The Buzzard's Covering

In the beginning, the birds were created naked, but because of their ill-shaped bodies and long legs they were ashamed and remained in hiding. At that time their throats had not been so arranged that they could sing. A long time afterwards they learned their music from the falling rain and the whistling wind. But they could talk, and with loud voices they bewailed their fate. Finally, with one accord, they began to cry and shout as loud as they could, asking that they be provided with coverings. The Great Spirit thereupon sent them word that their dresses were all ready, but that he did not have time to come and see that they were properly fitted. If they were in need of their raiment they must either go or send to a particular place a long way off, where they would find the coverings.


A vote for a messenger was taken and the turkey buzzard was chosen because he was so strong and hardy. He started proudly on his mission, but the distance was so great that he became nearly famished before reaching his destination, and, contrary to his habits in those days, he was compelled to eat carrion to sustain life. At last he came to the appointed place and found the coverings ready. As a reward for making the journey, the buzzard had been given first choice of the garments. He at once selected the most beautiful of the lot, but upon trying it discovered that he could not fly well with so many long feathers to manage, and so he laid the dress aside and tried others. One he feared would soil too easily ; another was not warm enough to satisfy his taste; a third was too light-colored and would render him too conspicuous ; a fourth was composed of too many pieces and would require too much of his time to care for it. So he went from one to another, finding some fault with each, until there was but one suit left—the plainest of all. As the buzzard had been expressly forbidden to try on any of the coverings more than once, he had but one choice left, and must either accept the plain, homely, coarse suit he has since worn or go naked.


Often when the birds hold councils in the woods they talk quite sharply to the buzzard for his uncleanly habits. He never fails to retort that his ancestor acquired them while doing a great service for others, and he closes the discussion by reminding them that they have no special reason to be vain, as he had choice of all the bird coverings and took the one that pleased him best.


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