Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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Beaver Gnaws on Lower Table Rock

Molly: The rocks that are kind of hollowed-under at upr. (upriver) end of front of Table Rock is the work of beaver. They hired beaver to gnaw down Table Rock & you can see his tooth marks on the rock. Beaver was afraid the rock wd. (would) fall on him & gave up & went away. Kh. (Khukhuw, Rainmaker) was letting the rain continue & was up on top of Table Rock & the Table Rock Inds. (Indians) wanted to get up on top to get him & kill him, in revenge for drowning the people, and they hired beaver to gnaw the upr. (upriver) end of rock-cliff. You can see the beaver's tooth marks on the cliff there just like when one gnaws an apple. The old Ind. (Indian) trail to the top of the rock goes along the base of the cliff there where the beaver gnawed, right past where the beaver gnawed, you can see it close at hand. This trail leads up to the rich root & food grounds up on top & back of Table Rock.

– From The Field Notes of John Peabody Harrington, November, 1933, page 653. Takelma elder Molly Orton is telling the story.

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Here's Another Version of the Story

The Takelmas tell a story of a terrible drought. The river was so low there weren't any salmon to catch. Leaves fell off trees long before fall. There weren't any berries in the mountains. No water. No breeze to cool the air. Nothing but stale, stagnant heat.

They hired a fellow to make rain. He climbed to the top of the rock and turned on the rain. But he never turned it off. The river swelled to a lake that covered the entire Takelma world.

The man changed into a cedar tree, safe on the rock above the water. His son and his son's wife and their little boy fled the valley to join him, turning into rock pinnacles that jutted over the flood. Entire villages washed away and many Takelmas drowned.

Angry survivors hired Beaver to chew down the rock. He chewed and he chewed, but when it occurred to him that he might get squashed by the falling rock, he quit. You can still see his teeth marks near the base of the cliff.

The first thing the people knew of the world returning to normal was the summer wind, a warm wind that stopped the rain and sent the river back within its banks. The Takelmas survived. But they never forgot the terror of the drought and the flood. And they never forgot the wind.

– From Breath of the Earth by Thomas Doty.