I spent nearly all my summers on the farm with Grandfather and Granny. One summer I remember was horrible. I was sick—If I had dropped dead I might have felt better. I was running a high fever and couldn’t keep anything down. I was hot I tried to climb into the freezer chest just to cool down.
Grandfather came in from the field and sat beside me. As Granny bathed my head Grandfather said, “Would you like to know why there are illnesses?”
“In the old days,” he began. “All creatures could talk. Plants animals and insects all could speak just like you and I. Everyone lived in peace and harmony for a time but then more and more people came and settled over the earth. The poor animals were cramped for room and on top of it all, well all those people had to eat something! So they hunted the animals.
“Well, the animals decided they’d had enough. They had to do something to fight back. The bears were the first to meet. They cried and complained how man hunted bear using bows and arrows. So it was decided that the bears would make bows and arrows and see if they couldn’t beat man at his own game.
“Can you imagine what that looked like? A bear trying to draw back a bow? Well of course their claws got tangled in the bowstring and the arrows wouldn’t fly. Next the deer gathered in their counsel and they cried and wept for all their friends and family that died at the hands of man. So the deer decided that they would send a disease called rheumatism to afflict all hunters that dared kill a deer without first asking the deer’s pardon.
“Next counsel was the one for fish and reptiles. It was determined by this counsel that they would follow the example of the wise deer. If the hunter or fisher asks for pardon all will be well, but if man refuses he will dream of snakes and of eating rotten fish until while awake man loses his appetite, sickens and dies.
“Finally all the birds, the insects and every small animal gathered into counsel to decide whether man was guilty of intolerable cruelty. Seven votes were needed to condemn man. One by one the creatures made their pleas—one by one spoke of how unjust and wicked man was. The frogs spoke of how cruel man was because they were often kicked and trampled under man’s feet.
“The birds spoke of man’s evil because man burned off birds’ feet.” At my questioning gaze Grandfather explained, “How did they cook a bird?”
I replied I couldn’t remember.
“ They put him on a stick over a fire so that the feet and feathers were burned off. On and one through the list of these small animals and insects until at last it was ground squirrels turn to speak. ‘I have no complaint against man,’ the small creature answered. ‘Rarely does man harm us because we are so small and insignificant. I vote we leave man alone’. The other animals became engraged and they attacked the ground squirrel—which is why the ground squirrel now has claw stripes on his back!”
Grandfather paused for a short break to get a drink of water then he returned. “The animals came up with new and terrible diseases, each one more horrible than the last. And it was agreed that all these diseases would be visited on man in revenge for the cruel way man behaved.
“Well, when the plants heard what the animals had done, and saw how man was afflicted with pain and sickness they gathered in their own counsel. Each tree, shrub, and herb including all grasses and even the moss decided that they would offer a cure for one of the diseases the animals devised to plague on man. Each plant named the disease it would treat and each plant made the following promise: ‘I shall help man whenever he calls on me in his time of need. I will cure him of the ill.’ That is why there is medicine. Even weeds have their own purpose, though since man and plant no longer speak the same language it takes time to find the right cure. “
“What will cure me Grandfather?” I asked softly.
“Sleep,” he answered with a smile then left the room.
Donica Covey loves weaving tales of suspense, fantasy, or paranormal on a dinosaur of a computer in a suburb of St. Louis. When she breaks the chains, she loves ATVing, shooting, hiking and reading. She loves spending time with her little “daughter and son-once-removed” (never say Grandchildren!) or hanging with the K&R Crew. To learn more please visit her website www.donicacovey.com