Campfire Stories

The Devil's Bathtub

               Indians are among the most religious people this land have ever known. They worship everything which provides for them. They praise the sky above their heads, and all of the winged beasts whom inhibit it. They worship the soil on which they walk, that grows nourishment for their bodies. They pray to the creatures who walk the land to fill their bellies. But more so than any of the others, Indians worship water. For water is life.

                Three hundred years ago a Sioux tribe called the Black Hill Sioux inhabited areas along the Squaw Creek. The tribe had a most beautiful princess named MadKeena. Her hair was as dark as the night sky, and her eyes were as blue as the deepest waters. Madkeena was only 12 years old, but loved the water goddess with all of her heart. Every day she spent at the creek fishing, bathing, and praying to the water to thank it for providing its substance.

                Princess MadKeena especially loved one particular section of the creek that the water rushed through. It was enclosed on both sides by towering rock formations, which provided privacy for the baths which she adored.

                One day, as MadKeena was on her knees bowed in prayer to the water, a group of Pioneers traveling westward, happened upon her. They watched the princess in secrecy, and were shocked to hear her prayer to the water. When MadKeena raised to leave the creek bed, she turned to find that she was surrounded by white men and women who appeared angry.

                MadKeena inched backwards toward the water as angry white people pressed her screaming and yelling. MadKeena did not speak English, and so she had no idea what was possessing these strange white people.

                The pioneers were trying to tell this savage Indian that there is only one God. He is God of all of the earth, sky, and seas and everyone and everything within them. MadKeena, not understanding a word, just shook her head NO, in fear.

                The pioneers knew just what was needed to save this savages soul. They decided that they would baptize her in the creek, to help her find the one true Lord.

                The water where they stood was too shallow for a baptism, and so they drug MadKeena down the water’s edge in search of a suitable spot. It did not take long for the inspired mob to find MadKeena’s secret bathing spot. The group leader declared that it was the prefect location to rid this child’s soul of the devil, and help her find Jesus.

                The reverend dragged MadKeena into the water, keeping a hold of her by her long black hair, he jerked her head backwards, making her look to the sky so that God could see her face. As the reverend recited his magical words, “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit accept this woman,” tears poured from MadKeena’s deep blue eyes, and splashed into the creek water.

                The reverend dunked Princess MadKeena under the water. Suddenly the creek became angry. It swelled into a whirlpool, drawing the white man, and the princess between the rocks. The pioneer was not a strong swimmer, but MadKeena had spent every day of her life swimming in this creek, and she knew that it could not harm her. She pulled herself from the creek, while the group of white people looked on in shock. The reverend was gone, and never seen again.

                From that day forward, white people were terrified of this water. The Indian’s secretly feared the creek too, but they respected it. Since that day, the creeks water has not calmed, and remains violent. The white man has named it the devil’s bathtub. The Indian’s respect the water as they always have, but they will not venture into these waters either.

                It is said that only a person truly pure of heart, and soul will exit the water unscathed. Over the years many people have tried. Devout Christians have entered the water only to leave their beliefs in the creek. Men with the eyesight of an eagle have emerged from the water completely blind. The strongest swimmers have sunk to the bottom of the creek like an anchor.

                Should you decide to try your luck in MadKeena’s creek, be certain that your heart is good, because if it is not, you may lose that which you hold dearest.

                As for Princess MadKeena, she lived a long life to become the Chief of her tribe. Every day she could be found bathing and praying to the water, in the devil’s bathtub.

Soulless Joe

I know that you guys are excited to be camping. I am too. More importantly, I am exciting to be camping at this at this very site. There is a reason that I chose this particular campsite and this particular river. We could have camped much closer to home. There are plenty of rivers, plenty of lakes, and plenty of campsites. Do you know why I wanted to camp here? Well, this story will share the reason, if you dare.

My good friend Mr. John, do you remember him? Jakes dad from the baseball game? Well, he grew up not far from here. He is always bragging to me how great this area is for canoeing, camping, fishing, and swimming. All through high school Mr. John and his friends would hang out and have fun on this very river. But alas, it has been a very long and sad time since Mr. John has visited this place. Do you know why? Because Mr. John believes this river to be haunted. Should any of you be brave enough I can share his story if you wish. We will not think less of you if you want to retreat to the safety of your tent. For some, it is better not to know this tragedy.

This story takes place 30 some years ago…As a teenager, Mr. John and his best friend Joe Baker loved the outdoors. As I have already mentioned they spent a good deal of time at this very campsite. One afternoon, senior year, Mr. John and Joe decided to skip school to go canoeing and fishing just a stone’s throw from here. Mr. John had already caught three largemouth bass and Joe was getting overheated and frustrated. So, while John continued fishing Joe jumped into the water to cool off. Almost immediately when Joe emerged from beneath the water, he noticed Johns excitement as he had once again hooked an enormous fish. Joe groaned as he watched John wrestle to reel in the enormous beast. Suddenly Joe noticed that John’s canoe was floating away pretty quickly. The strangest thing was that the canoe was floating upstream. John was struggling fighting with the fish so much that the canoe was rocking back and forth violently and he didn’t even notice that he was being pulled upstream. It was a wonder that Johns canoe had not tipped over at this point. The real threat was that Mr. John and his canoe were heading directly for the dam.

Joe began screaming to get Johns attention. Suddenly the canoe stopped rocking and John began easily reeling in some of the line. As John turned to gloat to his friend his canoe abruptly was turned all the way around, facing Joe, and began moving toward him. It only took a second for John to realize what was happening and he frantically screamed for his friend to swim away to safety. By the time Joe understood John it was too late to heed his warning. John looked into the crystal clear water and that’s when he saw the largest fish he had ever seen. He swears this fish was longer than his canoe and twice as wide.

The fish was still hooked and John pulled as hard as he could to stop or slow down the fish, but it easily glided thru the clear water like a great white shark on a feeding frenzy. No one could have expected what happened next as the great fish lurched out of the water swallowing Joe whole. Mr. John was so stunned, that the fish was able to snatch the fishing pole from his hands. The fish then turned back toward the canoe. John paddled for shore with all of his might and energy. He could see the fish circling him because his fishing pole was still hooked to the fish and floating on the water being dragged by the fish. Obviously, Mr. John made it to shore safely. As he stood on the shoreline in shock watching his favorite fishing pole bob on the water upstream and contemplating what to do next, the angry fish picked up speed, seemingly charging the dam. John watched in curiosity. Just then the most amazing and convenient thing happened, the large fish, with Joe in its belly, jumped over the enormous dam, easily clearing it by 5 feet. Now the large fish was trapped in the lake!

John took off running for town. As he told the police the story no one believed him. A fish bigger than his canoe ate his friend and then jumped the dam?! Yeah right, they thought John was crazy. However, there was no denying that Joe was missing so the police had no choice but to launch a search and rescue mission. For two days authorities, family, and friends searched the river, the lake, and the woods with no sign of Joe. Finally, on the third morning, campers found a man lying on the shore covered from head to toe in a pink slime and barely breathing. It was Joe! He was alive. He survived whatever happened to him that fateful day. Other than John’s story, which a few more people believed after finding Joe, there is no way to know what happened that day because in 30 years since then Joe has not spoken a single word.

Legend has it that the great fish ate Joe’s soul that day and spit him out on the shore. That is why Joe just sits and stares and cannot say anything. The fish still roams these waters at night looking for another tasty soul to devour. Every now and again a fisherman, or child, or animal goes missing in the night. They always turn up a day or two later, but never speak again.

Some people think, that if you hear the story, believe it, and are brave enough, then Joe’s soul will visit your campsite. The only way to know if he has been here is that he will leave behind a fishing pole, in hopes that you might catch that great fish, and release all of the souls that it has devoured over the years. So if you see a fishing pole, floating up stream, you had better get out of the water quickly. Lest your soul become fish food.

Sioux Falls

               Long before English colonies settled this land, and even greater than our current United States, a Nation thrived in these hills. Welcome to the Great Sioux Nation. Before this country was formed, and throughout its infancy, the Sioux were known throughout the Midwest as great warriors. The Sioux were nomads of the Midwest that tracked buffalo, and lived in teepees which were easily packed and moved with the herd. Although there were many Sioux tribes, they only spoke three main dialects: Nakota, Lakota, and Dakota. The Dakota Sioux were also called Santee Sioux, and mostly inhabited the lands which are today known as North and South Dakota.

                By the late 19th century the white man had deeply invaded Sioux Nation. The white man tricked Sioux Nation into treaties which stole their ancient and sacred lands in turn for promises of free health care, food, and peace. The Nakota and Lakota tribes were both forced onto reservations, practically ending their ways of life. The Dakota tribe were the last remaining free Sioux tribe by 1890, and this is the story of how the Dakota brought great honor to the Sioux Nation forcing the United States to name two of its states after their formidable foe.

                The Dakota were called Santee because, unlike other Sioux tribes, they camped for long periods of time to hunt, fish, and even farm. Early in the war, constant movement helped the Sioux survive battles with the white man, and so the Lakota and Nakota tribes thought the Santee were foolish. But the Santee had a secret weapon.

                Spending entire seasons in one location allowed the Santee scavenge and process materials thoroughly. The Santee discovered that their land, now known as South Dakota, contained enormous deposits of strong solid rock and stone. The Santee set to making knives, swords, and arrows from these precious materials that had been provided by their goddess The White Buffalo Woman.

                Legends of the Santee blades traveled throughout Sioux Nation and soon the Dakota tribe found that they could trade their weapons for just about anything that their heart desired. The white man however, had no use for the ancient sculpted stone weapons because they believed that their guns would rule the world for a thousand years. As such, the Santee were left to their stone collecting and sharpening.

                While the Santee would trade their stones to other tribes for medicines and pelts, they always kept the best blades for themselves. In time, the white soldiers grew to despise the Santee for making and providing weapons which allowed the Sioux to fight bravely in battles and kill many white soldiers. Even so, the way of the gun prevailed, and soon 2/3s of Sioux nation were put onto reservations, leaving only the Dakota.

                The Santee knew that the white man would come to remove them from their land soon. The Santee all came together to summon The White Buffalo Woman. Thousands of Dakota came from the north and the west, and met at the place now called Sioux Falls. A large fire was set, which some have claimed could be seen from the state of Nebraska. Smoke billowed hundreds of feet into the sky for hours.  Once the sky contained all of the smoke that it could gather, The White Buffalo Woman formed in the smoke. Every Santee raised from their knees to their feet, and threw their arms into the sky welcoming their savior.

                The White Buffalo Woman told the Santee that there would be three battles. The Santee would find great victory in the first two battles, and in the third battle the Santee would win the war against the cannon ball, but Sioux would fall. Because of the Santee, the Sioux Nation should endure forever.

                The white men knew of the Dakota’s weapons cache.  In defeating the Lakota and Nakota, the white man had also learned of the Sioux’ fierceness. Although the white soldiers often greatly outnumbered the tribes, and had guns and artillery, the Sioux would fight until the last man. The US Army sent their best General to deal with the remaining Sioux. General Custer had years of experience fighting Indians, and had never met defeat on a battlefield. General Custer brought with him an entire regiment.

                Although outnumbered and outgunned, it was as The White Buffalo Woman predicted. The Santee shocked General Custer’s regiment with back to back defeats. Although the Santee were victorious in these first two battles, they suffered tremendous casualty, and the General knew this. The third battle for Sioux nation would be decisive in creating peace for the Midwest.

                The head Santee Chief, Crazy Horse, knew that his warriors would not be able to hold off the white man much longer, and even he was growing weary of the bloodshed of the Santee. Crazy Horse and General Custer sat on opposite sides of the battle field assessing each other’s enemy and creating their battle plans. Suddenly and unexpectedly, Chief Crazy Horse drew his sword and dashed across the battlefield on this horse. His Santee warriors knew that they were not to follow him unless ordered, and watched their leader with worry and wonder.

                Across the battlefield General Custer spotted Crazy Horse galloping his direction alone. He knew that this was the Santee Chief, and his sense of honor drew him to meet his foe on the battlefield alone. The two men stopped 20 feet short of one another, and sat quietly on their horses for a moment sizing each other up. Finally, Crazy Horse said, “I grow tired of killing white man. Leave this place and do not return, and I shall let you live.”

                General Custer respected Crazy Horse and the Santee, but he was duty bound to his government and own people. “I am quite weary of Santee killing my men too. Follow me to this reservation and let there be peace among our peoples.”

                The General had not meant to disrespect Crazy Horse, but the Chief furiously drew his sword once more, and held it in front of him.

                General Custer attempted to de-escalate the situation, “there is honor in defeat. We will name this land Dakota, and you shall be revered forever.”

                At the moment, no one is sure why, it may have been an accident or in retaliation to being aggressive with their General. A white soldier fired their cannon directly at Crazy Horse. The cannon ball wizzed by General Custer causing his horse to throw him to the ground. Crazy Horse did not flinch as the cannon ball slammed into his sword. To the shock and dismay of everyone present, the cannon ball was sliced in two by the Sanee sword, leaving Chief Crazy Horse unscathed.

                Both sides charged, and the battle began. General Custer, who had just witnessed the impossible, found himself disoriented, and at Crazy Horses’ mercy. Crazy Horse lowered his Santee sword and spoke to General Custer for the last time, “Sioux Nation is great. Sioux is more than the Santee. Even in death or defeat, Sioux will always be a part of this land.”

                With that, Crazy Horse rode past General Custer into battle, and was never seen again. General Custer’s regiment did indeed decisively win the 3rd and final battle, and the Sioux fell forever. However, the General remembered the Chiefs words and mercy, and lobbied the government to honor The Great Sioux Nation, and the Santee specifically. Congress voted unanimously to name these lands the Dakotas.

                Santee descendants still reside throughout the Dakotas. Some have left the reservations, but many have chosen to stay. Although the government did not realize it at the time, the Santee reservation was placed on the best stone in the Dakota’s. To this day the Santee still collect and sharpen their stones into some of the finest blades one can purchase. It is said that the Santee blade is sharpened by the spirit of Chief Crazy Horse himself, and can never be dulled.

                So, use these blades to take care of this land which the Sioux have entrusted to us, and enjoy your adventure.

Two Sons

               Do you children know how this campground got its name? It would be quite obvious to believe that Two Sons Campground is family operated, and you would be correct. However, you may be shocked to learn that the family who runs this camp does not, nor have they ever, had two sons, or any children for that matter. That of course does not mean that they do not want two sons; but whose?

                Each Independence Day families from all over the region flock to Noel, Mo to enjoy the holiday weekend on the river. As you well know, there are some major campsites in the area many among which we have stayed such as River Ranch Resort and Big Elk Campgrounds. These campgrounds have grown exponentially since inception. Two Sons Campground could have grown too. This campground could accommodate more than 3x the campers than they allow. However, they have one very specific rule for campers. In order to camp here on the holiday weekend, the family MUST have Two Sons.

                Many people try to register to stay here and are denied, or forced to cancel their reservations once they realize the odd rule. Over the years, the word of Two Sons strange policy has spread throughout town, and indeed the state. The only campers who camp these grounds around the holiday are unsuspecting out-of-towners, or folks trying to solve the mystery. The mystery and legend of the Two Sons.

                In 1995, somewhere down this very stretch of trailers camped a family with Two Sons. The boys were 12 and 10 years old and they were inseparable.  The older boy was named Jake and the young lad named George. They came camping to truly embrace the wilderness. There were no tvs, video games, or phones. They ran around all day exploring the forest, rocks, and river. Their parents only rule was for them to stay together, and it was an easy rule to follow.

                It was the 4th of July and the boys were already well acquainted with the area from the previous days adventures. Excitement filled their minds as they prepared for the evenings festivities.  The boys were determined to find the best seats on the river for the fireworks show.

                They hunted both sides of the river for miles. They were still well away from the campsite when they met a man. “What are you boys doing on this side of the river?” the man asked.

                The boys told the man truthfully and hoped to avoid any trouble. The man told the boys that he worked for the campgrounds gathering wood to sell to campers. He knew the river better than any other man in town, and he knew just the spot that the boys were looking for.

                It was too much to resist. The brothers imagined how impressed their parents would be that they found such a great location. The boys followed the man, even as he walked away from the river, deeper into the woods. The old man was quick and the boys struggled to keep up, which did not allow them time to think about the danger they were putting themselves into.

                Finally, huffing and puffing, they boys found the man sitting on a boulder in a clearing. The boulder overlooked the river perfectly with a clear line of sight for a mile of more, straight down the river. The boys were giddy with excitement. It was everything they had hoped for. The man appreciated the boys delight. “You boys are welcome here any time. This will be a great spot for the fireworks show tonight. There is only one rule: you CANNOT tell anyone else about this secret location.”

                The boys promised that it would be their secret, and rushed back to the campsite for dinner before dark, and the show. They couldn’t wait to show their parents the perfect spot which they had found. But there were two problems with the boy’s eagerness: 1. They had NOT found the boulder, for it was shown to them under the promise of secrecy. And 2. Although they did not realize it, that promise, included their parents.

                For dinner they cooked hot dogs and hamburgers over an open campfire. The boys told their parents all about the search, the wood man, and the location. As they finished dinner, the boys spotted the wood man riding by, delivering wood on a golf cart. They waved to him, and he winked back to them. The boys father noticing the interaction waved down the wood man, and called out, “when you get a chance, can you please deliver us a couple of bundles of firewood?”

                The woodman waved to the father indicating that he understood the order. Shortly afterwards, the boys led their parents to the secret boulder. The family enjoyed the most fabulous fireworks show they had ever seen from the best seats they could ever ask for. Before they left the boulder, the boys etched their names into the stone: Jake and George and their father added “Two Sons”.

                The family arrived back at their campsite late. The father could not help but notice that the firewood he had ordered had not been delivered. Just then the boys spotted the wood man on his golf cart. They ran along side the trail singing out “the wood man is coming the wood man is coming.” The father called out to him once more, please bring some bundles of wood when you get a chance. The woodman looked directly at the father, but did not acknowledge his request. Instead he waved the boys to him.

                As soon as they were within whispering distance the wood man declared, “you promised not to share the boulder twice, and now you have to pay the price.”

                With that the woodman raced away on his little cart, and boy boys trudged back to their campsite confused.

                The summer heat awoke the father the next morning, and he thought to arise to get a fire going to make some coffee. On the way out of his tent, he peeked into his boy’s tent to check on them. He was not surprised to see that they were not in their tent. Father shook his head in amazement at the boy’s energy, and sense of curiosity.

                As father approached the fire pit, he noticed two large bundles of wood had been delivered during the night, and thought to himself the wood man is a good man.

                Father cut the twine which held the bundle of wood together. As the rope separated, the wood rolled apart. It took father a second to realize that in the center of the bundle of wood were two arms and two legs. Father was shocked and nearly wretched at the sight. Instead his own curiosity caused him to cut loose the second bundle of wood, only to discover the same findings. Altogether, four arms and four legs lay on the ground near his fire pit.

                The search for the rest of the boys’ bodies lasted for weeks. Father was shocked to learn that the campgrounds did not have a wood man. Nor could anyone locate the boulder that had been found and marked by the Two Sons.

                Every year, father and mother return to the campgrounds this very weekend, looking for their sons, hoping to find the wood man responsible, and searching for the lost boulder. These days other interested parties join in the search, and it has become a local event that easily rivals the 4th of July celebration.

                So, as you enjoy your camp, look around, and maybe you will find the best seats in the house for this year’s fireworks show. Please keep in mind that to this day, the campground does NOT employ a wood man. Should you find the secret boulder, enjoy it, but think twice before telling others because there is a price which you may not can afford.

Madeline's Coat

In the spring of 1887, Jack and Shirley Johnson left the basin of the great state of Texas to explore the unsettled wilderness of Montana. By August the couple had not reached Nebraska, and there was dim hope of arriving to their new home before winter.  The exhausted couple decided to stop in Kansas City until the winter storms had passed, and blossoms began blooming once more.

Before the first snow fell, Shirley learned that she was with child. She could not tell Jack because he was on a hunting expedition in Missouri, earning the money to feed and shelter the family in the city through the winter. Unfortunately, Jack would never learn of his daughter. While tracking a herd of buffalo near a gorge, Jack was surprised by a large brown bear.  He fired a round into the bear, but it was not enough to stop the attack.  Jack died a swift death at the whim of a bear that he meant no harm, in a land that he did not know.

Shirley swore to take Jacks daughter to Montana to live their dream, and she did just that. For 16 years Madeline Johnson learned to live off of the land in the western wilderness. She could fish, hunt, and harvest better than most of the men in the region. Madeline learned of the bear that had killed her father on her 16th birthday.  She swore vengeance against the brown bear which had taken someone she held so dear, but never would meet.

When Madeline turned seventeen, she left Montana.  She told her mother that she was off to explore Colorado, but Shirley knew that Madeline was really heading to Missouri. Because she had honed her tracking skills so well in Montana, it did not take her long to find her fathers killer. The great brown bear was still alive, not but a rock’s throw from where she had killed the strange man from Texas years earlier.

She was an old bear now, and not nearly as quick or strong as she once was. Madeline recognized this.  She watched the bear for days, tending to her cubs, which could not have been much more than a couple of years old. On a sunny day in April, Madeline decided that she was tired of watching. She approached the family of bears in the river fishing.

Mama bear knew immediately that she had been caught. Her death would not be a tragedy, for she was an old bear now, and had lived a good life. Madeline realized this too, and knew there would be no justice in killing the old bear. She lowered her rifle. A smile stretched across the large bears face. The smile was returned from Madeline as she pulled the trigger, killing the biggest of the young cubs.

Madeline processed the fur of the cub, and gave it to her own daughter when she came of age. Since then the fur has been passed down to only the bravest, strongest, and nerviest of fighters who are not afraid of a little bear blood. For only they deserve to adorn the young bears beautiful fur and honor its legacy.