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St. Louis, Missouri

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at Night
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Fireside Stories

A Young Visitor
Months in Ten Languages
1904 World's Fair Links

Scenes From the 1893 Columbian Exposition

World Fair Links
Further Readings...

Christmas Countdown

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Fireside Stories by Faith Pyle


How the Owl Got His Song


Dear Great Grandchild :

I wrote this story down in the computer.  .It is a very old story told word of mouth by a grandfather to his grandchildren over and over for a very long time.  Now I will put down the words in writing for the first time. 

As children, we always asked our Mommy to read a story at bedtime and she did most of the time.  In the summer we stayed in my Grandfather's camp at Lake Tahoe.  At night we had a campfire.  We sang and told stories around the fire before bedtime.

Sometimes my Grandfather would tell a made up story when we were all around the camp fire in the summertime.  The moon would be shinning up above the big Lake Tahoe, making a wonderful trail of light on the water.  All the trees seemed like cutouts ,black  against the moon  bright sky.  The camp fire smelled of the burning pine wood and little sparks would shoot up in the dark and oh it was so nice .Of course this was in the 1930’s and all people were out camping  at Lake Tahoe all the time in the summer.  There were hardly any houses in Tahoe City. We had a house for winter but we stayed in the camp about 2 months to 3 months if it was a warm summer. We were quiet as little mice while Grandaddy talked or sang to us.

"I heard this story once," said Grandaddy, "from a very old Cherokee grandmother.  And, she, and even I , can’t prove it is true because it happened a long, long time ago when animals could talk. Or maybe that was just yesterday.  I am not very sure as I have lived so long myself. .Anyway it happened once upon a time like all stories do.


How the Owl Got his Song

Once upon a time....in the great north woods, in the place where the great waters are (now called the Great Lakes), there were many people living,  who, in those days, were called  "The real people," or "Mohicans."  At one time  the name for the people was  a word that not one of the people living today could  remember, so we  just call them  the "people of the woods and lakes."

A nice family lived on the edge of the lake with all their friends and relatives in a town where all the houses were made out of poles and cedar shingles ..They had one great long house for big meetings and ceremonies and many smaller homes for the families.  One Hunter, and his wife,  Basket Maker, of great renown, had only one little girl .  She was a very busy little girl and ran around a great deal so they called her baby name "Runs on Fat Legs,", but when she was bigger,  like a six year old, they began calling her Runs Like the Wind.  But the word that meant that was shorter and sounded like the wind sounds,  but meant Runs Like the Wind..  

Runs Like the Wind. had to help her mother and father and there was no other child to do it so she was very good and helped do what they ask her to do.  Runs Like the Wind. lived in a cedar bark and pole house with Hunter and Basket maker and they all worked every day in the good weather to gather food for the winter.  Hunter went hunting or stayed home and made bows and arrows and spears and nets.  He and the other men also fished and they had to make boats so they were very busy.

Basket Maker  gathered all kinds of food to go along with the corn and squash she grew in the garden with all the other women.  They went out and dug up roots like our sweet potato and of course they gathered  berries and grapes and nuts galore when they were in season then they dried them and made them last.  They had to gather enough to last the long snowy winter.

One day Mother gave Runs Like the Wind. a basket for herself and took her with the rest of the women and children to gather nuts to save for winter.

The little girl  was so happy she sang a song as she worked.  She sang ”Ho Ho whoo ho ho whoo.’   Runs Like the Wind. was singing and  thinking so hard, “Where is another nut tree,”  that she forgot to keep track of where her Mother was working.  She kept looking at the next tree and then the next tree and they all looked alike.  Finally she found a tree where the ground was just covered with nuts so she began working to fill her basket.

A big red squirrel with a bushy tail all cream colored underneath came out on a limb and began scolding her very much,  telling the  singing little girl to be quiet. Shouting, .  He said, “ If you take all the nuts what will I eat in the winter?”  

“I just have a little basket,” she replied “you can come and get all the rest when we are gone,” then she looked around.  There was no one there .  Not one person could she see.  Only a squirrel. And he was still shouting and not friendly. Chatter Chat Chat he shouted.

The woods began to look dark to her and the trees and bushes seemed very close together.  The sun didn’t make much light now.  She began walking and looking for her people “ I am so little,” she thought,  “how could anyone see me?”.  She shouted back at the squirrel “Don’t yell so. You frighten me”

Squirrel said “well when you sing and steal my food at the same time I have a right to shout, now stop crying and scaring me.  I don’t like crying little girls. Rather, I  do like them, it is just I want them to stop crying” he shouted.  “Please  Please, “ now  the squirrel stopped shouting and using a gentle tone of voice “Rest here ,”said the squirrel.

She sat down and a tear was still rolling out of her eye.  She tried to be brave but she was lost.  She pulled up her deer skin moccasins and brushed the leaves and dirt off her hands and face.  Then she cracked and ate all the nuts in her basket and her tears ran down her little brown face.

Runs Like the Wind. sat there for a long time.  Finally the Red squirrel cane and said “Are you going to live here with me.?”    “No, “she said,” I want to find my people especially I want my mother.” “  Well,” said the Red squirrel “ you better hurry long the path and don’t just sit her all day”.  So Runs Like the Wind.  began going up and down the forest trail calling and singing “ Yoo Whoo  WHOOT and Ho Ho WHOOT.‘

She woke up a very large old grandfather  brown owl who came out of his hole in a tree. HE was  blinking his big yellow eyes and turning his head clear around to look backwards.   “Hey,” he said “you woke me up .Don’t you   know I sleep in  the day and come out in the night.  Stop singing whoo whoo  at me..” 

“Oh Mr. Owl I am sorry.  I would be quiet but I need to find my mother..” 

“Well if I ever want to go back to sleep,”   said the big old owl ,” I better take you home Come Come right now and follow me.,”  and he flew from  tree to  bush and waited for the girl  to follow  him.

He flew up the path and she did follow.  Finally he said,” Here we are.  Now go up this path to the next nut tree and you will find you mother , she  is looking for you.,  Runs Like the Wind. .  You are not lost now   But I decided I like that song very much, you it sang in the woods.  Ho Ho Whoot..  May I sing your song. “  

“Oh yes, Mr. Owl,  you can have my song!”  and she ran like the wind on the path to her people.  They all kissed and hugged her and she got her grown up name forever. “Runs Like the Wind..”

If you walk in the woods today you will know all the owls forgot how to talk...but they did not forget how to sing out at night when looking for owl people. Whoo  Whoo, they sing.

Now children that is how the owl got his song and how he can always find his own owl people  WHOO WHOO.WHOOT.


Faith Pyle All rights reserved © 2000





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