A Cherokee stickball legend

Posted by | June 12, 2012

It started back when the animals of the forest had a ball team.

The forest animals had a rough line up, a big line up. The Big Bear was the captain. In his lineup he had the Fast-Running Deer. And he had the Big Wolf, and the Big Bob Cat, and the Big Panther.

The Big Bear liked to boast. He’d get in front of all his ball players and show them how strong he was by picking up boulders and tossing them, or maybe picking up a big log, and tossing it. He said there’s no team can win over us.

While he was talking and boasting about his team and himself, there was someone trying to get his attention. And this someone was so small that he couldn’t get the Big Bear’s attention. All he could do was tap him on his toes. Maybe Big Bear would feel that tapping and get the signal and look down.

And sure enough, the Big Bear wondered what was tapping him, and when he looked down it was a little mouse about as big as your thumb looking up at that big giant.

He said, “I come to play ball with you. I can join your team. I’m a forest animal, you know.”

The Big Bear thought that was the funniest sight he had ever seen. He fell backwards laughing at that little mouse. Then when he finally got up, he pointed his finger at that little mouse and said, “I want you to tell me what in the world you can do in a ball game? Just look at you, and look at your size! I don’t know about you!” And then he kicked that little mouse way out into the bushes.

And when that little mouse landed, of course his feelings were hurt. And then he said, “That’s no way to treat a person.” He got thinking he wasn’t going to give up. He got thinking, there’s another team way in the distance. They’re getting ready to play ball. I think they’re having a big ball dance before they play ball. So the evening before the game he thought he’d go see that team, and maybe they’d let him play on their team.

He walked for miles, and he finally arrived. There was a big eagle, Captain Eagle, a fowl of the air, who had a team. And they had the Falcon and the Big Hawk, and the Big Buzzard, and all those big birds of the forest. And they were getting ready to put on a ritual.

And the little mouse explained to the eagle the story of what happened between him and the Bear, what the Bear did to him. And he said, “I still want to play ball.” He said, “May I join your team?”

The Eagle said, “Why sure! You can join us. But one thing, though, you don’t have any wings. You need wings to play with us. You’ve got to fly.”

They looked around real quick and they found a piece of leather, and they cut him out a little set of wings. And they attached them to the little mouse’s sides. And after they’d finished, they took him high up into the sky, the Eagle did, and dropped him. When they dropped him, he could fly. The little mouse could fly, and he fluttered all the way down to the ground.

And they were so proud of him because he could fly. And they said, “You can play with us tomorrow. We’re going to play the Big Bear and his team.”

Cherokee stickball sticksPair of Cherokee stickball sticks, made 1916. Split oak bent in half to form head at one end; net made of woven wire. Names of Soco team members and owner’s name—Robert Crow—written on sticks.

Well, the next day was ballgame time. So after all the speeches were made, the rules were set up: twelve points is the ball game. Whoever gets twelve points, wins the game. The goal post is two little bushes that are cut and set in the ground about eight feet apart. You’ve got to carry that ball through between those little bushes.

When the ball was tossed up for the center man, they batted the ball — I don’t know who batted it, the Bear or the Eagle.

But before that ball ever hit the ground, that little mouse with the new wings swooped down and grabbed that ball, and went between all those big vicious animals — they were trying to knock him down with their paws as he passed. And he went in and out, in and out. And he went out into the clear, and he was gone! He scored!

Again and again and again he scored. And he dominated the game. And he beat that Big Bear who had kicked him out into the bushes. He won over that Big Bear.

Don’t ever underestimate the size of a person or the looks of a person or the color of a person when he wants to join you. Whatever you have going, always welcome him in, because if you don’t, he just might turn and beat you.

source: http://hilltop.mhc.edu/050508/JerryWolfe/StickBallLegend.asp

stickball Cherokee+myths appalachia appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

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