February 28, 1991

A look at prehistory: Dawk-Tarr Learns to Stay Alive

A physician who demands no fee is worth none.

The Talmud

The secret of survival came to him one cold night, while he was sitting in his cave gnawing on a dry joint of venison. Until that night, Dawk-Tarr (Old Neanderthal: Dawk doesn't, Tarr work) had barely managed to stay alive by eating berries and fruit during the summer, and during the winter by eating the meat scraps left over by his more enterprising fellow Neanderthalers. But this was an exceptionally hard winter and his clansmen left few, if any, scraps. Moreover, a plague was killing a large number of members of the tribe.

On the previous day, he had been in the cave of Argh Zhlub (O.N. strong hunter) trying to scrounge a bite of venison. Argh was lying in a corner under several deer skins. He felt hot to the touch, but was also shivering. There was the fear of death in Argh's eyes. This look of fear so disturbed Dawk-Tarr --perhaps because he could imagine himself in Argh Zhlub's predicament-- that he placed his hand over Argh's eyes and said "Shloff" which means "sleep." Argh immediately fell into a deep sleep, which greatly relieved Dawk. He took a deer skin and lay down next to Argh and also fell asleep. The next morning, Dawk was awakened by a smiling Argh Zhlub, bearing a leg of venison, saying "Dawk-Tarr dook Argh-Zhlub." (Dawk-Tarr saved Argh-Zhlub)>

So, that very night, while eating Argh-Zhlub's gift of venison, Dawk decided that if he changed his name to Dook-Tow (saves life), he might be able to eat well every winter.

The next day, when everyone was gathered in front of the cave, he took Argh-Zhlub by the hand and and shouted to those assembled, "Dook-Tow dook Argh-Zhlub!"(Dook Tow saved Argh zhlub)

That evening, the wife of Nook-Zhlub(sneaky hunter) took Dook by the hand and led him to where her husband lay ill. Dook placed his hand over Nook's eyes and said "Shloff." Nook looked at him as if he were crazy and howled in pain. Mrs. Nook gave Dook a root cake for his efforts.

That night, Nook-Zhlub died. Since language was not, as it is today, well enough developed to explain away almost anything, it took Dook-Tow a long time to explain to Nook's wife that he had applied the very same medicine that had saved Argh-Zhlub's life; but that Nook, perverse character that he was, had refused to take it. No! he could not return the root cake, since he had already eaten it, but he would, out of sympathy, undertake to provide a few of the services that her late husband had previously taken care of, such as keeping his wife's deer skins warm.

The next two of his patients recovered, which established his reputation as THE Dook Tow. From then on, his services were always in demand. In the process of performing his services, he noticed that when his patients had a cold clammy feel to them and lay very still, that they usually died. He would then say to the family "Dook tow dawk tarr."(save life doesn't work) and he would not use the magic word. This established his reputation not only as a healer, but as a seer and an honest man --if it is possible to be both at the same time.

His practice prospered and he was able to acquire several wives. When he cured Argh-Argh-Zhlub (most mighty hunter) of a severe illness, the hunter presented Dook with the skin of the rare white deer, which Dook's wives fashioned into a cloak. He also acquired a drum, which was invented by Leonardo Dawk-Tarr; and a staff (This was a carved stick --hospital staffs had not yet been invented).

Before Dook-Tow died, he taught his sons the art of stopping death, and the magic word "Shloff", which was to be uttered when only the patient could hear and should not be too intelligible to him either. His sons had the word Shloff made taboo so that only people named Doctaw (the pronunciation had changed over the years) could utter it without bringing pestilence to the whole tribe. One enterprising descendant decided that the magic word was more effective if accompanied by the administration of some ground-up bitter herbs. It wasn't long before he had acquired considerable official status as well as the entire tribe as patients. . He set his brothers collecting the herbs, for which he paid them a very small percentage of his fee. The Doctaw clan prospered.

For many many generations the Doctaw clan brought comfort to the sick and saved lives. His descendants became First Counselors to the chief; for by then the descendants of another very creative man, Poli-Tiki(many words) had established themselves as the leaders of the tribe.

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