The howling old north wind is afraid to come to the country
around the Gulf of Mexico. Only now and then does this cold fellow
dare to come into the south, and when he does he does not stay long.
He is afraid of the strong young south wind. Once the two winds
had a great fight. There are still signs of that fight in the southern
woods. The Natchez and the Tejas Indians, who lived along the Gulf,
had a story to tell about the north and the south winds and why
the moss that grows in the trees is a sign of their fight.
The two winds hated each other. The north wind was a strong,
fierce old man with long, thick, gray hair. When he came into the
southern woods, where the south wind lived, he would rush around
blowing cold out of his mouth. His gray hair would fly behind him
like a dark cloud. Nobody liked the old north wind. The Indians
shivered in their tents and the flowers closed up and died when
he came around. But everybody liked the warm young south wind, for
he lived there. The flowers always opened up when he touched them
with his soft hands and breathed upon their buds. The Indians would
roam through the woods when he was with them.
From time to time the north wind and the south wind would grow
angry with each other. The old north wind would come down out of
his country where he belonged and try to drive the south wind away
from his home along the Gulf. Sometimes he would bring his blanket
of snow with him and stay for weeks. When the south wind would try
to drive him out of the woods and send him home again the north
wind would puff up his red cheeks and blow cold air around, and
his long gray hair would fly over his head.
One spring the old north wind came south and would not go away.
He stayed for many weeks after the flowers should have been coming
out and the birds should have been building their nests. It was
so cold the leaves would not come out on the bare limbs of the trees.
June came, but still the Gulf country looked as it looked during
the winter months. The north wind kept blowing the south wind out
over the Gulf, and because of this the spring weather would not
Finally the young south wind became tired of staying over the
Gulf so long. He made up his mind to gather all his power and to
enter into a great fight with the north wind that had driven him
from his home. Filling his lungs with all the air he could hold,
the south wind rushed across the water toward the land. He hit the
north wind a mighty blow. When the two winds locked themselves in
each other's arms and began howling in each other's faces the Indians
ran into their tents, thinking the Storm God was riding over their
heads on his thunder bird that breathed out the lightning. The fighting
winds knocked around the clouds in the sky and tore them to pieces
as they fought. They pulled up trees; they caused great waves to
dash on the beach, they whirled birds around in the air, they tore
up the snow that lay on the ground. They ran through the trees,
they rolled on the earth and they clawed and shrieked.
At last the young south wind began to get the better of the
old north wind. The old fellow was out of breath, and because he
was out of breath he lost his power. Then the south wind wrapped
his arms in the north wind's long gray hair and began whirling him
round and round over his head. He whirled him faster and faster.
A strange thing happened. Part of the north wind's gray hair broke
loose, and he flew howling through the air.
There stood the young south wind with his strong arms full of
hair. He was so happy that he began dancing around and swinging
the north wind's hair over the trees. The birds sang and the Indians
shouted, for they were glad the south wind had come home again.
As the south wind danced and whirled around he let the hair loose,
and it fell all over the trees, and where it fell it took root.
There it grew and it still grows today. It is called Spanish moss.
It hangs from the magnolia, oak, gum, and other trees in long, gray
beards that sometimes dip in the streams.
The north wind does not stay in the south any more. When he
sees the moss he remembers that fight with the south wind and he
leaves as fast as he can.