field notes ➤ Earnest Gouge, 1915

Rabbit tries to straighten riverbeds

Animals of every kind had a meeting. And they all had one thing in mind. They wanted the rivers to be straight, and for that reason they were meeting. They sat discussing ideas and ways that the rivers might become straight.

Now Rabbit was there. When they tried to appoint someone to do the job, they would all refuse, saying, I am unable, but the rabbit sat saying, I can do it. They had no confidence in him, though, and as they thought of people who could do it and said so, Rabbit kept saying, I’ll do it!

Now everyone they felt could do the job had refused, but Rabbit kept saying, I’ll do it!… Then when all those in whom the group felt confident had said, I am unable, one of them said, That rabbit who’s been saying I’ll do it should be considered… Let him do it, they said. He had the desire. He will be the one, they said. And because he meant it, [Rabbit] said, Tell me how it should be done, and sat and waited. They made all the preparations and said, Take hold of the water flow and go forth. And as you go, do not look back behind you… Take it, laying it across the land, they told him, talking with him at length… Then they handed him the water flow and he left right away.

But before going very far with it, [Rabbit thought about how] they had told him he was not to turn and look back, and before going he knew something was not right… Is it so sacred to look back behind yourself? he wondered… Then immediately he turned and looked back, and saw water that looked like flash flooding, and the water was awesome… When he saw he barely held the water flow, right away he became fearful of it… He became fearful of the straight water flow he was going to carry… If that awesome flood catches up with me, I’ll drown in the water, he thought, and right away he ran with it in a back-and-forth, winding manner in the distance… He had made little winding waterways and came back, saying, Now. The thing you were concerned about is now complete, and when they checked, right away, only a short distance from where they were, he had made  little winding waterways, and they said, We knew how it would be and we said so, but you insisted, so we gave you the job, they said, and they scolded him and sent him away… He was the one who made the waterways, it’s said, so they are Rabbit’s path, wherever the rivers are, the saying was. ❞

Totkv Mocvse / New Fire: Creek Folktales
by Earnest Gouge
edited and translated by  Jack B. Martin,
Margaret McKane Mauldin, and Juanita McGirt
(University of Oklahoma Press, 2004)

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