Hold Up the Sky: And Other Native American Tales from Texas and the Southern Plains

Hold Up the Sky: And Other Native American Tales from Texas and the Southern Plains

Hardcover(1ST)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780689852879
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 03/04/2003
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD

Tejas (Hasinai)


Ayo-Caddi-Aymay, as the Tejas people called God, was the one and only God, and whatever he did turned out for the best. But, said the Tejas, he had help. At the beginning of the First Time, when there was only earth and darkness, Old Man appeared. In his hand he held an acorn, and the acorn opened and grew -- not into an oak tree, but into a magical woman. Old Man wished to make a heaven, and so together he and Acorn Woman put in place a great circle of timber to hold up the sky. The timber circle was so wide that if you looked off toward the west, the dry mountains hid it. To the north, the grass of the rolling prairie hid it. To the south, the far edge of the sea hid it, and to the east it was hidden by the green hills. When the work was finished, Acorn Woman climbed up into the heavens, where every day she still gives new birth to the sun and moon, to rain, frost, and snow, to lightning and thunder, and to the corn.

In the world under the new sky there lived only one woman, and in time she had two daughters. One day when the sisters were out by themselves gathering food, a huge and terrible monster charged out of the bushes, straight at them. "Caddaja!" the girls cried as they turned and ran. "A devil! A demon!" Its red eyes blazed like hot coals, and its horns were so wide that their tips stretched out of sight.

One girl was not quick enough. The caddaja snatched at her, caught her in its claws, gobbled her up, swallowed her down, and looked around for her sister. Her sister had run on until she came to a very tall pine tree. Its faraway top seemed the safest place to hide. She climbed up to the very tip of the topmost branch, but the giant caddaja sniffed out her path. It lifted up its ugly head and spied the shadow of her shape through the pine boughs. It tried to climb the tree, but fell back.

It tried again and fell back again, for it was too heavy for climbing. It tried with its sharp claws and strong horns to cut down the tree or break it. The tree was strong, but it groaned and whipped back and forth. The girl knew as she clung fast to her branch that the tree could not hold out for long. She looked down.

Below, on one side of the tree, the monster rammed the tree trunk and roared. At the foot ofthe tree on the other side lay a small pond.The girl knew its waters, black and deep. Quickly she unwrapped her legs from the branch, dangled for a moment, held her breath, and dropped straight down. Down, down through the water she went, like an arrow. The angry caddaja ran around the tree and bent to suck up the water. As he sucked, he spewed it away so that he could scoop her up from the bottom. But he did not find her.

She had fooled him. Below ground, a hidden stream fed the pond, and the girl swam along it. She came up far away, where the stream flowed out into the sunshine, and ran home to tell her mother all that had happened. Afterward, she and her mother returned to the place where the sister had died. There, caught in an acorn cup, they found a single drop of blood. They covered it with another acorn cup, and the mother placed it safely in her bosom for the journey home. Once there, she put it in a pottery jar, covered the mouth of the jar, and set it in a corner.

In the night, the mother heard a scratching sound that seemed to come from the jar. She went to look. When she uncovered the jar, she discovered that the drop of blood had grown into a little boy no bigger than her little finger. Startled, she replaced the cover on the jar. The next night she and her daughter heard the same noise. When they sat up in alarm, they saw the jar break, and a full-grown young man step out.

"Grandson!" the mother cried out in joy, and embraced him. "Oh, welcome, son of my daughter!"

The young man looked around. "Where is my mother?" His grandmother and aunt told him of the terrible caddaja, of his mother's death, and of the blood drop in the acorn cup.

"I will find it! I will find that giant demon and kill it!" the Blood-Drop Boy cried out.

So his grandmother made him a bow and an arrow, and the next morning he set out. When at last he found the giant monster, he raised his bow and shot his arrow so deep into it that the monster fled, and was never seen again.

Yet that caddaja was only one of the many that hated all human beings and caused great terror among the first people. When Blood-Drop Boy returned home, his grandmother and aunt told him that a world full of caddajas was so frightening that they wished to leave it. The rest of the men and women and children who had appeared on earth after Grandmother were turning themselves into animal people -- bears, otters, dogs, deer, coyotes -- to escape the hatred of the monsters.

"It is not yet a good world for humans," Grandmother said. "Perhaps one day it will be. But for us, let us go up to Cachao-ayo, the sky above, and watch over the earth from there." So Blood-Drop Boy went up into the heavens with them, and for all the days and years that followed watched over and guided the world below.


Text copyright © 2003 by Jane Louise Curry
Illustrations copyright © 2003 by James Watts

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