CHAPTER 47: The Cow People

FROM NOW ON, the natives, when apprised of our approach, did not throng out on the trail to welcome us as heretofore, but we found them [in an attitude of extreme dread and supplication] sitting in their houses facing the wall with bowed heads, their hair pulled down over their eyes, and all their possessions piled in the middle of the floor. Houses they had made to accommodate us stood ready. Our gifts, from the first place that received us like this on, included many skin blankets; but there was nothing they owned that they did not freely give us.

They are the best looking people we saw, the strongest and most energetic, and who most readily understood us and answered our questions. We called them the "Cow People," because more cattle are killed in their vicinity than anywhere; for more than fifty leagues up that river they prey on the cows.

They go as absolutely naked as the first Indians we encountered, the women of course wearing deerskins, as well as a few men, mostly those too old to fight anymore. The country is incredibly populous.

We asked how it happened they did not plant corn. So they would not lose what they planted, was the answer: no rain two years in a row; moles got the seed; must have plenty rain before planting again. They begged us to tell the sky to rain; we promised we would pray. Where, we asked them, did they get the corn they had? From where the sun goes down; in that country it grew all over; the quickest way there was that path. They did not wish to go with us, so we asked them to be more explicit. They said to take the path along the river northward; otherwise we would go seventeen jornadas without finding anything to eat but chacan [juniper "berries" (actually proto-cones)] which, even after ground between stones, is hard to get down, being so woody and pungent - and sure enough, when they showed us a sample we could not eat it. The people who lived along the river route were enemies of the Cow People but spoke the same tongue; though they would have nothing to eat to give, they would nevertheless receive us hospitably and load us with cotton blankets, hides, etc., said our hosts who, however, advised against that route.

[The Joint Report clarifies that the Indians said there was corn country both west and north, but even to reach that of the west it was necessary to travel fifteen jornadas northward along the river. Hallenbeck points out that the Indians could have been thinking of the ninety-mile desert Journey of Death on the way to the pueblos when they discouraged staying on the northern course once reaching the crossroads ford.]

Uncertain as to the better choice, we tarried another couple of days with these Indians, who plied us with beans and calabashes. Their method of cooking is so novel and strange, let me describe it. Not having discovered pots, they fill a medium-sized calabash hull full of water and drop red-hot rocks in it with stick tongs until the water boils. Then for the whole while that whatever they put in to cook is cooking, they keep transferring more rocks from the fire and taking out the spent ones. They know just which rocks take heat best, and the water boils on and on.