Sunday, January 30, 2011

Legends of the Ozarks – Part 2

Old Blue Arrow.
Six miles from its headwaters which have their rise among the mountains of Newton county, in Arkansas, the Buffalo river flows straight against a rocky spur which divided the limpid stream and sends the waters tumbling down away down narrow valleys on either side. For more than twelve miles the two streams flow in separate beds, and then gradually they approach a common point where again the waters commingle and race away in turbulent precipitancy to join the broad flood of the White, making of the mountains spur an island twelve miles long and about ten miles across at its greatest breath. About midway between the dividing and reuniting of the waters the little village of Jasper, the seat of Newton county, nestles in the valley on the south side of the mountain spur. It was here that many years ago a renowned Indian hunter, Old Blue Arrow, lived and flourished and terrified the red men who inhabited that region.

This old hunter, so runs the legend, left his home and tribe in Kentucky and, because he was disappointed in love, wandered away into the wilds of the Ozarks to live alone and to make war against all living creatures, fish, fowl, beast and man. Building his shack of bark among the rocks of the island spur he terrorized the surrounding Indians by his tremendous deeds of valor and for hundreds of miles around the name of Old Blue Arrow was a nightmare to the aborigines. He got his title from a peculiar arrow which he alone used and knew how to make. It was of a steel blue Hint, hard as a Damascus blade and keen as a razor.

The edges were smoothly beveled, and there was an entire absence of that clipped off appearance that all other Indian arrowheads have. The workmanship was perfect, and with such a barb Old Blue Arrow could easily send his shaft clean in through the body of an Indian or a deer and bury it to the feathers in a buffalo bull. The arrowheads may be found to this day near the site of Jasper, but nowhere else have they ever been found. Old Blue Arrow's' terrible reputation was the cause of his ultimate undoing, for one night more than 300 Indians surrounded him as he slept and made a porcupine of his gigantic body with their arrows. But his secret of making arrowheads died with him, and is now one of the lost arts of the red man.
Ashes of a Lost Race.
The weird and wonderful legend which hangs about a mysterious cave in the very heart of the Ozark region might inspire an imaginary writer with thoughts as strange and romantic as those which Rider Haggard writes down in his pages. Stories that have to do with lost races, prehistoric peoples and the strange creatures of humankind that live or have lived in the earth are always fraught with a peculiar interest and an irresistible charm that is found in no other lore. In Stone county, Ark., eighty-five miles from a railroad, there is a high ridge, a sort of backbone or the Sherman range or the Ozark mountains running from Big Flat, in Baxter county, to Sylamore, a boat landing on White river.

For twenty miles a mountain road runs along the crest or this ridge, south and east, through a magnificent forest of stately white oak, hickory and pine until it reaches the buffs of White river and descends to the water by a series of long, sweeping curves. For a mile or more on either side of this road before the level flat on the crest is broken by hundreds of little canyons and gulches running north and south, the grass grows shoulder high and deer and timber wolves, turkey and quail, and countless squirrels share the solitude and enjoy immunity from the pot hunters who frequent the domains nearer to civilization and railroads 

About midway between Big Flat and Sylamore, an unusually large canyon makes off toward the north, sloping gently at its head from the level plateau to the great ridge, and the occasional hunter who finds, his way down the gulch pushes through a tangle or hazel, giant grapevines and the usual undergrowth common to the mountains of Northwest Arkansas. It is on the east side of the lonely gulch, about 150 yards below the head, that the low, narrow opening of the mysterious ash cave gapes in forbidding silence at the intruder. Here you are in the very heart of the mountains and our only companion is nature company enough sometimes, too much at others, and again none at all. But the legend: Fancy if you can a vast wilderness, our own broad country centuries before Columbus. A race of sturdy people dwell here, till the soil, fight their enemies and built great mounds. Their pride is their health and strength, and in all the wide domain there are fewer senile, sick, halt and blind than might now be found in a small city. Once in every five years these unfortunates set out upon a journey, they know not to what bourne. Guided by their holy men, the melancholy procession winds over hill and down dale, across rivers and through gloomy and almost impenetrable forests, until some evening when the sun pauses on the western horizon for a last look they arrive at the place of doom. It is the broad plateau, and hard by is the cave where burn the devouring fires eternally tended by the sacrificial priesthood. One by one little parties are led away, the fires eagerly consume the victims and slowly the army of the doomed disappears. And now, in these latter days, as the intruder pushes his way into the cave, he sinks to his knees in great billows of the ashes or this departed race. Such is the legend which the Indians have handed down to the present day, and who shall say that it is entirely fanciful?
And now my Dear Reader, these some of the fanciful legends that were once told in times past. Though you may think they are truthfully handed down or the chatter of of an empty-headed writer, I hope it is at your pleasure to again recount to other generations the old tales of our Ozarks' History.

Work Cited:
Snyder, S. E.  “Legends of the Ozarks.” Kansas City Journal. 41.170 (27 Nov. 1898) 16. Chronicling America. The Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. 11 Jan. 2008

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