Tales of the North American Indians
The Trickster’s Great Fall And His Revenge
Once while the Buzzard was soaring away through the air he saw Manabozho walking along. He flew a little toward the ground, with his wings outspread, and heard Manabozho say to him, “Buzzard, you must be very happy up there where you can soar through the air and see what is transpiring in the world beneath. Take me on your back so that I may ascend with you and see how it appears down here from where you live.” The Buzzard came down, and said, “Manabozho, get on my back and I will take you up into the sky to let you see how the world appears from my abode.” Manabozho approached the Buzzard, but seeing how smooth his back appeared said, ” Buzzard, I am afraid you will let me slide from your back, so you must be careful not to sweep around too rapidly, that I may retain my place upon your back.” The Buzzard told Manabozho that he would be careful, although the bird was determined to play a trick on him if possible. Manabozho mounted the Buzzard and held on to his feathers as well as he could. The Buzzard took a short run, leaped from the ground, spread his wings and rose into the air. Manabozho felt rather timid as the Buzzard swept through the air, and as he circled around his body leaned so much that Manabozho could scarcely retain his position, and he was afraid of slipping off. Presently, as Manabozho was looking down upon the broad earth below, the Buzzard made a sharp curve to one side so that his body leaned more than ever. Manabozho, losing his grasp, slipped off and dropped to earth like an arrow. He struck the ground with such force as to knock him senseless. The Buzzard returned to his place in the sky, but hovered around to see what would become of Manabozho.
Manabozho lay a long time like one dead. When he recovered he saw something close to and apparently staring him in the face. He could not at first recognize it, but when he put his hands against the object he found that it was his own buttocks, because he had been all doubled up. He arose and prepared to go on his way, when he espied the Buzzard above him, laughing at his own trickery.
Manabozho then said, “Buzzard, you have played a trick on me by letting me fall, but as I am more powerful than you I shall revenge myself.” The Buzzard then replied, “No, Manabozho, you will not do anything of the kind, because you cannot deceive me. I shall watch you.”
Manabozho kept on, and the Buzzard, not noticing anything peculiar in the movements of Manabozho, flew on his way through the air. Manabozho then decided to transform himself into a dead deer, because he knew the Buzzard had chosen to subsist on dead animals and fish. Manabozho then went to a place visible from a great distance and from many directions, where he laid himself down and changed himself into the carcass of a deer. Soon the various birds and beasts and crawling things that subsist on such food began to congregate about the dead deer. The Buzzard saw the birds flying toward the place where the body lay, and joined them. He flew around several times to see if it was Manabozho trying to deceive him, then thought to himself, “No, that is not Manabozho; it is truly a dead deer.” He then approached the body and began to pick a hole into the fleshy part of the thigh. Deeper and deeper into the flesh the Buzzard picked until his head and neck was buried each time he reached in to pluck the fat from the intestines. Without warning, while the Buzzard had his head completely hidden in the carcass of the deer , the deer jumped up and pinched together his flesh, thus firmly grasping the head and neck of the Buzzard. Then Manabozho said, “Aha! Buzzard, I did catch you after all, as I told you I would. Now pull out your head.” The Buzzard with great difficulty withdrew his head from the cavity in which it had been inclosed, but the feathers were all pulled off, leaving his scalp and neck covered with nothing but red skin. Then Manabozho said to the bird, “Thus do I punish you for your deceitfulness; henceforth you will go through the world without feathers on your head and neck, and you shall always stink because of the food you will be obliged to eat.” That is why the buzzard is such a bad-smelling fellow, and why his head and neck are featherless.