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The Salt Witch


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

A pillar of snowy salt once stood on the Nebraska plain, about forty
miles above the point where the Saline flows into the Platte, and white
men used to hear of it as the Salt Witch. An Indian tribe was for a long
time quartered at the junction of the rivers, its chief a man of blood
and muscle in whom his people gloried, but so fierce, withal, that nobody
made a companion of him except his wife, who alone could check his
tigerish rages.

In sooth, he loved her so well that on her death he became a recluse and
shut himself within his lodge, refusing to see anybody. This mood endured
with him so long that mutterings were heard in the tribe and there was
talk of choosing another chief. Some of this talk he must have heard, for
one morning he emerged in war-dress, and without a word to any one strode
across the plain to westward. On returning a full month later he was more
communicative and had something unusual to relate. He also proved his
prowess by brandishing a belt of fresh scalps before the eyes of his
warriors, and he had also brought a lump of salt.

He told them that after travelling far over the prairie he had thrown
himself on the earth to sleep, when he was aroused by a wailing sound
close by. In the light of a new moon he saw a hideous old woman
brandishing a tomahawk over the head of a younger one, who was kneeling,
begging for mercy, and trying to shake off the grip from her throat. The
sight of the women, forty miles from the village, so surprised the chief
that he ran toward them. The younger woman made a desperate effort to
free herself, but in vain, as it seemed, for the hag wound her left hand
in her hair while with the other she raised the axe and was about to

At that moment the chief gained a view of the face of the younger
woman-it was that of his dead wife. With a snarl of wrath he leaped upon
the hag and buried his own hatchet in her brain, but before he could
catch his wife in his arms the earth had opened and both women
disappeared, but a pillar of salt stood where he had seen this thing. For
years the Indians maintained that the column was under the custody of the
Salt Witch, and when they went there to gather salt they would beat the
ground with clubs, believing that each blow fell upon her person and kept
her from working other evil.

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