CHAPTER 42: Four Fresh Receptions

AFTER PARTING from our weeping hosts, we went with the others, who had come to visit, and were hospitably received in the latters' houses. They brought their children to us to touch their heads and gave us a great quantity of mesquite bean flour.

The mesquite bean, while hanging on the tree, is very bitter like the carob bean but, when mixed with earth, is sweet and wholesome. The Indian method of preparing it is to dig a fairly deep hole in the ground, throw in the beans, and pound them with a club the thickness of a leg and a fathom and a half long, until they are well mashed. Besides the earth that gets mixed in from the bottom and sides of the hole, the Indians add some handfuls, then pound awhile longer. They throw the meal into a basketlike jar and pour water on it until it is covered. The pounder tastes it. If he thinks it not sweet enough, he calls for more earth to stir in, which is added until he judges the dish just right.

Then all squat round, and each takes out as much as he can with one hand. The pits and hulls are thrown onto a hide; the pounder puts them back into the "jar," where more water is poured on; and again the pits and hulls are salvaged. This process is repeated three or four times per pounding. To the partakers, the dish is a great banquet. Their stomachs grow grossly distended from the quantity of earth and water they swallow. Because of us, our newly adopted hosts made an extended festival of this sort, together with big areitos in the time we tarried with them. At night, during this celebration, the tribe assigned twenty-four Indian men to stand sentry before the lodge we slept in to bar entrance [and exit?] to any until sunrise.

When we proposed to leave this tribe, some women of another who lived farther on came to visit. They told us the whereabouts of their village, and we set out for it, although our hosts begged us to stay at least that day - the neighboring village was distant; no path. led there; the women had arrived tired and would go with us as guides on the morrow refreshed. We left anyway.

Soon afterward, some of the visiting women plus some women of the village they were visiting followed us. There being no paths in that vicinity, we presently got lost and traveled so four leagues when, stopping at a spring [Big Spring, Texas], we found the pursuing women already there ahead of us. They told us what exertion they had made to overtake us. [Hallenbeck thinks the women followed a trail that did exist, along the Colorado, but that the Spaniards attempted a shortcut to the Concho. Two trails intersected at Big Spring, just south of the present city named after it.]

We went on, taking the women for guides, and towards evening forded a chest-deep river [the Concho]. It had a swift current and [swelled by August rains,] may have been as wide as the one in Seville [the Guadalquivir, which is about a hundred paces across].

At sunset we reached a village of a hundred huts. All the people who lived in them were awaiting us at the village outskirts with terrific yelling and violent slapping of their hands against their thighs. They had with them their precious perforated gourd rattles (pebbles inside) which they produce only at such important occasions as the dance or a medical ceremony and which no one but the owner dares touch. They say there is a virtue in them and that, since they do not grow in that area, they obviously come from heaven. All they know is that the rivers bring them when they flood. [The rivers would have been the Pecos and Rfo Grande, which occasionally washed gourds down from the bottomland plots far above, where the pueblo Indians grew them. The Concho Indians must have acquired the salvaged floaters by trade.]

This people hysterically crowded upon us, everyone competing to touch us first; we were nearly killed in the crush. Without letting our feet touch ground, they carried us to the huts they had made for us. We took refuge in them and absolutely refused to be feasted that night. They themselves, however, sang and danced the whole night through. In the morning they brought every single inhabitant of the village for us to touch and bless as they had heard we had done elsewhere. After our performance, they presented many arrows to the women of the other village who had accompanied theirs.

When we left next day, all the people of the place went with us, and the next people received us as well as the last, giving us of what they had to eat, including the deer they had killed that day. Here we saw a new custom. Members of the tribe would take the bows and arrows, shoes and beads (if they wore any) from individuals who came to get cured and lay them before us as inducement. As soon as the sick were treated, they went away glad, saying they were sound.

We left these Indians and went on to others, who also welcomed us and brought us their sick who, when blessed, declared themselves sound. If anyone did not actually recover, he still contended he would. What they who did recover related caused general rejoicing and dancing; so we got no sleep.