The Plains Indians of North America held a tradition of counting coup on one’s enemy, by touching them in battle with a hand or a coup stick. There were many other variations of this act, with sets of rules as to how much honor one gained in the execution. The greater the display of bravery and the more unusual the steps to show up one’s enemy, the more honors visited upon the warrior… and the more scorn brought down on the victim. Being injured while counting coup brought even greater honor to the warrior and qualified him to paint his hand red, or place a red hand on the hide of his horse.
It is said there was one brave who took this too far. Others were greatly disturbed when he perpetrated many bizarre countings, thefts and unusual killings in his obsession to fully cover a second horse in red hands (his first horse, now redder than its original buff color, had been vandalized by a jealous peer by adding turkey beaks, eyes and legs to each red hand).
The obsessed brave routinely blindfolded himself in battle to achieve “sightless kills”, snuck into enemy camps leaving charcoal mustaches and spectacles on the faces of tribal leaders (symbols to mockingly portray them as pale-face-friendly) and would occasionally impose severe tickling upon a sleeping enemy, whose laughter upon awakening brought them life long shame and dishonor within their own tribe.
His second horse was never fully covered in red hands, for the brave was killed in an attempt to perform a controversial T’Chail Taek (roughly translates “stunt kill” or “risk kill”). He called out his enemy while standing upon a gun powder keg stolen from Fort Atkinson. After emerging from his dwelling and a short exchange of words, the confused enemy was pierced by an arrow, some reports say in the belly, some say the right thigh. This victim, it is said, was so enraged with dishonor that he, with his bare hands, grabbed hot embers from his camp fire and threw them at the power keg, injuring himself further and sending his offender high into the air.
Both tribes officially pronounced the act a failed T’Chail Taek attempt since the victim died weeks later than the attacker (from infection in the wound).
Though most historians discount the existence of this warrior, it is quite telling that children across North America still routinely stamp their paint-dipped hands onto paper and proceed to draw turkey beaks, eyes and legs upon the image.
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