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The medicine horse

Kiowa was the oldest of her village. She outlived her husband and two sons. Sometimes the children and even the adults of her village would tease her and call her a crazy old woman, for she did things in the old ways.

What was odd to the people was that she still possessed a horse that surely had outlived his time. Kela had been her husband;s horse and very special to him. He'd said the animal had the spirits of all before them in him, but to the people he was a useless nag of a horse that she wasted her time feeding and caring for.

But Kiowa was never bothered by the disrespect from her people. She would gather her own wood, grind the grains she gathered, dig for roots and gather berries. Her husband had taught her how to build traps and, even though they would catch rabbits or squirrels, she had meat.

It seemed like no one cared for this woman of many years. Even the chief thought she was crazy. Instead of learning from her, he chose to ignore her. His son was among the boys who teased her. But never did she lose her temper. She would smile and just go about her business.

Since winter was soon upon them, she spent much of her time gathering food. But what was most important to her was gathering grains and grasses for Kela. To those around her, this made no sense. Sometimes the women would tell her she should kill him and eat him. Kiowa would tell them that they would one day see that he was very special, but they just laughed.

As the days got shorter and the snow fell, Kiowa stayed busy sewing and checking on her traps, but most of all tending to Kela. Their closeness was like magic. As old as he was, he would kneel down for her to get on him, and take her to check on her traps every day no matter how cold or how deep the snow.

He knew where the traps were and would only take Kiowa to the ones with food. He was always strong enough to carry the load, and neither of them ever seemed to get sick.

One morning, as Kiowa was getting ready to check her traps, she noticed a crowd gathered by the chief's tipi. The women were crying and the men wore sullen faces. Kiowa slowly ventured over, not wanting to draw attention to herself.

She listened to the women talking to one another about the chief's son, Mijo. The chief had all the medicine people tending to him, but nothing seemed to be helping. He had a fever, could not drink any water and he cried out in pain. His whole body ached. Kiowa wanted badly to go and talk to the chief about his son, for she knew she could help, but decided she would just wait to see what would happen. After all, no one ever took her seriously. She knew what she had to do and began by talking to the spirit of her husband.

As night fell and the medicine men stopped singing, Kiowa brought out a little package wrapped in hide. In it were some dried herbs and berries, mane from her horse, and many feathers her husband had collected. She knew what to do. She brewed the herbs and berries and prayed to the spirits of her people for the illness that was trying to take the chief's son.

Morning came, and Kiowa wrapped the herbs and a feather in a pouch and tied it with a piece of blue wrapping from the blue grasses she collected in the summer. She was prepared to go talk to the chief and ignored the people's looks as she made her way through the crowd.

Finally, she was allowed to speak with the chief. As she entered the tipi, she could see that the life was leaving his son. She explained if he would put Mijo on her horse, tie this bundle around his neck and let Kela take him to where he knows to go, in three days the boy would return home healthy. The chief laughed at her and scolded her at the same time. He told her that she was a crazy old woman to put his son in such danger. Kiowa stood quietly and listened, and then told him he only had until sunset to decide or she could not help.

He told her to leave. She did so sadly, for she knew she could help. Deciding she could do no more, she fed Kela and told him all that was going on, but she knew from his eyes he knew everything. Then she had her dinner and sang as she did some quillwork. Her singing was quickly interrupted as the chief came running in her lodge, begging her to help his son.

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She smiled as she gathered the pouch she had made and selected a blue feather from her husband's pouch and some hide to tie around it. She also found some blankets to put on Kela and a very special blanket that was her husband's. She told the chief to bring his son to Kela and she would have him ready. So he did.

The poor child was more dead than alive. He was put on the horse and the old woman covered him with her husband's blanket, tied the pouch around his neck and the blue feather in Kela's mane. She had the men tie the boy on the horse so he would not fall off. Then she whispered in the horse's ear. No one could see that his eyes had turned as blue as the skies themselves and she told him to go.

All watched as the horse disappeared into the blowing snow, the boy barely hanging on. The chief looked at the old woman in despair and anger, for he knew he did this out of desperation. Kiowa looked at him and spoke.

''It is time for you to think of good thoughts and rid yourself of anger and fear. In three days all will be well.''

The wait seemed like forever for the chief and the people. They looked for any signs of the horse. Not Kiowa; she did what she always did every day, singing louder than ever. Knowing he would be hungry, she busily gathered food for Kela.

Finally, the third day came. Kiowa could hear laughing and cheering from her lodge. As she came out she could see Kela trotting through the clearing with Mijo yelling, ''Father, father. I'm better!''

The chief held his son, tears streaming from his eyes.

''Old woman, I owe you my life. How did you do this?''

Kiowa, as always, smiled.

''You see my horse that you call worthless, for he is old and not as strong as the braves' horses? He is a medicine horse. My husband was a good medicine man and taught me well. My horse will live as long as I keep my husband's ways.

''My horse is special. You didn't even think he was worth feeding, and wanted to kill him for food; and you see me as a crazy old woman. You need to look with eyes, hear with your ears and feel with your heart, and you will come full circle. All is not what it seems and the circle is knowledge.''

From that day, things changed for Kiowa and Kela. The villagers gathered food for Kela and the men brought fine meat for Kiowa. Everyone talked with her and found that she was so full of knowledge; they learned many things and ways to make their lives easier. The chief took her advice and became a great leader for his people.

Always remember there is so much we don't choose to see or hear, but we should because it could make it the best day of our lives.

Lim lim.