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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 223





THE SPIDER TOWER

In Dead Man's Canon—a deep gorge that is lateral to the once populated valley of the Rio de Chelly, Arizona—stands a stark spire of weathered sandstone, its top rising eight hundred feet above its base in a sheer uplift. Centuries ago an inhabitant of one of the cave villages was surprised by hostiles while hunting in this region, and was chased by them into this canon. As he ran he looked vainly from side to side in the hope of securing a hiding-place, but succor came from a source that was least expected, for on approaching this enormous obelisk, with strength well-nigh exhausted, he saw a silken cord hanging from a notch at its top. Hastily knotting the end about his waist, that it might not fall within reach of his pursuers, he climbed up, setting his feet into roughnesses of the stone, and advancing, hand over hand, until he had reached the summit, where he stayed, drinking dew and feeding on eagles' eggs, until his enemies went away, for they could not reach him with their arrows, defended as he was by points of rock. The foemen having gone, he safely descended by the cord and reached his home. This help had come from a friendly spider who saw his plight from her perch at the top of the spire, and, weaving a web of extra thickness, she made one end fast to a jag of rock while the other fell within his grasp—for she, like all other of the brute tribe, liked the gentle cave-dwellers better than the remorseless hunters. Hence the name of the Spider Tower.





THE LOST TRAIL

The canon of Oak Creek is choked by a mass of rock, shaped like a keystone, and wedged into the jaws of the defile. An elderly Ute tells this story of it. Acantow, one of the chiefs of his tribe, usually placed his lodge beside the spring that bubbled from a thicket of wild roses in the place where Rosita, Colorado, stands to-day. He left his wife—Manetabee (Rosebud)—in the lodge while he went across the mountains to attend a council, and was gone four sleeps. On his return he found neither wife nor lodge, but footprints and hoofprints in the ground showed to his keen eye that it was the Arapahoes who had been there.

Getting on their trail he rode over it furiously, and at night had reached Oak Canon, along which he travelled until he saw the gleam of a small fire ahead. A squall was coming up, and the noise of it might have enabled him to gallop fairly into the group that he saw huddled about the glow; but it is not in the nature of an Indian to do that, and, tying his horse, he crawled forward.

There were fifteen of the Arapahoes, and they were gambling to decide the ownership of Manetabee, who sat bound beneath a willow near them. So engrossed were the savages in the contest that the snake-like approach of Acantow was unnoticed until he had cut the thongs that bound Manetabee's wrists and ankles—she did not cry out, for she had expected rescue—and both had imperceptibly slid away from them. Then, with a yell, one of the gamblers pointed to the receding forms, and straightway the fifteen made an onset.

Swinging his wife lightly to his shoulders Acantow set off at a run and he had almost reached his horse when his foot caught in a root and he fell headlong. The pursuers were almost upon him when the storm burst in fury. A flood of fire rushed from the clouds and struck the earth with an appalling roar. Trees were snapped, rocks were splintered, and a whirlwind passed. Acantow was nearly insensible for a time—then he felt the touch of the Rosebud's hand on his cheek, and together they arose and looked about them. A huge block of riven granite lay in the canon, dripping blood. Their enemies were not to be seen.

"The trail is gone," said Acantow. "Manitou has broken it, that the Arapahoes may never cross it more. He would not allow them to take you. Let us thank the Manitou." So they went back to where the spring burst amid the rose-bushes.





A BATTLE IN THE AIR

In the country about Tishomingo, Indian Territory, troubles are foretold by a battle of unseen men in the air. Whenever the sound of conflict is heard it is an indication that many dead will lie in the fields, for it heralds battle, starvation, or pestilence. The powerful nation that lived here once was completely annihilated by an opposing tribe, and in the valley in the western part of the Territory there are mounds where hundreds of men lie buried. Spirits occupy the valley, and to the eyes of the red men they are still seen, at times, continuing the fight.


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