When Gods Walk Amongst Us

When I was much younger, I went by another name. I lived a different life. I was ignorant of the world and who I really was. Ignorance—as they say—is bliss.

Around the age of fourteen, I stumbled across an old man camping in the woods near my house. I really didn’t think much of it, after all, I had created my own campsite in those very woods to avoid my home life.

He was dressed in denim, with his long, gray hair pulled back into a ponytail. He lay on a fallen tree, smoking a cigarette. A large bag sat propped up next to him and it looked like the failed beginnings of a campfire was in front of him.

I was about to apologize for disturbing him and leave, but something kept me there. His golden eyes twinkled, and the lines of his face made him look like someone extremely used to smiling.

“Ah, Falcon. I was hoping you’d be by today.” He took a long hit and tapped on the log next to him.

“Excuse me?” I don’t know why, but I went over and plopped down on the log.

“Do me a favor, would you? My fire burned out, think you can get it started again?”

I chuckled, mostly because I loved starting campfires. Still do. With the side of my foot, I quickly cleared out a square patch for the fire. I took a few branches off the felled tree and stacked them up and stuffed the small structure with pine needles and leaves. I got up, and the old man tossed his cigarette into the new campfire setup, and it promptly caught fire.

“Nice job,” he said approvingly. “Think you could help me with another little issue I’ve had?”

I checked my watch.

“C’mon, Falcon. It’ll be quick, I promise. I just need a bit of help with my shelter.”

“Why do you keep calling me Falcon?”

He waved dismissively. “Work while we talk.”

I shrugged and got to work. We talked at length about a lot of different topics. And through that time, I build his shelter, dug a latrine for him, set up a rain tarp to gather water, set a few snares and cooked a fish on the fire for him. He kept talking, and I kept working. It wasn’t until the stars came out that I noticed that the old man still hadn’t answered my question.

“So, you never told me why you keep calling me Falcon.”

“You’re right. I didn’t. But keep this in mind, Falcon. Not every question is easily answered. It could be because you were born in the time of the Falcon. It could be characteristics you possess.”

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

“But some questions are easily answered,” he continued as he spoke over me. “I call you Falcon because that is your name. It might not be the one you have on paper, but it is the one that Mother Earth has called you since before you were born. Here, look at the stars here. This is the story of our people. From the beginning, we have told our stories through the stars and passed them along through our shamans and chiefs. But times change. Things disappear, and the old ways have to find harmony with the new.”

I looked from the stars to his face, now visible by only firelight. He looked younger and older. The lines from his face gone and his hair the color of raven feathers. He had lit another cigarette during that time and clenched it in his teeth as he spoke.

“Falcon, my boy, you are one of my people,” he said, clapping me on the back. “And while you might not always think so, this is a great blessing.”

I turned to ask him another question, but the words died in my mouth. There, sitting next to me was a large coyote. The campfire was gone, as was the shelter, the fish and everything else, except the large bag. And the cigarette still clamped in Coyote’s teeth.

I left that day, confused more than ever about my place in the world, and without my wallet, because that old bastard picked my pocket when I wasn’t looking.​