As an artist and photographer I often find myself out in nature, it has been this way since I was very young and will probably be so until I leave this earth. One of my favorite flowers since I was a child has been the small bright red/orange flower called Indian Paintbrush. So today I would like to share with you a story that my Grandfather who could always be found out in his flower garden when I was young, shared with me.
Long ago there was a young Indian Boy who was born crippled. He longed to play as young boys should, yet he could not. His legs did not work the way the other young boys of his age did. He could not ride the beautiful horses of the fields, nor could he run in the meadows with his Sisters and brothers.
His spirit was low. He felt useless as he watched his family go through their daily chores, unable to help. And he felt even more of a burden for they had to assist him with so many things he could not accomplish by himself. Soon with determination, he learned to fish if someone could carry him to the river. He also began to help his Mother grind the corn into flour. But he wanted to do more, much more.
One day in the late summer sun, his Mother decided that the family should go on a picnic. As they sat smelling the sweetgrass, listening to the winged ones, and watching the clouds dance in the sky, the young brave prayed to the Creator.
“Father,” he prayed. “Please show me how to be useful to my people. I cannot hunt for game or plant corn to feed them. I don’t do enough to help them. Please show me the path I am to walk.” He patiently waited to be shown an answer, yet none came. He was again saddened fearing that Creator felt he was not worthy of an honorable path.
After some time had passed, his Mother watched her son, and her heart hurt for this gentle boy. Hoping to change his mood she decided to return to the meadow to connect with the Great Mother in hopes something would change for her young Son.
When they arrived, they found something new among the tall sweetgrass. Growing in the clearing exactly where the Young Brave had called to Creator for a sign, grew a beautiful and unusual small red flower.
Turning his Mother he looked at her puzzled, “What kind of flower is this Mother?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen a flower like this before,” as she looked out in amazement at the field splashed with little flecks of red dancing in the gentle breeze. Be fore the day was done they gathered some of the flowers and took them back to the village, certain that one of their Elders would be able to tell them what it was. Still, no one recognized the flower at all.
Excited they returned to the meadow, and they looked out at the field and saw that the number of flowers had doubled. “They are so beautiful!” cried the young brave. “I just wish we knew what they were called.”
As the seasons passed, the Young Brave made many trips to the meadow. Each time he went, more of the red flowers could be found. One day, he decided to draw a picture of the flower in hopes of capturing its beauty. He carefully sketched the plant and found that he had captured its shape and detail. But he was not happy with the drawings.
As he sat there pondering what to do, a deer wandered into the meadow. It grazed on the sweetgrass occasionally looking up at the Young Brave as he kept drawing.
“What’s wrong Young One?” the deer asked. “Why do you look so sad?”
“I cannot capture the true color of this flower in my drawing. It is so beautiful, but the dye I make from our berries is too purple, and when I mix water with the red earth for paint, the color is too brown.”
“Why do you not just use the flower? Wouldn’t it make the red color for you?”
The Brave looked up at the deer in astonishment, “I never thought of that.” He reached down and picked up the flower, dipped it into the water and brushed it across his paper. To his amazement, what it left behind was the perfect shade of red coloring.
The brave took his picture back to the village and presented it to the Chief. It was perfect. They asked him how he get the coloring so perfect. “I used this,” and he showed them one of the flowers. “It’s like a paintbrush.”
“Then that is what we will call it,” the Chief declared. “It shall be The Red Indian Paintbrush.”
From that time on, it was called Indian Paintbrush, and only that. The Young Brave had found his path, becoming a remarkable craftsman, painting pictures, pottery, and other items and selling them to help his people attain the things they needed to flourish within the village. Donating the profits to those less fortunate than him, For he had come to realize that although he had no legs, he was still useful.
The Creator had indeed answered his prayers with a simple red flower called “Indian Paintbrush”