Monday, July 22, 2013


Forbidden love…in my generation, the 1957 Broadway musical and smash movie of 1961, “WEST SIDE STORY,” epitomized the idea.

A hundred years earlier, the romanticized family feud of the Hatfields and McCoys triggered bloodshed over secret liaisons of their young. However, the granddaddy of all forbidden love stories pitted the Montagues versus the Capulets. Written over four-hundred years ago by a William Shakespeare, we all know it was called, “ROMEO AND JULIET.”

Shakespeare is credited with this originating this timeless tale. But you are about to learn that the old Bard of Avon plagiarized Romeo and Juliet. Okay, time out! Perhaps plagiarized is too strong a word. Instead, let’s give Bombastic Bill the benefit of the doubt and say he used poetic license to inspire his greatest work, by borrowing from an old Native-Canadian saga…affectionately known today as, “THE LEGEND OF LAKE STUPID.”

Long, long ago…just beneath the Arctic Circle, in the northern-most wilderness of the present-day Yukon Territory, sits an Eden-like Valley. A freak of nature has warmed this narrow, ten-mile strip from the typical harsh weather of its thousand-mile radius and provided salvation for a wide range of vegetation, animals, fish and birds. Although the circle-of-life still exists, the wildlife seemingly has cut-out a reasonably peaceful niche.

Unfortunately, humans have been far less charitable and unwilling to share this blissful outpost. Through the eons, to control this frosty paradise, tribal warfare has wreaked bloody havoc. Ancestral Aleuts of the west, Eskimos from the north, the Inuit of the east and Indians from the south all converged there. These conflicts caused the weaker clans to be wiped out and long forgotten.

The focal point of the area is Lake Chapultepec, (an indigenous term for; lake that never freezes). This over-sized, oval-shaped pond is sandwiched by lush forests on two sides and mountain walls on the other two. Due to its strategic placement, the lake acts as natural demilitarized zone for the last two warring tribes, the Narwhals of the south and the Vuntut of the north.

These two enemies knew that half the valley had enough resources to comfortably support their people. They also had a good idea of the valley’s lethal history. So they settled into a cautious, non-negotiated, closed-off, peaceful co-existence.

For several generations there was hardly any interaction. The hated rivals maintained a strict segregation while closely scrutinizing the daily activities of each other. And despite the perceived harmony there was always  an under-current of unrest. Especially if an over zealous potential chief needed to demonstrate his strength to his would-be constituents. Luckily, no accidental incident ever sparked more than a minor skirmish.

On a mid-September morning, long after the short summer had ended, the first hint of winter invaded the valley. Through dawn’s mistiness, a lone female Narwhal knelt where the stream of melted glacial water entered the lake’s western side of the south shore. This young squaw, on the verge of womanhood, was attracted to that spot by the nearby natural hot spring that prevents the lake from freezing.  She leaned over the bank and stared at her gawky reflection. Her whimpering broke the silence until her gush of tears threatened to overflow the calm waters.

Her name was Delicate Flower. But this bit of sarcasm was bestowed on her the same way you might nickname a giant; Tiny. But Delicate Flower wasn’t crying about her awkwardness, she was unhappy because she had come of age to begin the courtship rituals of the tribe but was deemed unsuitable.

Delicate Flower’s low status was represented by her new responsibility as a laundress. The tribe had a pecking order within the laundresses and it was she alone who scraped the “racing stripes” off the men’s loin clothes.

Soon a group of giggly laundresses gathered fifty feet away. They directed their laughter at the poor girl’s misfortune as they used rocks to the pound the community clothes clean. Delicate Flower knew she was being shunned but what really bothered her was their adolescent chatter about the young boys who they hoped would court them.

Delicate Flower wasn’t dainty and was still having difficulty getting used to the clumsy hatchet she was using to do such fine work. While her hormones raged inside, her outward situation worsened when she dropped the big scraper into the murky water. The other girls laughed and pointed at her as the humiliated girl waded knee-deep trying to locate the valued tool.

At the same time, across the lake, on the western side of the north shore, the equivalent of a drill sergeant ran fledgling Vuntut warrior cadets out from the woods. Twelve young bucks, breathing heavily from their rigorous training proudly stood in a straight line. For two long minutes, the boys remained at attention staring at Chapultepec, waiting for the order that would set them at ease.

A rustling in the woods caused the instructor to look behind his troops. The erect cadets feared recrimination and strained their eyes, in the hope of seeing behind them without turning their heads. Suddenly, Brown Trout, a thirteen boy emerged. The rotund lad entered a small clearing and hopped over a fallen log but skidded on a slanted stone and fell.

The trainer had some unkind words for his group as they laughed at their flawed, Gomer Pyle-like comrade. When the chubby boy finally joined the others, the sergeant roared profanity into his face, poked his engorged belly and pointed to where a left moccasin was supposed to be.

Brown Trout was so dense that when the other boys were excused, he needed two explanations before understanding that his punishment included taking a miniature Vuntut totem pole, by canoe, to the center of the lake. He was then required to stand up and taunt the Narwhals with it. The true measure of the ordeal was that he wasn’t provided the luxury of a paddle.

By the time Brown Trout reached his destination only Delicate Flower saw him . She watched with confused curiosity until he rose up, shook the symbolic artifact with malice and shouted vulgarities in his alien language. His silly intimidation attempt ended abruptly when the canoe started to list side-to-side. The kid kept the boat from capsizing but he fell and cracked his head on the wooden seat. He was afraid to look back at his village and see who might have witnessed his bumbling ineptitude. So he looked towards the enemy camp.

Delicate Flower saw the boy’s bloody forehead. She stood up and gaped in sympathy, causing Brown Trout to interpret her tender reaction as concern. Out of embarrassment, he smiled. When she smiled back…they both experienced a mutual was love at first sight.

For several weeks, Brown Trout under the pretense of practice, started every morning by maneuvering a canoe closer, in the hope of catching a better glimpse of Delicate Flower.

One day, Delicate Flower in the name of romance, decided to walk around the lake. She claimed to be gathering berries and lost her way when she was discovered too close to “enemy” lines. She was sent to the Shaman. She remained obtuse throughout the questioning so the medicine man thought she was crazy.

December ushered in a thick blanket of snow that covered the land. In the distance, Brown Trout spotted his beautiful Delicate Flower framed by the purity of the white background. As was his custom, he set out by canoe, to get a better look at his forbidden love. On this morning, his surging testosterone compelled him to paddle near enough to talk to her. His spirits and libido were ricocheting between his lower abdomen and his heart as he bravely thrust his vessel into the bitterly cold water.

Brown Trout hadn’t gone thirty feet when one of the elders called out, “Where are you going?” The boy was caught off guard. His high-pitched, prepubescent voice cracked as he stammered said, “I-I-I’m taking this totem to the center of the lake, t-t-to taunt the Narwhals.” When he realized that he didn’t have the symbolic talisman with him, he shamefully made a U-Turn.

The wise man grabbed Brown Trout under his armpit and forcibly led him back to his lodge. The cowering boy was thrown to the ground.  The elder said, "I'm disappointed in you Brown Trout.  Last year, I had a high opinion of you when you asked for an audience with the chief.  You showed maturity, made a reasonable request and presented a good case...and were granted an irregular favor."  "Yes, that was when I asked the chief how he named new born children."  The elder said, "That's right, the chief leaves the tepee of each new child and names the baby after the first thing he sees."  Brown Trout said, "The chief used my sister and brother as examples."  The elder said, "Your brother Silver Moon and sister Leaping Fawn were indeed named in that manner.  In the same way, you were named, Two Wolves Humping.  But you didn't like that name and the chief renamed you."

Brown Trout hung his head low as a long interrogation about his strange escapade with the canoe began. But the kid made no sense as he blithered in circles but never divulged his true mission. So the elder forbade him from using the canoes and came away from their meeting convinced that the boy was a bigger moron than he ever imagined.

The next morning was two degrees below zero. Despite some minor icing along the far shore, (away from the stream carrying the hot spring water), the always thawed lake lived up to its name.

Brown Trout saw his beloved in her usual place and decided to risk everything. But the elder had hid the canoes. The love sick warrior-in-training wasn’t clever enough to think out a better plan...and dove into the lake.

Motivated by horniness, Brown Trout swam like an Olympic champion.  His first fifty feet would have given Tarzan goose pimples. But soon his progress slowed considerably until he was floundering. Delicate Flower recognized her beau's panic-stricken attempt to stay afloat and pushed a canoe into the lake. She had never used one in her life but when she saw her sweetheart thrashing about, struggling to keep his head above water, her adrenaline took over. She focused on saving her man and cut through Chapultepec like an expert.

Soon tribesmen from both sides converged on Brown Trout’s limp body. He had succumbed to hyperthermia and drowned. The corpse was dragged back to the Vuntut village. Members of the Narwhals instinctively followed Delicate Flower into the enemy camp and nobody stopped them. To the surprise of everyone, she embraced the boy’s head and in a hysterical crying sob, professed her love for him.

The Narwhals and the Vuntut continued to lead separate lives until Delicate Flower assumed the role of goodwill ambassador.  She frequently visited the Vuntut and shared cultural nuances. Over time, her familiar face brokered many meetings between the tribes...and hostilities evaporated.  Her greatest accomplishment was getting the two chiefs together on the first anniversary of Brown Trout’s ill-fated death. From that powwow, the day was proclaimed a holiday and open communication, trade and socializing became officially acceptable.

The chiefs also liked Delicate Flower's idea to change Chapultepec’s name, in honor of Brown Trout.  But she didn't quite get exactly what she hoped for.  With hierarchy of both tribes in accord, the name was Lake Stupid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your story left me feeling optimistic how people can come together as one overcoming their obstacles. Cats and dogs no longer fighting. Maybe the Middle East will break out in peace as both sides realize we’re just brothers under the skin.

I’m not so hopeful though that one day I might even be able to tolerate being in the same room as a Yankee fan or being able to have a sensible debate with a Republican. Some things are just not possible. --- SLW