[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).
The Pecan Tree's Best Friend
One spring in the long ago an oriole family was living in its small nest of woven grasses swinging at the end of a branch on a tall pecan tree. The proud father bird and his wife were the parents of five little ones. As yet they could not fly, though their tiny feathers were beginning to grow large enough so that they could flutter to the edge of the nest and look over to see what the world looked like down on the ground. All day the parents gathered bugs for the little ones and sang their sweet songs. The big pecan tree liked the oriole family because they ate the bugs that tried to bore into the trunk or cut its leaves off. And so the tree and the birds got along like good neighbors.
One day the father bird looked up and saw the sky beginning to fill with bits of white clouds like snow flakes and flying very fast towards the north. Soon he saw flying under the clouds those great wide-winged birds called frigate birds or men-of-war, which live far away on islands in the Gulf. These birds only fly inland when a hurricane, or storm, is getting ready to rush out of the Gulf of Mexico and blow its wild breath upon the coast country. The father oriole knew this. He knew by the clouds and the frigate birds that a storm was soon to strike the country where his little ones were waiting in the nest. He became frightened. When the pecan tree saw him fluttering around and around in distress, the tree asked him what was the matter. The oriole told him that a storm was coming and would blow his five children away.
"I know what to do," said the pecan tree. "There is a hole under my biggest branch. Take your wife and babies into that hole and the wind will not touch you."
Thanking the good tree, the oriole father took his family into the hole and waited for the storm. They did not have to wait long. The next day the howling winds swooped into the grove with the black clouds and rain that came with the hurricane. All the trees bent their heads as the wind tore at their leaves. Branches were stripped from the tree, and the grass nest of the orioles was soon torn apart and scattered and carried away. But, safe in their hole, the oriole family listened to the wind howl and were glad that the pecan tree was good to them.
After the storm, the father oriole decided he would do a good turn for the tree just as soon as he got a chance. He told the tree about this.
The pecan tree laughed and said, "What can you do for me, little bird?"
"Wait and see," said the oriole. "Something will give me a chance to help you."
He was right about that, too. One winter all the trees and bushes thought that the cold north wind would not come. Spring was about due, and the winter had been warm. The trees thought it was now too late for the north wind to make them a visit, and they began to put out their buds and leaves earlier than usual.
One day down in Mexico, where the orioles always went during the winter months, the father oriole felt in his tiny bones that a cold spell was on the way from the north. He had heard that the trees in Texas were putting out their buds too soon. He knew that if his friend, the pecan tree, put out its buds the cold north wind would bring sleet and would freeze the buds, so that the tree could not have any pecans.
Here was a chance to do the pecan tree a good turn. The oriole flew quickly to Texas. He found his friend the pecan tree was about to put out its buds on the limbs.
"Keep in your buds and leaves!" cried the oriole. "A cold wind is on the way from the north and will hurt all the trees that are budding too soon." Then the oriole hurried back to Mexico before the cold weather could catch him.
The pecan tree laughed to itself and thought the oriole was wrong. But it decided it would wait until later to put out its buds. And how glad it was! For the next day the north wind made a late trip into the south, bringing the sleet and cold weather with it. It whooped and blew around the country, and all the trees and bushes had their early buds frozen off. All but the pecan tree who had been the friend of the little oriole, for this tree had not put out any buds. It was the only tree that bore pecans that year.
The other pecan trees learned about the good turn which the oriole had done for one of them. They became the friends of all orioles from that time, and this is why you find the little birds living and nesting wherever pecan trees are growing.