There was a Whiteman that hired an Indian guide to take him through the Rocky Mountains. This Whiteman was from New York City and he had taken the train as far as the Rocky Mountain Front, but that was as far as the tracks went, in those days. He had a stereotypical idea of Indians, he did not bring food for the journey beyond that point, the Indian guide he would hire would also hunt for him, that was the Whiteman’s thinking

Most of the Indian guides the Whiteman approached did not like the fact that the Whiteman was not prepared for the journey, and he was having a hard time finding anyone to guide his trip. But he approached one of our special people, one of the Indians we always look out for, because hanging out with one of these ‘special’ ones, we know that anything can happen. But the Whiteman did not know he had hired one of these ‘special’ people. Sort of like the Whiteman saying, ‘All Chinamen look alike’, he could not tell the difference between a sane Indian and this savant idiot

So the Whiteman hired his Indian guide, Happy, and they set out together to cross the mountains without any food.

And without weapons or blankets

The Whiteman did not mind, he had read nearly all of the dime novels about the western tribes and he was confident that his Indian guide, Happy, could bring him through anything. Meanwhile, what he did not realize, was what it meant to Happy to be an Indian. Happy was used to privation. He had more often than not slept out of doors with only his light jacket to keep warm, and was no stranger to going for a week at a time without a proper meal. This was the early reservation days

The second day into the trek, the Whiteman was already becoming faint from hunger, Happy had not yet fashioned a bow and arrow, and the Whiteman began to worry. But Happy jovially reassured him about every concern expressed, Happy would make the bow and arrow, Happy would hunt, they would eat, they would have nice tanned hides for blankets so it would not be as cold that night, but in the meanwhile, they just kept walking, the Whiteman had to keep up, because Happy never stopped walking, and the Whiteman did not know where he was

Towards the end of the third day, the Whiteman was both desperate and beginning to get an inkling that Happy did not discern between wishful thinking and reality. He desperately wished Happy would make the bow and hunt, reality was setting in however, and reality was, Happy did not know how. Happy only knew how to go hungry and keep walking and be Happy

On the morning of the fourth day, the Whiteman began to cry when the perfectly happy Happy got up and started walking. He had no choice but to get up and follow. But now Happy was a little bit hungry himself. So Happy watched as he walked that day

Towards dusk, Happy suddenly grabbed up a stone and threw it into a tree, knocking a large Blue Grouse from its perch. Pouncing very quickly, Happy had the big wild chicken by its neck. He was beaming. Happy then stated, “I have a chicken for my dinner”

The Whiteman had other plans for the chicken

First he tried reason, he suggested Happy should share, but no, Happy could reason too, this was Happy’s chicken, the forest was full of chickens and the Whiteman could get his own. The Whiteman knew he was too weak to take the chicken from Happy, so he resorted to guile. He knew from the dime novels that these people were big on dreams. He made a proposal to Happy. Tonight they would dream for the chicken. The most powerful dream would win. By now, the Whiteman had finally, truly realized that Happy was a simpleton. He would have no trouble making up the winning dream. And Happy accepted the challenge

They went to sleep

In the morning, the Whiteman sat up and announced his dream. He had gone back to New York City. Arriving at the Gentlemen’s Club for dinner, there was a raffle for a Blue Grouse from the Rocky Mountains and he had won. The Mayor himself drew the winning ticket from the hat. The large wild chicken was served with salad and croutons. He magnanimously saved 1/2 the chicken to bring back to his Indian friend Happy. Looking at Happy, who suddenly, for the first time, was not looking happy, but was briefly showing genuine remorse, the Whiteman asked “What did you dream?”

Happy said “When I saw you leave in your dream, I followed, to see what you would do. When you arrived at the Gentleman’s Club, I tried to go in for dinner too, but they stopped me at the door. “No Indians allowed.” So I returned here, to eat the chicken, but I forgot to save you some.”

The Whiteman carved his initials on a rock near that dream place: “J.S. Died Here July 14 1884.”

Happy had kept walking



Life in Indian Country

Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories