Tale of Letiche
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If you live on the bayou long enough you see some strange things. Sometimes in the early spring when the air begins to warm but the bayou is still chilly, the clouds will spend the night crouching lightly on the water. Those clouds huddle together and get so thick with cold bayou water that the cypress along the far side, disappear from view. You can get lost if you wander into the bayou when the clouds sit low. It happened to a family that lived right around the bend…a long time ago…
There was a little family who moved into a cabin not so far away. The man and woman had a young boy-just a toddler really-able to run a short distance before his legs tired and he looked for his mama to carry him home. It was just before sunrise when the boy looked out the screened door and saw those fat clouds resting at the end of the pier. He ran out to see them and before he knew it, he couldn’t see his house. He couldn’t see the little pier or the pirogue tied to the stump of the old cypress. When he yelled for his mama, he couldn’t even hear his own voice. It was lost in the thick air of the clouds.
He sat down crying for his mama. He was hungry and cold, tired and lost. It was a pitiful cry, hoarse with salty tears. “Ma Ma! Ma Ma!” Over and over again. Nearby, under a submerged log, an alligator guarded her young children. If you live near a bayou any length of time, you’ll notice that alligator mothers raise their young for well over a year. When the babies need their mama, they call her in grunts. The alligator mother heard the little boy hoarsely crying for his MaMa, and it sounded like the grunts of her children when they were lost or in trouble. She swam out from under the log and straight for the frightened little boy.
As I said, the boy was very young. He had not had time to learn to be afraid of the alligator. Here was a mother, though nothing like his own, and she was taking him onto her back gently pushing him with her jaws. He climbed on and she took him further into the bayou, back to her home.
When the fog lifted, the mother and father searched for their little boy. But the bayou was deep and the trees were thick. The little boy had not yet learned to swim. And one who was just learning to run would be no match for the creatures who lived in the bayou. They found no signs of their sweet little boy and so sadness drove them out of the bayou to live on the prairies far away.
The alligator mother cared for the boy, teaching him to swim and catch fish and turtles to eat just as she taught her alligator babies. There is magic in alligator holes and strange things happen when humans venture down into them. That magic worked on the boy and soon he grew a tail to steer him through the bayou. His hands and feet became webbed to propel him as fast as his alligator sisters and brothers. He grew to stand tall over his four footed mother and soon had learned all that she could teach him. He moved to the other side of the bayou. There were people there and though he could not remember much about his mother and father…he wondered about them.
He would swim below the pirogues of the fishermen as they set their traps or fished the bayou. He looked at them from the murky water and wondered if this one or that one was his father. He wondered what would happen if he just popped out of the water alongside. But he never did.
He was a fun-loving bayou boy and he liked to untie the traps or bump the boat so the unwary fishermen would fall into the water as they leaned over to set the line. He liked to come near the little bayou cabins when the clouds sat low on the bayou and listen to the sounds of the families waking up and getting ready for their days. It was his last memory of his little family. So, he’d crawl up on the bank or onto the long pirogues and look into the lighted windows. He’d scare the cabin dogs who would start howling when they caught his scent. But they wouldn’t come near him and he stayed just out of reach.
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