Grandmother River's Trick
A Native American Legend
Once the little fish that lived in a river, who was their grandmother, were in danger of being eaten by the garfish. The garfish, because they were long and slim, could catch the little fish without trouble. When the little fish fled through the water and tried to hide near the edges of banks and in shallow places of the river the long garfish darted after them, poked their slim snouts into the hiding places of the small fish and snapped them up in their sharp teeth. The hungry garfish were everywhere. They ate and ate but were never filled. They swam after the little fish day and night, churned up the river mud and gave the little fish no rest.
The little ones at last cried out to their grandmother, who was the river, to do something to help them. Grandmother River did not like the garfish, and she liked the little perch, the bass and the minnows. She decided to play a trick on the big, hungry fish. She called to a big cloud that floated over her to send down some of its rain. The cloud heard. Twisting its dark, wet hair it sent down the rain in a great flood upon the river.
As the rain began pouring into Grandmother River she began to grow larger. She grew until she rose out of her banks and poured over the dry land. When the garfish saw what was happening they thought that here was a good chance to swim out upon the bushes and see if they could find something more they could eat. Instead of staying between the banks of the river with the little fish the garfish began to poke their noses into places where they had no business to be. They swam under the trees and the bushes and rolled their greedy eyes up at the grasshoppers and beetles.
And now Grandmother River played her trick. Quickly she gathered up her skirts to her knees and began running down to the sea, and as she ran she began dropping along her banks the dirt and sand she was carrying. Before the garfish saw what she was doing she had built up the banks higher than ever and had left them in little pools by themselves.
What a rage they were in when they saw how they had been fooled! They leaped in the air, they churned the pools, and they bit at one another. But it was no use. Grandmother River just gurgled along in her banks and the little fish played around as they pleased, happy to be safe from the sharp teeth and hungry mouths of the garfish.
Sources And Further Reading
Sacred Texts When the Storm God Rides Tejas and Other Indian Legends by Florence Stratton collected by Bessie M. Reid