In the days of old, there lived with his old grandmother a frightfully ugly wild boy. His face and his body were blue. His nose was twisted, and scars of all colours ran down each cheek. And on his head grew a bunch of things like red peppers. Oh! he was fearfully ugly!
Well, one season it had rained so much that the Piñon Trees were laden with nuts, and the Datilas full of fruit, while the Grey-Grass and Red-Top were so heavy with seeds that they bent as if in a breeze.
The people of the town went up on the mesa where the nut trees and Datilas, and grass grew, but they could not gather a thing, for a huge old Bear lived there. He killed some of the people, and chased the rest away.
One day the ugly wild boy said to his grandmother, "I am going out to gather Datilas and Piñon nuts on the mesa."
"Child! Child!" cried his grandmother. "Do not go! Do not by any means go! You know that there is a fierce Bear on the mesa, who will either kill or hurt you dreadfully!"
"I am not afraid," said the boy. "Wait, and see what I shall bring back!"
So he started out, and followed the trail, and climbed the crooked path up the mesa. When he reached the wide plain on top, he began to pick the sweet Datila fruit, and eat it, and to crack a few Piñon nuts between his teeth.
Then suddenly out rushed the huge Bear from the nearest thicket, snarling, "Wha-a-a-a!"
"Don't kill me!" shouted the boy. "Friend, friend, don't bite me! It will hurt! If you'll let me alone, I'll make a bargain with you."
"I'd like to know why I should not bite you," growled the Bear. "I'll tear you to pieces! What have you come to my country for, stealing my fruit and nuts and grass seed?"
"I came to get something to eat," said the boy; "you have plenty."
"Indeed I have not," said the Bear; "I will let you pick nothing. I will tear you to pieces."
"Don't! Don't, and I'll make a bargain with you," said the boy.
"How dare you talk of bargains with me!" yelled the Bear, cracking a small Pine Tree with his paws and teeth, so great was his rage.
"These things are not yours," said the boy, "and I'll prove it."
"How?" asked the Bear.
"They are mine; they are not yours!" cried the boy.
"They are mine, I tell you! They are not yours!" shouted the Bear.
"They are mine!" retorted the boy.
And so they might have quarrelled until sunset, or torn one another to pieces, if the boy had not said:—
"Look here, I'll make a bargain with you."
"What's that?" asked the Bear.
"The one who owns the things on this mesa must prove it by not being frightened at anything the other does," said the boy.
"Ha! Ha!" said the Bear in his big coarse voice. "That's a good plan! I am perfectly willing to try that!"
"Very well," said the boy; "one of us must hide, and then come jumping out on the other one when he does not expect it, and frighten him."
"All right, who shall hide first?"
"Just as you say," replied the boy.
"Then I'll hide first," said the Bear; "for this place belongs to me."
So he turned and ran into the thicket, while the boy went about picking Datilas and eating them, and throwing the skins away.
By and by the Bear came rushing out of the thicket, snapping bushes, and throwing them around so that it was like a sandstorm raging through the forest.
"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha-a-a-a!" he roared as he came rushing up back of the boy. But the boy never stirred so much as a leaf, and kept on chewing the Datilas.
Then the Bear ran into the thicket, and came out again snarling horribly, "Ha! Ha! Ha! Hu! Hu! Hu-u-u!" and grabbed the boy. But the boy's heart never so much as beat harder.
"By my senses," cried the Bear, "but you are a man! I must give it up! Now, I suppose you will try to frighten me. And unless you can scare me well, I tell you, you must keep away from my Datila and Piñon patch."
Then the boy turned and ran back to his grandmother's house, singing as he went:—
"The Bear of the Piñon patch, frightened shall be!
The Bear of the Piñon patch, frightened shall be!"
"Oh, shall he!" cried his grandmother; "I declare, I am surprised to see you come back alive and well!"
"Hurry up, Grandmother," said the boy, "and paint me as frightfully as you can."
"All right, Grandson," said she, "I'll help you!" So she blackened the right side of his face with soot, and painted the left side with ashes, until he looked like a monster. Then she gave him a stone axe that had magic power, and said, "Take this, Grandson, and see what you can do with it."
The boy ran back to the mesa. The Bear was wandering around eating Datilas. The boy suddenly sprang at him yelling, "He! He! He! He! He! He! To-o-o-h!" and he whacked the side of a hollow Piñon Tree with the axe.
Well, the tree shivered with a thundering noise, and the bear jumped as if he had been struck with flying splinters. Then, seeing the boy, he shook himself, and exclaimed, "What a fool I am to be scared by a little wretch like you!" Just then he saw the boy's face, and he was terribly frightened.
Again the boy struck a tree with the magic axe, yelling louder than before. The Earth shook, and the noise was so thunderous that the Bear sneezed from fright. The boy came still nearer, and struck another tree a tremendous blow, and the Earth thundered and trembled more violently than before, and the Bear almost lost his senses from fear. When for the fourth time the boy struck a tree close to the Bear, the old fellow was thrown to the ground by the heavings of the Earth, and the bellowing sounds that came from it.
Then the Bear picked himself up, and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. He heard the boy coming after him, and went without stopping until he reached the Zuñi Mountains.
"There," said the boy, "I'll chase the old rogue no farther. He's been living all this time on the mesa, where more nuts and fruit and grass seed grow than a thousand Bears could eat; and yet he has never let any one from the town gather a bit!" Then the boy, carrying his magic axe, returned to his grandmother, and told her all that had happened.
"Go," said she, "to the top of the high rock over there, that looks down on the town, and tell the people who wish to gather Datilas and Piñon nuts, that they need not be afraid any more."
So the boy went out, and climbing to the top of the rock, shouted:—
"Ye of the Home of the Eagles! Any of ye who wish to gather Datilas or Piñon nuts, or grass seed to make bread, go ye to the mesa and gather as much as ye will, for I have driven the Bear away!"
Well, some of the people believed what the boy said, and hurried away to the mesa to eat and enjoy themselves. But others would not believe it because he was an ugly wild boy; so they did not go to the mesa, and the rest of the people picked all the nuts and fruit and grass seed.