[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 Woodpecker's Stumpy Tail
Long ago a tribe of Indians lived in a country where floods often came in the spring and covered the earth and bushes with water. One spring a big flood was coming and only the frogs knew it. One old frog had lived close to the Indians so long that he could talk some of their language, and this old frog climbed upon a stump near the village where the Indians lived and warned them.
"Run for your lives! Flood's a-coming! Run for your lives! Flood's a-coming!" he boomed with his deep voice as he squatted on the stump.
Nobody paid any attention to him. The old frog puffed out his chest and boomed louder than before, "Run for your lives! Flood's a-coming! Run for your lives! Flood's a-coming!"
Now the Indians heard him and laughed at the old fellow. A woodpecker was sitting in a tree over his head, and he also began to laugh at the old frog. The other birds did not laugh, but flew out of the low trees and bushes and went to trees high enough to be above the flood when it came. The woodpecker kept on laughing and stayed with the foolish Indians by the bank of the river.
That night the rain began to pour down from the black sky. The river rose and rose. At last it tumbled over its bank and began running through the bushes and into the Indian village. The thunder boomed. The lightning cracked open the clouds. As the Indians jumped from their beds and began climbing into the trees the rain poured from the sky in sheets and the flood began rising over the boughs of the trees and washing the Indians away.
Now the woodpecker was frightened. He could not see to fly at night, and all he could do was to flutter from tree to tree hoping to find one high enough to be above the water. He perched on the very highest limb he could find, but even then his long black tail was hanging in the water running under him. As he was clinging to the limb and wishing he had listened to the old frog, a fish saw him there and made a snap at his tail. The lower end of it came off in the fish's sharp teeth. That is why the woodpecker has a short tail with jagged ends that look as if they had been bitten off.