source: | 2000 Games, Devotions, Themes, Ideas and more for Youth Work
only for private using

Camp fire stories

Test of courage

Deer Claw and Fast Falcon wandered idly along the bank of the large river. It was a hot and tiring spring day. The rays of sunlight thinned the water in the channels of the nearby plains. That made that the air humid and hindered every movement. Despite this, the two boys from the Mohican tribe did not miss anything that happened while they were on their travels. They saw the trout, which boisterously swam upstream against the flow. They discovered the deer, still wearing her winter coat, while she hid herself behind the thick alder shrubs, which grew wildly and profusely on the edge of the channels. They also watched the eagle as she majestically floated over the peak of the mountain to their right. Her hoarse screech was the only sound except the murmur of the river, which had dug its bed into the stone at the foot of the mountain. The flow jumped over the boulders in a blustery whirl, breaking out of the bottom of the mountain and rumbling into the river bed. „The eagle is looking for prey!" is what Deer Claw understood from the screeching of the bird of prey. „I am pleased that I am not a rabbit", he added. However the large bird also reminded Deer Claw of something else. „Do you know what?!" he said to Fast Falcon, „since we established our club, Eagle Feather has always watched us with interest. I believe that he would like to be part of our club." — „Maybe we should invite him to our secret meeting point", he added. „I wouldn’t have anything against it, if he joined our clan."

Eagle Feather was popular amongst his peers. When playing he was ballsy, but always fair. He could always be counted on to join in and offer his assistance. Just a few days ago, he had rescued a little girl who had fallen into the river and was caught up in the current. Although Eagle Feather was aware of the danger posed by the whirling and swirling, he hadn’t stalled for a second before jumping in after the girl. It was however a struggle, but he managed to hang onto the long lasso which a couple tribesmen threw to him. Thoroughly exhausted but happy about the successful save, they pulled him onto the bank. However Fast Falcon stalled with his reply. Such things had to be carefully considered. There was a good reason why the group had sworn to keep their secret and never to be too quick to take in new members. „I agree that Eagle Feather should become a member of our clan", he finally said. „But it does not seem to be a good idea to invite to our secret meeting straight away. Let’s talk to him first and then decide what we should do."

On that very evening, shortly after nightfall, a number of Indian boys met at their secret meeting point. They were all members of the Stockbridge Indian tribe, which had settled at the large river a few months ago. The boys knew about the famous past of their forefathers from their fathers and grandfathers. These ancestors settled a long, long time ago on the banks of the Hudson River and belonged out to the first red skins who came across the whites, as they came across the river in their “large canoes”. Beside the camp fire the elders would tell them about the heroics of the Mohicans. This is what their tribe was called in the past and the whites had known and feared this name. In memory of these times, the boys had given their club the same name, the Mohicans. No one should become a member of this club who has not performed a special act. It was a moonless night. The light of the camp fire could not break through the thick woods. However the boys found their way through the forest by feel. “Why did the owl scream?" someone asked. Of the stones which the boys had brought into position and made into a ring of seats, not a single stone seat remained empty. „I suggest that we make Eagle Feather a member of our group!" said a voice from the gloom. „I agree!" „Agreed!"

„I wanted to make the suggestion too!" sounded out from the different seats. „How should we induct him into the group?" asked the first voice again. „Who has a good suggestion?" „Let him sleep alone in the woods for a few days!" suggested Fast Falcon. There was certainly a certain amount of courage required to spend a few nights outside of the Indian village. A bear or a wolf might approach the camp in the dark night. This was, however, less probable now that the tribe had set up their tepee in the flood plains. “That is too easy!" protested Silver Wolf. „Give him the task of catching a rattle snake in the swamps", he suggested himself. Everyone knew that an amount of courage was needed to go after and grab a poisonous reptile. A few members of the group agreed with this suggestion, but another suggestion was made: „Make him steal of couple of eggs from an eagle’s nest!" said a voice, which had not been heard until now. „Yes, make him get some eagle’s eggs!" agreed Deer Claw at the same time. The others all quickly agreed: „Yeah! He’ll have to fetch some eggs from an eagle’s nest!" In the same night, Eagle Feather was informed of what the gang had decided. An owl screeched from the edge of the woods at midnight. A dozen boys had waited for this call. Now they knew: Eagle Feather was prepared to accept the task given to him. On the next morning, the sun was so low in the sky that when the first rays on sunlight shone over the peak of the high mountain, the boys were already on the way. On steep but well known trails, they climbed to the top of the alpenstock. In the middle of the boys was Eagle Feather who had to prove his courage before he could become a member of the Mohicans. After a long, tiring climb, they reached a high cliff, high above the spot where the eagle had built her nest. One of the boys rolled out a long rope which he had been carrying over his shoulder. Another boy tied a little basket to Eagle Feather’s back which he should use to place the eggs in when he reached the bird’s nest. A few moments later, Feather Eagle was tied in a loop which had been tied in the end of the rope. He slipped over the cliff edge while the others stood and held the rope. They quickly let it slip through their hands. Eagle Feather saw nothing more of the group. Only one boy stood in a place where he could observe Eagle Feather’s bold gamble. Using a hand signal, he should signal when the boys should stop the rope. Eagle Feather was still sliding deeper and deeper down the red-brown cliff wall on his safety rope. Now he could see the Eagle’s nest. The steep falling wall was cut well into the mountain here. However under the overhanging cliff was a gap which was several meters wide and as high as a man. Inside this cliff indent, protected from rain and stormy winds which came from the mountain, the eagle had built her nest from sticks and strong branches. It was an outstanding nesting place. None of the birds of prey were in the nest. With a thought for the business of their future member, the boys had chosen a time when the eagle had flown from the nest to find her prey. Eagle Feather saw the two speckled eggs which he must fetch clearly on the floor of the nest. He let go of the rope with his right hand and gave the agreed hand signal. In the next moment, he hung there dangling back and forth on his rope, in front of the ledge with the eagle’s nest. If he wants to reach the nest he must swing backwards and forwards and jump onto the cliff edge at the right moment. For a moment, he looked down. At the foot of the mountain, from the pointed bones of the cliff wall he saw the twinkling stripe of the swirling and foaming river. Anyone who falls down here only results in one thing: dead. This thought did not occur to Eagle Feather. His friends were holding the rope. He could trust them. Everything else was his own problem. Even when faced with this position, he did not have any fear. Once again, he judged the distance to the stone ledge, which he had to catch with his feet, once he had let go of the rope. If he estimated incorrectly... He moved the basket into position on his back so that he would not be hindered in his bold jump from the rope. He held on tightly to the rope with both hands. Then he took his foot out of the loop and began to swing. A swing — he was already under the overhang which covered the place where the eagle had built her refuge, like a protruding roof. He swung back outwards, made another swing and came closer to the spot which he had to reach. He swung back and forth a third time, on the fourth go, he let go of the rope and flew onto the hard cliff. The impact threw him to his knees. He held his grip with both hands, holding onto a lump in the stone, he had reached his goal. The empty rope swung behind him in the air. Eagle Feather turned around and saw it swinging. He knew that he would only make it out of this place again with the help of the rope, from which he had jumped so boldly and fearlessly. There was no exit above him and although he was not quickly scared, with a glance below he knew that he could not climb down the massive cliff without risking breaking his neck with every step. The rope still swung backwards and forwards. However without any weight on the end, it did not come as close.

At first, fear shot through Eagle Feather from head to toe: If the rope swung away, it was totally impossible to get from the nest to the rope. Jumping for the rope could only end in a fall into the spine-tingling depths. It would only be possible to save himself with a split second decision. The boys who had sent him into this adventure were standing aloft on the top of the cliff. As the observer told them that he had seen the signal showing that Eagle Feather was low enough, the last boy had quickly tied the rope around a boulder. Nobody could see what Eagle Feather was doing from the vantage point. Even if they stood at the very edge of the cliff, the scene of the crazy venture was hid from view. At this point he realised what a dangerous place they had sent Eagle Feather him to, when setting him the challenge of fetching the eggs from the cliff nest as a test of his courage. There wasn’t a single member of the group who did not have a guilty conscience at that moment. „What should we tell the chiefs if he does not come back to the village in one piece", thought Deer Claw.

„How can I look his mother in the eye if this venture goes wrong?“ is what went through Fast Falcon’s head. Eagle Feather’s and Fast Falcon’s parent’s tepees were directly next to each other in the village.

„We have acted like little children", another thought secretly, „because we didn’t even consider that the eagle might come back to her nest at this time. Eagle Feather doesn’t even have a knife, and certainly no tomahawk, with which he could defend himself against the claws and the beak of the large bird of prey."

„We have really been stupid", said Silver Wolf truthfully, who had made the original suggestion of this test of courage. Eagle Feather must now see what he can do to stop us getting the whole tribe’s blame and punishments."

A screech startled them. It came from a white bird which Eagle Feather had been watching. Something happened which the boys could not see from their vantage point. However they felt a tug on the rope and they noticed that it tightened. Eagle Feather must have caught it and must be hanging with all of his weight from the end of the rope. Eagle Feather had made a decision in a split second. It went through his mind what could happen if he had to wait for his pals to free him from this dangerous place or if the eagle came back from the hunt. In addition to this, there was no possibility to communicate with the others from this spot on the cliff. He had to go back immediately! He would not do his friends any favours if he did not take the last opportunity to jump and be pulled back up the cliff. There was no time to collect the eggs. For this reason he released the basket from his back. All of his muscles were tensed up like a bow and arrow while he watched the rope swinging lightly backwards and forwards. Now or never! With a powerful jump, he threw himself forwards into the air. He grabbed the strong rope with both hands. He slipped down a little. His palms burned like fire, but he bit back the pain. The main thing was he had managed it. For a moment, he hung there motionless on the tensed safety rope, and then he pulled himself up a little and slipped his foot into the loop. He wrapped his left arm around the rope and gave the signal with his right arm. He heard a shout. Then the friends started to pull. The distance between himself and the eagle’s nest slowly became wider meter by meter.

Eagle Feather believed that he would not be accepted in the boy’s clan because he did not succeed in his task. However he had never been so sure that he had done the right thing. They were free to judge him. He had put his life in danger for them as he jumped for the swinging rope at the last chance.

As two or three boys pulled him over the cliff edge, he saw in his friend’s faces that no one had the intention of judging him. Not a single word was spoken about the eggs. They were all so happy that he stood fit and healthy, apart from the rope burned hands, in front of them. There is no real reason to state the obvious but: Eagle Feather became a member of the Mohicans.

From the boy’s brigade “Junge Schar 7/1974” edition by Walter Schinzer

more stories

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
picture youthwork picture youthwork picture youthwork picture youthwork picture youthwork picture youthwork