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The Musical Waters

Published February 18, 2006
Countries: USA, USA (Native American
Age Levels: 12 and up

Do you ever sit and listen to music played by nature?  There is a concert in my back yard every morning.  The cardinals sing soprano... "Tweet Tweet - Tweeew Tweeew Tweeew."  The morning doves sing bass "... coo - coo."  The woodpecker plays a drum rhythm, and the other creatures join in one-by-one.  The wind blows a gust of air to help control the tempo.

     AND in my back yard, I have an extra tune played by the running waters of my fountain and the music of the plants.  Have you ever heard the music played by running water and by the wind blowing through plants.

     The first concert was played years ago in the days before animals lost their ability to speak like humans.  The beloved chief of a Pueblo Indian tribe had died.  The wise old man had been a great leader for many years - so great in fact that his loss hurt the tribe badly in a strange way.  No one wanted to be the chief who followed him for fear of not measuring up to his high level.

     No one wanted to risk being unpopular and making decisions the people might not like - NO ONE EXCEPT FOR WISE OLD FOX. Wise Old Fox was not a member of the tribe, but he was a close neighbor.  He had a den nearby.  When no man or woman stepped forward to lead the tribe, Wise Old Fox came before the tribal council to talk.

     Wise Old Fox asked permission to enter the sweat lodge with the tribal elders.  This was a room that had been dug out of the ground.  Heavy timbers were used o make a roof over the room, and the timbers were covered with soil from Mother Earth.  A hole was left in the center of the roof to allow heat and steam to escape.  The elders sat in silence as Wise Fox talked above the hiss of water being poured on the heated stones in the center of the floor causing steam to fill the air.

     Fox kept his words brief since he was the only one in the sweat lodge wearing a fox fur coat.  "I will be your new chief," stated Wise Old Fox.

     Everyone shook his head in thought, then each elder thought and shook his head some more.  None wanted the responsibilities of being chief.  But to choose Wise Fox????  This was a strange request.  Each elder looked around and saw the nodding heads of the others.  It seemed that all were in agreement when everyone looked at the bobbing heads. So it was that they stood up together and told Wise Fox, "We will take you for our new chief."

     When Fox left for his den to get his belongings, one man said to another, "My brother, it amazes me how all of you could vote for Wise Fox for our leader."

     "Me?" said the man.  "Your head nodded to vote with the others."

     "Vote - the first stated? I was simply moving my head, trying to be polite as I considered his request. Why did you vote for him?"

     "I too was thinking and nodding my head, but I did not mean to vote yes."

     By the time Wise Fox returned to the village, the tribal council had met again. The elders told Wise Fox, "We have changed our minds."  They sent Wise Fox away.  Yet they still could not make up their minds about who among them should be the new chief.

     Without a chief, no decisions were made. No one could decide what to hunt or where to hunt - or if food should be gathered or hunted, or even the small decisions like who should take out the garbage.  In every home, garbage piled up since no chief was available to tell the villagers where to build a dump outside of the village.

     Wise Old Fox was saddened for he knew the Pueblos to be a great people. They needed a great leader. He believed they needed him to be their chief.  I would be kind to them, and they would grow to like me he thought.  Then he sat down by the stream that entered the lake.  The calm trickling of the water moving over the rocks was pleasing to his ears, and it helped him think clearly.

     He looked around as he thought, and he saw fields of sunflowers swaying in the breeze nearby.  As he sat quietly, he heard a whstling sound as the wind blew over the field of sunflowers.  Coming closer to where the sound was coming from, Wise Old Fox saw that the sound came from a stalk where some animal had gnawed a tiny hole. 

     Wise Old Fox got an idea.  He gathered the stalks of the sunflowers and took them to his den.  He sat down and hollowed out the stalks. He stopped up the open ends of he stalks and cut small holes in the sides - turning each plant stalk into a flute. Then he tested each one.  Some were too high and shrill - Others were too low or off key.  All these he threw out. But one flute made the perfect tones. On it he played notes that were so sweet - it sounded like a beautiful voice singing.

     Wise Fox carefully hid this flute in his den and went back before the tribal council.  As he entered the village, he saw the kind hearted Pueblo people bickering and arguing.  This is what people do when they have no leadership.  He entered the sweat lodge once again, this time without an invitation.

     "If you do not take me for your chief before tree days have ended," said Wise Old Fox, "all of the water from the lake will overflow and come up to your village and cover your homes and drown you."  This said, he left.

     After he left, the elders laughed until tears from their eyes mixed with the sweat.  Then they became serious - "What does Wise Fox know about the water in the lake?" they asked each other.  Then they walked to the edge of the lake and looked over the strong banks that held back the waters.  Confident that the lake could not overflow, they laughed even more.

     But, while they laughed, Wise Fox dug a long narrow hole from the woods to the high bank of the lake, right where the Indians went every morning to get their water.  When the hole was finished, he brought the flute from his den to the hole and waited until morning. When the first person came to the lake in the morning for water, Wise Fox began to play a melody on his sunflower-stalk flute.

     The Indian looked around and could not see anyone. "It is the Water God singing," he said, and hurried back to tell everyone in the village.

     The next morning, the eldest woman in the tribe was sent to the lake before any others were allowed to go for water.  Again Wise Fox played, louder and sweeter.  It sounded like the music came up out of the water.

     "I heard the Water God also, the eldest woman told the elders of the village.  He is getting ready to come and drown us all, she thought.  Then she ran throughout the village to tell the people what she had heard.

     The third morning, the entire tribe agreed to walk to the lake together.  "If we hear the Water God singing a third time, we will know that he wants Wise Old Fox to lead us as chief."  But, when they arrived, they heard only the trickle of water moving over the rocks at first, causing a natural musical sound.

     "God of the Lake?" said the eldest man.  "Do you want us to take Wise Old Fox for our chief?"

     Then it came! Wise Fox played on his sunflower flute once again.  Everyone's head nodded up and down.  But, this time, they weren't just thinking, they were nodding to vote yes to make Wise Old Fox the chief. They sent a messenger to find Wise Old Fox and went back to the village to light a fire and hold a tribal council.  Meanwhile, Wise Old Fox left his hole and shook the dirt from his fur.

     He hurried back to his den and greeted the messenger who took him back to the village.  You must become our tribal chief said one of the elders.  They were still afraid the lake waters would rise if they did not.

     "Are you sure you want me to lead you?" asked Wise Fox.

     "Oh, yes!" said everyone in the village.

     So it was that Wise Old Fox became chief of the Pueblo in this time before animals lost their power to talk.  He was good and kind to them.  He helped them make wise decisions, including taking out the garbage and getting along with one another. One of the things he taught them was to make sweet music from the stalks of the sunflowers.  With their music, they learned to charm the beasts and the birds. Their music surprisingly sounded much like the music of the Water God.

     Now Wise Fox is gone - but his music can still be heard.  Sometimes, it is played by the great grandchildren of the the Pueblo who learned from their ancestors.  Other times the music comes from the water.

     Maybe it's someone playing a flute near the water. Maybe the music comes from one of the many flutes Wise Fox threw out many years ago.  Or, who knows?  The music may come from the Water God as he plays to accompany the birds.