White & Piebald Deer
The Southern shoulder of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and the top of the valley East from MacGinnisburg and West to Lake Station Road, have been inhabited by mysterious albino and "Piebald" (mottled) White-Tailed Deer for as long as any residents can remember.
Native peoples in many American Cultures have consistently regarded the White Deer to be a spirit, typically that of an ancestor or benevolent soul transfigured from human form.
The Piebald is respected, by many Amerind cultures, as a spirit in the process of transforimg to or from the spirit world.
It is at this time of trasnformation that, as local Lenape believed, the spirit was at it's most vulnerable, and hence, would die with the mortal form if killed by a hunter.
As such, the Lenape, like most Native cultures, revered the White and Piebald Deer, and the killing of either was strongly tabooed, lest the killer suffer an untimely death, himself, and his spirit be usurped by the white deer.
This belief was passed on through the beliefs of the European settlers of our valley, and amongst older families it still holds true, today.
Some see the preponderance of Piebald and White Deer, in the Sugar Loaf Valley to the West of Sugar Loaf Mountain, as a sign of high spiritual activity and the continuance of old lenape souls moving between the real and spirit worlds.
The Senecas of Northwestern NY State tell this White Deer legend: "The Indian legend of Mona-sha-sha lends an air of tragedy to the beautiful Glen with the famous waterfalls. The hunter, Joninedah, brought his wife and child to a temporary home when the hunting was good, but days of hunting brought no success. Mona-sha-sha tried to cheer him and fished and gathered berries while he was away. After a long hard day, he came home in despair that the evil eye was upon him. He failed to respond to the smiles of Mona-sha-sha. Feeling that he no longer loved her, she waited until he fell asleep, then strapping her babe upon her back , stole out into the night. Far above the (Middle) Falls she found her bark canoe, and slipping silently down the stream, was dashed over the waterfall.
Joninedah awoke to find her gone and hurried outside. Following her trail to the water's edge, he saw that the canoe was gone. A white doe and fawn darted by, and the grief-stricken brave said the spirit had spoke of the dead. Plunging his knife into his breast, he joined his wife and child in death."
The very First European settlers of the lost colony of Roanoke Island were involved in this Croatan Indian legend: "Long ago the first white child was born in America and her name was Virginia Dare. She was born on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. Some time before she was three years old, she and her parents and everybody in the settlement disappeared. What happened to them? Nobody knows, and they are called the "Lost Colony".
The legend of the White Deer explains what happened to Virginia Dare and why there was a big, big grape vine called the "Mother Vine" in North Carolina.
The legend says that the Lost Colony joined the Croatan Indians . When Virginia became a young woman, two Indians fell in love with her. Their names were Chico, an old Indian magician, and Okisko, and young man.
Chico said, "I am too old and she will not marry me. But she will not marry Chico, either. I will make some magic."
So Chico got the magic spotted pearls out of some mussels, and he went to some magic water. He made a magic potion and he sang to all the spotted beads. He made a necklace. Chico asked Virginia, "Winono-ska, will you ride in my canoe to Roanoke Island?"
Virginia Dare said yes, she would. Chico gave her the magic beads and when she put them on she changed into a white deer!
For a long time the people on Roanoke Island saw this white deer. The young Indian man Wanchese decided he would kill the white deer.
"Oh no!" said Chico. "I must save Winono-ska!"
So he went to the spirit of the water, and the spirit told him how to make a magic arrow from a hammerhead shark's tooth and three mussel pearls. He fixed them on a wood stick shaft and wrapped a heron feather.
Chico went to Roanoke, but Wanchese went too. They looked for the white deer. Both Indians shot arrows at the same time! Chico's arrow hit first, and the white deer changed into Virginia Dare. But Wanchese's arrow hit her just a second later, and killed her.
Chico was very upset and he took his magic arrow and he stuck it in the magic water. From the wood grew a grape vine, and it became the great Mother Vine of North Carolina.
People say that you can still see the ghost of the white deer on Roanoke Island."
The Chickasaw of Oklahoma tell this White Deer legend: "A brave, young warrior for the Chickasaw Nation fell in love with the daughter of a chief. The chief did not like the young man, who was called Blue Jay. So the chief invented a price for the bride that he was sure that Blue Jay could not pay.
"Bring me the hide of the White Deer." said the chief. The Chickasaws believed that animals that were all white were magical. "The price for my daughter is one white deer." Then the chief laughed. The chief knew that an all white deer, an albino, was very rare and would be very hard to find. White deerskin was the best material to use in a wedding dress, and the best white deer skin came from the albino deer.
Blue Jay went to his beloved, whose name was Bright Moon. "I will return with your bride price in one moon, and we will be married. This I promise you." Taking his best bow and his sharpest arrows Blue Jay began to hunt.
Three weeks went by, and Blue Jay was often hungry, lonely, and scratched by briars. Then, one night during a full moon, Blue Jay saw a white deer that seemed to drift through the moonlight. When the deer was very close to where Blue Jay hid, he shot his sharpest arrow. The arrow sank deep into the deer's heart. But instead of sinking to his knees to die, the deer began to run. And instead of running away, the deer began to run toward Blue Jay, his red eyes glowing, his horns sharp and menacing.
A month passed and Blue Jay did not return as he had promised Bright Moon. As the months dragged by, the tribe decided that he would never return.
But Bright Moon never took any other young man as a husband, for she had a secret. When the moon was shinning as brightly as her name, Bright Moon would often see the white deer in the smoke of the campfire, running, with an arrow in his heart. She lived hoping the deer would finally fall, and Blue Jay would return."
A European-American legend, popular throughout the Ozarks, up into the Appalachians and which many 19th century Sugar Loaf Valley Residents told, was that of the Snawfus:
After sunset, especially along the White Oaks and Hemlocks just beneath the ridges, one might catch a glimpse of a Snawfus. The Snawfus is a White Deer with enormous antlers from which a boquet of moss and flowers grows. It is an arboreal spirit-creature which leaps among the treetops at dusk, and sometimes seems to walk in human form, like a tall man with the head of a deer whose mossy antlers are bedecked by flowers.
In the Smoky Mountains, the smoke is believed to be the breath of the Snawfus; Indeed, at times the odd, vertical mists rising in front of Sugar Loaf Mountain obscure the entire bald head of the mountain from view, while the surrounding mountains appear as clear as on any sunny day, as if the mountain, iteself, had somehow vanished.
This, earier 'Loafers would say, is the breath of the Snawfus, cloaking the mountaintop with a thick cloud of his breath so that several might meet at the mountain's summit, undetected by human eyes, as they graze upon the firegrass at the summit, ensuring that the rocks are kept bare.
The Hoop Snake of "Hoopsnake Hill"
Two mountains over to the West of Sugar Loaf Mountain stands "Hoopsnake Hill", shortened, in modern times,to "Snake Hill"
Legend has it that an enormous Hoop Snake lives at the summit of this rocky hill
the Hoop Snake is so named for it's ability to roll itself into one enormous hoop and then roll, like a wheel, down the hill toward anyone who venures too close to it's rocky den. Some earlier inhabitants of The valley said that the treasure of Claudius Smith, the Tory Cowboy, was hidden deep within a fissure in the western-exposed rock face of "Hoopsnake Hill", and the Hoop Snake guards over it. some have even speculated as to complicity on the part of the ghost of Claudius Smith in this arrangement.
Regardless, the Hoop Snake will roll itself toward any intruder, with the sharp, hornlike stinger in it's tail pointing forward in hopes of killing any such unfortunate, wayward soul.
A 19th century farmer once hid behind a tree while being chased down by a Hoop Snake; The snake's stinger struck the tree, and , the next day, the tree was swollen to several times it's original size. This is an explanation often given for such enormous trees standing out in open fields and along hilly fencelines; Earlier would-be victims of the Hoop Snake had run behind them, and the trees took the brunt of the poisonous stinger.
Some who have hunted the rugged summit of "Hoopsnake Hill" have reported seeing a foggy apparition of what appears to be a man, clad in colonial garb, with a noose about his neck and an old, english musket in his hands.
It's usually at about this time that the hoopsnake appears, rolling furiously toward the unfortunate hunter.
Woe to any who see that ghostly, noosed apparition in the fog of Hoopsnake Hill. The trees at the summit are small and thin, and one must try to outrun the furious, rolling serpent....