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Why the diver duck has so few tail feathers.

From The Indian Fairy Book by Cornelius Mathews

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The heart of Manabozho swelled within him. He was fairly on fire, and an unconquerable desire for further adventures seized upon him. He had destroyed the powerful Pearl Feather, killed his serpents, and escaped all his wiles and charms. He had prevailed in a great land fight, his next trophy should be from the water. He tried his prowess as a fisherman, and with such success that he captured a fish so monstrous in size and so rich in fat that with the oil Manabozho was able to form a small lake. To this, being generously disposed, and having a cunning purpose of his own to answer, he invited all the birds and beasts of his acquaintance; and he made the order in which they partook of the banquet the measure of their fatness for all time to come. As fast as they arrived he told them to plunge in and help themselves. The first to make his appearance was the bear, who took a long and steady draught; then came the deer, the opossum, and such others of the family as are noted for their comfortable case. The moose and bison were slack in their cups, and the partridge, always lean in flesh, looked on till the supply was nearly gone. There was not a drop left by the time the hare and the martin appeared on the shore of the lake, and they are, in consequence, the slenderest of all creatures.

When this ceremony was over, Manabozho suggested to his friends, the assembled birds and animals, that the occasion was proper for a little merrymaking; and taking up his drum, he cried out: "New songs from the South, come, brothers, dance!" He directed them, to make the sport more mirthful, that they should shut their eyes and pass around him in a circle. Again he beat his drum and cried out: "New songs from the South, come, brothers, dance!" They all fell in and commenced their rounds. Whenever Manabozho, as he stood in the circle, saw a fat fowl which he fancied, pass by him, he adroitly wrung its neck and slipped it in his girdle, at the same time beating his drum and singing at the top of his lungs, to drown the noise of the fluttering, and crying out in a tone of admiration: "That's the way, my brothers; that's the way!" At last a small duck, of the diver family, thinking there was something wrong, opened one eye and saw what Manabozho was doing. Giving a spring, and crying: "Ha-ha-a! Manabozho is killing us!" he made for the water. Manabozho, quite vexed that the creature should have played the spy upon his housekeeping, followed him, and just as the diver-duck was getting into the water, gave him a kick, which is the reason that the diver's tail-feathers are few, his back flattened, and his legs straightened out, so that when he gets on land he makes a poor figure in walking. Meantime, the other birds, having no ambition to be thrust in Manabozho's girdle, flew off, and the animals scampered into the woods.


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