Editors note: “Mouse Colored Horse” by Ronald YellowBird has been divided into two parts; this is part 1 of 2. Part 2 will be published in the March 31 issue of the Drum.
“I am the oldest son of the late John S. Williams (Mouache Capote) and Wanda Accuttroop American Horse (Uncompahgre). My beginnings start at Little Chicago in Ft Duchesne, UT. I lived there with all my Ute grandmothers & aunties, all the grandfathers & uncles, and through their teachings have I realized how much we have lost.”
Part 1 of 2
Waking up in the valley of the Three Kings, where the trail follows through the red book cliffs, that overlooks the Utes winter grounds in eastern Utah, we must push to the south and keeping the sound of rushing water to our right. In the canyons opens a canopy of cottonwood trees, there we find relatives as we stop for food, water and rest. Crossing the muddy river at the low point, in the month of the popping pine nuts, we hear the sounds of the living air, the water always traveling and the horses blowing their noses from inhaling rabbitbrush.
I can remember growing up with the Creator’s most beautiful animal and its appearance into Ute lives. It was announced by magpie. Actually, it was the raven, One Who Boasts and his relatives the magpies. Sometimes, if you’re quiet you could hear their conversation as they gather in trees, enveloped by the scent of pinon pine and a taste of black jack gum. Can you see them hopping about with a kind of skip, as they share a moment on the shaded ground. Rasping their words and the response from One Who Boasts, they clearly sounded concerned of the trespassers from the south. They were warning all those who lived in the area, to watch for men who are newcomers. With them was a strange creature who is as big as the bull elk and of a different smell. He let man sit on his back and he rode him over the ground. It is a sight to see.
One Who Boasts and the relatives have been watching over them, when they entered the lands of the Deer Dance People. They also landed next to them and warned them of their trespass. They did not listen and still they looked towards the land of the Utes. It is the stare from their greed and it followed them here. Whatever their purpose was of little concern to One Who Boasts and his relatives however, the four-legged animal was the most curious to see. One Who Boasts could tell you stories of their camping skills and every time, the magpies would bust out in laughter.
Early in the morning, before they flew off to ridicule the new travelers, One Who Boasts, said, “Hear the sound of hooves and clinging of metals upon men who face uncertainty. Far ahead of these explorers were the hunters and sometimes the hunters would leave behind the best pieces for us. We eat good and eat until full, better not tell the Spirit of the Mountain, of our findings. He would claim all to himself and leave us tidbits. Come on relatives, I’m going back for seconds and will spend a night in the cottonwood trees by the stoned house. We will not be the only ones there, a family of blackbirds are roosting there also. They are singing the evening song, the day is done and they ask the spirits of night to protect us in our sleep. In the morning they are the first ones up and the oldest with the youngest, sing to the sun. They share their morning prayers and song of a new day. Bless us all who live here in the land of the Utes. Watch over all of the living and provide them with the elements to continue their quest.
Abruptly, the service is over and all listen for hooves upon the living ground. There, the clinking of metal on man is new. “Can you see the sun in their metal, hear their heavy breathing, hear their language and the look of their eyes, as they continued beneath the cottonwood trees,” resounded One Who Boasts.
Looking north to the Shiny Mountains and home of the Nuchu (Utes). One Who Boast is still sitting there with his relatives as the men and horses travel in a line beneath. “We must tell the nuchu of the trespassers and of the Creator’s most beautiful creature, that allows man to sit on their backs. The creature does not complain and obeys simple movements from the man. Going up and down the trails, stopping and turning for the man. If we tell the nuchu of this new animal, we must have a name for them. The next time we are close, listen to them, I have heard them call them “caballero”. “It is hard for me to say, maybe we should shorten it to ca-va,” said one of the magpies. “Okay, that is what we are going to say when we meet our relatives the Nuchu.
The raven known as One Who Boasts and his relatives didn’t have to fly far. There is a place where the mountains turn into bottom lands and there on top of the mesa one sees the Nuchu. This is where other Utes spend the winter and always someone is there watching.
The Ute man called Red Moon (acca-comat-owit) who lives there with his family and they are busy gathering foods for the winter. In the sandstone the wind has carved out places where Red Moon’s family cache dried foods. In one of the canyons a spring called Big Water that flows endlessly. A river bubbles from the ground and along the banks the elements of life continue. The Nuchu have said that the Creator put them there, generations upon generations ago. Throughout their lives they had their belief of co-existing with all of the life and rhythm to the earth mother. With all the time of the seasons, they endured in living a peaceful existence and they knew their pristine lands would out live them. They will return to the earth and be reborn in another time. The Nuchu know the paths as they move about in their place among the mountains and their belief of coexistence with all life. They had time on their side and lived well into a hundred years. The Nuchu are clean people who live by the hot springs and are watched over by the Creator. This was told to us and in the summer months they were to visited all the relatives who lived over there. Since, we lived as equals to all, and those who knew us of walking everywhere. The easiest and most worn paths into the Ute homeland was the continued passage of long forgotten values, they were like a feeling of unknown presence watching over our unsure surroundings. Caution is a feeling that all the Nuchu are taught and they live well with it into the future.