Stories from my Grandfather – The Hunter and the Alligator

WHAT’S PLAYING: Jimmy ReedAin’t That Lovin’ You Baby?”

Once upon a time, there was a village on the edge of the Tombigbee River. There were many hunters in this village, all of whom — with one exception — had killed a great many deer.

Although the unlucky hunter often succeeded in getting close to the deer, they always managed to escape just before he drew his bow on them.

Now, this hunter had been away from the village for three days, and during that time, he had seen many deer but had not been able to kill a single one.

On the third day, when the sun was overhead, the hunter saw a huge alligator lying in a dry, sandy spot. This alligator had been without water for many days, and was so weak and shriveled that he could barely speak, but he managed to ask the hunter where he could find some water.

“There is a clear, deep pool of cold water just a short way into the forest,” the hunter replied.

“But I am too weak to go so far. Come nearer so that we may talk. Have no fear, for I cannot harm you,” said the alligator.

Careful to keep a prudent distance between himself and the alligator, the hunter moved closer so that he could hear.

“I know you are a hunter,” the alligator said, “but all the deer escape from you. If you will carry me to the water, I will make you a great hunter and tell you how to kill many, many deer.”

The hunter was afraid of the alligator, but finally he said, “If you will let me bind your legs so that you cannot scratch me, and your mouth so that you cannot bite me, I will carry you.”

The alligator rolled over on his back and held up his legs, saying, “I am helpless. Bind me and do with me as you will.”

The hunter took a cord and bound the alligator’s legs and mouth. Then he lifted the animal to his shoulder and carried him to the water.

When they reached the pool, the hunter loosened the cords and the alligator plunged into the water. It stayed down for a long time.

At last, he rose again to the surface and spoke to the hunter, saying, “Now listen, and if you do as I counsel, you will become a great hunter. Take your bow and arrows and go into the woods. You will first meet a small doe, but do not kill it. Next, you will meet a large doe, but you must not shoot this one either. Then you will see a small buck, but it likewise must be spared. Lastly, you will encounter a very large, old buck. Go very close to it and kill it, and ever afterward you will be able to kill many deer.”

The hunter did as the alligator told him, and was never again without venison in his camp.


Stories from My Grandfather—The Gift of Tanchi (Corn)

WHAT’S PLAYING: Beyoncé “If I Were a Boy

Once upon a time, two Choctaw hunters were camping underneath a summer moon near the Mississippi River, when they heard a beautiful but sad sound. They walked along the river’s edge, following the sound, until they came upon a beautiful woman surrounded by a brilliant light. She wore a white dress decorated with delicate flowers, and stood on a mound of earth.


The hunters asked the woman what was wrong

“I am hungry,” she replied in a small, sad voice.

The men did not have much food, but they gladly gave her their entire supper. The lady ate only a little and promised to remember their kindness.

“If you will go and tell no one you saw me, I will ask my father to give you a great and wondrous gift. Return to this spot at the next moon.”

Then a gentle breeze blew by, and she was gone. Then the hunters realized that the beautiful lady was Ohoyo Osh Chisba (the Unknown Woman) and that her father was none other than Hashtali, ruler of Heaven. Filled with wonder, the hunters returned to their families and said nothing.

At the next moon, the two hunters returned to the spot but were saddened to see that Hashtali’s daughter was not there. But on the exact spot where she stood was a tall green plant with leaves that looked like the swords of the white men.

The Choctaw learned to cultivate this plant and named it tanchi.


And it was a great and wondrous gift indeed.