"Thought," (c) 2010, watercolor by Lance Foster
"Before I came on this world, and even for a time afterward, my people saw strange things. heard words spoken that they did not always understand," she said, so softly that Goes-together leaned to listen. "Now they see nothing, hear nothing that is strange," she went on, a little louder. And then, as though she had decided some question within herself, she moved her chair nearer the table, and looked into my eyes. "I once had a vision, Sign-talker, but you had better not write it down," she advised.
"It came to me soon after I got this scar on my forehead. I was about eight years old. The moon was the one that ripens the berries, and our village, a large one with more lodges than I could count, was at the mouth of Deer creek. There is a place there where the water whips the bank, as though angry. Beneath the water just there, one may see a black hole, with the white water sucking into it. We call this place The-alligator's-lodge. If one were to be sucked into this black hole he would never come out again; no, never."
Crow story tellers, although a plains people, frequently mention the alligator, and even sea-monsters, leading me to believe that the tribe at one time lived in the South, by the sea.
"On this day, just when I wanted badly to go with some young women to pick berries, an old woman who had nobody to help her, asked me to bring her a kettle of water. Taking her kettle I ran to Deer creek that was but a little way from the lodges, hoping yet to catch up with the young women who had already started for the berry patches.
"When I reached the creek, that was not far from the lodges, I saw three naked women sitting on the bank above The-alligator's-lodge, that black hole that sucks in the white water. They were young, and had unbraided their hair, so that it hung loosely about their shoulders. They were strangers to me. I wondered if they knew that the black hole was there. I called out to warn them.
"Instantly the three women slid down the bank, like turtles, into the white water, and were sucked into The-alligator's-lodge. They were gone! It was as though they had never been on the bank at all.
"Frightened now, I bent to dip the old woman's kettle into the water at the place where we always got our water from Deer creek. But I did not dip it. The water that had always been deep there was now shallow. And" --here Pretty-shield stood up, her hand on the table-- "on the bottom, on the little stones, I saw a woman looking up at me. She was not a Crow woman, not like any woman that I had ever seen. She was a Person [sprite]. Her hair was yellow, her eyes blue, and her ears were long and notched.
"I screamed; but remember nothing more, except that when I wakened I was in my mother's lodge, with my face painted red [death paint]. I have never been near The-alligator's-lodge since that day," she finished, sitting down.
"Ahhh, you have written down my words," she said, reproachfully. "If you put them into a book nobody who can read will believe them; and yet they tell only the truth.
"There are times in our lives when we see strange things, hear words that we do not understand..."
(Pretty Shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows (1932), by Frank Bird Linderman, pp. 126-128)
"Water Man," (c) ca. 1983, pastel by Lance Foster