Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Old Two Nose
One of my habits with old magazines is to make sure that they have the table of contents listed in the periodical index at FictionMags. This volunteer index to contents is unique—the only index, and privately maintained by 'chums' with an interest in fiction from 'pulp' magazines, etc. and is highly recommended. I use it a lot for my research on Verrill, so I feel an obligation to add to the list whenever I buy new old magazines that are not yet catalogued.
'Old Two-Nose' comes from American Boy magazine, an issue that is 111 years old! The spelling of Dakota as it appears in the story is not a typo./drf
American Boy magazine , August 1903. Digitized by Doug Frizzle January 2014.
OLD TWO-NOSE, THE LAST MEDICINE MAN.
My friend, the Rev. M. S—, wrote to me recently from his station as a missionary with the sub-tribes of the Dakotah Indians located on the Rosebud Reservation. The final paragraph of his letter read as follows:
“Old Two-Nose is dead. His body was found last week out in the open country, where he had been caught in a terrific hailstorm and killed. The old fellow was naked to the waist and his body was badly mutilated by the hailstones, which were as large as hens’ eggs and came like bullets. The removal of this old heathen seems almost providential. As you know he did all in his power to prevent our christianizing and civilizing the young people of his race, and his influence over them was great.”
Great, indeed! and it was not to be wondered at, fakir and fraud though he was, for his was an unconscious fraudulence, and to the bottom of his savage old heart he believed himself a great necromancer and prophet in alliance with the unlimited powers of the spirit world.
I rummaged in my desk to find his photograph, taken in an unguarded moment, but in some way it had been lost. Closing my eyes, however, I could see his powerful figure, and rough-hewn, stolid face, with the baleful, gleaming black eyes that were the only signs of life about him when he squatted, blanket-wrapped, beside the flap of his tepee.
He was the last medicine man of the Blanket Indians at the Rosebud, and with his death and the dawning of the twentieth century will come a change, leaving few traces of the incantations and charms by means of which he wrought upon the superstitious minds of his untaught tribesmen.
Two-Nose must have been eighty years of age, perhaps even older. How he became a medicine man and twice defied death is an interesting story.
As a young man, a half century or more ago, he was noted as a diver and a swimmer. One summer day, with a score of young warriors, he was swimming about a little pond, perhaps forty yards in diameter, when he stood on the bank and announced that he was going to dive and cross the pond without coming to the surface.
He disappeared with a splash. Five minutes, ten minutes passed, and he did not reappear. His companions, with poles and their feet, felt all over the bottom of the pond for his body. It was not to be found. They came out of the water, greatly frightened. The skal-lal-i-toots the evil spirits of nature that make the night noises, had carried their comrade away.
So they reported to the village, and that night the women of his family went out on the bleak hills and, with shorn hair and blackened faces, began to wail for the dead. The medicine man of the Wolf gens—his mother’s sub-tribe—was summoned, and the funeral rites, made doubly long and difficult by the spiriting away of the body, were begun.
His relatives gashed themselves with sharp knives and fasted, while the wail of the women was prolonged day and night; the medicine man’s incantations failed to reveal where Two-Nose’s spirit was, and so the funeral was prolonged.
It had been in progress three days and two nights when the supposed dead man staggered weakly into the village. His hair was matted and filled with dirt, and he was exhausted. In one hand he had a bit of stick, and in the other a beaver’s pelt.
His story was as wonderful as it was simple. Diving across the pond, he had chanced to enter the underwater passage of a bachelor, or solitary male beaver. When he tried to rise to the surface he came up against its roof.
Then he struggled on again and rose a second time, only to come against the same impediment. When almost drowned he finally emerged into the den where there was air, though fetid and scarcely life-supporting. In the darkness he felt about, seized the beaver and slew it barehanded. In so doing the earth caved in and closed the passage by which he had entered.
The Indian found a bit of stick and began to dig upward. He was twelve feet beneath the surface, but the beaver’s flesh kept him alive, and an Indian’s endurance under some circumstances seems almost unlimited. He dug his way out, broke up the funeral service and became the most famous medicine man of his tribe, with the beaver as his totem and familiar spirit.
It is a singular exposition of the workings of the savage mind that, though he told this adventure simply and truthfully, he fully believed that he had been inveigled into and saved from the beaver’s den by supernatural powers, and so did all his hearers. This showed clearly that he was a favorite of the spirits, and by them had been initiated into the mysteries of magic.
For years he exercised his occult powers. Then, when an old man, his totem, the beaver, came to him in a dream and whispered that he could fly, telling him what medicines to collect to give him the power.
Patiently and laboriously he collected herbs, roots, and parts of animals to make the charm he needed. Then, after anointing his body and burning incense all night, with the medicine in his belt, he went along to the top of an eighty foot bluff and jumped off, flapping his arms like wings as he did so.
The old man’s calm confidence in his powers would have been ridiculous had it not seemed inevitably fatal. Some of the officers on the reservation had advised him to try a little bluff first, but he indignantly said he would not insult his totem by any such lack of confidence.
Of course he came to the ground in a heap. He was picked up, seemingly dead, and again the heathen funeral rites were begun. This time they lasted two days, when the supposed corpse sat up and asked for meat. In a few days he was about as usual.
This fall cost him much prestige, but he gradually regained it. He was off gathering medicine to cause the whites to wither away and the bones of all the dead Indians to come to life, when the storm came upon him and caused his death.
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.