[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Tejas Legends unit. Story source: When the Storm God Rides: Tejas and Other Indian Legends retold by Florence Stratton and illustrated by Berniece Burrough (1936).
Paisano, Hater of the Rattlesnake
The rattlesnake, like the great, highflying birds called the eagles, carried messages from the gods to the wise men among the Indians. He was given messages to carry because no animal dared to stop him on the way for his bite was very dangerous. He was called Serpent With the Bells because he had rattles on the end of his tail. When he shook his rattles and showed his sharp, poisonous fangs everything fled from his path, leaving him to go on with his message.
Now Paisano, the chaparral cock, wanted to carry messages from the gods also. With his long legs and his big feet he could run much faster than the rattlesnake, and when he grew tired of running he would open his black and white wings and fly a while. Paisano knew he could carry messages more quickly than the rattlesnake. All he wanted was a chance to show the gods how fast he was.
At last this chance came. Paisano was a curious bird, and he was always slipping silently around in the bushes and among the rocks. In this way he happened one day to hear the rattlesnake getting a message from the Great Spirit. It was a message to the wise man of an Indian tribe living far away.
Paisano decided at once to carry the message himself to show the Great Spirit how fast he was. He set out, running like the wind. Over the rocks and bushes he went, over the rivers and through the woods. His long legs moved so fast they seemed to twinkle. He ran till his tongue was hanging out, then he flew with a great flutter of his wings, and then he ran again. Paisano was in a hurry. Long before the rattlesnake had gone half the distance Paisano reached the camp of the Indians where lived the wise man who was to get the message of the Great Spirit.
Paisano gave him the message. He also told him how he had heard the Great Spirit talking to the rattlesnake. He begged the wise man to ask the Great Spirit to make him a message carrier because he ran so much faster than the rattlesnake could go. The wise man promised to help him.
When the Great Spirit heard about Paisano he decided to use the bird as a carrier of messages. But the Great Spirit did not like it because Paisano had listened when he was talking to the rattlesnake. For this reason he allowed Paisano to carry only little messages that didn't matter much.
Even this did not please the snake. He was very angry with Paisano. He watched the nest where Paisano had his little ones, and when the bird was gone he went to it and swallowed all the little Paisanos. When the father bird learned what had happened he rushed away through the bushes and looked for the rattlesnake's little ones, and when he found them he ate them.
From that time began the war between Paisano, the chaparral cock, and the rattlesnake. Paisano stopped making his nest on the ground so the snake could not get his eggs and children. He began building his nest in bushes or in trees. Often he puts it among the thorny leaves of the cactus plant. Whenever he goes to his nest to carry food to his mate he first looks carefully around this way and that. He wants to be sure the rattlesnake isn't following him home.