COUSIN BOB AND THE ELK MEDICINE
by Jay Hansford Vest
“I’ll tell you how I got my wife,” he said to me. Mine had just left me and I was feeling kind of low. The story was Bob’s gift he meant to cheer me up. I was wavering, not sure if I wanted to be reminded of a wife and marriage but Bob was upbeat and he wanted to cheer me up.
We was coming back from one of Jack’s concerts in the Midwest. Driving hard through South Dakota, we crossed the Cheyenne and Crow Country going to Billings. It was cold, ten below zero it was. The heater in the old pickup was not getting it done. We were bundled up with blankets across our legs. Everything was frozen, so we decided to stop for coffee at Billings.
We come off the freeway to get gas and pulled around into the restaurant parking lot. There was a car in front of the big windows with an elk tied down to the trunk. It had a huge rack and I said to Jack, “I bet that guy still has his ivory. Lets get them as our fathers did of old.”
Jack says, “They can see us out here.”
“Don’t worry I says, there is a medicine that I heard old White Quiver used to make a fog.” So I chanted, “Hey yo he hay yo” four times and soon a fog came up enveloping us. I took out my knife and Jack found a rock to use as a hammer. I got the jaw open and pried about the tusk with my knife, then we tapped it hard and the ivory popped out. The other tusk was hard against the car. I tried to turn the elk’s neck so as to get at it but it was frozen and I couldn’t twist it. Then I had an idea, I took my knife out again and cut the rope so as to create some slack. Jack and I worked it loose a bit and then we wrenched the torso up a little so as to tip it away from the trunk. It was just enough and I managed to get the other tusk while Jack held it up. We flipped the carcass back into place and pulled the ropes taught without tying them off.
Now I had the gifts and with the money from our trip, I was going to see the old man so as to get that love medicine. Jack was ready to go but I told him to circle around behind the restaurant where we could watch the car. Soon enough four big guys dressed in cammies came out and they didn’t even check their load. They pulled out and I could see the carcass was loose on the trunk. Jack I said follow these guys. Stay back and be careful. Sure enough we heard a thud up ahead and the whole thing lay there on the roadway in front of us. Those fellows didn’t even stop they just kept right on a going. We pulled up and stopped on the shoulder. I got out with some tobacco for an offering while singing the elk medicine song.
Afterwards we tried to pick it up from the road but my gosh that thing was too heavy for us. There was plenty of rope so I told Jack to pull ahead and back up to it. We managed to get the rear end up on the tailgate and I laced the rope about its hindquarters. We had a stanchion up by the cab so that I pulled the rope around it and tied it off to a post along the road. As Jack pulled ahead, the carcass slid right into the bed just as pretty as you please. Taking an old tarp from behind the seat, I covered it and lashed it down. We pulled over a rise and up ahead we could see a car coming on slowly, they were making their way back looking for that elk.
We come home to Browning with the elk in the back and the ivory in my pocket. I called up John and later he used a power saw to quarter the carcass. Afterwards we managed to cut and give it out to the old elders. They made medicine and I went looking for my wife.
As Cousin Bob’s wife looked on, I noticed the two elk tusks on a choker about her throat. She smiled and Bob grinned. With her looking on, he reached into his pocket and brought out two more elk tusks. Taking my hand, he opened it and place them in my palm. Closing my hand over the ivory, he declare, “You best go find old man George and get him to make some of that love medicine for your wife.”