Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Story of Little Sac

I'm kind of a history buff and a little while back, while tooling around on the mountain bike trails at Sac River north of Springfield I started thinking about the history of the place; what came before the sweet singletrack that we modern humans have bestowed upon the land.

After extensive research I've been able to put together the following stream of people and events.

In the Ozarks, long before the white man came along with their fancy 2 wheeled contraptions they called bikes, the land was inhabited by Indians.  Not the people from India, it was just a coincidence that people on opposite ends of the earth had the same names.  It truly is a small world.  Anyway, these Indians were often divided up not by states or counties or even municipalities, but by Tribes.  A tribe was a group of folks that liked to hang out together, a bit like a modern day gang, and usually a tribe had what they called a Turf.  This was where they pitched a tent (or TeePee as they called them) and spent most of their time.

Most of these Tribes had a name and the Tribes that lived in and around what we now call Springfield were the Kickapoo, Cherokee and Pershing Tribes.  Not many of them remain but they have been memorialized by having Springfield schools named after them.

A family belonging to the Pershing tribe lived along a river just off highway 13; they went by the name Sac.  It was an Indian custom to name your family after something meaningful and while their spelling differed slightly from the European standards of the day a Sac was a bag (often made of burlap or deerskin) that the Indians used to carry groceries home from the farmers market (a tradition dating back to pre-historic times).

Now what the Indians couldn't grow to take to the farmers market they often hunted for.  You see the Ozarks was a bountiful land and the area was teeming with wild birds and animals.  If one was good with a bow and arrow they could make a fortune selling meat and hides at the market.   The only problem was that bows and arrows were expensive and if you couldn't afford to buy them at Bass Pro they had to be made by hand; the Indians hadn't developed trading with the pacific rim for cheap knockoffs just yet.  And the hardest part to make on a bow and arrow was the tip of the arrow, often made of rock; called an arrowhead.  People spent years making a single arrowhead and if they missed the animal or bird they were shooting at the arrow was sometimes lost.

In the Sac family the kids were tasked with making the arrowheads which they grew to hate because the elder Sac was a horrible shot and would sometimes loose 5 or 6 arrows on a single outing.  One day, while chipping away at rocks one of the kids had a brainstorm; why not have nature do the work for them.  Why can't they GROW arrowheads.

This intrepid youngster then made his life's work developing and fine tuning a natural arrowhead.  He cross-bread rose bushes with trees and planted them all over the land by the river.  This boys name was Little Sac and he invented the Thorn.

Unfortunately the story does not end well for Little Sac.  You see, the traditional arrowhead had been around for a really long time and there was a large establishment in place that had a lot to lose if people could just grow their own arrowheads.   The official record lists Little Sac's cause of death as an accidental drowning but I think you can come to your own conclusions about what really happened.  In any event the river was named in his honor.  His last known statement was that he wished that no horses or motorized vehicles (called iron horses back then) be allowed to traverse the land his family called home.  He would rather that trails be built that could be used for health and enjoyment for all generations to come.

Little Sac's story isn't all sad however; while the arrowhead establishment did everything in their power to exterminate the thorn tree, legend has it that if you ride your bike around modern day Little Sac, when you get home you just might find one of his inventions stuck in your tire.  His dream lives on.

1 comment:

  1. That's odd. I've lived around here all my life and I've never heard that story before. And to think, I've always been fascinated with Springfield's history!

    Good job!