was a time in the days of the ancients when the runners of K'iákime
were famed above those of all other cities in the Valley of Shíwina
for their strength, endurance, and swiftness of foot. In running
the tikwa, or kicked-stick race, they overcame, one after another,
the runners of Shíwina or Zuñi, of Mátsaki
or the Salt City, of Pínawa or the Town of the Winds, and
in fact all who dared to challenge them or to accept their challenges.
people of Shíwina and Mátsaki did not give up easily.
They ran again and again, only to be beaten and to lose the vast
piles of goods and precious things which they had staked or bet;
and at last they were wholly disheartened and bereft of everything
which without shame a man might exhibit for betting.
the people of the two towns called a council, and the old men and
runners gathered and discussed what could be done that the runners
of K'iákime might be overcome. They thought of all the wise
men and wise beings they knew of; one after another of them was
mentioned, and at last a few prevailed in contending that for both
wisdom and cunning or craft the Gopher took precedence over all
those who had been mentioned. Forthwith a young man was dispatched
to find an old Gopher who lived on the side of the hill near which
the race-course began.
was out sunning himself, and finishing a cellar, when the young
man approached him, and he called out: "Ha, grandson! Don't
bother me this morning; I am busy digging my cellars."
young man insisted that he came with an important message from his
people. So the old Gopher ceased his work, and listened attentively
while the young man related to him the difficulties they were in.
he: "Go back, my grandson, and tell your people to challenge
the runners of K'iákime to run the race of the kicked stick
with a runner whom they have chosen, a single one, the fourth day
from this day; and tell your people, moreover, that I will run the
race for them, providing only that the runners of K'iákime
will permit me to go my own way, on my own road, which as you know
youth thanked the old Gopher and was about to retire when the fat-sided,
heavy-cheeked old fellow called to him to hold on a little. "Mind
you," said he. "Tell your people also that they shall
bet for me only two things--red paint and sacred yellow pollen.
These shall, as it were, be the payment for my exertions, if I win,
as I prize this sort of possession above all else."
young man returned and reported what the Gopher had said. Thereupon
the people of Shíwina and Mátsaki sent a challenge
to the people of K'iákime for a race, saying: "We bet
all that we have against what you have won from us from time to
time that our runner, the Gopher, who lives beside the beginning
of our race-course, will beat you in the race, which we propose
shall be the fourth day from this day. The only condition we name
is, that the Gopher shall be permitted to run in his own way, on
his own road, which is underground."
glad were the runners of K'iákime to run against anyone proposed
by those whom they had so often beaten. They hesitated not a moment
in replying that they would run against the Gopher or any other
friend of the people of Mátsaki and Shíwina, stipulating
only that the Gopher, if he ran underground, should appear at the
surface occasionally, that they might know where he was. So it was
arranged, and the acceptance of the challenge was reported to the
Gopher, and the stipulation also which was named by the runners
night the old Gopher went to his younger brother, old like himself,
heavy-cheeked, gray-and-brown-coated, and dusty with diggings of
his cellars. "My younger brother," said the old Gopher,
"the fourth day from this day I am to run a race. I shall start
at the beginning of the race-course of the people of K'iákime
over here, which is near my home, as you know. There I shall dig
two holes; one at the beginning of the race-course, the other a
little farther on. Now, here at your home, near the Place of the
Scratching Bushes, do you dig a hole, down below where the race-course
passes your place, off to one side of it, and another hole a little
beyond the first. The means by which I shall be distinguished as
a racer will be a red plume tied to my head. Do you also procure
a red plume and tie it to your head. When you hear the thundering
of the feet of the racers, run out and show yourself for a minute,
and rush into the other hole as fast as you can."
understand what you would have of me, and right gladly will I do
it. It would please me exceedingly to take down the pride of those
haughty runners of K'iákime, or at least to help in doing
it," replied the younger brother.
old Gopher went on to the Sitting Space of the Red Shell, where
dwelt another of his younger brothers precisely like himself and
the one he had already spoken to, near whose home the race-course
also ran. To him he communicated the same information, and gave
the same directions. Then he went on still farther to the place
called K'ópak'yan, where dwelt another of his younger brothers.
To him also he gave the same directions; and to still another younger
brother, who dwelt beneath the base of the two broad pillars of
Thunder Mountain, at the last turning-point of the race-course;
and to another brother, who dwelt at the Place of the Burnt Log;
and lastly to another brother quite as cunning and inventive as
himself, who dwelt just below K'iákime where the racecourse
turned toward its end. When all these arrangements had been made,
the old Gopher went back and settled himself comfortably in his
and early on the fourth day preparations were made for the race.
The runners of K'iákime had been fasting and training in
the sacred houses, and they came forth stripped and begirt for the
racing, carrying their stick. Then came the people of Mátsaki
and Shíwina, who gathered on the plain, and there they waited.
But they waited not long, for soon the old Gopher appeared close
in their midst, popping out of the ground, and on his head was a
little red plume. He placed the stick which had been prepared for
him, on the ground, where he could grab it with his teeth easily,
saying: "Of course, you will excuse me if I do not kick my
stick, since my feet are so short that I could not do so. On the
other hand," he said to the runners, "you do not have
to dig your way as I do. Therefore, we are evenly matched."
runners of K'iákime, contemptuously laughing, asked him why
he did not ask for some privilege instead of talking about things
which meant nothing to them.
last the word was given. With a yell and a spring, off dashed the
racers of K'iákime, gaily kicking their stick before them.
Grabbing his stick in his teeth, into the ground plunged the old
Gopher. Fearful lest their runner should be beaten, the people of
Shíwina and Mátsaki ran to a neighboring hill, watching
breathlessly for him to appear somewhere in the course of the race
above the plain. Away over the plain in a cloud of dust swept the
runners of K'iákime. They were already far off, when suddenly,
some distance before them, out of the ground in the midst of the
race-course, popped the old Gopher, to all appearance, the red plume
dusty, but waving proudly on his forehead. After looking round at
the runners, into the ground he plunged again. The people of Shíwina
and Mátsaki yelled their applause. The runners of K'iákime,
astounded that the Gopher should be ahead of them, redoubled their
efforts. When they came near the Place of the Red Shell, behold!
somewhat muddy round the eyes and nose, out popped the old Gopher
again, to all appearance. Of course it was his brother, the red
plume somewhat heavy with dirt, but still waving on his forehead.
rushed the runners, and they had no sooner neared K'ópak'yan
than again they saw the Gopher in advance of them, now apparently
covered with sweat,--for this cunning brother had provided himself
with a little water which he rubbed over his fur and made it all
muddy, as though he were perspiring and had already begun to grow
tired. He came out of his hole and popped into the other less quickly
than the others had done; and the runners, who were not far behind
him, raised a great shout and pushed ahead. When they thought they
had gained on him, behold! in their pathway, all bedraggled with
mud, apparently the same old Gopher appeared, moving with some difficulty,
and then disappeared under the ground again. And so on, the runners
kept seeing the Gopher at intervals, each time a little worse off
than before, until they came to the last turning-place; and just
as they reached it, almost in their midst appeared the most bedraggled
and worn out of all the Gophers. They, seeing the red plume on his
crest, almost obscured by mud and all flattened out, regarded him
as surely the same old Gopher.
the original old Gopher, who had been quietly sleeping meanwhile,
roused himself, and besoaking himself from the tip of his nose to
the end of his short tail, wallowed about in the dirt until he was
well plastered with mud, half closing his eyes, and crawled out
before the astonished multitude at the end of the goal, a sorry-looking
object indeed, far ahead of the runners, who were rapidly approaching.
A great shout was raised by those who were present, and the runners
of K'iákime for the first time lost all of their winnings,
and had the swiftness, or at least all their confidence, taken out
of them, as doth the wind lose its swiftness when its legs are broken.
it was in the days of the ancients. By the skill and cunning of
the Gopher--who, by digging his many holes and pitfalls, is the
opponent of all runners, great and small--was the race won against
the swiftest runners among the youth of our ancients. Therefore,
to this day the young runners of Zuñi, on going forth to
prepare for a race, take with them the sacred yellow pollen and
red paint; and they make for the gophers, round about the race-course
in the country, beautiful little plumes, and they speak to them
speeches in prayer, saying: "Behold, O ye Gophers of the plains
and the trails, we race! And that we may have thy aid, we give ye
these things, which are unto ye and your kind most precious, that
ye will cause to fall into your holes and crannies and be hidden
away in the dark and the dirt the sticks that are kicked by our
Print and Color Your Own Gopher