THE COMING OF THE CORN
N old times there dwelt on the shores of a great lake a
mighty warrior. His people had all been driven far away
inland by hostile tribes, but he remained behind to
roam over the islands in the Lake and to send his
people word of any approaching attack. His wife was
dead; she had been killed by treacherous foes. He had
two little boys, and he kept them with him in his
wanderings by the Lake. He was a great magician as well
as a man of great strength, and he had no fear in his
heart. The islands in the Lake were haunted by spirits
or "manitous," but the man was not afraid of them, and
with his boys he paddled his canoe up and down,
watching for signs of his foes. Each night he landed in
a cove, and pulled his canoe far up among the trees,
and slept in the woods out of the sight of travellers.
But he found it very hard to get game and fish, and
often his boys were very hungry.
HE CAME SUDDENLY UPON A WIDE AND OPEN RED PLAIN.
morning at dawn of day he rose and went to find food
for breakfast. He left his little boys asleep under
the trees. He walked through the forest until he
came suddenly upon a wide and open red plain. There
was not a tree or a rock or a blade of grass upon it.
He set out across the plain,
 and when he reached the
middle of it, he met a small man with a red feather in
his cap. "Where are you going?" said the little man.
"I am going across the plain to the woods on the other
side," said the man; "my boys are hungry without food,
and I am looking for game." "How strong are you?"
said the little man. "I am as strong as the human
race," said the man, "but no stronger." "My name is
Red Plume," said the little man; "we must wrestle.
If you should make me fall, say to me 'I have thrown
you'; if you should overcome me you will never want for
food, for you will have other nourishment than fish
and game." They smoked their pipes for a long
while, and then they wrestled. They wrestled for a
long time. The warrior was growing weak, for the
little man was very strong. But at last he threw Red
Plume down and cried, "I have thrown you." And at
once the little man disappeared. When the warrior
looked on the ground where his opponent had fallen, he
saw only a crooked thing like an acorn, with a red
tassel on it. He picked it up and looked at it, and as
he looked, a voice from it said, "Take off my outside
covering; split me into many parts, and throw the parts
over the plain; scatter every bit of me; throw my spine
near the woods. Then in a month come back to the
plain." The warrior did as he was told, and then went
back to his boys. On the way he killed a rabbit and
cooked it for breakfast. He did not tell his boys what
he had seen.
the end of a month he went alone again to the plain. In
the place where he had scattered the pieces of the
strange object, he found blades of strange grass
peeping green above the ground. And where he had thrown
the pieces of the spine near the wood, little pumpkins
were growing. He did not tell his boys what he had
found. All summer he watched for his foes, and in the
autumn he went again to the place where he had thrown
down the man of the Red Plume. The plain was covered
with Indian corn in the ear, and there were also
pumpkins of great size near the woods. The corn was
golden yellow, and red tassels grew from the top of the
ears. He plucked some ears of corn and gathered some of
the pumpkins and set out to find his boys. Then a voice
spoke from the corn. He knew it at once to be the voice
of the man of the Red Plume. It said, "You have
conquered me. If you had failed, you would still have
lived, but often you would have hungered as before.
Henceforth you shall never want for food, for when game
and fish are scarce you will have bread. And I will
never let the human race lack food if they keep me near
them." So corn came to the Indians in olden times, and
never afterwards did they want for food.
the man came to his boys, he told them what he had
found. He ground some of the corn between stones, and
made bread from the meal, and he cooked a pumpkin and
ate it. Then he thought of his poor old father and
 away beyond the hills, perhaps without food.
So that night he took his boys and travelled far
through the forest until he found his parents. He told
them of his meeting with the man of the Red Plume and
of the coming of the corn. And he brought them back
with him to the "manitou" islands near the shores of
the great lake. And ever afterwards the fields were
fruitful and corn was abundant and never failed in the
land where Red Plume fell.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics