The Legend of Falling Rock

(abridged version)

Many, many years ago, before the coming of the White Man to the great plains of what was to become the United States of America, lived many great Native American tribes. They lived in peace with the land and with one another. During a Great Council meeting of the tribes, there were seen many signs and portents of trouble to come. It was decided that all the people be made stronger and fearless leaders and soldiers were to be trained. Many summers passed. The People became stronger. The braves fiercer. It was decided by the Great Council that one should emerge to lead them all in battle if that was needed. A Great Competition was announced. All the best warriors were to meet at the Bluffs on the first day of Spring. There they would challenge each other in contests of skill: wrestling, archery, canoe building, story telling, running and many others. Throughout the long competition, which lasted for two full moons, two braves distinguished themselves: Flying Eagle and Falling Rock. They were the best of all the tribes. They were so evenly matched that the Great Council could not decide who should lead. It was decided to send the two on a quest. The Tonka. The great symbol of the Great Spirit. In the past, many had gone out to seek it. None had ever returned. The braves were instructed to prepare themselves. They purified themselves in sweat lodges and made sacrifices to the Great One. In a vision, Flying Eagle saw the Tonka "in the east". Surely, the Great One would place his symbol in the place where the day began; where the Earth began. He decided to travel east to find the Tonka. Falling Rock, too, had a vision. The Tonka, he saw, must be on the top of the highest mountain. Where elso would the Great One hide it but

somewhere close to himself? So, Falling Rock decided to travel west to find the Tonka. So, on the first day of Summer, with all the tribes assembled, Flying Eagle and Falling Rock set off on their quest. He who returned with the Tonka would be the leader of all the tribes. By the time of harvest, neither brave had returned. By the time of retreating to winter quarters, neither brave had returned. By the time of the Great Council meeting, in the Spring, neither brave had returned. The chiefs and elders of tribes met. They had to decide what to do. Just as they were going to enter sweat lodges for purification, a figure, a person, appeared on the eastern horizon. A war party was sent out to capture or kill the man, for he may be the coming trouble. But, the chiefs and elders saw an unusual sight. There was rejoicing in the war party as they approached the man. Flying Eagle had returned. Flying Eagle was thin, weary, hardened and dismayed. He had not found the Tonka. He told, however, of a great danger he had seen in the East. Men, white men, where coming. He warned the tribes that the men only seemed friendly. They were actually evil spirits in disguise. The tribes must prepare for them. As Flying Eagle was the only warrior ever to return from a quest, it was decided to make him Great Chief of All the People. So it was. He unified the tribes and made them stronger. But, what of Falling Rock? What had become of him? Was he lost? Maybe after being in the high mountains, he could not find the People on the prairie? Flying Eagle decreed that a signal would be made for Falling Rock to follow. A large fire was to be lit in all the major camps. Fire at night would be a beacon and smoke columns each day would serve the same purpose. So, it was done.

Flying Eagle led the People for more than 60 summers. They became strong. After he died, though, without his leadership, the Great Tribe disbanded. Each became soft and selfish. The Great Council, the ways of the warrior and the Beacon Fires became hollow, meaningless exercises. One day, the White Man appeared. But, the tribes were not able to defend themselves. After many years and many battles, the People were driven off their land. They were exiled to strange lands. But, the tribes would not move until the White Man made one concession. One concession that they were willing to die for. The elders and chiefs insisted that the beacon fires for Falling Rock continue to burn throughout the land. Although the warrior had been missing for over 100 years, his spirit would need the guides to return home. On this point they would not move. The Great White Father compromised. They could keep the beacon fires burning on the reservations, but it would be impossible to keep them burning on the Great Plains. So, he pledged the resources of the government to help the spirit of Falling Rock find his way home. To this day, on every federal, state and local road, in and near mountains, their are signs to aid in the return of the lost warrior. The government was faithful in its promise. On all of these roads are signs: "WATCH FOR FALLING ROCK".

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