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Local History

The Delaware Spirit

"Long, long ago, before the white man’s ax had cleared out roadways into the heart of the Ozark Hills, there lived an Indian chieftain by the name of Watomako. Watomako was the chief of a wandering band of Delaware Indians, who had sought refuge among the wooded hills of the Ozarks.

"Red Fox, the son of Wahtomako, was the most daring warrior of the Delaware tribe, and it was to him that the aged chieftain looked, when in need of advice. The braves were constantly looking forward to the day when Red Fox would become their chief, but when they would put the question to old Watomake he would only shake his head and murmur, ‘Not yet.’

"Now it happened that one summer the waters of the James River became foul under the scorching rays of the sun. The fish became diseased and were no longer suitable for food, the wild game moved further down the river in search of pure water, the discouraged warriors no longer urged the squaws to cultivate the sun baked fields of maze, and famine and disease swept down upon the camp of the Delawares.

"Wahtomako went alone into the hills and prayed that the sun God might give him some sign revealing the remedy for the plague, which was destroying his tribesmen. That night the Sun God appeared to the chief in a dream and told him to send his bravest warrior to the Medicine Man of the Great stone Arch, who would give him the desired information.

"The next morning Wahtomako called a meeting of his braves and told them of his dream. No sooner had he made known the instructions of the Sun God, than Red Fox volunteered to make the journey. The braves one and all agreed that the young chieftain was the one to make the trip. It was less than a day’s journey to the Arch and Red Fox did not linger to make preparations for the journey, but dashed away with the speed of an experienced runner. 

"Long before sun set the son of Wahtomako stood beneath the span of the Great Stone Arch. Briefly Red Fox stated his business to the Medicine Man, and supposed prophet of the Sun God. The aged seer piled dry sticks upon the sacred fire and began the magical chant, which he used when conversing with the spirits of the departed. The flames of the sacred fire leaped higher and higher, until the roar of the burning twigs sounded thru the valley like the rush of an oncoming storm. Suddenly out of the roar of the fire came a voice, saying, 
"'Watomako has offended the Sun God and a human Sacrifice must be offered before the wrath of the god can be appeased. The victim shall be marked by a kiss, and the kiss shall be given by the fairest maid of the Delawares.’

"As soon as the voice ceased, Red Fox was away like the wind bearing the tidings to his father. The sun was just peeping above the distant hills, when the exhausted runner staggered into camp.

"Whatomako called the braves to council and Red Fox reported the message of the Sun God. The old men made no comment on the message but silently smoked their pipes, apparently unmindful of the great excitement which the news had created among the younger men.

"Suddenly out of a nearby tent stepped Silver Fawn, the daughter of Whatomako and sister of Red Fox. The old men looked at the girl in astonishment, the young men stood immovable with awe, for it was frankly admitted by all that silver Fawn was the fairest of the Delaware maidens and each man realized that the fate of one of his fellows was in the hands of the chief’s daughter. Without hesitation the girl overjoyed at seeing her brother safe after his journey, rushed forward and pressed a kiss upon his bronze cheek, little thinking that the kiss sealed her brother’s doom."

'Without the least show of emotion Red Fox retired to his tent to make ready for the sacrifice was made, and when the sun arose, there on an altar, rudely constructed of stones, lay the lifeless body of the young chieftain.

"The sacrifice was not made in vain, however, for soon the refreshing showers began to fall, the waters arose, the game returned and the tribe no longer suffered from the pangs of hunger.

"The tribe of Watomako has long since passed over the Great Divide and into the Happy Hunting Grounds, but the spirit of Red Fox returns nightly to the campsite at Delaware Ford. Belated travelers have oftimes seen the stately form of the young chieftain standing on the crest of the cliff which overhangs the ford, looking out over the valley below as if in mourning over the fate of his fellow tribesmen who have passed away with the advance of civilization." The Billings Times, November 2, 1916.

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