The Magic Indian Stick



I was nine years old when Grandpa came to live with us.  The timing was right for a boy who had three older sisters  and  a dad who worked long hours to take care of all of us.  Grandpa’s grandfather was a full blooded Indian and a story-teller. I soon learned Grandpa liked to share these stories. We spent about every afternoon walking in the woods. He always had a good story to tell and his walking stick that his grandfather carved. Many of his stories were woven around his walking stick ,as if it were magic.

He often talked of how nature spoke to him and his love for the great outdoors.  He believed that secrets were revealed to those who spent time alone in the forest listening to the trees, the plants, the rocks and the streams.  “Nature brings you close to God,” he always said to me.  It was with him I learned to listen and see wonders of Mother Earth. Grandpa spoke of the Earth being Mother and God, the Father of the earth.

One day when we were walking in the woods he grew very tired.  He sat down by a very old oak tree.  Leaning back he fell asleep.  I knew it was time for his nap so I sat down beside him waiting.  Getting bored, I gently slipped my hand into his pocket and took out his knife.  I took the stick I had picked up along the way and started to trim away the bark, thinking how I would like a walking stick like grandpa’s!  

I do not know how long I had been trimming that stick but I must have fallen asleep.  As if in a dream, I heard children laughing.  It was so soft I could hardly hear.  Looking around, my eyes fixed on the stick I had been trimming.  I could not believe my eyes!  The crude stick had transformed into the most beautiful walking cane with Indian carvings of all designs! The unusual thing about the stick was a bob cat head on the top

Grandpa was still asleep.  I sat very still and quiet hoping to hear the laughter again.  There it was and it wasn’t grandpa snoring!  I gasp! A mist was coming out of the ground and floating upward to the top of the trees.  As it floated up, underneath danced dozens of little elves.  They were singing and seemed to be dancing with such joy!  What were they saying?  I could remember grandpa praying when he wanted to know something or needed help so I just looked up and asked God, “what are they singing?’

Imagine my surprise when I understand their song.

                             Go to the River

                             Go to the River and listen

                             Go to the River and search

                             Go and you will find the truth

                             Mother Earth will reveal the mysteries

                               of the Father through nature!

                             The magic Indian stick will be your sign!

                               All you will need for your journey will

                               be found in the forest and the stream!

                              Your journey will be long.

                                It will be up to you to carry on the

                                faith the Indians  have in God,

                                Take the message of God the Father

                                and Mother Earth

                                Nature will be your teacher.

                                 When you see the mist,

                                 Know we are near…

                                  To help you.

Waiting patiently for grandpa to finish his nap wasn’t easy.  I wanted to tell him what I had seen and heard!  It would be like the stories he told me!  When he did awake I was asleep.  It frightened me when he called “time to go home!”  I jumped up, dropping his knife and the stick.  Looking up, I knew he saw his knife.  He smiled picked up the stick and the knife.  I stood there looking at the stick!  It was just an ordinary stick with half of the bark trimmed off.  I had been dreaming……

“Oh, grandpa I had a wonderful dream.  The elves were laughing and singing and dancing with great joy.  They said their song was for me! They told me where to find the mysteries of Mother Earth and that I was to share these mysteries with everyone so the Indian Faith would not die.  I saw the stick you have in you hands carved into a beautiful Indian walking stick with a Bob Cat on top!  Grandpa, there are no bob cats in this forest!  What could it mean? I will never forget what I saw and what they told me!”

Grandpa believed me!  He was just as excited as I was! As we headed home, he put his arm around me and gave me one of his Indian blessings.  His hand slid into my pocket and he dropped his knife.  I knew one day I would grow up and be just like my grandpa.

Growing from a child to a young man happened in one day.  The day my grandpa died!  The mist returned!  It came up from the ground around grandpa’s grave and floated upward into the clouds!  My dreams went up with the mist. The mist reminded me of my dream but I was not interested

In singing and dancing with the elves that day!

Getting married and having children kept me busy.  I did not feel I had time for dreams.  When my childhood dream would come back to me I would dismiss it as a childhood fantasy.  Oh, I had good memories of my Grandpa and often told the stories he told me to my boys!  I even took them out for walks in the woods nearby.

Many years later it was harder to dismiss the mist as it rose up from my dad’s grave and floated up into the clouds.  I looked around but no one seemed to notice.  I walked away from the grave in peace, thinking of the reunion that had taken place in the great beyond!  The mist was there for me.  It was a sign given to me from Mother Earth, many years ago. It gave me an inner peace.

My children all grown and my mother in her eighties set the stage for me to return and examine my childhood.  I wanted to go back to the farm.  A decision to purchase grandpa’s farm and raise cattle was a part of that process.  Many hours were spent on the farm in my small cabin.  Often when walking in the woods I would put my hand in my pocket and grandpa’s knife would bring back memories of my dad and grandpa.  I would even allow myself to think about the dream!

I saw the mist again when my mother died.  As the mist rose I listened to see if I could hear the elves with them singing and dancing.  I knew they were there.  I could no longer ignore their message. The Indian in me stirred my soul to action. I knew I must follow my childhood dream!

I unpacked Grandpa’s Walking stick and it became my companion, when walking in the woods.

I spoke to the God of Mother Earth and promised to listen if he would speak.  In search of this voice I daily walked through the woods to the stream, sitting quietly waiting.  My love for nature returned.  The woods and the stream comforted me and gave me closeness to God.  It renewed my spirit to listen to the birds singing, the wind blowing through the trees, the geese, the wild turkeys, the humming birds feeding on the wild flowers.  I would laugh when a rabbit or squirrel would jump up right at my feet and run away as if to tease me.  The deer became my friends. I was alive again!

One day when I was walking through the woods my thoughts turned to my grandchildren and how I liked to share the stories and my love for nature with them just as my grandfather had shared with me.   I realized I had walked several miles and decided to sit down and rest before returning home.  I leaned back on a large tree and looked up and realized it was an old oak! 

If only I could be a child again!  I leaned back on the old oak tree and dozed off into a light sleep.  Drifting away half awake, half asleep, I head a soft laughter.  Peeping through my eyelids I saw the mist rising. Yes.. Underneath, the elves were dancing and singing the same song! They danced with leaves in their hands, jumping from rock to rock. They were directing me to the stream to find the secret of the walking stick.  The rocks and leaves seemed to be part of the drama they presented.

This time they told me a story about my father, how he had loved to work with wood and make things with his hands. They said my father had passed this gift on to me and I should use it and pass it on to my grandchildren.

Getting up, I stretched and smiled and started home thinking it was all a dream. Looking down I saw a stick shaped just like Grandpa’s stick. I picked it up and put it under my arm. Walking with Grandpa’s stick. I remembered those words from my grandfather “follow your dream – you must believe!” I must believe …..turning around, I headed towards the stream.  It was a long walk and I had to keep repeating “You must believe” to keep out the practical thoughts of “how foolish”!  Pushing myself through the underbrush to see the stream, imagine my surprise when my eyes were drawn to a large rock.  In the rock was embedded an imprint of a leaf.  It was a perfect fossil!  I almost lost my footing I moved so quickly.  Turning the rock over took all of my strength and in my excitement I could feel my heart pounding!  What would I find?   There it was …..a bobcat skull! Was this to strengthen my faith….was it to help me believe?

I had to sit down on the big rock and get my thoughts together.  I picked up my walking stick and looked at it thinking about the one I saw so long ago.  It was a good stick.  Here was a bob cat skull. How could I not believe!

It was almost dark when I got back to the cabin.  It was chilly and I was famished.  Making a fire in the stove and putting on the stew left over from the day before, I sat down to eat.  I needed some light but something in me did not want to break the mood so I decided to light my mother’s old kerosene lamp and turn it down very low.  After supper I picked up the stick and laughed out loud!  Imagine me carving an Indian Stick as beautiful as the one I saw in my dream!  Again the thought came to me “you must believe” My own voice surprised me as I wispered, “I do believe!”

My laughter was returned.  The mist was rising from my kitchen table and there stood two of the elves ….laughing and singing.  My hand went into my pocket and I took grandpa’s knife and started carving.  While the elves danced and sang I carved!  My hands fashioned a beautiful Indian stick and I placed the bobcat skull on top. The mist took the elves away. They were still laughing and dancing. I watched them until they were out of sight. Wondering if I would ever see them again.

 I remembered the story the elves told about my father leaving me a gift.

 The mystery unfolded.  It was there all the time inside of me!  The gift from my father, my faith and determined spirit from my mother, grandfather’s knife and his beliefs he had passed on to me.   

I had been charged to carry the story of the faith of the Indians who believe that Mother Earth teaches us through nature to follow God, the maker of all creation.  The faith of the Indians must never die.  I will share this story with my grandchildren and they will share with their grandchildren. 

You can carry the story.  All you will need for your journey will be found in the forest; the rocks and the rivers and streams.  Just remember to dream and believe.  Dream big!  Let nature be your teacher.

November 1996 – This story was written for Heather Redd who owns an Indian Walking Stick made just for her by Uncle Pee Wee

(Interpreter/Louise Pierce Lloyd)

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