From Chap. 21-22, near Lake Michigan, 1821
The fumes and heat in this house became almost unbearable for me, but lest I insult them, I suffered through. During the smoking, Menominee mildly chastised me while Abraham interpreted. "He say you promised to visit when the grass this high." Menominee was still holding his hand, palm down, about ten inches above the hut's floor.
"Tell him I was quite ill," I said.
Abraham, doing a splendid job, sat in the middle, flashing his dark eyes back and forth between us. This was his trip to the mill. Later in the day, when we sat in a large group outdoors, Menominee instructed him to tell me this: "Some said you preached differently from me, that you told people of another village they might drink whiskey. Others said I was foolish to imagine you would visit me. I went out every day to see how high the grass was. I told my people to keep hope." He looked into all the faces around us. "And now you see, my children, that he has come."
And what if I had not?
Menominee delivered a lecture to his people. He began without ceremony and remained seated, but spoke with much energy. They listened respectfully, then dispersed before dark after a repeat of the hand-shaking ritual.
I sang and prayed with these Indians mornings and evenings and overheard some engaged in family prayers in their huts. They begged me to stay two extra days and I could not resist them. An Indian camp or village can be one of the more pleasurable spots on earth. No sense of hurry exists. A great deal of time is spent when eating, smoking, and talking.
The nights are especially ethereal . . . scattered fires glimmering through the dark foliage; blanketed forms strolling from hut to hut; low murmuring voices accentuated by random peals of laughter; the tinkling of bells on unseen ponies. These soft sounds surrounded me at Menominee's village.
One evening the warriors from both villages united to regale Abraham and me with a demonstration of their slumber song. The men sat on the ground in a row facing us, each leaning farther and farther to one side while repeating this drowsy cadence: "A-e-ah-ah, A-e-ah-ah, O-a, O-a; A-e-ah-ah, A-e-ah-ah, O-a, O-a." The song grew fainter and fainter until each man rested his head on his neighbor's shoulder. At this point they seemed to be actually asleep, while continuing to hum the melody. I could hardly keep my own eyes open, until suddenly, the warrior at the head of the row shouted, "Ty-ah!", and the slumber song was over.
Another evening I observed a mother humming and rocking her baby in a blanket she'd tied between two saplings. Her accompaniment consisted of large pond frogs providing the bass for crickets, katydids, tree frogs, and a thousand other songsters. At her feet lay a sleepy boy with his head pillowed on an even sleepier dog. High above the reach of said dog, strips of venison hung on a wooden rack. The family's wet moccasins were drying atop a row of sticks inserted in the earth around the popping fire.
Heaven or hell; an Indian camp could be either, with white man's liquor being the great determiner.