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~From Chief's Front Porch~ (#7)

By Ocie Woolsey on Monday, February 14, 2014 at 10:38pm

How many of you can remember the day/night your life changed forever - the time when you realized you were on the Earth with a purpose?

Well, I would like to share with you the day I went from being a boy, with the mind of a child, to a person with a purpose in my life - the day I made my commitment to my Creator, God, or Great Spirit.

I was maybe 13-14 years old and was camping on top of Starr Mountain. My uncle had driven me about 2 miles up the narrow logging road about half way to where I was going. That being where so many of my Cherokee ancestors had gone to do vision quest - Warrior ceremonies. The place was called White Cliff. I had been going there since I was 9 years old with my uncle. White Cliff was and still is one of the places the True Bloods hold ceremony. I was taught the position of Fire-Keeper at the age of 9 years old. I was not the Lighter of the Fire, nor was I allowed to participate in any of the ceremonies. However, I was taught when and what wood to place on the Sacred Fire once it was started. I became the recognized Fire-Tender when I was 12 years old. I became recognized as an adult at 14 and a True Blood at 27 years old. I was the Fire-Tender until I was 16 years old, then I joined the United States Marine Corp. on my 17th birthday.

Anyway, back to my story --

My old dog, a mountain cur called "Smoke," and I - well, we walked the two miles to our destination. Once there, I collected wood to cook my supper and gathered wood that would burn through the night. The firewood was not only for heat, as this was Mid-September, but to keep varmints away from my campsite. There would almost always be a couple of snakes crawl through my campsite. But, in the four or five years I had camped with my uncle, no problems ever occurred from visiting snakes.

I had no tent - only a tarp for ground cover and a quilt made from old worn out blue jeans my Grandmother, my Mother and some other women had made six or seven winters ago and finally was given to me for my camping trips.

I cleaned out a place for my bed on the ground and gathered up pine needles and laid them down on my bed site. Then, I rolled my tarp out over them and placed my old heavy quilt on top of the tarp.

About a hundred yards from my campsite, I had set a couple of snares - hoping to catch something for my supper. I had some cold biscuits and some homemade jelly to eat anyway. However, I was lucky. After I had set my camp up and gotten my fire going, I eased off down to check my snares. I hit the jackpot - a fat squirrel was there waiting to be my supper. I killed it and cleaned it there where I had caught it and left the remains for the varmints of the night to have for supper.

I had learned years before not to bring game back to my camp site to clean (coyotes, wolves, skunks had visited me during the nights I had not cleaned my catch away from my camping site). Anyway, I fried my squirrel, ate my biscuit and drank my spring water.

The reason I was on this camping trip by myself was because, in a couple of weeks there would be a True Blood ceremony gathering at the spot I was camping. And, as the Fire-Tender, I had to do ceremony to get myself ready for the upcoming occasion. It was a high honor to hold this position and I had to prepare myself for the job I was entrusted to do.

The day was almost over as I cleaned up my cooking mess and put my campsite in order. I placed my biscuits and jelly in a flour sack and tied a rope around it and then tied it up on a limb of a tree - This being done so night varmints would not visit my camp in search of my food.

I had an hour or so before I would start my ceremony. So, I stretched out under a huge Oak tree and faced the valley below me down the side of the mountain. It was like looking out of an airplane window - looking out at mountains on the other side of the huge valley below me.

My mind pondered on just what this old Oak and those before Him had witnessed at this very spot I was camping at. According to the oral history, I had been taught that my ancestors had climbed up the mountainside to do vision quest hundreds of years ago. Old Warriors had come to die here and many of our Ancestors had traveled to the top of Starr Mountain for "Private Manhood" and other ceremonies - I myself would someday do weddings, death send-offs and healing ceremonies at this place once I had become an adult and a True Blood. Yes, this Oak tree and its Ancestors had witnessed many Overhill Cherokee events at this sacred place.

As I was laying there propped up against the Oak tree, looking out over the big valley below, I saw an Eagle flying in a circle high over the valley. As I watched him, he came out of his circle and started flying directly toward me. His huge wings - looked to be at least four feet long - extending from his body. He continued to soar directly toward me, sometimes flapping his huge wings slowly. He kept coming directly toward me - closer, closer - as he glided almost directly to me, I saw his eyes wide open and glaring at me.

He was looking at me "Eye-to-Eye". As I stared at this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, I felt a connection with this huge Eagle's mind. As our eyes stayed steady, him looking directly at me and me staring directly into his eyes, I felt his mind speaking to my mind.

"I Fly High - I can see far below me - what's moving on the Ground". The reason I can do this is because I have been rewarded by the Creator with His Grace and Power - because I trust the Power of the Will of the Creator.

The Eagle at the last second, before flying directly into my camp, flapped his wings and swooped straight up - while circling back toward the valley below, watching for movement and his supper in the Valley below.

As I lay there propped up against the Oak tree, a slight breeze began to chill the air and as I looked up, some brown Autumn leaves began to fall, four or five from different locations above my head. I watch the last leaf, as it slowly made its way down from its home on the tree, float gently down toward Mother Earth. The slight wind gently floated it in one direction and then another direction, sometimes lifting it back up toward the sky - then gently letting it tumble down to its final resting place with Mother Earth. It was almost dark now. Soon the sky would be lit up with the Stars that give us Light at Night.

The Evening Sun was almost submerged behind the mountains - It was almost night. The chill in the air made the campfire heat, only three feet in distance from me, feel so good. As I sat there looking into the fire, my mind started speaking to me. I remembered the thoughts that had come to my mind as I watched the Eagle and I remembered the thoughts I had when I watched the leaf fall to the ground of Mother Earth.

I felt the chill of the night wind as it touched my face. I felt the sting of the wind as it touched the water of the tears I had that had been falling from my eyes as I had let my mind touch my Spirit - there, sitting before a campfire - high on a Sacred Mountain - me and an old cur dog, the Ancestors' Spirits and the Spirit of the Great Spirit - The Creator of All Being.

I heard myself speaking as I looked across my campfire on to the valley below me and the tall mountain ranges in the distance. I felt my spirit from inside my chest speak and I heard my voice speak, "Great Spirit - I felt what the Eagle spoke to me - I understand what the leaf falling spoke to me - I understand someday I will be able to see what others cannot. My Life's Journey will be as the falling Leaf. I will one day fly high, but my path will be as the leaf. I will be tossed in one direction, then another. Sometimes I will reach greater heights in life, but I will fall again. My Life's Journey will be as the falling leaf - This way, that way, my life's path will take me in many directions. And, in the end, my remains will go back to Mother Earth. However, my Spirit will always fly as the Eagle and I will always soar over the clouds."

It was dark now - the Moon showing the Light of the Creator. The Stars showing the campfires of our Ancestors who have traveled the Path before us.

I heard my Spirit speak to the Great Spirit the words that would forever change my Life's Path and give me the direction of my Life.

"Creator - Great Spirit - God - From this day on I will follow and accept your Promise of Everlasting Life. I give to you my Soul - my Spirit, my Body and my Life. This is all I have that I can give to you to do with as you Will."

I share this part of my life with you - Members of the Overhill Nation. It's a true story that happened to me as I have written it.

Sometimes on your Life's Journey, it's good to reflect back to the time you come of age. It helps me to keep my head up and correct some things I may not be doing as I should.

I am Honored to be your Chief. Wa'do. Man Many Trees.

"From Chief's Front Porch" (#7)

Written by: Chief Man Many Trees (c) 2014

Prepared by: Hummingbird Warrior (#7)