Old Meshikee and the Little Crabs: an Ojibwe Story
Michael Spooner and Lolita Taylor
Henry Holt and Company
This is a very old story that Lolita Taylor, my cousin, taught me in 1980. She had taught it to my father in the 1930s, and she had learned it from her grandfather in the early 1900s.
It's all about Old Meshikee, a grand old turtle, and a trick he plays on some other people who want to do him in.
The folktale comes from the Ojibwe side of Lolita's family, and she loved this story very much. She used to tell me, in fact, that she always wished she had been born to the Turtle Clan instead of the Eagle Clan, because she thought Meshikee was so much more fun than Megizee, the eagle. (I'm sure Megizee understands.)
When Lolita's grandfather told a traditional story, she said, he would
always end by saying "And for supper, plenty meat!" Then he'd say, "And if you want anymore, you can sing it yourself." She carried on that tradition, too, when she was telling tales to me. Then she'd laugh and laugh.
There are many stories about Meshikee among the Ojibwe. He's a friendly guy, and sometimes he likes to play tricks on you. But he also sometimes carries messages between this world and the other. So Meshikee is an important fellow.
The book is illustrated with wonderful colors and woodcuts by John Hart. I never got to meet John, but we exchanged letters for awhile, and I've seen other examples of his artwork. He's impressive.
Sadly, Old Meshikee and the Little Crabs is out of print now. But you can usually find it on the internet through used book channels.
My darling cousin Lolita passed away in March of 2004. Everyone who knew her loved her very much.
So that's all I know about that. And if you want any more, you can sing it yourself.