Dickie Moss was the oldest son of the Northern Arapaho Storyteller, Paul Moss, and brother to Alonzo Moss, one of our tribe’s Arapaho linguists. Dickie learned storytelling from his Dad and shared the following story with Professor Andrew Cowell.
You will notice that he begins each section by saying “Wohei” which translates into English as “and then”.
The Owl Man
Told by Dickie Moss, June 8, 2003
This is the story they told about the owl.
The people were living nomadically. Whenever they all camped together, one [man] would camp off by himself. A little farther on down the stream, that’s where he camped. He stayed alone. The others camped together in a cluster. Wohei this one man camped out alone, away from everyone else.
Wohei when it was dark, an owl could come around and bother people. And the dogs as well, it would bother the dogs. They barked, and chased after it. They didn’t know that [the man who camped alone] was the owl.
Wohei once again they moved camp farther along. They set up camp again somewhere. They were roaming about and camping, various places, hunting, picking berries and so forth. But the one man would camp apart. He camped apart from the others. And when it was dark, well the dogs would pursue [the owl]. It called out in a strange, unnatural way.
Wohei they don’t know that it’s the man who camps alone. Everyone moved camp farther along, but he would move camp along with them. Yet again they moved camp farther along. They had lots of jerked meat and berries, and they were being laid out to dry and otherwise [prepared]. They were getting them ready for wintertime, so that they could eat during the winter when they couldn’t hunt very much or when there wouldn’t be any berries on the bushes and so forth. They camped, and then again they moved camped farther along. They made camp again, and this one man camped apart.
But this time, the night was bright. The moon was shining like it was daytime. And again the dogs chased after [the owl]. “Wohei, let’s see what I can do,” said one man. “The dogs just chase after it. I’m going to try and figure out what’s really going on.”
Then he went outside; he got his gun and went outside. And in a particular tree, he saw an owl. It was sitting in plain view in the moonlight. “Ha! So there it is! So there it is!” Just at that moment, it flew from its perch. It swooped down towards him. The dogs once again chased after it. “So that’s the owl which is always coming to bother us!” It flew back up high to its perch again.
“Wohei now I’m going to shoot it!” He’s going to shoot it. He aimed at it, and pulled the trigger. The owl fell down. “Wohei later when it’s morning, I’ll go look for it.”
Morning came, and he got up. “Just now I shot down that owl. Maybe he’s the one who bothers the dogs. I’m going to go check him out.”
He arrived over there. A man was laying there. It was him, the one who camped apart. He was the owl. Maybe he had changed his form somewhere, well, become a man. Wohei when it got dark, then he would be an owl. He was the one who was the owl. He was the one who bothered them. When [the man from camp] killed him, then it was [the man who camped apart] who was laying there. The one who was laying there was the one who camped apart.
And that’s how this [story] goes. That’s how they told it. It wasn’t that owls are taboo. They’re all… [this owl] went too far out there in the dark. This owl, he went too far, as if he was playing with [people] or something. He’s the one who’s out there when it’s dark and bitterly cold. I assure you, that’s how they told it. It was him, the one who camped apart; he was that owl. When he got shot down, maybe he changed form again, and a man was lying there. That’s how they told it, how I told it to you.
Hohou! Thank you for your time!
– Jackie Dorothy