CORN FLOWER ON THE GREAT PLAINS
Second in a Fiction Series Based on the Four Seasons
Corn Flower – On the Great Plains
Based on the novel by James D. Lester, Jr.
Copyright 2018 – James D. Lester, Jr.
Contact: James Clois Smith Jr., Sunstone Press / (505) 988-4418
LOGLINE: Eleven-year-old Corn Flower is a member of the Kansa tribe living along the Cottonwood River in the 1820's where she tends her family’s herd of goats and finds adventure in the activities and challenges of life on the Great Plains.
September 1821. Eleven-year-old Corn Flower steps from her family’s lodge near the Cottonwood River to assist her mother Kicking Swan with the morning chores. Together they delight in the celebration of the previous night when Corn Flower’s father White Plume was named a tribal chief of the Kansa tribe along with Red Branch, the father of Corn Flower’s best friend Night Sparrow. After breakfast is finished, Corn Flower leads her herd of goats to the river for a morning drink of water before leading them to the hillside to graze on the late summer grass. Joined by Night Sparrow and her three goats, the girls sing the “Song of the Kansa,” a traditional tune shared by all of the tribe.
On the hillside and across the village there is much talk of the upcoming hunt for Tatanka, the great, shaggy bison of the Great Plains. After spending the morning imagining about the shapes of clouds, Corn Flower and Night Sparrow share their lunch together at the river bank. As they sit together, a surprise visitor arrives – Lieutenant Willoughby. He has come to share news with the Kansa tribal leaders about the soldier fort at Neosho Falls.
In the late afternoon, Corn Flower and Night Sparrow lead their goats back to the village for milking. When they arrive at the lodge, the girls listen as Corn Flower’s brothers Red Cloud and Two Bears tell of the success of their hunt for game birds. They also relate the funny story of their oldest brother Wanji who was stung by many bees when he collected fruit from the persimmon tree, including one painful sting on his backside. At the evening meal in their lodge, all of the family listens as their father shares the details of the building of the soldier fort. The group also eagerly listens as the elderly tribal storyteller named Walks at Night shares the folk tale of “The Hawk and the Goose,” a lesson about having too much pride.
A new adventure occurs for Corn Flower when she is asked by two older tribal women to help with wild crafting for herbs, roots, and leaves that are used for medicine. Early on the appointed morning, Otter Song and Walks at Night lead Corn Flower along the river trail to the prairie land west of their village to collect snakeroot, wild hyssop, purple cone flower, milkweed, sage, and other plants that can help with illness. With her new skills, Corn Flower assists with drying, preparing, and delivering of the medicines for all who live in the Kansa village.
In the chilly days of fall, Corn Flower and her friend Night Sparrow watch as the entire village prepares for colder weather, including their brothers who cut and carry bundles of grass and hay for the winter storage ricks. Both girls talk about the upcoming harvest celebration and feast with roasted corn, yams, beans, and other foods.
Late in the afternoon, the whole Kansa village is busy with the cooking and preparation for the Green Corn Ceremony. This gathering includes speeches of thankfulness and praise from tribal leaders White Plume and Red Branch as well as the drumming and dancing to celebrate the corn harvest. During the dance of the Green Corn Ceremony, each tribal member, both young and old, hold a corn stalk and dance in a circle around the cooking fire. Corn Flower dances with her wild crafting partners Walks at Night and Otter Song. After the dance is finished, corn stalks are thrown into the fire, and the feast begins.
Days are spent preparing for the Bison hunt. Two long poles joined together at the sides of a horse with sticks or slats of wood would be used to haul the meat, hide, bones, and sinews of the animals back to their camp. While most in the village will go on the hunt, Corn Flower stays behind to tend her herd of goats and those of her friend Night Sparrow.
While staying at the lodge of Otter Song, Corn Flower listens to more folk tales as related by the tribal storyteller Walks at Night. Spoken at tales of tails, Corn Flower listens to the stories of “How the Bear Lost His Tail,” “How the Beaver Got His Flat Tail,” and “How the Turtle Flew South for the Winter,” before falling asleep. She dreams of the fantastic tales of the creatures and of the Bison hunt.
Late in the afternoon of the second day of the Bison hunt, Corn Flower welcomes her brother Wanji and Night Sparrow’s brother Keya who have ridden ahead with news of the return of the hunters. They have taken 6 Bison and must prepare the fire pit for roasting and the smoker for preserving the meat. Corn Flower helps to gather sticks for the fire under the smoker. Soon, one -by-one the hupakin drag sleds entered the village behind horses, and the heavy, red meat wrapped in animal skins was unloaded. At the end of the procession returning from the hunt, Corn Flower hugs her mother and father.
While the hunters are all tired, the night of their return is a time of celebration as every family delights in the fresh taste of Bison roasted on the open flames. From young to old, every detail of the hunt is shared through proud stories. Corn Flower listens as Night Sparrow tells of her exciting time upon the open prairie and with helping the women to prepare the yield of Bison for transport. Corn Flower fell asleep beside her mother while listening to the repeating stories of success.
On the next morning, Corn Flower arises to see both of her parents working together to prepare jerked meat of the Bison for the long winter months to come. They have been up all night working with other members of the Kansa tribe to prepare every part of the Bison for use as meat, leather, or other useful tools. While on the hillside with Night Sparrow, Corn Flower is startled to find a brown horse wearing a leather saddle like the one that soldiers ride in. She leads the horse home and puts it in the corral with her goats.
On the following day, Corn Flower rides the brown horse with its saddle to Mr. Timmons Trading Post with her father. Night Sparrow rides the old gray horse alongside her father Red Branch. Old Gray pulls a hupakin loaded with fresh bison meat to trade for the store goods that are needed among the people of the Kansa. They also ask about the brown horse and saddle. Mr. Timmons tells White Plume to try to find its owner at the spot where the soldiers are building a new fort at Neosho Falls.
On the same day, Corn Flower and her father leave the trading post and ride east to seek the men at the soldier fort to return the horse. They arrive to find that no one is at the fort. All of the soldiers have left to go east for the upcoming cold weather. Downstream from the falls, White Plume leads his horse across the current of the river. Corn Flower’s brown horse steps to the water’s edge but is startled by a rattlesnake, bucks its back legs, and throws Corn Flower into the water. She paddles and is saved by her father. Corn is drenched and loses a moccasin, but she is safe.
Once they are safely on the firm river bank, Corn Flower rides on her father’s horse, sitting close behind him for warmth. The brown horse follows obediently. It will have to spend the winter with the other horses of the Kansa. White Plume jokes that the name of the brown horse should be “Horse Afraid of Snakes.”
On the long trip in the fading sunlight, Corn Flower listens as her father tells the story of how he met her mother. Kicking Swan was a member of the Oto tribe, and White Plume attended a Pow Wow at the Osage village. He lost a contest to see who could shoot an arrow straightest but refused to bow his head in shame when others laughed at him for missing the target. That showed his courage and impressed Kicking Swan who became his mate, and together they started their happy lives together among White Plume’s tribe, the Kansa.
After their late night return, Corn Flower sleeps late. When she wakes up, her mother is shocked that she has lost her moccasins, yet she will fashion a new pair for Corn Flower. After a quick bite to eat for breakfast, Corn Flower walks through the silver shimmer of the first frost wearing her mother’s old moccasins. She replaces her brother Wanji with tending the goats and relates all of the excitement of the dangerous river crossing and story of how her parents met with her dear friend Night Sparrow.
Following the morning of the first frost, the final carrots, potatoes, and yams are dug from the ground. Onions are pulled, and their stalks are roped together and hung up in the lodges for drying. Meat was stored in every lodge, and the smokehouse was filled with bison meat, smoked fish, and water birds. Corn Flower and Night Sparrow are both invited to go wild crafting with Otter Song and Walks at Night to collect the final harvest of herbs, roots, and leaves. While gathering rose hips, their elderly wild crafting guide Otter Song falls to the ground. Corn Flower runs the entire way back to the Kansa village to get help. Corn Flower’s brother Wanji and Night Sparrow’s father Red Branch arrive to help with Otter Song, but she has died.
On the next day, Corn Flower helps Walks at Night as they prepare a medicine bag for Otter Song to carry into the afterlife. Wanji takes charge of the burial with other young me of the tribe to place Otter Song on the burial scaffold next to her husband Bent Nose who died in the summer. The “Song of the Kansa” is shared to bid the kind wild crafter farewell.
Events do not stay sad for Corn Flower as she learns that her brother Wanji has asked to marry Running Dove, the daughter of Tashunka and Brown Loon. Also, there will be a naming ceremony for the baby of Blue Snow and Kicking Jay. Five days later the entire tribe gathers at the lodge of Tashunka and Brown Loon who are the parents of Blue Snow and Running Dove. Brown Loon holds the little one close and whispers her new name to her – “Cikala Gnuska,” or Little Grasshopper. The next event is the marriage of Wanji and Running Dove who will live as husband and wife in the lodge that had belonged to Otter Song. The day finishes with another festive celebration.
The story end with the first snowfall. A full, deep blanket of snow has covered the entire village in white. As a fun prank, Corn Flower awakens her brothers Red Cloud and two Bears by smashing snowballs on top of their heads. They awake instantly and chase her outside. When she returns with water from the river, Corn Flower is attacked with snowballs by her brothers before they drag her through the snow. Corn Flower only laughs and makes a snow angel while lying in the damp whiteness. She realizes how happy her life is and how special her family is to her.