Saturday, August 17, 2013

Montana Story

I was born in Montana. As a very young child my grandmother told me of the local Indian legend. It is a tale told to her by her parents on their ranch up near the Big Snowy Mountains in the Judith Basin of Central Montana. There was this beautiful and pristine lake high in the mountains that our family would often visit to enjoy the scenery, picnic, and possibly do a little boating or water skiing.

It was a small lake in a most picturesque location at the foot of heavily wooded mountains that came right down to the shore on two sides. There was a small flat valley area on either end of the lake and a gravel road led to one side where there was a small campground and picnic area.

She told me that hundreds of years before the white man came, Indian tribes would camp at the lakeside. There was game in the mountains and fish in the lake and plenty of firewood for the campfires.

There were two tribes that set up camp at opposite ends of the lake. They were at war with each other, but agreed to a peaceful coexistence amongst the pines at the water’s edge. But no one from one camp could go near the other for fear for their very lives. And that was how it stood year after year. People in one camp could look across the lake at the other side and see the campfires of their sworn enemies, but there was no contact.

Then, one spring, a young brave from one of the camps was staring across the lake and saw a young Indian maiden in the other camp. He was immediately taken by her great beauty and he soon realized that she was looking back at him since she too was struck with that phenomenon they often call “love at first sight.”

And so the summer passed. Each day the two lovers, and they were lovers although they had never touched hands nor spoken, would stare longingly across the waters at the other one and their eyes were filled with love and joy at seeing their beloved standing there.

But they could never meet for, like Romeo and Juliet, their warring families would never allow them to be together, much less embrace and marry. Toward Fall the pull of desire became so strong and it completely overwhelmed the Indian brave. So the young man jumped into the water and began to swim across the cold lake. His beloved saw him dive into the lake and begin swimming, and she, too, immediately leaped into the cold waters and started to swim out to meet him.

This attracted the attention of all the Indians in both camps and they ran to the shore of the lake to watch the two lovers swimming toward each other. Finally they met, exhausted, at the middle of the lake. They wrapped their arms around each other in a long awaited embrace. But the swim had been long and tiring and the cold water had sapped their strength, so they slowly sank below the waves in each other’s arms and drowned.

This scene, witnessed by both families, drove them to declare peace between the tribes and they even named the lake in the honor of the two lovers who gave their lives for that one embrace: Lake Stupid.

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