Old Henrietta - Tales From the Black Sea

Old Henrietta - Tales From the Black Sea

A Story by Stan

Who will they send to the snow?


Copyright 2017

Old Henrietta

by Stan Morris



This is the story of Old Henrietta. This story takes place thirty thousand years ago when my tribe lived north of the Black Sea.  At that time, our leader was a man named Joe, and we lived in caves along a river.  We had many customs, and one of those customs was to wait until the snow was deep, and the cold was bitter, and then decide which of our old or weak people to put out in the snow, so we wouldn’t have to feed them during the winter when we had little food left.

Our leader, Joe, had been elected leader in the summer, and this was the first time he had to send one of the old folks to the snow.  The man likely to be chosen was Edgar, because he was the weakest old person in our tribe, and he was blind and couldn’t take care of himself.

But when the time came Joe overruled the council, saying we needed to keep Edgar alive that winter, because Edgar was an expert arrowhead maker, and our tribe could not afford to send him to the snow before he taught the younger people how to make those arrowheads.  We had other arrowhead makers in our tribe, but none were anywhere close to being as good at making arrowheads as Edgar.

Some of the people in our tribe complained that Joe’s decision went against our customs and traditions, but others reminded them that Joe was a good leader, and that we had prospered under his leadership.  So Edgar remained in the caves through the winter, and the next summer he died.

The winter after Edgar died, the council met once more to decide who to send to the snow.  That year it was going to be Sven, a moccasin maker.  But Joe overruled the council again, and he said that Sven was needed to teach our young the art of making moccasins.  Some people rebelled and questioned Joe’s authority, saying that Sven was a mediocre moccasin maker at best.

They asked, "Why are we keeping a mediocre moccasin maker alive, when we could divide his share of our meager food among the tribe?"

Joe said, "It is true that Sven is not our best moccasin maker, but his technique is different than our other moccasin makers, and if we send him to the snow we will lose that technique, which some young moccasin maker might learn and use to make our best moccasins ever."

We thought about his words, and after much discussion we agreed that these were wise words, and that Joe was a wise Leader.  So Sven stayed in the caves through the winter, and then he died the following autumn.

When winter came again, the person we knew would go to the snow was Old Henrietta.  Old Henrietta was a dilemma for Joe, because she was disliked, and her only skill seemed to be the ability to criticize others.  But Joe assured us that there must be some skill Old Henrietta possessed that was important to the tribe, and throughout the winter he tried in vain to find that skill.  It became obvious to even his most ardent supporters that Joe was desperately trying to find some reason to keep Old Henrietta alive and to present her as important to our tribe.

But it was hopeless effort.  She became meaner in spite of his efforts to help her.  She yelled at her neighbors, and complained about newborn babies crying, and threw sticks at the children for no reason at all.  We kept her alive and shared our sparse food only because of our respect for Joe, and when spring came and she died, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

We thought keeping Old Henrietta alive had served no useful purpose for our tribe, but we were wrong, for when the winter arrived there was no talk of sending one of the elders into the snow.  We had put up with so much to keep that mean old woman alive that we could not bring ourselves to send anyone nicer to the snow.  We never again sent anyone to the snow, even in years when our harvest was poor and the cold was deep.  So what Old Henrietta taught us is that even the life of the meanest person in the tribe must be cherished.

© 2017 Stan

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Added on August 16, 2017
Last Updated on August 16, 2017
Tags: Parable



Kula, HI

Speculative Fiction writer. Born and raised in California, Educated and married in New Mexico, Lived in Texas before moving to Maui, Hawaii. Operated a computer assembly and repair business before r.. more..

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