Nature Notes

Vol. IX March-April, 1931 No. 3


The Indians of the Northwest were largely content to worship "The Mountain" from afar. They were possessed of a wholesome fear of it and rarely approached very high upon its slopes. Consequently there are few legends concerning this great peak.

The following story, taken from the book "Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest (Judson), is one of the few.

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Why There Are No Snakes on Takhoma

A long, long time. ago, Tyhee Sahale became angry with the people. Sahale ordered a medicine man to take his bow and arrow and shoot into the cloud which hung low over Takhoma. The medicine man shot the arrow, and it stuck fast in the cloud. Then he shot another into the lower end of the first. He shot arrows until he had made a chain which reached from the cloud to the earth. The medicine man told his klootchman and his children to climb up the arrow trail. Then he told the good animals to climb up the arrow trail. Then the medicine man climbed up himself. Just as he was climbing into the cloud, he looked back. A long line of bad animals and snakes were also climbing up the arrow trail. Therefore the medicine man broke the chain of arrows. Thus the snakes and bad animals fell down on the mountain side. Then at once it began to rain. It rained until all the land was flooded. Water reached even to the snow line of Takhoma. When all the bad animals and snakes were drowned, it stopped raining. After a while the waters sank again. Then the medicine man, and his klootchman, and the children climbed out of the cloud and came down the mountain side. The good animals also climbed out of the cloud. Thus there are now no snakes or bad animals on Takhoma.


Last summer Ranger-Naturalists Coombs and Scheffer, together with Ranger Snooke climbed Mt. Rainier. But that isn't news -- they had done that several times! However, in exploring around the crater rim "Vic" Scheffer's eagle eye noted a plant growing there within just a few feet of The Mountain's summit - third highest point in the United States. This plant - a moss - had established itself upon a bit of barren reck near one of the stream vents just below Columbia Crest. The warm vapors that issued from the depths here had enabled the moss to survive in spite of its extreme elevation and its frigid arctic alpine habitat.

The climbers returned with a portion of this plant. But its identity remained a mystery until a short time ago when, after investigation on the part of Dr. Frye of the University of Washington and other specialists of this group of plants in an eastern university, we learned just what "Vic" had found. Like so many of these smaller plants it has a big name. In fact any rock that gathers moss with such a name should be proud indeed. For its real name is (take a deep breath) Plagiothecium elegans var gracilescens.

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