Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

How Joeagah, the Raccoon, Ate the Crabs A Seneca Indian Tale


As my grandfather used to say, my nephew, it never pays to rejoice over the downfall of an enemy, lest he arise and devour you. Of course you can’t understand that, so I’ll just tell you not to dance too quick when you think a raccoon’s dead.

Well, Joeagah was a raccoon. Nothing much to that, only this—Joeagah was a wise raccoon, and he knew it.

Joeagah came down from his tree one morning to get a drink of nice brook water. What should he see but a crab. Nothing much to that, my nephew, only this-—the crab bit Joeagah on his lower lip. Well, there is a lot to that if you get bit. Of course Joeagah didn’t mind it at all—oh, no!

Joeagah sat back and looked surprised. He was a bit peeved. He didn’t like to have crabs so familiar.

Now Joeagah is a playful fellow, so he crawled up to a rock and huddled beside it. He almost looked like a rock, and the crabs didn’t notice him.

Pretty soon, out came a big crab to take a look at the sky to see if it was going to rain. Up he looked when down looked Joeagah. Ho ho! Joeagah bit crab all over—and there wasn’t any more crab!

“Um, um!” exclaimed Joeagah. “These meddlesome fellows taste pretty good. I think I will try some more.” And try he did, until the tribe of crabs lost some of its most famous warriors, that is, those famous for being fat and appetizing.

Now, my nephew, you may notice when you grow wiser, that folk who are being eaten up grow cautious. After all, who wants to be eaten? Maybe you, but not I.

So the crabs held a council and decided to appoint a spy who should watch when Joeagah came down to drink. The spy would yell like fury and then all the crabs would stay home and hoe their own back gardens.

Joeagah soon found out that the crabs were shy and that the spy yelled whenever he came down to drink. Having found out how good crabs taste, Joeagah wanted a crab every time he drank. He made up his mind to play a trick.

He came to the brook from another direction late one night. When the sun came out in the morning, it shone down on poor Joeagah, lying with his toes turned up and his mouth open. His ears were also open, nephew, but his eyes were shut. Poor little Joeagah! How dead he looked.

Out came the crab spy. “Ho ho!” it said. “Joeagah must have eaten too many June bugs and died. This is good news to tell.” He set up a war cry, yelling, “Go-weh, go-weh, I have killed Joeagah in a terrible fight! Come all you crabs and see my victim before I scalp him!”

Out crept the crabs, very cautiously. One pinched Joeagah’s tail, one pinched his ears, one pinched his feet, and one pinched his nose. But not a move did Joeagah make.

“Hai, hai!” sang the crabs. “Our enemy is dead. Let us hold a joy dance and sing of our victory.”

So they sang and capered until Joeagah opened one eye just a wee bit. One crab noticed this and yelled, “Beware, Joeagah is not dead!”

“He is dead!” retorted the spy crab.

“If you think he is dead, crawl down his throat and pinch his gizzard,” said the crab who had noticed Joeagah’s wink.

“All right, I will,” said the spy, and down his throat he crawled, giving Joeagah’s gizzard a pinch. Joeagah did not even blink this time.

“Well, he is dead,” boasted the spy crab, coming out. “If you are brave, crawl down and pinch his heart.”

So, the other crab crawled down and pinched Joeagah’s heart. This made Joeagah very angry. He made up his mind to start a fuss. He waited until the crabs had started another ring-around-a-war-pole dance and were shouting their silly heads off about their victory and how glad they were their enemy was dead. This was their song:

Joeagah, glad he’s dead!

Joeagah, glad he’s dead!

Never more he’ll bite us,

Joeagah, blunderhead,

Joeagah, blunderhead,

Never more he’ll fight us!

Joeagah did not like that song worth a wormy crab apple. While the crabs circled around him singing their song of victory, up he jumped and began to gobble them down.

Every one of them went right down Joeagah’s throat-—and with Joeagah’s teeth through him first.

That was the end of the crabs in that brook, and this is the end of the story.

Not much of a story? Well, nephew, my old grandfather, who fought in seven wars and had one eye, thought a lot of this tale, and he could see a lot with his one eye.


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