Long ago, Nanaboozhoo walked among the Indian people, listening to their problems and offering assistance to those who were hungry, sick or cold. As he was walking one day, he went to the wigwam of an old woman who lived all alone. She only cared for herself and helped no others in her village.
She was busy building a fire near her wigwam. The old woman was a picture with her black fur robe, woven cap of red and apron of light buckskin. She stood by the fire and fanned the flames.
Now Nanaboozhoo, with his special powers of taking on different forms, had chosen to be a ragged, hungry old man. His hair was white as new fallen snow and his beard was long and thick. His body was bent with age and his face wrinkled by the sun, seemed thin and week. When he appeared the old woman did not recognize him.
The old man said, “please help me, I am hungry and have come from a long way off. I am week and need some food. I can hardly go on”. The old woman said, “rest while I make a cake of corn.” She took some of the cornmeal and put it into the fire to bake. ”Megwetch (thank you) smiled the old man. Soon the old woman went over to the fire to look at the cake. She was surprised, the cake was so big. She thought that it would be a little one and she didn’t want to give the old man such a big cake. Quickly, she put the cake away and told the old man that she would bake another, for that one had fallen apart. The old man appeared tired and said he would wait. Then the old woman took a smaller portion of cornmeal and mixed another cake. When that cake was backed, it was bigger than the first one. She said to herself,” This is such a nice cake, Ill have to save it for myself.” She told the old man that the fire was to hot and the cake had burned up, but she would make another. The old man said he would wait. This time the old woman used less cornmeal then the first two times, but when she took the cake from the fire, it was bigger than ever! The old woman was upset. She couldn’t understand why each cake was larger than the one before. She didn’t realize that it was Nanaboozhoo’s magic that made each cake larger than the other. ”I can’t give away the nicest and biggest cake I ever backed,” she thought. She looked at the old man and said firmly,” I have no food for old beggers! Go and don’t bother me any longer!”
Now, Nanaboozhoo’s was angry when he heard this. He rose to his feet and said,” old woman, you should be kind and good, but you are selfesh. You can’t be an old woman any longer and live in your nice warm wigwam. You must go to the woods and hunt for your food in the bark of the trees!” Nanaboozhoo raised his arms and as he did, the old woman began to get smaller and smaller. Soon she turned into a little bird. Nanaboozhoo turned her black robe into shinny black feathers and her buck skin apron changed to white feathers. The red cap became a bunch of feathers on her head. Soon, black wings came from each side of her body and she flew into the woods.
Ever since that day, she has lived in the forest. All day long she runs up and down the trees looking for food. The stiff feathers of her tail help her to sit on the tree’s trunk while she pecks away with her bill, drilling holes in the tree’s looking for bugs. When you hear tapping in the woods, listen and remember that selfish old woman who had no food to share with a hungry old man. Today she is the redheaded woodpecker.