Dennis E. Power


Excerpt used in part in APACHE GHOST STORIES, collected by Albert Grierson, Oxford University Press 1941)

This is a story passed down from my grandfather. After the war of the White Eyes to free the black White Eyes, after the slaughter of Black Kettle's village but before Long Hair was rubbed out. You may have heard of the powerful medicine man called Head Man Without a Body. He was a Pindah-Lickoyee, A White Eyes, a White Man, who had been tortured to death by his friends, also White Eyes, but he had laughed and spit curses at them. After being broken and cut to pieces he still did not die because his medicine and spirit were so strong, almost as strong as an Apache warrior's.

Head Man's medicine could calm the beasts and tell them what to do and it is in this way he was able to ride a wild yellow stallion. He rode with one purpose, to find and avenge himself on those who had harmed him.

Shortly after Head Man began his vengeance quest he met some brave warriors of our people, with them was the man named Goyathlay or Yawner, called Geronimo by the White Eyes. Yawner was of the Chiricahua but was visiting his uncle. Yawner tried shooting Head Man mistaking him for a Witch but Head Man's medicine was too strong and he withstood several bullet fired directly into his face without injury. He then counted coup against the Apache warriors with his thoughts. Being merely human, the warriors were afraid of this powerful being and so gifted him with a Nahua slave whom they had captured from some Comanche.

The Nahua are a people who live in Old Mexico and they are a low sort of men, eaters of snakes and lizards. It is best not to talk too much of them. Head Man took this slave with gratitude and pledged eternal friendship and assistance to the Apache peoples.

Head Man and his new slave traveled a few miles before coming to a black plain, covered by crows as numerous as the stars.

As you have been told, the Crow or as we call him the Raven, knows when somebody or something has died. Be it a man or a snake, the Crow will know when death has occurred and be filled with happiness. Should the shadow of a Buzzard or a Crow touch you while it is in flight, you will soon die. This is why the feathers of a Crow or a Buzzard should not be touched for they are a deadly and powerful bad medicine which only Shaman's, Witches or Big Medicine men can touch.

These many Crows were sitting on the ground so filled with joy that they could no longer fly. They had laughed themselves into an exhaustion. Why? Because many, many persons had died at this place. This flat, ash covered wasteland had been a village of our friends, the Hopi, who as you know gave our people the sacred corn. The Hopi were too trusting, too friendly and gave a spirit possessed White Eyes shelter and food. This was one of the White Eyes who had tried to kill Head Man.

The torture unto death of Head Man had brought forth all of his powerful medicine in one great burst much like when you roast certain corns, they will swell and burst forth with tasty white kernels overflowing the pot. So it was with Head Man's Medicine when being tortured, his medicine flew freely in the air and it was snatched up by his tormentors. By stealing some of the great medicine they became Witchmen, using the stolen power for evil purposes.

This particular Witchman claimed to be a speaker for the White Eyes God Jesus, yet he did not speak like the priests of the Spanish who had visited the Hopi many years before. Also, he would often bark like a coyote or have visions in which he would spit, curse and froth at the mouth.

The Hopi called him Mescal Hair because of the red thorns growing from his scalp, like mescal thorns. Also he acted like someone who had drunk too much tizin and suffered from visions. These thorns would fall from his head often and blood would stream down his face or neck. This blood was poison to the touch, even the dogs who licked it would first go mad and then swell up and die.

Because our friends, the Hopi, would not convert to his religion, Mescal Hair grew wroth, ranting and raving like a rabid animal. In his rage the red scab thorns fell from his head like jumping cholla thorns. Blood ran down his face and neck like red rivers as white foam covered his lips and mouth.

Finally Mescal Hair could stand no more and he called upon the evil spirits to ravage the Hopi pueblo. He called on Black Lightning, Black Rain and Black Hail to rub the Hopi out. The rains fell on the Hopi village like slivers of obsidian, like waterfalls of burning black oil. The black storm rubbed out the Hopi village in a matter of minutes, killing all and destroying all. Even the old people and the little babies were not spared by this evil Witchman.

The evil obsidian rain reduced everything, all the people, all the animals, all the weapons and all the buildings to grey ash. The Hopi had been destroyed and the Witchman walked away laughing.

Crows felt the Hopi village die they flew down to laugh and mock the spirits of the dead. The Hopi could not go to the afterlife, you see, because their death was so quick and had been accomplished with such evil medicine that they were fastened to this place like bricks in an adobe house.

The Crows sat on the ground, laughing and mocking and tormenting the Hopi's spirits for a long time. The spirits of the Hopi wept and cried bitter tears. There was no shame in this for they had died well and expected to live in happiness after death but were cheated in this by the evil Mescal Hair.

Head Man heard their cries and remembering the promise he had made to the Apache people and knowing that the Hopi were the friends of the Apache went to help them.

Sitting on a horse, reins in his mouth, dead rotting body tied behind him, Head Man rode into the middle of the vast flock of Crows, and knew no fear. Although the shadows and feathers of countless hundreds of crows fell on him he knew no fear. The Crows were shocked at this. What was this strange bodiless head still doing riding a horse and not lying down in death? And how could he still be alive and confront these messengers of death without harm?

As one the warriors from a thousand Crow nations attacked

Head Man, seeking to peck his head and body clean of flesh. The crow warriors did indeed bite into Head Man's flesh, as he allowed, only to discover that the flesh in their mouths was a powerful poison. They fell over dead with undigested flesh still hanging from their beaks and stuck in their craws. Like all powerful Medicine men and Shamans, Head Man had turned their own medicine against them, instead of being the messengers of death, they received the message of death.

This was a funny joke on the Crows and Head Man laughed with a booming laugh that knocked all the Crows in flight out of the sky. The crows not only near him but all across the world wherever any of the Crow people live. They fell out of the sky like countless hundreds of black feathery rocks.

Head Man laughed with a booming laugh like thunder as an avalanche of black birds fell from the sky the world over. Upon landing, the Crows tried to fly back at Head Man and peck him to death with a thousand pecks but they found that they could not move. Head Man told the Crows that he had stolen their flight Medicine as well as their death medicine. If he so desired they would lie on the ground like big fat black feathered worms and be prey to every hungry animal, even the buzzards and the snakes. Instead of feeding on carrion they would become carrion.

The Crows cried out in fear and shame for they are but a cowardly people anyway. Head Man laughed and mocked the Crows for days just as they had mocked and laughed at the poor Hopi spirits. Finally after several of the Crows had been eaten by buzzards and snakes, the Council of Crows begged Head Man to release them, they promised to do anything he asked of them.

He told them to acknowledge his mastery over their powers of death and flight. They did so. He told them promise to help him when asked and to come to him without delay when he sang the Crow's song. The Crows promised all of this to Head Man.

Head Man then told the Crows to carry the lost and frightened Hopi spirits to the Afterlife and then he would not need them for a time. Head Man began to sing a powerful medicine song which lifted the poor and frightened Hopi spirits from the dark recesses of the ground where the obsidian rain had driven them. Seeing the sun, the Hopi spirits rejoiced and sang a song of joy and freedom. This lifted Head Man's spirits and made his heart soar within it's dead chest.

The crows carried the Hopi spirits to the giant crevice White Eyes call the Grand Canyon. This is the entrance to the Hopi's land, it is an underworld, an other world from whence they originated and where they return upon leaving this world.

Many, many years passed, it was about the time of the Ghost Dance, although it might have been a few years before then. Goyathlay, whom I have mentioned had become a powerful war chieftain for our cousins the Chiricahua Apache, but he was a leader for all Apache at this time.

By this time the White Eyes had for reasons we still do not know found it necessary to make the Apache and other people stay in one particular place and not move at all, even when the soil would no longer grow corn and the game had all been hunted out.

They called the place San Carlos reservation, where the Apache would be made into ghosts of the White Eyes, to live, think and act as he does or die. We became dependent on the White Eyes for shelter, food and other necessary things in life. The White Eyes forced our dependence on him and then resented us for becoming so. Because we did not rapidly change into reflections of himself, the White Eyes withheld food, blankets and shelter as a punishment, as a so called incentive to become like him.

Goyathlay, whom I hope forgives me for mentioning his name so often, would not adapt to the White Eyes' ways nor would he allow his people to starve or suffer the winter's chill because of the callousness of the White Eyes. He often lead many of his people off of the Reservation to find new sites to grow the corn, to hunt or to find shelter from the winter. He always returned, for he would not allow for the bulk of his people to be mistreated in retribution of his acts. Yet before returning he would always to lead the White Eyes' army on a merry chase before suddenly returning to the reservation.

On one of these occasions when Goyathlay was wandering, the White Eyes in charge of the reservation decided he had had enough trouble from this Indian. So he hired three men from the US Army. They were professional Scouts, from the United States Indian Service. These particular scouts were of the people who call themselves Crows, which should tell you what kind of people they were.

These Crows were from the Northern mountains and plains and they are eaters of snakes and dogs. A low people who sold themselves to the White Eyes and assisted the White Eyes in rubbing out the Cheyenne and Sioux, although of a lower type of people than the Apache, were still a brave and worthwhile people. In truth, the Crows were the enemies of the Cheyenne and Sioux but they should have faced them like men and not like the cowardly Crows, getting someone else to do their killing and then picking up the spoils.

The Reservation Agent hired these three Crow scouts to track and lead a force of white soldiers so they could wipe out Goyathlay. Goyathlay had lead the soldiers on a wild chase once more but had grown careless and found himself surrounded in a mesa and canyon area. The Scouts had not yet found him but he knew that it would be a matter of time before he was discovered and rubbed out.

Goyathlay had broken away from his party and was leading the soldiers away from his people, yet he knew the Crow scouts would soon find his trail.

Head Man by this time had succeeded in finding all the Witch Men who had destroyed his body and he had destroyed them, sending them wandering aimlessly in the Afterlife, mutilated so they would suffer eternally. His medicine was growing weak with age and he was deteriorating rapidly. His body was in rotted pieces carried in several stinking bags on two mules. It is said that his approach was silent yet was known long before he arrived because of the stench proceeding him.

Head Man was a great admirer of Goyathlay, had been ever since the Yawner confronted him as a youth and tried to kill him despite the danger. Because of Head Man's knowledge of the Apache people and his ability to communicate with those feathered evil ones, the Crows, he also knew what the people who called themselves the Crows were up to. He knew the Crow Scouts were trying to kill or have Goyathlay killed but because his medicine was so weak, he had to find and stop these Crow scouts in person. As the Crow Scouts tracked Goyathlay, Head Man tracked the

Crows. After days of traveling in the dry, arid mesas and canyons the Crow Scouts found Goyathlay. He was weak from hunger and thirst. The Crow Scouts intended to kill him and so collect any reward themselves. Not being brave enough warriors to confront him directly, they decided to kill him once he had passed into insensibility.

Shortly after noon on the third day of waiting, Goyathlay passed out into a deep slumber from exhaustion, thirst and hunger, despite knowing that the Crow scouts were nearby.

Still fearful of this great Apache warrior the Crow scouts crept upon the sleeping Goyathlay like snakes after a lost puppy.

Head Man knew of the danger to his great Medicine horse and left his horse and mules behind. Some have called this medicine horse Brimstone, after the yellow rocks which smell badly and burn with a bluish flame, because he smelled badly and glowed with a bluish glow. Head Man crawled along the mesa floor and upon a shelf of rock above the dry open area in the center of a canyon where Goyathlay lie sleeping. Having no arms or hands or legs, Head Man crawled on the ground, using the little bit of his spine poking out of his head like a yucca whip, snapping against the ground constantly so he hopped across the land like a jackrabbit. Also in addition to using his spine like a whip, he used his teeth and lips like fingers and climbed up a rocky cliff overhanging the area where Goyathlay slept.

The Crow scouts were nearly upon Goyathlay, having out their knives to cut and mutilate him before killing him. Head Man called out to them, he shouted to the Crows calling them cowards and snake eaters and other vile names which were all true. The Crow Scouts reacted with anger and fear. They pulled out their special nickel plated guns, given to them by the White Eyes, and fired at Head Man. Every shot missed Head Man for he was protected from harm by a war shield composed of thought. Reddish dust rose all around Head Man, kicked up by the deflected bullets. Sunlight glinted from the mica elements in the dust and for a minute as the dust cleared, Head Man seemed to be covered by a glimmering veil of smoke, shining like the sacred corn pollen.

The guns of the Crows soon grew too hot from use and from the afternoon sun baking down on them. Being out of bullets and unable to hold the burning hot guns any longer, the Crow scouts tossed them onto the dry, red soil of the canyon.

Determined not to be bested by the ghost head of a White Eyes, the Crows stalked towards Head Man with their knives drawn. They were stopped in their tracks by Head Man's small whispery voice. Head Man screamed with joy and laughed with rage yet the noise was little more than a distant wind. However distant the voice sounded, it chilled the Crow Scout's hearts. They trembled in fright when this whispery voice sang the song of the Crow.

Now these people who call themselves the Crow, believe the Crow to be a fine animal, a great bird, which again proves what a low type of people they are. They celebrate the Crow's cunning and resourcefulness but ignore the fact that it is the cunning of a thief and the resourcefulness of a opportunist. These Crows knew how the Apache feels about the Crow and knew about Head Man's affection for the Apache. These Crow warriors knew that their medicine and spiritual connection with the Crow had no sway in Apache territory and so they could expect no help from the Crows.

Countless hundreds of Crows appeared before the skies as Head Man sang his song. The Crow scouts, I must say with some shame, messed their pants upon seeing the black cloud racing towards them.

The Crows under compulsion and obligation attacked and feasted upon the Crow Scouts although, it was like spiritual cannibalism to them. This made them despise Head Man even more and fear him just as much as they hated him.

The Crows flew off in a black cloud, leaving three skeletons behind. Head Man closed his eyes and rolled himself over the edge of the rock shelf to bounce down to the canyon floor. Once there he made his way over to the Crow Scout's possessions. Dragging a canteen behind him, holding it with his spine Head Man crawled across the dry canyon floor, moving by digging his teeth into the ground and swallowing the dirt.

Upon reaching Goyathlay, he found him in such a state that he could not awaken him. So Head Man slowly opened the canteen using his teeth and spine. He took a swallow of the water and held it in his cheek, careful not to let it run out of his nostrils or neckhole. He then made his way over to Goyathlay's mouth. He bit his lips and allowed some of his desiccated medicine blood to mix with the water. Head Man then poured it into Goyathlay's mouth, reviving him.

Because of Head Man the Crows warriors were clipped and Goyathlay lived to become a legend among his people, to give them hope and sustain them through the long times of trouble which followed. Goyathlay received some wisdom from Head Man that day, enough to realize that by running away he could not change the White Eyes' system nor was he helping his people all that much, that continued resistance could lead to extermination. So he sacrificed his freedom for his people's survival.

Some say, Goyathlay, whom the White Eyes called Geronimo, ended his life by falling from a cliff while drunk. Others say, that in a mescal vision he soared above the prison that the Apache homelands had become, that he used the remaining bits of Head Man's Medicine and left this world tossing his body aside like a discarded blanket.

Some say Head Man too has gone to the Afterlife, although some say he still roams the hills of Apacheria, the Pueblos of the Hopi and the lands of the Navaho helping those in need. This I cannot say for certain, although I am certain that this story which my grandfather told me is true.




All the material on these web pages or any other material relating to the character of El Head are copyrighted by Dennis E. Power
1996-2009 Dennis E. Power. All Rights Reserved.
Concept of El Head 1996 created by David Rush. All Rights Reserved.
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