Seminole - How Alligator's Nose Was Broken
The animals loved a good ball game, so one time when they all were gathered together, they decided to dare the birds to play against them. Alligator was elected chief of the animal side. At once he sent deer off at a dash to challenge the birds. The birds sent up a cheer, for they loved a good ball game, too. They elected Eagle to lead their side, and sent Heron flapping back to the animals' camp to accept the challenge. It was agreed that they would meet in three days to play the game.
For the rest of the day Alligator and the animals, and Eagle and the birds, made plans. First each side chose their players, the fastest and strongest and cleverest. Then the chiefs met to choose a playing ground. When the field was chosen, they measured the distance from the center of the ground to the place for the animals' goal and, on the other side, for the birds' goal. Two tall poles were planted to mark each goal. Next, the animal medicine man and bird medicine man cast conjure spells on the balls. Each side hoped its medicine man's magic was the stronger.
On the day of the ball game, the two teams - forty animals and forty birds-set off for the ball ground. As they came near, each side sang its war song, and shouted its war shout. Then the animals, painted with red as if for war, and dressed up with feathers in their fur, ran onto the field at full trot. The birds flew in at full flap, painted with red and dressed up with tufts of fur on their heads.
Each side ran in circles around its own goal poles, the animals barking and roaring, the birds cackling and screaming. Around the field, their wives and children and old mothers and fathers cheered and made bets that their own side would win.
Then the game chiefs called for quiet. The ball was tossed in the air, and the game began.
Back and forth and forth and back it went, all afternoon, but no one made a goal. Then, just as the ball flew overhead toward the birds' poles. Alligator leaped up with a push from his great tail, opened up his great jaws, and snatched it out of the air. Holding it in his teeth, he ran for the far end of the ball ground.
The animals squeaked and barked and roared, "Go! Go! Go!" Alligator's wife ran alongside the ball ground and shouted, "Look, look at Little Striped Alligator's daddy! Oh, see him go, see him go!" The animals jumped up and down in triumph.
But just then Eagle, who was circling high above the field, folded his wings and dropped. He fell like a sharp, feathered rock, and struck Alligator so hard on his nose that he broke it.
"Ai-yi!" bellowed Alligator, and he opened his mouth wide. In a flash, Turkey poked his head in among Alligator's long, sharp teeth, pulled out the ball, and ran. He reached the birds' goal, threw the ball between the poles, and won the game for the birds. And ever since that day. Alligator has had a sunken place on his snout where Eagle broke it.
Taken from the book The Wonderful Sky Boat and Other Native American Tales of the Southeast retold by Jane Louise Curry