Native American Legends
Why the Birch tree wears slashes in its bark
A Blackfoot Legend
"It was a hot day, and Old-Man was trying to sleep, but the
heat made him sick. He wandered to a hilltop for air; but there
was no air. Then he went down to the river and found no relief.
He traveled to the timberlands, and there the heat was great, although
he found plenty of shade. The traveling made him warmer, of course,
but he wouldn't stay still.
"By and by he called to the winds to blow, and they commenced.
First they didn't blow very hard, because they were afraid they
might make Old-Man angry, but he kept crying:
"'Blow harder -- harder -- harder! Blow worse than ever you
blew before, and send this heat away from the world.'
"So, of course, the winds did blow harder -- harder than they
ever had blown before.
"'Bend and break, Fir-Tree!' cried Old-Man, and the Fir-Tree
did bend and break. 'Bend and break, Pine-Tree!' and the Pine-Tree
did bend and break. 'Bend and break, Spruce-Tree!' and the Spruce-Tree
did bend and break. 'Bend and break, O Birch-Tree!' and the Birch-Tree
did bend, but it wouldn't break -- no, sir! -- it wouldn't break!
"'Ho! Birch-Tree, won't you mind me? Bend and break! I tell
you,' but all the Birch-Tree would do was to bend.
"It bent to the ground; it bent double to please Old-Man,
but it would not break.
"'Blow harder, wind!' cried Old-Man, 'blow harder and break
the Birch-Tree.' The wind tried to blow harder, but it couldn't,
and that made the thing worse, because Old-Man was so angry he went
crazy. 'Break! I tell you -- break!' screamed Old-Man to the Birch-Tree.
"'I won't break,' replied the Birch; 'I shall never break
for any wind. I will bend, but I shall never, never break.'
"'You won't, hey?' cried Old-Man, and he rushed at the Birch-Tree
with his hunting-knife. He grabbed the top of the Birch because
it was touching the ground, and began slashing the bark of the Birch-Tree
with the knife. All up and down the trunk of the tree Old-Man slashed,
until the Birch was covered with the knife slashes.
"'There! that is for not minding me. That will do you good!
As long as time lasts you shall always look like that, Birch-Tree;
always be marked as one who will not mind its maker. Yes, and all
the Birch-Trees in the world shall have the same marks forever.'
They do, too. You have seen them and have wondered why the Birch-Tree
is so queerly marked. Now you know.
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