The Great Bird, the Red Rat and the Ball Post
A Story from our Ancient Migration from the West

(We have tried to preserve the speaking style of the two old ladies who often told this story)

At one time in the ancient days, when the Muskogee people were coming from the west to the east on their long journey to the Sun's home, they camped at one particular spot for a while. A very large and strange bird would come almost daily. With its bow and arrows, it would kill one of the people and take it off.  Now this went on for a long time and it caused much consternation among them.  What are we going to do?  How are we going to protect ourselves from this great being?  And, almost every day this great bird would come and kill someone to take away. They supposed for food for its young but we really do not know why it was occurring.

Finally, they made a large form in the shape of a woman out of reed, vine and cattail. They put thistle blossoms on it as soft hair and made it into a very beautiful structure. They set it up by a tall post where the bird came regularly. After a while, the bird came again. Seeing this wicker form, it  took it away and was gone for quite some time.  Sometime later, the bird returned and left the form back by the post. Out of it climbed a small red rat. Now the people looked astonished and discussed among themselves, "what is this, we have never seen a small rat of this type and color."  So they took council with the rat, supposing the bird to be its father.  "Yes the bird was my father" said the rat.  The people carefully explained their predicament, their plight.  And the rat, not being welcome in the house of its father, said "well I will help you and you will help me."  So together they decided a manner in which they could kill this bird.

When next the bird came and landed on the tall post, quietly, quickly the little red rat scurried to the top of the post and swiftly gnawed the string from the bow of the giant bird.  Now, the bird could not fire its bow and kill anyone, nor defend itself.  The people swiftly killed the large bird and when they did, they burned the bird and noticed that the bones were red on one side and blue on another.

They took note of all these things and even noticed where they had thrown rocks and their spears to kill the bird. They decided to commemorate that event always but they did not want to hurt each other hurling rocks and spears at a tall post. So, a thoughtful old man made two very small leather rocks; and, to them he attached a long, leather cord. "This is the tail of the red rat that scurried to the top of the post to help us kill the great bird that was killing our people.  We shall remember the bird and how it was killed with the help of the red rat. And so, this is the origin of the single pole ball game according to some old ones with long memories. It is a game that  the people learned during their long migration from the west.  This is the game that resulted from them defending themselves from that giant bird.  This is also why you see a fish atop some of the ball posts. It is because some birds fish for food for their young and themselves. That giant bird of old came and landed on a fish atop the tall post.  Oh, did I fail to mention that the people had put a large fish atop the post to attract the bird to come and see the woman made out of wicker and take her away?  This is the origin of the game balls and why we have a little string on those balls.  That is the rat's tail to remind us always of the rat's help at a time of need when the people where moving from the west to the east. It also reminds us that at times, even the smallest of creature can be of aid to the larger beings!  To this day, our ballgame aprons are always red for one team and blue for the other. This is how some of the old ones have told it to us.