Doing a trick with eyeballs
- Cheyenne/Northern -


Veeho is like some tourists who come into an Indian village not knowing how to behave or what to do, trying to impress everybody. One day Veeho met a medicine man with great powers. This man thought to amuse Veeho - and himself with a little trick. "Eyeballs," he shouted, "I command you to fly out of my head and hang on that tree over there." At once his eyeballs shot out of his head and in a flash were hanging from a tree branch. Veeho watched open-mouthed. "Ho! Eyeballs!" cried the medicine man, "now come back where you belong!" And quick as lightning, the eyeballs were back where they ought to be. "Uncle," said Veeho, "please give me a little of your power so that I too can do this wonderful trick." To himself Veeho was thinking, "Then I can set up as a medicine man; then people will look up to me, especially good-looking girls; then people will give me many gifts!"

"Why not?" said the medicine man. "Why not give you a little power to please you? But, listen, Veeho, don't do this trick more than four times a day, or your eyeballs won't come back." Veeho could hardly wait to get away and try out this stunning trick. As soon as he was alone, he ordered: "Eyeballs, hop on that ledge over there. Jump to it!" And the eyeballs did. Veeho couldn't see a thing. "Quickly, eyeballs, back into your sockets!" The eyeballs obeyed." Boy, oh boy," Veeho said to himself, "what a big man I am. Powerful, really powerful." Soon he saw another tree. "Eyeballs, up into that tree, quick!" For a second time the eyeballs did as they were told. "Back into the skull!" Veeho shouted, snapping his fingers. And once more the eyeballs jumped back. Veeho was enjoying himself, getting used to this marvelous trick. He couldn't stop. Twice more he performed it. "Well, that's it for today," he said. Later he came to a big village and wanted to impress the people with his powers. "Would you believe it, cousins," he told them, "I can make my eyeballs jump out of my head, fly over to that tree, hang themselves from a branch, and come back when I tell them." The people, of course, didn't believe him; they laughed. Veeho grew angry. "It's true, it's true!" he cried. "You stupid people, I can do it."

"Show us," said the people. "How often have I done this trick?" Veeho tried to remember. "Four times? No, no. The first time was only for practice; it doesn't count. I can still show these dummies something." And he commanded: "Eyeballs, hang yourselves on a branch of that tree!" The eyeballs did, and a great cry of wonder and astonishment went up. "There, you louts, didn't I tell you?" said Veeho, strutting around, puffing himself up. After a while he said: "All right, eyeballs, comeback!" But the eyeballs stayed up in the tree. "Come back, come back, you no-good eyeballs;" Veeho cried again and again, but the eyeballs stayed put. Finally a big fat crow lighted on that tree and gobbled them up. "Mm, good," said the crow, "very tasty." The people laughed at Veeho, shook their heads, and went away. Veeho was blind now. He didn't know what to do. He groped through the forest. He stumbled. He ran into trees. He sat down by a stone and cried.

He heard a squeaking sound. It was a mouse calling other mice. "Mouse, little mouse," cried Veeho, "I am blind. Please lend me one of your eyes so that I can see again." "My eyes are tiny," said the mouse, "much too tiny. What good would one of them do you? It wouldn't fit. "But Veeho begged so pitifully that the mouse finally gave him an eye, saying: "I guess I can get along with the other one." So Veeho had one eye, but it was very small indeed. What he saw was just a tiny speck of light. Still, it was better than nothing. Veeho staggered on and met a buffalo. "Buffalo brother," he begged, "I have to get along with just this one tiny mouse eye. How can a big man like me make do with that? Have pity on me, brother, and lend me one of your big, beautiful eyes." "What good would one of my eyes do you?" asked the buffalo. "It's much too big for your eyehole." But Veeho begged and wept and wheedled until the buffalo said: "Well, all right, I'll let you have one. I can't stand listening to you carrying on like that. I guess I can get by with one eye." And so Veeho had his second eye. The buffalo bull's eye was much too big. It stuck out of its socket like a shinny ball boys like to play with. It made everything look twice as big as his own eyes had. And since the mouse eye saw everything ten times smaller, Veeho got a bad headache. But what could he do? It was better than being blind. "It's a bad mess, though," said Veeho. Veeho went back to his wife and lodge. His wife looked at him. "I believe your eyes are a little mismatched," she told him. And he described all that had happened to him. "You know," she said, "I think you should stop fooling around, trying to impress people with your tricks." "I guess so, " said Veeho.

Told by Rachel Strange Owl in Birney, Montana, 1971.

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