HomePublicationsIn the Tracks of the Tracker magazineWinter-Spring 1994

In the Tracks of the Tracker magazine - Winter-Spring 1994

Different Drum
Tom Brown Jr.

 Rick and I were always at odds with society. There were two different worlds as far as we were concerned. There was the reality of Grandfather's world of nature and spirit and there was the phony sterility of the world of society. Rarely could they agree with each other and this sometimes put us into a horrible predicament. We were torn between doing that which was right in the natural world and that which went against what we believed, just to keep peace in the world of society. This conflict never seemed to be resolved, even in the smallest ways. What Grandfather taught us, what we knew of the natural and spiritual laws, and what we knew to be true in our hearts, did not fit into society. What society generally taught us did not work in the pure and natural world. It only worked in the games people played.

   It was not long before Rick and I began to lead a dual life. We learned that we had to play the "game" just to be able to function in school or around people. We had to remain silent about the many things we learned in nature and of spirit, especially of the spirit world. There was no doubt in my mind that we would be ridiculed if we even came close to saying anything about what we knew in the spirit world. It was bad enough that many people looked at Rick and I as rather odd. They could not understand why we spent all of our spare time in the woods, especially with the old man. They began to treat us, at times, like we had some disease or were abnormal in some way. It was not long before Rick and I said nothing about the woods or what we learned there. In fact we began to avoid the subject all together whenever we were around our peers.
    Once when I was still very young and just getting acquainted with the ways of the spirit, I was held up to horrible ridicule. I had found an arrowhead in the back section of our playground at school, in the thick out-of-bounds area of the school yard. Many of the kids saw me emerge from the off limits area with the arrowhead and wondered why I had been back there. Not only had I violated a school rule to pick up the arrowhead, but when questioned by the kids and the teacher I told them that a spirit voice had directed me to it, innocent to the fact that I was saying something bizarre. To me, it was quite natural to be guided by my inner vision and did not understand why the kids laughed so hard and the teacher sent me directly to the principal.
    The principal did not believe a word that I told him. in fact he seemed to be very concerned that I had heard some voice calling me. He told me that it was just my imagination and that I probably had brought the arrowhead from home to give me an excuse for going out of the playground. He sentenced me to 3 days of after school detention. What was worse was that the kids would not stop mocking me, saying that I had imaginary friends. This ridicule followed me home to my folks, who accused me of lying to the teachers. It was a turning point in my life because from that day I would tell no one of spirits. To me, up until this point in my life, I thought that everyone used their "inner vision" or heard the spirits speak.
    That weekend in the camp area with Grandfather, I told him what happened in the school playground and what the teachers had said. I told him that I was concerned that I might be some kind of freak to imagine voices, after all none of my friends did. I also told him that they thought that I was a little strange, even crazy, and I was ridiculed often for it. Grandfather smiled at me and said, "You found the arrowhead didn't you? Was it then the voice of your imagination that directed you to it or the voice of a spirit. If there was no arrowhead to be found, then it would be your imagination. But it was found, thus the voice is truth. It is always the end results which tell us if something is spiritually real or just imagined."
    He then went on to tell us that he too had gone through what we were going through though not in such a bad way. Generally Native American people as a whole, even children, accept the spirit voices and the spirit world without question. It is part of their reality. Yet children even in a highly spiritual society can also be cruel, as Grandfather found out. He too, had felt that he was strange at first and would not even mention the things that occurred on a spiritual level to anyone, not even the elders. He thought that he might be imagining the spiritual things that he saw. Some of the things that happened to him were even grander then the spiritual things that happened to the elders and he thought it would show disrespect.
    Grandfather said that his first spiritual encounters were in early childhood. At first, it began with a distant drumming in the wilderness. When he would go to investigate who was playing the drum, there would be no one there. Several times he found evidence of an ancient encampment, but no drummer. He also began to hear a drumbeat different than the one that was being played at the ceremonies he attended. It was in perfect cadence with the beat of the real drum, but where there should have been only one real drum being played, he sometimes heard one, two, or more different drums. He could pick the location of each invisible drum and sometimes even feel the vibration. Sometimes he could even feel the swish of the drumstick.
    Grandfather did not want to tell anyone of what he was hearing and experiencing. He did not know whether the elders could hear or feel the other drums or if they heard drums in the wilderness where no one was playing. He would watch peoples' reaction at the ceremonies, or watch expressions when he heard drumming in the wilderness, but there was no indication that anyone took notice. Once in awhile an elder would smile off toward the direction of the drumming, but then go quickly back to what he or she was doing. Sometimes he would even allude a drumming to people, without being committal, but all he would receive were strange looks. Some people would tell him that he was hearing things.
    It was not long before Grandfather began to believe that he was really imagining the drumming, rather then it becoming a spiritual experience. So too did he begin to believe that there might be something wrong with him and his thinking. Possibly, he thought at times, that it could be an evil drumming and that it could be luring him into evil. He grew very upset and confused over all that he heard. For a while he tried to shut off the drumming anytime he heard it, but he could not get it out of his head once it started. The drumming encounters went on for the better part of a year, then finally disappeared. There was a period of several moons where he received no sound of distant drums, not even during a ceremony. At this point, he finally felt that his imagination had created all that he heard.
Many months after Grandfather had heard the last of the drum beats, he was exploring a small ridge far away from the main encampment. It was late in the day and the sun was starting to set as he headed back to camp. The sun cast the landscape into deep shadows and enlivened the colors of the desert, adding a sense of mystery to the day. Grandfather paused for awhile to enjoy the sunset and to pray, as was his custom at that time of the day. Even at a very young age, the children of his clan were taught to set aside sunrise and sunset for personal prayer and introspection. This was always a special time for Grandfather, especially enhanced by sunsets that fired the sky. He always poured his heart into his prayers, always devoted his full attention at these times to the Creator.
    As he prayed, he began to hear a distant chanting from the ridge right across from where he was seated. At first he thought that it might be one of the elders in his daily devotions, but when he opened his eyes to look across the small valley to the other ridge, no one could be seen. The chanting, however, continued without stopping. He thought at this time that the singer of the chant could be just beyond the ridge, out of his line of sight, so he set out to find that person. Though in waning light, he was still able to climb down from the ridge easily and make his way across the valley quickly, then just as quickly climb up the other ridge. The closer he got to the origin of the sound the louder it became, but suddenly as he climbed to the top of the ridge the chanting stopped.
    To his horror and amazement, there was no one there. In desperation, fearing that his mind was playing tricks on him again, he searched the dusty ground for footprints. There were none to be found, anywhere. There was no evidence of any tracks in the area other than animals, not even old human tracks. In the now darkening sky, he feared that he might have encountered an evil spirit that lured him to the place, but the area did not feel of bad medicine. Still he hurried quickly back to the main encampment, just in case it was of evil origins. As he ran, he was determined to tell the first elder he saw of the chanting he had heard, but then as he drew closer to camp he decided not to, for fear of being ridiculed as a scared child.
    He began to contemplate the chanting as he neared camp. It was in a language that he could not understand, a language and cadence he had never heard before. He was certain that there had been no ceremony of his people that came close to what he had heard and that became his main reason for not telling the elders. Still he was concerned that the chant may have been of evil origins, and though he could repeat every word, he drove the chanting out of his consciousness. There was no way that he wanted to be called a foolish child, or be told that his imagination, coupled with the fear of the dark, was playing tricks on him. The thoughts of the chanting troubled him all evening to a point where he was afraid to walk into any dark shadows around camp. That night, in fitful sleep, his mind became filled with all manner of bizarre dreams. He dreamed an old man sitting on that same ridge, looking out to a similar sunset as he had seen that evening. The old one did not look evil, nor did he do anything evil, he just appeared to sit and pray. Several times he heard the chanting again, sometimes coming from the old man on the ridge. Twice he was awakened from sleep by the chanting, so that he could not determine whether he was hearing the chanting in his dreams or in reality. All the time, the chanting remained the same. His night was truly tormented, and filled with fear.
    With the light of dawn, Grandfather felt his fear now being replaced with curiosity. Certainly the light of day could drive away the unknown fears born of darkness, but his curiosity was strong yet still cautious. He was determined to go back to the ridge and find out if the chanting was still there. He wanted to desperately know if the chanting was truly from the world of spirit or if it was his imagination, and whether it was good or evil. So after his camp chores were done, he set out alone to go back to the ridge and see if the chanting came again. He did not want to go there with anyone for fear that they would think him stupid for what he was attempting to do. 
    He spent most of the afternoon searching the ridge from which the chanting had occurred. In full light there was no evidence of any other human being on top of the ridge. Only his tracks from the evening before and other animal tracks could be found. He began to wonder if the chanting had occurred at a different location, producing a echo which he assumed to be the place of origin. Fully suspecting that this was the reason behind the chanting, he began to search all around the ridge, but again he could turn up nothing that indicated any human had been there. In fact he did not even find any old tracks belonging to man.
    Finally as the day moved to dusk, he climbed back to the top of the ridge where he had first heard the voice. Sunset again was a spectacular fire and the landscape was rich with deep color and shadow. As soon as he began to pray, he heard the chanting again and he opened his eyes with a start. On the distant ridge, he clearly saw the image of an old man, the same old man he had seen in his dreams of the night before. Just as quickly as the chanting had started, it stopped again, and the image of the old man quickly disappeared.
    Grandfather blinked several times and even changed his position to make sure that his eyes were not playing tricks on him. Sure now that the old man was moving away from the ridge and back to camp, Grandfather quickly jumped down from the ridge, crossed the valley, and climbed the ridge, determined to catch up with the old man. Upon reaching the top, the old man was nowhere to be found on the open landscape. Grandfather desperately searched again for tracks but to his horror there were only his tracks from the afternoon to be found. He wondered if it might be that he had seen a large animal and mistaken it for a man, but upon searching he found no large animal tracks. He was so afraid at this point, even more so than on the night before. He suspected that because he heard a chant that he did not understand that this old man must be evil. He panicked and ran back to camp.
    Just before reaching camp he slowed his pace and composed himself. He did not want to show his peers that he might be frightened coming in out of the dark. As he entered camp, the image of a man appeared before him, sitting on the ground cross-legged. He jumped back from the image with a yelp of fear and suddenly the man spread wings and took to silent flight. It had been an owl that sat before Grandfather, and such was with poor depth perception that night brings, he thought that it had been a distant sitting man and not a close owl. He laughed to himself that his mind had played a stupid trick on him and suspected that was what had happened back at the ridge. After all, he had never thought to check for the tracks of large birds. Satisfied with that explanation he decided right then to go back to the ridge the next day and took for tracks of large birds.
    By noon of the next day, after a full and virtually dreamless nights sleep, he was back on the ridge checking for tracks. He tried finding any evidence of bird tracks all around the area where he had seen the image, but there were none. He even searched out further and further, but again there was nothing of significant size. He then began to believe in his heart that it had all been a trick played on him by his imagination and that it was probably a play of shadow on rock. As far as the chanting was concerned, he did not know. He could not blame it on the wind for there had been no wind. All he could do is speculate that it must be from the world of spirit. Good or evil, he did not know, but no harm as of yet had come to him so he thought it must be a good spirit. 
    Later that evening the chanting returned to the ridge, but this time it was not long before it vanished. Several other times he visited the ridge and each time at exactly the same time of evening he heard the chanting. Then one day it was gone and the ridge was quiet and imageless. Grandfather visited the ridge time after time but the image or chanting did not return, nor did his mind play tricks on him. At this point he had to just resolve himself to the fact that this mystery would never be solved as to whether it was from flesh or spirit. With each subsequent visit to the ridge, his fear diminished until there was no longer fear of the ridge.
    Almost a full moon after the last time Grandfather visited the ridge he returned, this time with a friend. His friend, called Stone, was a few years older than Grandfather, nearly 10. An age were most boys where thinking of manly pursuits and usually didn't play with the younger boys. However, Stone and Grandfather played along the ridges most of the day, forgetting that age was any factor at all. They played stalking games where each would try to stalk the same animal. The one who got the closest or actually touched the animal before it took flight would win the match. By the day's end Grandfather had won nearly all of the matches and this made Stone very angry. Angry that a younger boy could beat him at a stalking game.
    As it grew near to dusk, Stone began to realize that he would not catch up to Grandfathers score and began to get very angry, almost abusive toward Grandfather. But Grandfather was having too much fun to take notice of Stone's change in attitude. Suddenly, as Grandfather and Stone were in the process of stalking a deer, Grandfather heard the chanting again. This time it was stronger and clearer then he had ever heard before. Such was the clarity of the chant that Grandfather abruptly turned his head in the direction of the ridge which caused the deer to bound off. At that point, Stone also turned his head and looked in the same direction as Grandfather was looking, then looked back toward Grandfather in a questioning sort of way, but clearly angry.
    Stone was angry at Grandfather because at the point where Grandfather had turned his head and spooked the deer they were both even in the stalk. He could have won that stalking game because Grandfather was facing a wall of brush and Stone's path was clear to the deer. Without thinking, Grandfather asked Stone if he had heard the chanting too, as he motioned to the distant ridge. Grandfather had assumed that because Stone had also turned his head that he had heard the chant. Stone burst into a rage, calling Grandfather a liar. He told Grandfather that he had just done that because he knew that he was loosing the last stalking game. He demanded to be called the winner and Grandfather complied. But Grandfather asked again if Stone hadn't really heard the chanting.
    All the way to camp, Stone realizing that he was far behind Grandfather in the stalking game, began to mock and taunt Grandfather about hearing imaginary voices. Stone figured that by doing this he would diminish his own defeat while making a mockery of Grandfather. He called Grandfather a frightened little child with a stupid imagination, telling him that he had no right to be walking with a real man. Only children imagine voices and pretend friends, especially when they realize that they may be loosing a game. He also accused Grandfather again of cheating and lying, taunting and mocking him all the way to camp. As they neared camp other boys joined into the mockery, coached on by Stone. Grandfather at this point was almost in tears, but anger had the upper edge.
    Finally back at the outskirts of camp, Stone pushed Grandfather to the ground and began to drive his face into the dirt. Grandfather struggled but could not free himself while the other boys began to yell and scream at Grandfather for being a cheat and a liar. A child that had no right to be around true men such as they. Tears began to fill Grandfathers eyes as he struggled and failed to free himself. Seeing his tears, the boys began to feign crying and called Grandfather a baby, now with even more vigor. Their cry of harassment finally filled the camp and several elders ran to break up the fight. Grandfather at this point was weeping openly and very humiliated. Stone broke free of the elders grasp and pushed Grandfather to the ground again, causing Grandfather's mouth to fill with blood.
    Again the elders broke up the fight and demanded to know who was the cause of it in the first place. Stone immediately blurted out the whole story about Grandfather hearing the imaginary voices and spooking the deer, failing of course to say that Grandfather was far ahead in the game. One of the elders turned to Grandfather and asked him if what had been spoken was true, and Grandfather reluctantly agreed, but tried to explain. The elder cut him short with a wave of his hand and told Grandfather that it was not in the spirit of a true man to lie and cheat. With that they all began to walk away, leaving Grandfather to his humiliation and tears. At one point Stone turned back around and made a rude gesture toward Grandfather and smirked in triumph.
    Upset and angry that the elders would not listen to Grandfather's version of what happened, Grandfather did not know what to do other than to sing the chant. As soon as he began to sing the first line of the chant the group stopped abruptly and the oldest of the elders looked back at Grandfather in absolute amazement. This old one was considered to have powerful medicine and as soon as he turned back so did the entire group. Picking up on the chant, the old one sang along with Grandfather until the song ended. Still held in amazement and with tears in his eyes he asked Grandfather where he had heard the song. Without hesitation, Grandfather told him of the ridge. The old one simply smiled and said, half to the group and half to Grandfather, "This is a very old song I learned as a boy. It is not of our people and has been lost all of these years. The boy speaks the truth. He is not a cheat and a liar." He then just turned and walked away, the rest of the group slowly following.
    Nothing more was said to Grandfather about the chanting, not even by the elders. He did notice a change in the way that the elders treated him from this point on. There was always a warm smile from all of them whenever he passed, a warmer smile then normal. So too, did his peers treat him a little differently. Certainly they still played games, but they somehow kept him apart, as if he was different in some way.
    Grandfather began to feel that they felt that he was peculiar. So too, did he begin to think that many people in the clan were talking about him when he was not around, and this made him feel even more self conscious. Yet, as the weeks passed nothing more was said about the chanting that Grandfather had heard.
    After awhile, especially since he was not again confronted about the chanting, Grandfather started thinking the elder had only said what he said because he instantly knew Grandfather was probably insane. Yet he could not explain how the elder had picked up the chant right away. He also began to sense that other people were watching him, especially the elders. But, when he would catch them staring out the corner of his eye they would quickly look away when he looked at them. Those he did catch watching him would always give him a warm smile and a wave. Sometimes he would even catch sight of someone following him when he went out on his walks. When seen they would act as if they too were just out for a walk or involved in doing something else.
    This was an especially confusing time for Grandfather and he began to spend more and more time wandering alone. He rarely played with the other children after awhile, not so much that they didn't want to play with him, but he didn't want to play with them. He was more than content to just wander by himself, exploring, and spending time within himself. So too, did he find that the elders were talking to him much more than they had in the past. They showed more than a keen interest in what he was doing and where he was going. His Great Grandfather was especially instrumental in encouraging him to get out by himself, many times doing the chores that Grandfather would have done.
    At first, even on his longest and most remote walks, Grandfather no longer heard any drumming or chanting. Not even along the ridge where he had originally heard the chant, though he had been back to the same place many times before. Once when he sat on the ridge and looked over to the Chanting Ridge, as he called it, he spotted the old elder medicine man there. The old one sat near the exact place he had seen the image of the old man chanting and he wondered to himself if it were not the old elder that had truly been responsible for the chant. After all, he was the one who knew it when Grandfather had sung that chant. Yet even during the time that the older elder prayed there, there was no chanting. The only strange thing that happened was that the elder waved back to Grandfather when he left, never looking around to confirm that he was there.
    It was shortly after the older elder was spotted on Chanting Ridge that Grandfather began to hear the drumming again and soon chanting that went along with the cadence. It was miles from Chanting Ridge and on a barren strip of land where Grandfather could see for miles around. Again there was no one to be seen from the direction that the chanting and drumming was coming. So too was it in the middle of the day and there were no shadows or obstructive land formations to affect his view. He listened for a long time and to his astonishment it was a different drum and chant than he ever heard before. Several times the drum changed cadence and even the chant was modified or changed, though he could not clearly make out the words.
    As if driven more by deep spiritual desire then by physical means, he began to wander in the direction of the drumming. The further he went, the louder the drumming and chanting, until it felt like he was surrounded by it. He sensed that he had somehow walked into the center of an invisible circle, such was the way the sound surrounded him. So too did he begin to sense a presence of some kind, followed by some faint and quickly disappearing images of people moving or sitting. Then as suddenly as it all began, everything vanished. Grandfather was left to the vast emptiness of the open plain and with his deep sense of confusion and wonder. He trembled from the intensity of the experience, though vowed that he would not tell anyone what he had witnessed.
    For the many weeks that followed this incident, Grandfather began to experience drumming and chanting almost on a daily basis. So too did he begin to encounter the images of more and more people but they did not seem to want to communicate with him, He still did not know whether he was imagining all of this or whether he was having real spiritual encounters. Still, he would not breath a word to anyone. He was afraid of the elders' reaction to all of this, in fact he was afraid of any reaction at all, whether positive or negative. He knew from what he had heard that spiritual encounters did not come easy to people. Many would have to go out on a Vision Quest to even come in contact with the spirit world, many more would have to be deeply involved in a ceremony. To Grandfather it all came so easily and he feared that it would offend those who had to work hard for spiritual encounters.
    It was during one of Grandfather's trips out alone when he was startled by a man standing alongside the path. The image of the man was so transparent that he had to took hard to keep him in his line of sight. He stood for a long time in fearful amazement, until the spirit approached and stood before him. The spirit looked at him for a long moment, then spoke saying, "Tell the wife of Owl Man Dancing that he is alive, but he is badly hurt and needs help immediately or he will die." With that the spirit went on to explain to Grandfather exactly where Owl Man Dancing could be found and that he should hurry and get help. With that the spirit fell silent then vanished. 
    Grandfather, without question, began running back to camp. He knew that Owl Man's wife had been worried when he had not returned from a lone hunt. He was a week overdue and she feared that he was dead. As he approached camp, he slowed his pace to a painful walk, being torn between telling what the spirit had told him and being considered a fool again. As he walked into camp, he decided not to say a word to anyone. That was until he saw Owl Man's wife crying in front of her lodge, being comforted by several elders. Without hesitation he ran up to Owl Man's wife and blurted out what the spirit had told him. Grandfather no longer cared at this point what anyone would think or say and he was more then ready for their questions.
    To Grandfather's amazement, everyone began running, arousing camp for help and heading, without hesitation, in the direction that Grandfather was told that Owl Man would be. Grandfather was virtually left alone and people went about their rushed business without paying any real attention to him. He wandered off, wondering if those that he had told thought the person he spoke to was a real person and not a spirit. He began to be filled with all manner of self doubt and thought what a fool he was going to be when they did not find Owl Man Dancing. He decided then to disappear from camp for awhile, especially since the searchers would be back before nightfall.
    The remaining hours of the afternoon were filled with anguish for Grandfather as he agonized over what he had done. He imagined that he would be considered insane, and would certainly be left alone from that point of his life on. Certainly, the people would not banish him from his family group, but he would be treated from then on very differently. As he walked in the dwindling light he was again startled to see the same spirit standing before him as had given him the message. The spirit smiled at Grandfather for a long time then finally told him that Owl Man Dancing had been rescued. He said that Owl Man's leg was not broken and would easily heal over the next several months. However, he told Grandfather that Owl Man had been trapped by fallen rocks and that is why his rescue was so important. He then told Grandfather to go back to camp. 
    Grandfather reached camp by full dark, yet the camp seemed unusually active with singing, laughter, and unusual activity. It was as if the entire camp was in celebration, though it was not the time yet for any celebration that he knew of. As he neared the outer edges of camp he saw a huge fire in its center with many people gathered around it talking and laughing. There at the far end of the fire lay Owl Man, with his head resting on his wife's thigh. He had a huge peaceful grin on his face that shown his contentment. Others sat around him, touching him compassionately every so often as they talked. Clearly it was a celebration for the safe return of Owl Man, though Grandfather could see his bandaged leg. To Grandfather it was a grand relief to know that the spirit had been right. Not wanting to face any questions, Grandfather slipped quietly into his Great Grandfather's lodge and fell to sleep for the night.
The next morning Grandfather slipped out of camp early, before most people were awake. He thought that it would be better to let the excitement die down a bit before having to face the questions of the elders and his peers. After walking all morning he finally headed back to camp, passing along the way several of the younger women who were gathering wild edible plants along the trail. They smiled at him and said good morning, but nothing more was said. When he returned to camp, all was as if nothing had happened. No one pressed him for any answers. In fact, no one mentioned the return of Owl Man at all, and definitely no one thanked him or acknowledged his tremendous role in the safe return of Owl Man. Not even Owl Man's wife said anything other then to give him a warm smile. It was as if he had no part in it at all.
    This kind of treatment confused Grandfather and he began to imagine that he may have dreamed to whole thing. This went on for days, but finally Grandfather gave up and put the whole thing out of his mind. After a few weeks passed, he had nearly forgotten the whole incident altogether. Grandfather returned to his normal long walks alone, along with the increasing frequency of spiritual encounters, but there was no communication as had been with the spirit that had warned of Owl Man's peril. Grandfather felt a little used by the spirit world for if what had happened had not in fact been a dream then they certainly were not helping him with his problem up until this point. He had always heard that the spirits were there to guide people, but now he felt abandoned.
    Possibly, Grandfather thought, he might have done something wrong that he did not know about and that is what angered the spirit world into silence. The more he thought about it, the more anguish he felt. Finally he just gave up and no longer paid attention to any spiritual encounter. Any time anything spiritual happened he would go out of his way to avoid it or push it out of his mind. He just no longer cared, the frustration had become too much. He even began to stop going on walks and kept himself busy with camp chores or learning new skills, or practicing the old ones. He used the work as a mandala for clearing his mind, removing his consciousness from his mind to his hands whenever possible. He chose to avoid the whole thing rather than to deal with it anymore.
    He noticed a concern arising from the people, especially elders, concerning his behavior. They began to tell him to stop working around camp so much and to get out and wander like he used to. Some actually came close to begging him to go, telling him that he did not look happy. Grandfather had to admit to himself that he was not happy at all staying so busy. He would rather be out wandering and exploring on his own but he just could not face any more spiritual encounters. Then finally an elder approached him one morning and just told Grandfather that people seeking spiritual things were always faced with many frustrations. But they had to learn to rise above the frustrations, and seek spiritual wisdom at all costs. Without further comment the elder just walked away.
    This statement shocked Grandfather because it had taken him by surprise and had come without prompting. Most of all, it was exactly the answer that Grandfather had been looking for. Without delay he headed back out to the Chanting Ridge area and began to pray earnestly for the first time in many days. He poured himself into his prayers like never before, asking the Creator to forgive him for giving up so easily. He also begged forgiveness of the spirit world, and begged them to help him. He stated that he wanted to know this world more then anything else he had ever wanted in his life, and that he would from that moment on, dedicate his life to that quest.
    As soon as those words were uttered he heard the chanting once again, clearer than he had ever envisioned before. As he opened his eyes from the place of prayer he was amazed to see the original old man that had stood on Chanting Ridge standing before him.
    Next to him sat a drummer, keeping a slow methodical beat while smiling at Grandfather. The old man stopped chanting and lovingly put his hand on Grandfather's small shoulder. His touch was soothing and Grandfather felt his spirit surge with excitement. The old one said, "tell the elders that you are now ready, and give the old one who sang my chant this," as he motioned to the ground by Grandfathers feet. Then suddenly all images were gone, leaving Grandfather alone, staring at the empty ground.
Grandfather was truly amazed and shaken by the encounter. Yet looking at the ground, all he saw was earth and had no idea as to what the old man had pointed to. Grandfather kneeled on the ground and looked close to where the Chanting Man had pointed. There, almost completely buried was a buffalo effigy that was once part of a necklace. He carefully dug out the effigy and tried to preserve the strap, but it had rotted to dust. The effigy looked very old to Grandfather and he knew that he had to see the elders without further delay. He rushed back to camp without fear of any ridicule for he knew in his heart that Chanting Man, as Grandfather now called him, spoke the truth.
    He walked into camp with a purpose in his stride, so much so that some of the people stopped what they were doing and watched him pass by. He walked directly to the elders meeting lodge and paused at the door. He heard his Great Grandfather's voice call to him to come in. Somehow it did not shock Grandfather that they knew he was coming. Grandfather stepped inside the lodge and was confronted by many of the elders sitting in a vast circle around a small fire. Shafts of sunlight poured through the smokehole and made the room look mysterious, filled with a shadowy mix of smoke. The elders all looked at Grandfather, seemingly excited over what he was about to say.
    Grandfather approached the elder who had sung the chant along with Grandfather many months earlier. He stood for a long moment, trembling, then finally said, "Chanting Man told me to tell you that I am now ready, and he gave me this to give to you," as he reached out and handed the elder the buffalo effigy. He sensed the deep hush in the room as the elder closely examined the effigy. The entire group, including Great Grandfather Coyote Thunder, seemed to wait in breathless anticipation for what the old man would say. No one was more filled with anxiety than was Grandfather at this point. He actually felt his knees shaking, such was the intensity of his anticipation.
    Finally the elder spoke saying, "Once again the boy speaks the truth. It was as we all had suspected. This effigy was that of my Great Grandfather, Chanting Man, and he also knew the words of his sacred spirit chant. It seems that we were all correct. The spirits have chosen this young one and now we must begin teaching him immediately. He has passed the test of dedication, and now he seems ready". With those words the elder turned to Grandfather and said, "We left you alone for a long time after we realized that you possessed the gift. We wanted you to have room to grow spiritually on your own, and everyone knew to give you that aloneness. Now it is time for more aloneness and a long hard path, which you have already resolved yourself to taking." With those words Grandfather left the lodge knowing that he was somehow different than most others, listening always to the drumming which no one else can hear.
    What I learned from Grandfather was that I had to also follow the distant drums, regardless of what society thought about the validity of spiritual things. I knew that I would not be accorded the luxury that Grandfather had, living among highly spiritual people, so I had to take greater care in covering my tracks spiritually. He taught me that just because others did not listen to or understand the workings of the grander spiritual world, it did not mean that I should turn my back on my path and my vision. After all, it was obvious that this modern world where I lived was far different then his. In this society things would never be accepted that could not be proven by the flesh. I also realized that if we as a people are to ever emerge from the flesh to the rapture of true spiritual enlightenment, then we must nurture the calling of the spirits.

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The Tracks of the Tracker magazine:   Fall 1993  •  Winter-Spring 1994

Tom Brown Jr.    Tracker School    Publications    The Tracker Magazine
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