Eyes of Eagle squinted scornfully as his uncle shook him. It was still the middle of the night as Stands Tall in Battle shook the young teen from his slumbers...for it was time to leave on that long trail to the hidden clearing where Eyes of Eagle would withstand another one of the tests to become a Mingo warrior. He was instructed to strip completely nude, just before they left the wigawa, for he was to make the journey and spend the entire day and then the coming night in a secluded clearing, some twenty miles from his Indian town of Wapakatutuwia.
The rite to being a Mingo warrior required many things, along with the present rite of passage dealing with courage, were some such as hunting by ones self and returning with the meat and hide of a bear, then a deer, then an elk and finally a moose. Another is to travel to the mountains alone to seek the countenance and wisdom of the great mysterious before returning. Once completing all the required tests and rites, he would be named an adult warrior and then, and only then...could he accompany the other warriors on their buffalo hunts, for those hunts were as dangerous as going to war with the shamenese. (white settlers) Eyes of Eagle was now wide awake as his uncle held his arm and dragged him along over rocks and sticks, barefoot and stumbling, as the thorns and rocks cut into his feet and ankles. More than once he stumbled and held his breath as he was dragged into green briar and bushes...thorns dragging and tearing at his bare skin and genitals...but he simply turned to expose his bare buttocks as they passed. Blood now ran freely down both legs as he limped along on bloody, cut feet. He would not utter a word...nothing. He would never offer complaint to his uncle, nor make a sound of discomfort in his travels, for a Mingo warrior never acknowledges pain. Not from a cut or burn...nor from the torture of an enemy unto death! A warrior never showed pain and would die, rather than beg for his life.
Flies were now gathering on Eyes of Eagle's bloody legs as they crossed an open field of long grass in the morning sun. Stands Tall in Battle noticed his nephew’s bloody legs and the torturous flies gathering on him with every step. He changed course and began to move toward the edge of the open field, heading for a muddy run of water, where he followed along it's rapid little course, until finding a slow deep quagmire of mud and slower running water. Here he had Eyes of Eagle lay down in the muddy bog long enough for him to drag him forward, and then rolling him over on his belly, again dragged him through the mire and muck until he was covered from head to toe with thick mud. Now, Stands Tall in Battle told him he would no longer be bothered by the flies or other stinging, biting insects. Onward they trudged.
Several hours later, Eyes of Eagle was directed to stand still, as his uncle moved to the edge of the concealed clearing, deep in the middle of the woods and dredged a long trough, two feet wide and six feet long, which was dug to a depth of some two feet. It was a short distance from a little run of water working it’s was along the clearing toward a larger brook several hundred yards from their location. Next, his uncle dug a connecting ditch between the run and the trough he had dug and filled it with leaves, as the water ran into the trough.
Stands Tall in Battle now instructed his nephew to sit down in the trough and lean back, for this is where he must remain throughout the rest of the day and into the coming night...until the following day, when his uncle would return to get him. As his uncle tied a blindfold on him, he explained that Eyes of Eagle's test was to remain in that trough, nude, unarmed and blindfolded for the rest of this day and the coming night without moving. He would have no tomahawk, no food or water and would not be able see anything around him. All he could do was pray to mother earth and father sky and the great mysterious for support and their protection from wolves, coyotes and bears...or enemy tribes of warriors or hunting parties passing by.
As soon as Stands Tall in Battle finished telling him what was expected of him and that he could remove the blindfold only after knowing the next day’s sun had risen, he vanished into the surrounding forest and was gone....
The hours past as Eye’s of Eagle simply enjoyed the cool refreshing water and leaves in the trough. It felt extremely good and soothing to his torn and bloody feet and legs. Soon night began to cloak his form and surroundings into darkness. It was during the new moon in time, which made it extremely dark, with no light to help see his surroundings, even if he were not blindfolded. Soon he was straining his ears to figure out what was making the many noises all around him. He could hear crickets clearer than ever. An owl’s screeching from miles away, sounded as though it might be roosted on his very head. The longer the time dragged on, the louder everything became and for the first time in a long time, he began to become scared. This alone embarrassed him terribly and he felt like he had failed his test during this rite to warrior status. His mind was now beginning to play tricks on him. He imagined he could hear the heavy breathing of a large animal...and his imagination told him it could be another bear... probably a large bear...maybe bigger than the one he had to kill only a few weeks ago as he hunted. He remembered how he was quietly sitting at the base of a tree watching the bear from a distance as it ate acorns. He remembered how the bear had abruptly...and without warning, attacked and how he had expertly killed it...within one leap of mauling him and how he would now be dead if he had not skillfully released his arrow into the bears open mouth, where it severed the spinal cord at the base of the huge bears skull with it's razor sharp arrowhead. How could he hope to defend himself now if another bear decided to attack as that one had? Could he remain seated in that trough and face a death of mauling by a large, hungry bear. All he had to do was rip off the blindfold and run to a nearby tree and if it was a bear, perhaps it would leave and he would be spared. Should he do that, or simply sit there as instructed? It was the test of bravery...to see if he was strong enough to become a warrior...but who would see if he did remove the blindfold and run to a tree anyway? He was alone. No one was there with him. No one would ever know.
He thought about that long and hard, as every new noise around him triggered the adrenaline to rush into his body.....His heart was pounding as he continued to hear noises closer and closer. He heard scrapes and brushing on the bark of the large tree he remembered seeing, some ten feet away from him, just before his uncle tied on his blindfold. Something was scratching or brushing the tree in the darkness, within a few feet of him. What was he to do? He was breathing hard and could feel his heart pounding in his throat... as if it would split his chest open or maybe explode.
Now he breathed deeply and held his breath. He was now talking to himself within, silently... and calming himself down by steady, deep breathing. He began to think about his uncle and the rest of the tribe within their village. If he was to act like a coward and run to that tree to climb and hide there, he would maybe be spared, but the humiliation would be terrible. He also thought of the sadness that would be within the tribe if he sat there and bravely died, not giving into fright and cowardice. He thought of his father and mother and how they would grieve over their loss of a son, killed by some wild animal. Then he thought of the shame and embarrassment they would endure if he ran away from his test like a scared little boy. He decided to stay put and die like a brave warrior or greet the morning sun to end this test of manhood.
The hours past and finally he heard the early morning chirp and singing of the birds as they greeted the coming dawn. For the last several hours he heard nothing around him...nothing rustling the leaves or scraping the bark of the tree. What ever was there had managed to leave without making a sound, or maybe it left during Eyes of Eagle’s time of greatest torture, the torture within his mind's eye.
A turkey gobbled in the distance and a flock of crows answered immediately, making a racket on the distant ridge. Eyes of Eagle thought he could now see daylight through the blindfold, but he was determined to wait until he was sure. By feeling the warmth of the morning sun on his naked skin, he would know daylight had truely arrived without risking the removal of his blindfold too early. He was definitely instructed not to remove that blindfold until he was engulfed in the morning sun’s rays and he was not going to take any chances after enduring the previous night. All of a sudden...there was a lot of noise in or near the tree again. Limbs were snapping and leaves were thrashing. Something large was about him and he knew he again might be in danger, but still he sat silently without moving a muscle. There was no noise after that several moments of thrashing...and now it remained deathly silent.
Eyes of Eagle was slowing dying inside.... knowing he could not move, yet wanting to rip the blindfold from his face to see what was threatening so closely....perhaps he would even have to fight it, if need be. After all, he was a Mingo and soon to be a Mingo warrior and he would never fear man nor beast anyway, so why not remove the blindfold and perhaps fight to the death with this thing so near?
A moment passed before Eyes of Eagle answered his own question. Why not tear off the blindfold? Because...he was instructed to not remove it under any circumstances and if he could not listen to directions from his uncle, could he...or would he, ever listen to orders given by his chief during a battle, no matter what he thought or felt? He would follow those orders and never question the wisdom of his chief. THAT...is what a Mingo warrior does.
With that though still in mind, he felt the soothing warmth of the morning sun sweeping over his body. Eyes of Eagle slowly stood up in the trough where he had spent the previous day and night, but before removing the blindfold, he thanked the great mysterious aloud for blessing him and keeping him safe, during his time of blindness and helplessness in fulfilling his instructions for this rite of passage. He then removed the blindfold and as his eyes adjusted to the light again, he looked to the tree where all the noise had occurred during the night and again several minutes before. There, sitting on a big limb with a huge smile, sat his uncle, watching as Eyes of Eagle stepped from the earthen trough, brushing mud from his hair and arms.
Stands Tall in Battle was there all night long... watching over his nephew all along and although Eyes of Eagle knew nothing of his presence, he positively conducted himself as a warrior...making his uncle proud of him.
It was then that Eyes of Eagle told his uncle that even though you are blind and defenseless, you’re never alone as long as you maintain your courage within your heart and trust the great mysterious to protect you.
Stands Tall in Battle smiled and said, “Come, nephew...lets go home... for this day, you are almost a warrior.”
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