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By Bruce Crabtree

Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair was a boy who lived in the rolling hills of the Dakota Territory among a people who called themselves the "Lakota".

Although brave as any youth, Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair was small for his age. The other boys were faster, or stronger, or could shoot their arrows farther. His father, Striking Eagle, had always dreamed his son would be a great warrior. But, the day came when Striking Eagle knew his son would probably never become a warrior at all.

Although Striking Eagle never showed his disappointment, Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair sensed his father's shame. While the other boys played at games of strength, Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair wandered alone on the grassy hills.

One day, he saw a wondrous sight. There, on the next hill, stood the most beautiful white stallion he had ever seen. The stallion stopped to look at Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair with considerable interest, then turned and galloped away.

The following day, the boy went to see Lone Tree, the tribal Holy Man. He told Lone Tree of the white stallion he had seen. "So, the day of your meeting has finally come," said the elder. "What do you mean?" asked the boy. The old man's eyes stared into the past. "Every warrior has his totem animal. When you were born, the horses paid you special homage, as though you were spirit of their spirit."

Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair stared at the coals of the old man's sacred fire. "Is that how I got my name?" "Indeed. Ten seasons ago, your mother, Cool Spring Water Woman, went out to gather firewood. Before she could return, you decided to be born.

After you were born, Cool-Spring-Water-Woman looked up to find that a small herd of wild horses had gathered. One of them, a female pony, gently nibbled at your hair, which is a sign of great affection among horses. It was then that your mother had a vision. In the vision, the pony spoke, saying these words, "I, too am carrying a young one. He is destined to be the greatest stallion of our herd. The Great Holy Mystery, Wakan Tanka, has given us this gift -- my young one and yours are of the same soul. My colt shall be great, and your colt will be small. But his spirit will be that of a great warrior."

"But I will never become a great warrior," lamented the boy. "I am too small!" The holy man wore a sad smile. "The courage of a great warrior has little to do with size, my son. Look to Wichan Locasta , the white stallion who shares your soul, to teach you the lesson of courage. And when you have learned your lesson, your father will nod his approval and you will no longer feel his shame."

The days passed, and Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair became too excited to remember his experience with the white stallion. It was time for the great buffalo hunt! The older boys eagerly awaited their first hunt. It would mark the day the elders considered them warriors. The younger boys rode to the top of a hill overlooking the great herd of woolly beasts to watch the hunt Runs-Too-Fast, the largest and strongest of the boys, spoke, "I am ready to be a warrior now! I shall not wait to join the hunt next year with you . . . children." And with that, he leaped on his pony and darted off toward the buffalo herd.

The boys watched in admiration as Runs-Too-Fast rode his pony into the herd. An old bull charged the youth before he could even notch an arrow into his bow, goring the pony and knocking Runs-Too-Fast to the earth. At the far end of the herd the warriors of the tribe, unaware of Runs-Too-Fast's foolish venture, began the hunt. When the first buffalo fell, the herd stampeded.

The boys on the hill watched in helpless excitement as Runs-Too-Fast stumbled along, dragging his injured leg. "They're going to run him down!" yelled one of the boys.

Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair turned to watch the great dark cloud of buffalo charge toward Runs-Too-Fast in wild panic.

"If only I had a fast pony!"he thought.

A familiar neighing rang in the boy's ear. It was the white stallion running toward him at full speed! In no time at all, the stallion was at his side. Summoning all his strength, Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair leaped for the stallion's back and clutched a handful of white, flowing mane.

Wichan Locasta began his flight toward the injured Runs-Too-Fast. Off to the right, Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair saw the buffalo herd thunder its way closer with every passing second. At that moment, he realized he was riding into the very jaws of death. A strange calm came over him, and he dug his heels ever deeper into the flanks of the great leader of the horse-tribe.

They pulled alongside Runs-Too-Fast in the tall grass. "Give me your hand!" yelled Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair. The youth looked up with fear in his eyes, but his pride would not allow him to take the younger boy's hand.

Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair reached down, grabbed a handful of the youth's hair, and slammed his heels into the stallion's side. They were now so close to death Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair could feel the earth shaking through his bones.

Wichan Locasta leaped forward, forcing Runs-Too-Fast to either run alongside or accept the boy's offer. Runs-Too-Fast grasped the younger boy's free hand and pulled himself onto the galloping stallion's broad back.

A cry of joy escaped the lips of Runs-Too-Fast's mother, for the entire village had gathered on the hilltop to watch the desperate drama. At the end of their ride, the boys slid off the stallion's back to find themselves looking up into the eyes of Lone Tree.

The old man nodded his approval as Wichan Locasta galloped away through the tall grass.

That evening, after the women had butchered the fallen buffaloes, a great feast was held. Watching the dancers weave their way around the blazing campfire, stood the proud father, Striking Eagle. At his side stood Wanbli Locasta, Eagle-Horse, who would never again be known by his childhood name, Pony-Nibbles-His-Hair.