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March 1, 2002

The raccoon and the blind men

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Keywords: legend legends oral story american indian folklore native american myths raccoon and blind men

Source: Unidentified American Indian Legend
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The following tale represents the raccoon as the mischief maker, as the
animal of like propensities among other tribes is the coyote. There was a large settlement on the shores of a lake, and among its people
were two very old blind men. It was decided to remove these men to the
opposite side of the lake, where they might live in safety, as the settlement
was exposed to the attack of enemies, and they might easily be captured and
killed.

The relations of the old men got a canoe, some food, a kettle, and
a bowl and started across the lake, where they built for them a wigwam in a
grove some distance from the water.

A line was stretched from the door of the
wigwam to a post in the water, so that they would have no difficulty in
helping themselves. The food and vessels were put into the wigwam, and after
the relations of the old men promised them that they would call often and
keep them provided with everything that was needed.

The two old blind men now began to take care of themselves. On
one day one of them would do the cooking while the other went for water, and
on the next day they would change about in their work, so that their labors
were evenly divided.

As they knew just how much food they required for each
meal, the quantity prepared was equally divided, but was eaten out of the one
bowl which they had.

Here they lived in contentment for several years; but
one day a Raccoon, which was following the waters edge looking for crawfish,
came to the line which had been stretched from the lake to the wigwam. The
Raccoon thought it rather curious to find a cord where he had not before observed
one, and wondered to himself,“What is this? I think I shall follow this cord
to see where it leads.”

So Raccoon followed the path along which the cord was
stretched until he came to the wigwam. Approaching very cautiously, he went
up to the entrance, where he saw the two old men asleep on the ground, their
heads at the door and their feet directed toward the heap of hot coals
within.

The Raccoon sniffed about and soon found there was something good to
eat within the wigwam; but he decided not to enter at once for fear of waking
the old men; so he retired a short distance to hide himself to see what they
would do.

Presently the old men awoke, and one said to the other, “My friend,
I am getting hungry; let us prepare some food.”

“Very well,” replied his
companion, “you go down to the lake and fetch some water while I get the fire
started.”

The Raccoon heard this conversation, and, wishing to deceive the
old man, immediately ran to the water, untied the cord from the post, and
carried it to a clump of bushes, where he tied it.

When the old man came
along with his kettle to get water, he stumbled around the brush until he
found the end of the cord, when he began to dip his kettle down upon the
ground for water.

Not finding any, he slowly returned and said to his
companion, “We shall surly die, because the lake is dried up and the brush is
grown where we used to get water. What shall we do?”

“That cannot be,”
responded his companion, “for we have not been asleep long enough for the
brush to grow upon the lake bed. Let me go out to try to see if I cannot get some water.” Taking the kettle from his friend he started off.

As soon as the
first old man had returned to the wigwam, the Raccoon took the cord back and
tied it where he had found it, then waited to see the result.

The second old
man now came along, entered the lake, and getting his kettle full of water
returned to the wigwam, saying as he entered, “My friend, you told me what
was not true. There is water enough; for here, you see, I have our kettle
full.”

The other could not understand this at all, and wondered what had
caused this deception.

The Raccoon approached the wigwam to await the cooking
of the food. When it was ready, the pieces of meat, for there were eight of
them, were put into the bowl and the old men sat down on the ground facing
each other, with the bowl between them.

Each took a piece of the meat, and
they began to talk of various things and were enjoying themselves.

The
Raccoon now quietly removed four pieces of meat from the bowl and began to
eat them, enjoying the feast even more than the old blind men.

Presently one
of them reached into the bowl to get another piece of meat, and finding that
only two pieces remained, said, “My friend, you must be very hungry to eat so
rapidly; I have had only but one piece, and there are but two pieces left.”

The other replied, “I have not taken them, but suspect you have eaten them
yourself;” whereupon the other replied more angrily than before.

Thus they
argued, and the Raccoon, desiring to have more sport, tapped each of them on
the face. The old men, each believing the other had struck him, began to
fight, rolling over the floor of the wigwam, upsetting the bowl and the
kettle, and causing the fire to be scattered.

The Raccoon then took the two
remaining pieces of meat and made his exit from the wigwam, laughing “Ha, Ha,
Ha, Ha;” whereupon the old men instantly ceased their strife, for they now
knew they had been deceived.

The Raccoon then remarked to them, “I have
played a nice trick on you; you should not find fault with each other so
easily.”

Then the Raccoon continued his crawfish hunting along the lake
shore.

Unidentified Legends
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