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IMANUKFILA CHITO (STAR EAGLE) AND THE OWL OF THE CHANTA PEOPLE - ‘TUSCUMASOMI’

 

 

 

Guest Contributions do not necessarily reflect my own opinions. I am trying to create an open forum. I reserve the right to include any submitted article or not, with or without saying why. If you wish to reproduce any of these writings or graphics  you must ask permission of the author. At the bottom of each article will be contact information for the author when it is available. ~Snow Owl

Carlton ( Achoba) Sonnier
October 1972 (Submitted January 3, 2008)

Years ago on Imanukfila Chito’s (Star Eagle) 14th birthday I took him to a very special place to fish for ‘Sacalate’ (white perch). It was the same place that Mother Inez my sister, Imanukfila Chito’s grandmother, had taken me when I was his age.

It is a wondrous place, filled with the spirits of men of the Civil War and Chanta (Choctaw) people of long ago.

Well, Chito being adventurous soon grew tired of fishing and asked to go in to the woods to look around. I told him it was okay but to watch out for unfriendly snakes.

Off he went singing some song in Chanta (Choctaw). Enough time went by to let me catch some nice fish.

Then the solitude was broken by Chito calling, “Uncle Jules, Uncle Jules,” and he came running up to me with his shirt off and holding it in his hands. He opened the shirt revealing a skinny baby owl with only a little covering of feathers and there was something wrong with its eyes.

I told him that he must take the owl back to where he found him. That the mother would be looking for the baby owl and owl’s are very dangerous where their young are concerned.

“But Uncle Jules, I found the mother, she is lying by a tree, and it seems she has been dead a long time.”

So, we sat there and talked about what to do.

I told him that owls went to a good place when they died and if we left the baby owl with its mother it could follow her there. Well, he would have none of that.

He said we would take it to Mother Inez, and she would know what to do because she knew everything.

Well, we wrapped the owl again in the shirt, got in the pirogue (boat) and headed back across Grand Lake to see Mother Inez.

Soon with only a short distance to go, Chito, sitting up front turned to look at me and shouted, “Grandmother will be waiting at the dock.

What did he mean, ‘Grandmother will be waiting.’ How could she know?” And it was so.

When we got to her little dock she was waiting. Before I got a chance to run the pirogue up on the bank Chito was out and on to the bank. Then he ran to Inez and gave her the owl.

Cradling the shirt, she nodded, gave me a smile and walked towards her cabin with Chito in close pursuit. After I beached the pirogue on the bank I followed them.

When I walked into the cabin Inez was washing the owl’s eyes with a solution of, I think, witch hazel and caster bean water. She was making a kind of clucking and whistling sound that I never heard her use before. Then Chito started doing it too.
I could not do the sounds so I decided to leave them with that chore.


Every day they mothered the owl. Inez treating the owl’s eyes and Chito going out to find grub worms for the owl to eat. When the owl got better and started to see, he would follow Chito all around the cabin. Then as the owl got older he was like a puppy, following at Chito’s heels.

As months went by, the owl began to fly. Sometimes he would be gone several days, and then there he would be, roosting high up in the old elm tree next to the house.

Later, when he was about thirteen months old he would begin to hoot (call sound) just after dusk. He would hoot at regular intervals until Chito came out of the house and answered in hoots of his own. Then they would both leave and not return until dawn.

One morning, early, before four, I was on the lake running my trout line when I heard a peculiar sound. It was a high pitched screech of an owl, Chito’s owl. Then I heard the angry woof of the swamp black bear. I paddled my pirogue to the bank and in the light of my lantern a small black bear come running pass the bow of my pirogue with the owl just above her in hot pursuit.

Then I heard, ‘Uncle Jules, I’m over here’ and right away I knew something was wrong. I removed the lantern from its mount and went to look for Chito. Following his voice made it easy to find him.

Immediately I saw the problem. Someone had set out a bear trap and it had closed shut on the snout of a young bear. For the amount of claw marks on the ground it had took a long time for the bear to die. Kneeling, Chito looked up at me. There were tears on his cheeks and a strange look in his eyes.

He said, ‘I must find who did this and set things right’.

We buried the bear and went home. Every night after that Chito would sit in front of the house, like waiting for something. I asked Inez, ‘what is he doing’.

She looked sadden. ‘He is waiting for the one who set the bear trap’.

Finally, six nights later, I was visiting Inez when we heard the owl hoot and Chito answering.

Inez shook her head. ‘The time has come; the man comes to check his traps’.

Chito came in. ‘I will be only a short time, grandmother’, he said. Then he was gone.

I told Inez, ‘It is too dark, he may not find his way. I should go with him’.

She smiled at me. ‘He can see. He has the owl that we have named ‘Tuscumasomi’ for his eyes and the Creator will watch over them.

‘Fearless’, I thought it was a fine name for the owl. Several hours went by before Chito returned. Saying nothing, he kissed his grandmother and me goodnight and went to his room.

I asked my sister, how was it that she knew we were bringing the owl to her.

“Chito and I think the words we want to say. The Creator made it so.”

I had no words to say about that, so I decided to leave and before I went to my cabin I looked in on Chito and he was sound asleep.
The next morning around nine, my brother, Alcide came by for coffee and to tell me a strange tale.

There was a Lafitte skiff (special made boat) tied up to Zac’s pier. In the boat were many types of animal traps.

Zac knew that the boat belonged to one of the no good Duplantis brothers, most likely Clement. The next day Alcide came by to tell me that Doyce Duplantis was looking for his brother Clement. It seemed that Clement failed to return from a late night trout run.
A day later they found Clement Duplantis.

He was found in the same area that we found the bear and his foot was caught in the same kind of trap. After thirty hours in the trap he was delirious. His story was that he had been chased by some kind of big bird that kept slapping at his head with its wings and driving him toward the trap. Today, one of the Duplantis brothers walks with a limp. Every where that Chito went the owl was there also.

When Mother Inez went back to her beginning (died) Chito stayed with me until he was eighteen, then he joined the Army. After Chito had gone, Tuscumasomi came every day to perch in the old elm tree and at night he would hoot like he was calling Chito. After about a year of doing this he was gone.

Years later Chito returned home and Tuscumasomi returned also the same day.

Now both disappear for three or four days each month and while they are gone I hear many hoots from a far distance away.    

Carlton ( Achoba) Sonnier
October, 1972

My uncle found a new born owl and raised it in his cabin until it was old enough to fly. I was told long ago that the Owl is sacred to all the People. I wrote this story in memory of my Uncle Jules who called was Umbachi (Maker of Rain).~ Carlton (Achoba) Sonnier
Other Articles by Carlton (Achoba) Sonnier: Man and Creature ] [ Tuscumasomi ] Man and Creature ] [ Tuscumasomi ]

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