Folklore of the Rio Grande Valley


By Dr. Juan Sauvageau

This has to be the oldest story I have ever told; it goes back to the first chapter of Genesis, to the days of creation.

"Then God said 'Let the water teem with fish and other life, and let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.' So God created sea creatures and every kind of birds and God looked at them with pleasure and blessed them all."


All of a sudden the trees were full of chirping birds. They were looking at their own plumage and trying their new voices. It was a deafening concert of quack-quacks, cuckoos and tweet-tweets. They were rather proud of their feathers and songs.

As the birds looked down towards the ground, they saw the strangest creature perched on a cactus. A very puzzling sight indeed. It must have been a bird because it had the beak, the shape of a bird . . . but it didn't have a single feather on it. It looked so miserable that one could have thought it had been made with the leftovers.

By this time, the singing had stopped altogether. They were all staring at the wretched creature down below. It didn't have a song, all it could do was to repeat a staccato who-who-who.

The parrot took pity on the little one. "I know Who-Who, down there, looks pretty pitiful," he said, "but think for moment! That's how we would all look if we didn't have any feathers."

"We can't leave him this way. He would be a shame to the bird world. I propose that each one of us give one feather and put it in Who-Who. (None of us will miss one feather.) It should give Who-Who a beautiful plumage."

The suggestion was accepted with joy by all present. The crow asked for silence. "Wait a moment!" he admonished. "Don't you realize what you're doing? If everyone gives up a feather, Who-Who is going to be prettier than any of us and will look down on us."

The owl answered, "I'll see to it he never forgets that if it wouldn't have been for our help, he would still be a miserable creature."

Then the prettiest birds came down, the red cardinal, the yellow canary, the blue peacock, the white swan, the multicolor bird of paradise.

In a few moments, Who-Who had become indeed the prettiest bird in the world. He was beaming with joy and all others were proud of their masterpiece. Who-Who's song hadn't improved but, with his beautiful new coat, who cared about his voice?

He tried his wings. Now that he had feathers on them, he was able to fly. He circled around and around giving thanks to everyone. Then he headed for the nearby lagoon. When he saw his reflection on the water, he realized the extent of his beauty. He came back to the woods, looked at all the birds and convinced himself he was immensely prettier than any of them.

He said good-bye to them with these words of farewell, "I'm grateful to you all. But, as you well understand, I don't belong here any more, I must look for those of my own class!"

He flew away . . . they never saw him again.

Now, dear readers, you understand that this happened millions of years ago. Nevertheless the owl has not forgotten he had made himself responsible. He is still looking for him.

Haven't you heard him at night calling "Whooo, Whooo, Whooo"?