The Legend of the Texas Bluebonnet

As Told by Cork Morris
Illustration by Ira Kennedy

Bluebonnet Myth “Great Spirit, the land is dying. Your People are dying, too,” the line of dancers sang.

“Tell us what we have done to anger you. End this drought. Save your People. Tell us what we must do so you will send the rain that will bring back life.”

“For three days, the dancers danced to the sound of the drums, and for three days, the people called Comanche, watched and waited. Even though the hard winter was over, no healing rains come.

Drought and famine are hardest on the very old and the very young.

Among the few children left was a small girl named, She-Who-Lives-Alone.

She sat by herself, watching the dancers. In her lap was a doll made from buckskin. A warrior doll. The eyes, nose and mouth were painted on with the juice of herbs and berries. It wore beaded leggings and a belt of polished bone. On its head were brilliant blue feathers from the jay that flitted among the trees in summer. She loved her doll very much.

“Soon,” She-Who-Lives-Alone said to her doll, “the medicine man will go off by himself to the top of the hill to listen for the words of the Great Spirit. Then, we will know what to do so that once more the rains will come and Our Mother will be green and alive. The buffalo will be plentiful and the People will be rich again.”

As she talked, she thought of the mother who had made the doll, of the father who brought the blue feathers. She thought of the grandfather and grandmother she had never known. They were like shadows.

It seemed long ago that they had died from the famine.

The People had named her and cared for her. The warrior doll was the only thing she had left from those distant days.

“The sun is setting,” the runner called as he ran through the camp. “The medicine man is returning.”

The people gathered in a circle and the medicine man spoke.

“I have heard the words of the Great Spirit,” he said. “The People have become selfish. For years they have taken from Our Mother without giving anything back. The Great Spirit says the People must sacrifice. We must make a smoke offering of the most valued possession among us.

“The ashes of this offering shall then be scattered to the Four Winds.

When this offering is made, drought and famine will cease. Life will be restored to Our Mother and to the People.”

The People sang a song of thanks to the Great Spirit for telling them what they must do.

“I’m sure it isn’t my new bow,” said a man as he left the circle.

“It can’t be my special blanket,” said another woman.

As the evening grew dark they all went to their tipis to talk and think over what the Great Spirit has asked.

Everyone left the circle except She-Who-Lives-Alone. She held her doll tightly to her heart.

"You,” she said, looking at the doll, “are my most valued possession. It is you that the Great Spirit wants.”

As the fires died out and the tipi flaps were adjusted for the night, the little girl returned to the tipi where she lived, to sleep and to wait.

The night outside was still, except for the deep call of the Owl. Soon, everyone in the tipi was asleep, except She-Who-Lives-Alone. Under the ashes of the fire, one stick still glowed. She took it and crept silently outside.

She ran to the place on the hill where the Great Spirit had spoken to the Medicine Man. Stars filled the sky, but there was no moon.

“Oh, Great Spirit,” she called, “here is my warrior doll. It is the only thing I have from my family who died in this famine. It is my only possession. Please accept it.”

Then, gathering sticks, she started a fire. She watched as the sticks caught and began to burn brighter and brighter.

She thought of her grandmother and grandfather, her mother and father, and of all the People who had suffered and gone hungry. Before she could change her mind she thrust the doll into the fire.

She watched until the flames died down and the ashes had grown cold. Then, scooping up a double handful she offered them to the Wind.

East, to where the Sun faithfully rises each day.

South, to where the People come to escape the bitter winter gales.

West, to where her family and other of the People lived now.

North, where the buffalo would grow thick and fat in the summer.

She slept there, on the hilltop, until the morning sun woke her.

Rubbing the too little sleep from her eyes, she looked out over the fields and stretching out from all sides, where the ashes had been taken by the wind, the ground was covered with flowers—beautiful flowers. They were as blue as the feathers in the hair of her doll, as the feathers of the jay who flits in the trees of summer.

When the People came out of their tipis, they could scarcely believe their eyes.

They gathered on the hill with She-Who-Lives-Alone, to look at the sight.

They were in no doubt, the flowers were a sign of forgiveness from the Great Spirit.

The People began to sing and dance their thanks to the Great Spirit, and a warm, gentle rain began to fall. Their Mother began to live again.

From that day on, the little girl was known by another name, One-Who-Truly-Loved-Her-People.

Every spring, the Great Spirit remembers the sacrifice of the little girl and fills the hills and valleys of the land with beautiful blue flowers. To this day.