December 27, 2005

The Adventures of Raccoon


Once Raccoon was walking along the bank of a stream looking for something to eat. He was very hungry, but he found nothing.

At last he came to a water hole, and examined it. He saw tracks at the edge, and followed them until he came to a wigwam. He wondered what it was, so he approached it quietly. He peeped in at the door saw three old blind women cooking at a fire. Raccoon was a little afraid of them, but the food smelled so good that he ran around the lodge and came back again to the door with his mouth watering.

He saw them take the pots off the fire and put the food two large wooden bowls. This tempted Raccoon a great deal. He saw them look at the door and look right at him. He didn’t know they were all blind, and he thought that they were very kind not to notice that he was just standing there looking and drooling over their food. He thought to himself, “If anybody else comes, I’ll jump behind their bundles,” he crept in and snuggled close to them.

The old women began to joke with each other about the days of their youth. “Well,” said one, “I must feed my husband.” So she set a little dish of food over by the wall. “So will I,” said another, and she did the same. Raccoon went over at once and devoured both meals.

After a while, the third woman said, “Well, did your husbands eat their dinners?” One of the old women reached over and felt her bowl. “Oh! No kidding, that food is gone!” she cried. The other did the same, “Oh, indeed! That is no joke, my food is gone too!”

The old women did not know what to make of this. They guessed that some man must have sneaked in and eaten the food. One of them brought out her ceremonial net that the women of the Fish clan use to catch men during their ceremonies and put it over the door. They began to draw it through the house to catch the man, but Raccoon stuck out one of their clay pots and let them catch that.

When they felt its weight, they rushed upon it with sticks and beat it and broke it. Then they began to examine it. “Alas,” cried one, “We have broken up our earthen pot, and it was older than we are.”

Watching his opportunity, Raccoon darted from the house and made off with a full belly, wondering how he could gain entrance again when the old women had calmed down, and still be able to escape. “Oh! Well, no matter,” he thought, “Here is the river frozen over. I can play a trick on my brother, Wolf.” So he tied a stone onto his tail and trotted off on the ice. When the pebble hit the ice, it make a noise “Tum! Tum! Tum! Tum!” as he ran. Wolf heard the sound, and ran to the river bank to see what it was.

“Oh! There comes my little brother, Raccoon. Where did you get that thing that makes such a sweet sound?” he asked. “Why do you do it?” Raccoon answered “Oh! I do it to wake up the fish. Then they come to me. It is easy, you can do it too, Wolf, so I will give it to you.”

“Thank you,” answered Wolf, “and when the fish gather, how do you manage to catch them?” “Feel my belly,” said Raccoon, “I am full of them.” “Oh indeed! You have eaten plenty,” said Wolf.

Raccoon said, “It is easy enough to catch them, my brother. All you have to do is to run back to the water hole, stick your tail in it, and when the fish take hold of your tail, wait until you have a big load and then pull them all out.”

Wolf followed the instructions his brother, Raccoon. He tied the stone on his tail and ran back to the water hole. He thrust his tail in the water, and when the pangs of its freezing hurt him he thought he was being bitten by the fish, so he stayed there until his tail was completely frozen in. The old blind women came to the hole in the ice for water and found Wolf with his tail frozen in the ice.

He was trapped, and they found him there. They thought he was the one who had stolen their food and now here he was squatting on the ice to mess up the place where they got their water! They hit Wolf with sticks and Raccoon ran off laughing with the stone on his tail so he could play a trick on someone else.

Raccoon returned in the spring to visit the old blind women, but there was a man there so he passed on. As it was getting warm, he climbed up a tree to sun himself, and came down stretching and very hungry. He went along until he found an old wormy dead fish. He took some of the maggots and put them in his eyes, and lay down on the river bank pretending he was dead. After a while a couple of crawfish who happened to pass that way discovered him. They ran back and told their chief what they had seen.

“Oh! Chief, that fellow who ate so many of us last year is dead,” they announced to him. “Let us hold a dance over his body.” The chief was very happy that Raccoon was dead and sent messengers to all of his Crawfish people to tell them that they would hold their Spring dance over the body of their dead enemy. They came from many places and gathered there and began to dance and sing this song:

“Well, here you lie now! You great big fuzzy thing!

You ate and crushed us all up, but now we will show you what you did to us!”

They pinched his eyes, his nose, and his ears, and it hurt him especially when they pinched his buttocks. They kept on rejoicing over him. At last, Raccoon thought that there were enough within reach so he sprang up and crunched them with his jaws. He headed them off and prevented them from escaping by water, and crunched and crunched the Crawfish until he had his belly full again.

Then he washed himself. Some of the crawfish that had managed to escape peeped at him from their holes, wondering how he had managed to come to life. There was one very large green Crawfish among them, and Raccoon sprang at him. The crawfish backed into his burrow, and Raccoon thrust his hand in after him, but the crawfish seized it in his claw and made the Raccoon scream. Raccoon had a lame foot for many days after that, and that is the last they saw of him, limping off with a full belly.

Wolf finally got over his anger at Raccoon and called him his brother once again. He and all his tribe searched for Raccoon to make peace with him. Meanwhile Raccoon on his travels as usual, and he found a lot of berries and made a cake of them which he carried with him to give to Wolf as an apology when they met. At last they did meet, and Raccoon put down the cake and got off to one side of the trail. “Where have you been, my brother Wolf?” he asked.

“I have been hunting for food, my brother Raccoon,” said the Wolf. Raccoon answered, “Oh! So have I. I haven’t had much luck, but I found some berries. Here is a cake of them pounded up, if you would like to try them.”

The wolf accepted his invitation and then said, “I have a little lunch set aside too, if you would like to try it.” Raccoon cautiously followed Wolf, and found that he also had some berries, but Wolf had pounded his dung up with them. Raccoon ate the berry cake while Wolf rolled over and over and laughed and laughed, because Raccoon got very sick as soon as he discovered what Wolf had done. He vomited and rushed for some water to drink.

As soon as he could speak, Raccoon cried out, “Listen, Wolf! I’ll get you for this!” Wolf didn’t believe this for a minute, and chased Raccoon up a tree. Wolf said, “You have escaped me for now, but I will wait here until you have to come down.”

Raccoon went to sleep in the tree, and when he woke up he saw that Wolf had fallen asleep at the bottom of the tree. Raccoon climbed down slowly and quietly, and when he was on the ground, he saw that Wolf was sound asleep and would not wake up easily. He went to a marsh, found some sticky tree gum and plastered it over Wolf’s eyes. Then he climbed back up his tree and woke Wolf up.

Wolf sprang up terrified, and bumped into the trees in his efforts to escape. Raccoon offered to help him if they could be friends again, but when Raccoon came down he only plastered Wolf’s eyes with the pitch again. Raccoon ran into the water, and Wolf followed, singing: “How deep am I in the water, Wolf that I am?”

When he was within reach, Raccoon sprang upon him and ducked him until he was drowned. Because of this there is a two-legged animal in the water to this day, which the Potawatomi call a merman. He is half fish and half human.

Potawatomi Legends
About Raven SiJohn

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