Wintu - Children of the Woods
[The incident described in this legend took place near Big Bar in a steep, rugged shale area. Grace McKibbin and her aunt, Kate Luckie were told this story by the famous shaman John Doctor.]
A long time ago two Indians went hunting and heard many children. It sounded like twenty children talking in the mountains. There on the bluff with coarse shale, children seemed to be playing and sliding. They were noisy and made the dust fly. They played and laughed together, going down the canyon and coming back out. Again they went down and came out to play. They laughed and talked together.
The two Indians who heard them moved closer and slid up behind the bushes where they would not be visible. It sounded as if many children were coming out on top. But as they looked, they saw only one. Although it sounded like many children talking and playing, there was only one laughing loudly.
Again they sat down, went sliding, and when they got down, many children laughed. There seemed to be terribly many, but he was sliding all by himself. Again the children came north uphill to the top of the bluff and laughed together there.
The two real Indians who were watching saw only one boy who looked just like an old man. There were no children, only an old man. Even though he looked like an old man, he was not gray or stooped. He walked upright, but when you looked in his face, he was an old man. He did not see the two who watched him.
Long before, they had been told the story of the Children of the Woods and so they recognized what they saw. They had already heard about the Children of the Woods.
They saw his face. They saw that nowhere were there any children, and that only one was making such noise. So they watched him.
The children continued to play for a long time. When they ran, it sounded like many children running, yet only one was running and going out of sight.
The two got up and looked at the place where he had played. It looked as it children had been playing. All the shale looked as if swept down but the rocks were still there, loose and sliding. They stayed and looked for a long time, but the children did not return. They went home.
Then they went back to the place, making believe they were going hunting. They heard the children talking again. Downhill to the east the two Indians heard children talking and coming down, and they said, "Let's go to our hiding place again!"
They sat down behind the bushes close to the ground and watched. It sounded as it many children were coming, making noise, talking. They got up to the top of the bluff to slide down and talked terribly loud.
The two Indians had already seen him. One person was standing, talking, laughing, and shouting, making believe. He alone sat down and went sliding down the canyon, making them hear the noise of children laughing. The two real Indians saw that there was only one who was doing this. He was laughing. It was the Children of the Woods. They saw him playing for a long time. Then they went home. They knew of the Children of the Woods.
They told the other Indians. "We heard many children playing there. We saw him, the Children of the Woods. There is only one, but he talks loudly, shouts, and laughs, and he alone slides down. He goes down the creek alone, laughing and shouting just like a group of children. We saw him playing. He was an old man. There were no children. We saw him playing. He was an old man. There were no children. Only an old man, but small. Even though he was an old man, he was not gray, but had black hair. He stood upright and was not stooped."
Well, it was the Children of the Woods from the story of long ago. The Indians had been told and knew. "We have already heard the story of long ago, the story of the Children of the Woods," they said.
In My Own Words. Stories, songs and memories of Grace Mckibbin, Wintu [1884-1987]. by Alice Shepherd, 1997.