Climbing The Mountain
from Things To See In Springtime
Afar in our dry southwestern country is an Indian village; and in the offing is a high mountain, towering up out of the desert. It is considered a great feat to climb this mountain, so that all the boys of the village were eager to attempt it. One day the Chief said: "Now boys, you you may all go to-day and try to climb the mountain. Start right after breakfast, and go each of you as far as you can. Then when you are tired, come back: but let each one bring me a twig from the place where he turned."
Away they went full of hope, each feeling that he surely could reach the top.
But soon a fat, pudgy boy came slowly back, and in his hand he held out to the Chief a leaf of cactus.
The Chief smiled and said: "My boy, you did not reach the foot of the mountain; you did not even get across the desert."
Later a second boy returned. He carried a twig of sagebrush.
"Well," said the Chief. "You reached the mountain's foot but you did not climb upward."
The next had a cottonwood spray.
"Good," said the Chief; "You got up as far as the springs."
Another came later with some buckthorn. The Chief smiled when he saw it and spoke thus: "You were climbing; you were up to the first slide rock."
Later in the afternoon, one arrived with a cedar spray, and the old man said: "Well done. You went half way up."
An hour afterward, one came with a switch of pine. To him the Chief said: "Good; you went to the third belt; you made three quarters of the climb."
The sun was low when the last returned. He was a tall, splendid boy of noble character. His hand was empty as he approached the Chief, but his countenance was radiant, and he said: "My father, there were no trees where I got to; I saw no twigs, but I saw the Shining Sea."
Now the old man's face glowed too, as he said aloud and almost sang: "I knew it. When I looked on your face, I knew it. You have been to the top. You need no twigs for token. It is written in your eyes, and rings in your voice. My boy, you have felt the uplift, you have seen the glory of the mountain."
Oh Ye Woodcrafters, keep this in mind, then: the badges that we offer for attainment, are not "prizes"; prizes are things of value taken by violence from their rightful owners. These are merely tokens of what you have done, of where you have been. They are mere twigs from the trail to show how far you got in climbing the mountain.
[You can play this music (MIDI file) by clicking here
[You can see the sheet music (PDF file) by clicking here
This old Indian prayer is sung by the Council standing in a great circle about the fire with feet close together, hands and faces uplifted, for it is addressed to the Great Spirit. At the final bars the hands and faces are lowered to the fire.
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