You all know, if you have been reading the Tales of the Old Moose, that Badger is a constant companion of Wiyukcan Hexaka, and goes everywhere he goes, helping where he can. But do you know, dear reader, just how those two became such good friends? Well, I will tell you the story of how Badger and the Old Moose found one another.
It was a bright spring morning when Wiyukcan Hexaka decided to go for a walk. He was not as we know him now, but much younger and full of adventure. He would often walk for days at a time exploring the vast country laid out before him, and he learned a great many things on these adventures. He learned the language of every living animal he came across, for example. This included many of the human tribes, though he stayed far enough away from them so as to not become dinner. It was on that spring day, as he was going up the foothills of a mountain range, that he came upon Badger.
Now, you see, Badger was a shy creature. Every animal knows the language of their own kind, except poor Badger. He could understand when other badgers spoke, but he couldn’t speak it himself. Nobody understood why, but he just could not seem to form the words. Other badgers were too uncomfortable around him and tended to avoid him. This made him quite sad, and he often went alone into the forest to be far away from the others. This is where the Old Moose found him that morning, huddled under a tall pine tree, crying softly to himself.
“What seems to be the trouble my little friend?” Wiyukcan Hexaka asked, leaning in close so he could hear. Badger just shook his head and said nothing. It was then that he realized Badger couldn’t speak. So, he nodded in understanding and asked if Badger would like to come along for a walk. Badger nodded his head vigorously and stepped out from under the tree. Wiyukcan Hexaka once again started down the trail, this time with Bader close beside him.
As they walked, the Old Moose rambled on about the places he had been and the things he had seen. Well, this sounded so marvelous to Badger, who had never been anywhere except to the river for a drink, that when Wiyukcan Hexaka turned for home, naturally, Badger followed.
“So, you wish to come with me?” Wiyukcan Hexaka asked when they had reached the door of his cabin. Badger, once again, nodded his head so fast the Old Moose laughed. “Well then, come inside and meet the rest of the critters that live here.” With that, he opened the door and ushered Badger inside.
Oh, the wonders that Badger saw when he stepped through that door! Near the only window sat a telescope, and though Badger didn’t know what a telescope was at that time, it was made of shiny brass and caught his attention quickly. There were books piled on shelves and on the floor; in every available nook and cranny, books overflowed. Once again, Badger didn’t know what these were, but he sure was fascinated by them! Chipmunks and squirrels ran to-and-fro picking up and putting away things of all sorts. Badger was simply amazed by all the activity going on around him and felt an intense longing to be in the heart of it all.
Suddenly, however, he was afraid that the creatures here would make fun of him because he couldn’t talk. He was scared that the others would not be able to understand him and turn away, or ignore him completely, as the other badgers had done. That fear was soon put to rest when a squirrel pushed a steaming cup of tea in Badger’s paws, chattering away in some unintelligible speech, before going back to what it had been doing. Seeing Badger’s surprise, the Old Moose laughed, “They have their own language, my young friend, and not even I can often understand them. But, I try, and sometimes I get it right.”
With that, he sat down in a large chair next to a table and pointed to a smaller one nearby. “Sit, my young friend, and enjoy your tea. The squirrels make a rather fine one from berries they find in the forest.” Badger tried to sit in the smaller chair, but every time he tried, he spilled some of his tea and almost fell out onto the floor. He decided it would be better to sit on the floor instead.
After a short time, the Old Moose looked up and said, “We are there,” and rose from his chair.
Where? thought Badger. We are in the same woods we were in when I arrived. But, when he took a look outside, he was surprised to find they were not in the woods anymore after all. Somehow, they were in a field. It seemed to be a big one, too, because all he could see was tall grass growing in every direction.
“We are in the great plains.” Wiyukcan Hexaka stated, seeming to know what was going through Badger’s mind. Well, Badger was amazed! He had never seen anything like this before! There were all sorts of strange and wonderful creatures roaming through the grass. There was a creature that walked upright on it’s hind legs and talked to the Old Moose in a strange way that Badger couldn’t understand. Wiyukcan Hexaka explained, after the creature had left, that it was a human from a clan of something called people who lived nearby. This young one was a friend; he was there to tell the Old Moose about other humans out hunting so to be careful as they walked around the plains. Badger even saw big hairy beasts the natives of the area called Tatanka, or Bison as we know them. They crossed the plains in large numbers, often making the very ground shake as they ran past.
When they finally returned to the forest later that day, Badger was sad, thinking he would have to go home once more and he didn’t want to leave this cabin, ever. Seeing Badger’s mood change, the Old Moose asked, “You wish to stay and travel with me?” Hesitatingly, Badger nodded his head. “Then, so you shall, and you can travel the country with me until you are ready to find a home that suits you.” Badger couldn’t believe his good fortune! He practically quivered with excitement.
From that day on, Badger never left the Old Moose’s side. They had many adventures, sometimes fun and other times scary, but always they stayed together. Badger was happy that he had found a home where nobody cared if he could talk. They loved him just as he was.
That is the story of how our friend Badger came to travel with the Old Moose.