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john billum Demba Two Checker Players In far-off time, two families lived in a village. They were next-door neighbors , and they each had their own slaves. They had a very good year. Each family had fish, meat, spruce hens, ground squirrels, and berries of all kinds. One day around midwinter, one of the families invited their neighbor over for dinner. They had a good time eating. After dinner, the man who did the inviting said to his guest, ‘‘Would you like to play checkers?’’1 The guest said, ‘‘Yes, I’ll play with you.’’ The checkerboard was brought out and they began playing. The two men were putting their property up for bets. It was not very long before the invited guest began losing. Soon he lost all of his personal belongings. He also lost his slaves,2 his children, and his wife. The only thing he had left was an empty house. The neighbor who had invited him told his slaves to go to the empty house and put out the fire and throw out everything that could help him to survive. There was one slave who liked his former master. When the other slaves began putting out the fire, this slave quickly took some of the hot charcoals and put them underneath a birch-bark basket. When the slave was passing by his former master, he whispered, ‘‘I put some charcoals under the birch-bark basket for you.’’ The man went back to his empty house. He found the charcoals and started a fire. Soon it was warm. He found old pieces of fur, and he sewed them together for clothing. Then he went out to set snares to catch some rabbits. He was successful. He at least had rabbits to eat, and he survived through the winter. Spring came and he prepared for fishing. He caught salmon and dried them until he felt that he had enough. So around the month of August, he went up the mountain and set traps to catch some squirrels and whistlers. Whistlers are animals that live and look very similar to the ground squirrels, but are much larger than the squirrels. The man went back to check his traps the next day. Every one of his traps  Ahtna was empty. He did not catch anything. He felt so bad. He remembered all of the bad luck that he had. He thought of the game of checkers and how he lost everything. So he sat down and began to cry. Suddenly, he heard something behind him. He turned around and saw a very handsome stranger standing there with a cane in his hand. The man asked, ‘‘Why are you crying?’’ So he told the stranger about all of the terrible things that had happened to him. How he lost everything playing checkers with his neighbor, how the neighbor took over his family and everything he owned, and how he set traps to catch some whistlers but was unsuccessful. He did not catch anything. The stranger touched him between the shoulder blades with his cane and caused him to vomit. The stranger said, ‘‘All of this is the cause of your bad luck in trapping. Go and check your traps tomorrow; there will be a whistler in every trap. Pick up all the whistlers but the one in the last trap. Do not touch it. Just leave it in the trap. Do not take it.’’ It happened as the stranger said. Each of his traps had a whistler in it, and the last trap had the prettiest one of all. But he did not touch it. So he picked up the ones in all of the other traps but did not touch the one in the last trap. Three days later, after picking up all the whistlers in the other traps, he came to the last trap and decided to take that whistler. This one had such a beautiful fur. He took it out of the trap and put it into his pack and started home. When he was almost home, the whistler jumped out of the pack and ran away. He ran after it right into its den. The den closed up behind him. In the den was the man who told him not to take the whistler that was in the very last trap. The man said to him, ‘‘I told you not to take the one in the last trap.’’ Then the man reached for a checkerboard. It...


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