–Hello! I’m Bonnie Bartlett.
–And I’m Bill Daniels. And we’re here reading for SAG’s BookPALS. We’re doing a story today called “Knots on a Counting Rope.” And it was written by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. It was illustrated by Ted Rand. Tell me the story again, Grandfather. Tell me who I am. I have told you many times, Boy. You know the story by heart. But it sounds better when you tell it, Grandfather. Then listen carefully. This may be the last telling. No, no, Grandfather. There will never be a last time. Promise me that. Promise me. I promise you nothing, Boy. I love you. That is better than a promise. And I love you, Grandfather, but tell me the story again. Please. –Once there was a boy child…
–No, Grandfather. Start at the beginning. Start where the storm was crying my name. You know the story, Boy. Tell it. No, Grandfather, no. Start, “It was a dark night…” It was a dark night, a strange night. Your mother and father and I were safe in the hogan– –and the sheep were safe in the pen, When a wild storm came out of the mountains, Crying, “Boy-eeeeeeee! Boyeeeeee!” And your mother said, “I hear it in the wounded wind. A boy child will be born tonight.” Then what happened, Grandfather? I rode up the canyon fast, to bring the grandmother. It is not a good sign for a child to be born without a grandmother’s blessing. Was the wind still calling for me, Grandfather? Yes, Boy, it was whipping up sand as sharp as claws, and crying like a bobcat, “Boy-eeeeee! Boy-eeeeeee!” Were you afraid, Grandfather? I was much afraid. How much afraid? Heart-pounding afraid, Boy. Then what happened, Grandfather? Just as I was born. Tell me that part. It was strange… strange. Just as you came forth and made your first cry, the wind stopped howling and the storm was over. And the night became as quiet as soft falling snow. The grandmother took you up in her arms, and said, “He will walk in beauty. To the east, to the west, to the north, to the south, he will walk in beauty… …forever.” And I was born strong, wasn’t I, Grandfather? No, you were not strong. You were sick and frail. We thought you would die. But I didn’t die, did I? Tell me about that, Grandfather. All night you lay silent with your eyes closed, your breath too shallow, too weak for crying. And you carried me out to see the morning, Grandfather, but I did not open my eyes. Tell me that part. Two great blue horses came galloping by, And they stopped, Grandfather! They stopped and looked at me. And you raised your arms to the great blue horses and I said, “See how the horses speak to him. They are his brothers from– –from beyond the dark mountains. This boy child will not die.” That is what you said, isn’t it, Grandfather? Yes, Boy, that is what I said. “This boy child will not die. The great blue horses have given him the strength to live.” And that is when you named me, isn’t it, Grandfather? After you smiled your first smile, we had the naming ceremony. All of the grandmothers and grandfathers were there. And you named me Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses. It is a strong name. Did I need a strong name, Grandfather? All children need a strong name to help them grow strong. And I grew strong, didn’t I? Yes, Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, and each day you are growing stronger. You are learning to cross the dark mountains. I already have crossed some of the dark mountains. There will be more, Boy. Dark mountains are always around us. They have no beginnings and– –they have no endings. But we know they are there, Grandfather, when we suddenly feel afraid. Yes, Boy… afraid to do what we have to do. Will I always have to live in the dark? Yes, Boy. You were born with a dark curtain in front of your eyes. But there are many ways to see, Grandfather. Yes, Boy, you are learning to see through your darkness because you have the strength of blue horses. I can see the horses with my hands, Grandfather, but I cannot see the blue. What is blue? You know morning, Boy. Yes, I can feel morning. Morning throws off the blanket of night. And you know sunrise. Yes, I hear sunrise, in the song of the birds. And you know sky, Boy. Yes, sky touches my face, soft, like lambs’ wool, and I breathe its softness. Blue is all of these things. Blue is the feeling of a spring day beginning. Try. Try to see it, Boy. Blue? Blue? Blue is the morning, the sunrise, the sky, the song of the birds… I see it! Blue! Blue! Blue is happiness, Grandfather, I feel it! I feel it in my heart! There was a sweep of blue in the rainbow, Boy, that morning your horse was born. Oh, tell me that part, Grandfather! I could not see the rainbow but I can still feel its happiness. I awakened you, Boy, during the night, remember, just before the foal was born. And you said to me, “Come, Boy, Circles is ready to foal. The colt will be yours.” It was a long night of cold rain– –and we put a blanket over Circles, Grandfather, to keep her warm. Yes, Boy. As the sun came through the clouds, the foal was born– –and a rainbow danced across the sky. It was a good sign, Boy. And I named the little wet foal Rainbow! You have trained her well, Boy. –Rainbow is smart, Grandfather.
–Like you. She is good at remembering. Rainbow is my eyes, Grandfather. She takes me to the sheep, wherever they are, and when I am ready, she finds the way home. No one thought you could teach her to race, Boy. But I did, Grandfather! Every day, day after day, we followed you along the trail… And you let me hold the reins. You traced the trails in your mind, Boy, both you and Rainbow. Yes, Grandfather, we learned the trails by heart. Up South Mountain to Granite Rock, down the steep shortcut to Meadow-of-Blue-Flowers, then straight across the Red Flats to Lightning-Split-Tree, then down the Switchbacks to the Canyon Trail, and on around to the finish line. I learned from Rainbow when to turn by the pull of her neck and by counting her gallops. Now tell me again about the race, Grandfather. It was a tribal day, Boy. You and the other boys were at the starting line, but you pulled back. I was afraid, Grandfather, until you called to me. Tell me again what you said. I said, “Don’t be afraid, Boy! Trust your darkness! Go like the wind!” And I leaned forward on Rainbow’s neck. I grabbed her mane tight, and I said, “Go, Rainbow, go!” I could feel the pushing and crowding and galloping thunder all around me. Rainbow and I went twisting, turning, galloping, galloping, galloping, counting the gallops, remembering the way. And what did the people say, Grandfather? They said, “Who is that boy riding bareback, racing the race with all of his heart?” And you said, “That is Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses. He and his horse are together like one.” Yes, Boy, that is what I said. But I didn’t win, Grandfather. No, but you rode like the wind. The wind is my friend, Grandfather. It throws back my hair and laughs in my face. You see the wind better than I, Boy. I finished the race, hot and dusty, sweat dripping from my face. And you were smiling, Boy! I wasn’t afraid, Grandfather. I could see through the dark every turn of the race. Rainbow and I knew the way. You were crossing dark mountains, Boy! Tell me again what you told me then. I like to hear it over and over. I said, “Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, you have raced darkness and won! You now can see with your heart, feel a part of all that surrounds you. Your courage lights the way.” And what did the grandmothers say? You tell me, Boy. I know you remember. Yes, I remember, Grandfather. They said, “This boy walks in beauty. His dreams are more beautiful than rainbows and sunsets.” Now, Boy… now that the story has been told again, I will tie another knot in the counting rope. When the rope is filled with knots, you will know the story by heart and can tell it to yourself. So that I will grow stronger, Grandfather? Yes, stronger. Strong enough to cross the dark mountains. I always feel strong when you are with me, Grandfather. I will not always be with you, Boy. No Grandfather, don’t ever leave me. What will I do without you? You will never be alone, Boy. My love will always surround you… with the strength of blue horses. That’s a fun story. I hope you enjoyed it. We had fun. Yes we did. See you.