THE HUNTER AND THE UKSU′HĬ
A man living down in Georgia came to visit some relatives at Hickory-log. He
was a great hunter, and after resting in the house a day or two got ready to go
into the mountains. His friends warned him not to go toward the north, as in that
direction, near a certain large uprooted tree, there lived a dangerous monster
uksu′hĭ snake. It kept constant watch, and whenever it could spring upon an
unwary hunter it would coil about him and crush out his life in its folds and then
drag the dead body down the mountain side into a deep hole in Hiwassee.
He listened quietly to the warning, but all they said only made him the more
anxious to see such a monster, so, without saying anything of his intention, he
left the settlement and took his way directly up the mountain toward the north.
Soon he came to the fallen tree and climbed upon the trunk, and there, sure
enough, on the other side was the great uksu′hĭ stretched out in the grass, with its
head raised, but looking the other way. It was about so large [making a circle of
a foot in diameter with his hands]. The frightened hunter got down again at once
and started to run; but the snake had heard the noise and turned quickly and was
after him. Up the ridge the hunter ran, the snake close behind him, then down the
other side toward the river. With all his running the uksu′hĭ gained rapidly, and
just as he reached the low ground it caught up with him and wrapped around
him, pinning one arm down his side, but leaving the other free.
Now it gave him a terrible squeeze that almost broke his ribs, and then began to
drag him along toward the water. With his free hand the hunter clutched at the
bushes as they passed, but the snake turned its head and blew its sickening
breath into his face until he had to let go his hold. Again and again this happened, and all the time they were getting nearer to a deep hole in the river,
when, almost at the last moment, a lucky thought came into the hunter’s mind.
He was sweating all over from his hard run across the mountain, and suddenly
remembered to have heard that snakes can not bear the smell of perspiration.
Putting his free hand into his bosom he worked it around under his armpit until it
was covered with perspiration. Then withdrawing it he grasped at a bush until
the snake turned its head, when he quickly slapped his sweaty hand on its nose.
The uksu′hĭ gave one gasp almost as if it had been wounded, loosened its coil,
and glided swiftly away through the bushes, leaving the hunter, bruised but not
disabled, to make his way home to Hickory log.
Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney