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The Wonderful Ball


Source: Thirty Indian Legends

Wesakchak was once the only person living. He found himself floating
all alone on the water. Above him was the sky, and all around and
about stretched water. He called aloud, but no one answered. Then he
noticed a little, dark object floating near him. It was a rat.

"My little brother," said Wesakchak, "we are all alone in this world of
sky and water."

"Yes," said the rat. "But I am not afraid, for you are with me. Are
you afraid?"

"No," said Wesakchak, "for the Mighty One will take care of us both.
Do you go below and see if you can find any land."

The rat quickly obeyed Wesakchak and sank down through the water in
search of dry land. He was gone a long time, and Wesakchak began to
wonder if he were ever coming back. At last he floated up, but he was
dead, and in his paws there was a little bit of clay. Wesakchak was
very sorry when he saw that his little comrade was dead. He took the
clay from the rat's paws and breathed upon it. Now Wesakchak was
greater than a human being; he was really a spirit. So when he
breathed upon the clay, it formed itself into a ball and began to grow.
He rolled the ball in his hands, and when it grew a little larger, he
said a few words over it. At once there came forth a little mouse, who
began running around the ball. The mouse was just the color of the
earth. Wesakchak said to it, "Your name shall be The Mouse and you
shall always live amid the people, and your color shall be the color of
the earth." So to this day we find the mouse in the homes of people,
and it always is the same dark gray color.

As the mouse continued running, the ball kept growing. In a few
minutes Wesakchak said some more words and out ran a little chipmunk.
He began chasing around the ball too, but he could not stay on as well
as the mouse. He slipped and nearly fell off several times. Wesakchak
caught him and put him safely on again, but in doing so left the marks
of his fingers on the chipmunk's back. And there they have remained
ever since, and look like dark brown stripes.

The two little animals kept on running and Wesakchak now brought forth
a red squirrel. There was a strong wind blowing, and the squirrel
seemed timid. He would run for a little distance and then sit down.
The wind would catch his bushy tail and blow it up over his head as he
sat there, and so ever afterwards the squirrel curled his tail up when
he sat down.

The ball kept growing larger and larger, and Wesakchak brought forth
one animal after another. The rabbit, the fox, the wolf, the bear, and
all the rest of them came out as they were called, until at last the
ball was as big as the earth. Then he called forth the moose, and when
it came and saw miles and miles of prairie, it ran for five miles
without stopping. To this day the moose, when chased, always runs five
miles before it stops.

When Wesakchak had all the animals on the earth, he gave them all their
homes. Some were to live in the forests, some among the mountains, and
others were to live on the prairies. He made little creeks to flow to
divide their feeding-grounds, and they were told not to cross these
water lines. The water in the creeks was not clean. It had green
slime floating on the top, and reeds and rushes grew thickly amongst
it. He made the water this way because he did not wish the animals to
drink it. Then he made beautiful, clear rivers flow through the land
to be their drinking water. In the rivers he made fish swim, and
called all the animals who lived on fish to come and live near the
banks of the rivers. In the trees he told the birds to build their
nests, and soon all the animals and birds were happy and contented in
their homes.

They all loved Wesakchak, for he was so wise and good. He was kind to
them all and called them his brothers. He knew the secrets of the
animals: why the moose is ungainly and has no flesh on his bones, why
the rabbit's ears are long and have each a little roll of flesh behind
it, and why the rat has no hair upon its tail. He understood all the
languages of the animals, and each came to him when it was in trouble.

There was one animal who was very smart and clever. He was about the
size of the wolf and was called the wolverine. He had beautiful, soft
fur, long, straight legs, and firm feet. But he was not liked by the
other animals, for he was very conceited. He was always talking about
his beautiful fur and his long legs. He would ask the other animals to
race with him, because he knew he could always win. Then he would
laugh at them for not being able to run as fast as he could. He was
always getting into mischief, too, and never seemed happy unless he was
playing a trick on some other animal. The other animals often came and
told Wesakchak how mean the wolverine was to them. He would tell them
to try to be patient, and then he would scold the wolverine for being
so unkind. The wolverine would pretend he was very sorry, but the very
next day he would do some more mean tricks.

One day he came past the wigwam of Wesakchak. Looking in, he saw that
it was empty, and that the Fire Bag, where Wesakchak always kept his
steel and flint and his pipe and tobacco-pouch, was hanging on the
wall. The wolverine looked around and saw that no one was near, so he
sneaked in and grabbed the bag. He ran away through the bush with it
until he came to a tall tamarac tree. He climbed the tree and hung the
bag on one of the branches. Then he jumped down and ran away, laughing
to himself at the trick he had played on Wesakchak.

When Wesakchak returned home, it was nearly evening, and he was tired
and hungry. He looked around for his Fire Bag, for he wished to make a
fire. The way they got a spark in those days was to strike the steel
and flint together; a spark would fly forth and set the dry bark on
fire. But Wesakchak could not find his bag. He looked all over the
wigwam, still he could not find it. Then he noticed footmarks on the
ground near the door. Looking closely, he saw whose they were. "It is
that mischief-maker, the wolverine, who has taken my bag," he said. "I
shall go in search of it. And if I meet him, I shall punish him well
for all his mischief-making." He set forth in search of the precious
bag. All night he wandered through the forest, but could not find it.
When the morning came, he went back to his wigwam and sat down to think
what he was to do. "If I had my pipe," he said to himself, "I would
not feel so sad."

As he sat there, he thought he heard a noise like the wolverine behind
his lodge. Going out quickly, he saw the scamp among the trees.
Wesakchak followed, but could see nothing more of the animal. He
tramped on until he was tired, then turned homewards again.

As he was passing near a tall tree, he looked up, and there was his
Fire Bag hanging from one of the highest branches. The tree was smooth
and tall, and as Wesakchak began to climb he found himself slipping
down very often. Then he would catch hold quickly with his feet and
hands. After very hard work he succeeded at last in reaching the bag.
Then he slid quickly down the tree. But when he looked up at it, he
saw that its bark was hanging in torn pieces where he had caught it
with his feet and hands. So, to this day, the tamarac bark hangs in
tattered shreds to show that Wesakchak once climbed it.

On the way home he heard the wolverine, who was just trying to sneak
away among the bushes.

"Come forth here, brother wolverine," called Wesakchak. "I want to
talk to you."

The wolverine came out and stood in front of him. He did not look a
bit sorry for what he had done.

"You are always getting into mischief," said Wesakchak. "Now, I am
going to punish you for playing so many mean tricks. After this your
legs will be very short and crooked, and you will not be able to run as
fast as you did before."

As he said this, the wolverine's legs grew short and bent, and with an
angry growl the animal disappeared among the trees.

Next: A Wonderful Journey

Previous: The Legend Of Mackinac Island

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