White Horse Plain

A Canadian Indian Legend
As retold by Jim Donahue

Once when all the stories were made out of sounds there was a beautiful girl, daughter of a respected chief. The girl was to be wed to a very able and admired young man. They were about to be married, but the young woman's restless imagination sometimes ached for great adventures while the young man seemed happy with everything just as it was.

One day a large group of warriors from an eastern tribe rode by slowly under the noon sun. They were far enough away to indicate respect and close enough that one could discern the features of every face. Naturally, there was a handsome son of the Eastern chief. The young bride-to-be took one look and the handsome young man took one look and lo, the nearly inevitable! Both realized that this was not perhaps the best moment to make any moves, both wondered if the other felt the same and both determined to get another glimpse of the other, away from the crowds.

The young woman determined that she would walk out in the darkness of the new moon to the hill that looked out on the great plain of tall grasses. She would walk out to the west and determine how far it was to the young man's camp, if indeed the Eastern people had camped nearby.

To her relief she could see the campfires at a distance of only a half hour's walk. Without so much as a second thought the girl descended the hill and walked quickly, quietly, carefully toward the campsite of the people of the East.

All the Eastern people had fallen asleep, except for the chief's son, who carefully, quietly and quickly started moving toward the camp of the people of the West. Again, the almost inevitable.

As morning came the girl explained her predicament to the boy, telling him she had to go back to her people, for it was the morning of the day of her wedding. Together they hatched a plot.

Showing great derring-do, and an almost theatrical sense of timing, the young lad arrived under the late afternoon sun just before the vows were exchanged. The girl jumped on the huge white horse and off they went toward the northwest with the Western warriors in close pursuit. A scout from the other camp noticed the commotion and soon the warriors of the East joined in chasing the white horse with the renegade lovers. This marked the only time the two tribes had ever agreed on much of anything.

In the version of the story I was told, the lovers got away from the warriors of both tribes and never returned to the region. As the years went by, the occasional traveler would bring a tale about someone or other, seeing the couple somewhere or other, recently or a while ago.

Meanwhile, the Eastern and Western tribes had gotten to know each other better and the story of the white horse went around the campfires whenever they would meet in the summer travels. It was at one such gathering that the story got a new chapter. Just at the moment when everyone saw the fire's embers were blinking and nodding into sleep, with great derring-do... swiftly, quietly, carefully the white horse appeared before them where the scrub-grass clearing met the ocean of tallgrass prairie that grew as high as the great horse itself. It shone in the dark night of the new moon, stood briefly, and then quietly turned and walked into the dark green wave and disappeared.

The clearing near the river has since been called the White Horse Plain. Many hundreds of years later, a tribe from even farther east put up a huge statue of the white horse. Everybody from just about everywhere has seen it by now, I imagine, and tribes from everywhere live and visit there.

One occasionally hears stories about the lovers and, for the most part, everyone here agrees that they seemed to have lived happily ever after.

And even if this isn't quite so, may it be true for all of us.

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