release the arrow it veered off widely to the right and soared out over the water, finally landing in the river with a splash!
The crowd laughed and hooted and pointed to the place where the arrow had landed into the water. Eyult-tanees fumed with rage, his jaw muscles flexing as he gritted his teeth. He couldn't bring himself to simply admit he had been foolish and boastful. At that moment Eyult-tanees wanted to throw the new bow into the river and run away from the whole embarrassing scene. But he knew that if he did that, he would be punished severely by his uncle for bringing shame on both his family and the tribe.
And so, Eyult-tanees drew out the third arrow, fitted it onto the bowstring, and raised the bow. He was determined not to be beaten by the two young visitors in front of all these watching people. He knew that he could still win if he could place the third arrow at the dead center of the target.
When Eyult-tanees pulled back on the bow for the third time, the muscles in his neck bulged, the veins in his temple popped out, and his lips were peeled back to reveal his gritting teeth. Every muscle in his arms were strained to the limit. His eyes were narrow slits as he held them fixed on the target while he poured every ounce of his strength into forcing the arrow back.
Somehow the Chinook youth managed to pull the arrow all the way back to his cheek. His was straining his muscles so hard that he squeezed his eyes completely closed in the last few moments before he released the bowstring.
His shot was slightly too high a bit to the left. It narrowly missed the tree trunk and lanced into a rotten branches, breaking it off and it sending both the branch and the arrow tumbling to the ground near the feet of the crowd, twenty feet beyond the tree!
The stunned crowd exploded witth laughter. Eyult-tanees was still staring at the arrow imbedded in the branch when he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. He turned and found his uncle standing beside him. Eyult-tanees’ face was red with embarrassment, and he search desperately for some way to explain his failure with the bow.
"Uncle! I think this bow was not made correctly!" he said in desperation. "It does not shoot straight!"
"Oh, really?" E'Taneesh said in a kindly, patient voice. "Here, let me try it."
Before Eyult-tanees could protest, his uncle had taken the bow and pulled an arrow from the quiver. In one quick, fluid motion, E'Taneesh fitted the arrow, raised the bow, pulled the bowstring back, and let the arrow fly.
To the amazement and delight of the crowd, the arrow planted itself solidly in the center of the woven mat – a perfect bulls-eye! The crowd went wild with cheers and applause.
Poor Eyult-tanees was so astonished that he just stood there with his mouth hanging open, staring at the arrow in the tree. Then he looked up at his uncle and spoke slowly in a voice that was filled with humility and respect.
"Uncle . . . would you please teach me to shoot like that?"
E'Taneesh smiled at his nephew and handed the bow back to him. "Certainly, my young warrior. I would suggest that you start by spending some time each day exercising."
"Yes, uncle. What exercise should I do?"
"Pull the string back twenty times, then rest, then twenty times, then rest — until you reach one hundred. Do this four times each day, and in a month you will find that the power of your arms will be greater than the power of the bow. Then you will be able to control it properly."
"I understand," Eyult-tanees said obediently. "Is there anything else I should do?"
"Yes," said E'Taneesh, leaning close to his nephew and looking the boy in the eye. "You should go over there and congratulate Sho-karee for winning the contest."
Eyult-tanees looked very uncomfortable for a moment. He felt his throat suddenly become dry, and had to swallow several times before he could answer.
"Yes, my uncle."
As Laura and Jon Max watched Eyult-tanees walk slowly and reluctantly towards them, they knew that this a very different young man than the one who had been so confident at the beginning of the match. Eyult-tanees was still blushing from embarrassment at the sounds of the crowd as they laughed and talked and wandered away from the area. But the anger and rude attitude was gone from Eyult-tanees, and he approached the time traveling 5th graders with a new shyness and respect.
Eyult-tanees held his hand out to Laura, who shock it gladly. Eyult-tanees spoke in a quiet voice. "You did well. Both of you, You selected your bows much more wisely than I did."
"Thanks," said Laura, smiling with genuine warmth.
Hestsesta-Hoest' stepped up next to his son and spoke in a soft voice. "There is nothing wrong with the bow you selected, Eyult-tanees. And there's nothing wrong with the young warrior who selected it. You'll be a great hunter someday. You've learned a valuable lesson, thanks to these two amazing young visitors."
Eyult-tanees looked at Jon Max and Laura as he smiled and nodded his head slowly. "Yes, you did teach me something today. I thank you for that."
"You are very welcome, indeed," said Jon Max, flashing his usual wide and friendly smile. "And now that we've gotten all that stuff out of the way, I want Poke-Moh-kav to tell us some more about how his tribe hunts buffalo. He was telling us about it while we were practicing with the bows. Huntiing buffalo sounds even more exciting than hunting whales!"
The four young people starting walking down the beach as they listened to Poke-Moh-kav and his father describe the way the Cheyenne tribe followed the herds of huge, hairy beasts that grazed on the lush grass of the Great Plains. And as they listened, Jon Max and Laura knew exactly where they were going on their next fabulous time-travel adventure!
NEXT: CHAPTER 15 ~ Learning the Cheyenne Ways
Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)