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The Legend of the Aspen


Harry Buschman

(An Indian Legend)

Out here in the west we call them quaking aspens. They're lovely trees, fine limbed with a silvery bark and birch-like leaves. In the gentlest breeze the leaves flutter like feathers. Sometimes you can see whole hillsides of them flickering yellow in the spring, green in the summer and red as fire in the fall.

You can even hear whole forests of them in Yellowstone, yes hear! When the wind blows you can hear them whispering as though you were riffling the pages of a book.

There's an old Cherokee legend that tells of a time before man, when the earth was young. The Great Spirit wanted all the trees to stay awake for seven days and seven nights until the world was made. Only the strongest of them could stay awake -- the laurel, the cedar and the spruce. They were granted the gift of being evergreen forever, the others had to shed their leaves and sleep through the long winter's night of creation.

The aspen, although it tried very hard, could not stay awake. It's prayers could be heard throughout the forest as it quivered in fear, it even changed its leaves from green to gold and russet to appease the Great Spirit. But sadly it fell asleep and down came its leaves. From that day to this the aspen must lie dormant in the winter and stretch its naked limbs to the sky waiting for spring to come.

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