Why Catfish Have Flat Heads

Long ago, when the animals spoke to each other, not far from where our village is now – there was a big, deep pond.

This pond was spring fed with cold clear water, tall cattails, tall, thick green grass, and beautiful lush green trees grew all around this pond.

In this pond lived these great big catfish, huge catfish.

Now, most people don’t know that at one time the southern buffalo herd came down this far south. And buffalo need a lot of grass and a lot of water when they’re moving.

Especially bull buffalos.

One day, this BIG bull buffalo was wandering through the woods and found the pond.

Now the one thing that bull buffalos love is cold water. They love to drink it, they love to put their big heads in it and swish their heads around in it, they like to walk into the water and lay down and roll around in it. They love cold water.

The first thing he did when he saw the pond was to walk over and put his head in it and just swish his head around as much as he could (it felt so cool) and then he picked his head up, looked around, and left.

But it was a long hot morning and later that afternoon, bull buffalo came back to the pond and walked in it up to his chest and stood there in the nice cool water. He walked around in the pond for a little bit and drank as much water as he could, and he ate a lot of grass (leaving big brown spots where head had pulled up the grass by its roots) as he left.

But it had been one of those long hot, hot days and he came back late that evening.

He walked straight into the water, without looking left or right, laid down in the pond and started to roll around, side to side, until he got nice and cool in the pond.

But, as he rolled around in the water, he stirred up the bottom of the pond and churned up mud, old grass, and small rocks and he missed stepping on several of the catfish.

Then he stood up and shook himself as hard as he could and left.

Just as soon as bull buffalo left, grandfather catfish called council of all the catfish in the pond.

He turned to all the catfish who had gathered around him and said, “We got to do something about bull buffalo!! He comes into our pond, and drinks our water, he eats our grass, and stomps around in our pond! One of these days he’s going to hurt one of us!”

And all the catfish in the pond agreed that they had to do something about bull buffalo or he was going to hurt one of them.

So they started talking among each other.

But all of a sudden, they started arguing back and forth, yelling, screaming at each other in the catfish language. You know how catfish are (very passionate about their pond). But old catfish feelings came back up.

The southern catfish don’t like the northern catfish, the country catfish don’t like the city catfish, (grilled catfish don’t like fried catfish) so they kept arguing among themselves.

Finally, grandfather catfish stood up and said we’ve got to stop fighting among ourselves. We can’t let this happen. We’ve got to stand together and fight bull buffalo.

All the catfish in the pond looked at each other and they agreed that they needed to stand together to stop bull buffalo.

So they got together, put their feelings aside, and they came up with a plan.

The next day, bull buffalo came early in the day, he ate some grass, drank some water, and left.

It was another hot day and that afternoon he came back.

He ate some grass, put his head in the water, shoot his head around and just got as wet and cool as he could, and then he just walked away.

That afternoon it got hot. Real hot!

So late that afternoon, bull buffalo came back for the last time for the day. Bull buffalo looked at the pond and decided that he was going to lay down in the water and roll around and get as nice and cool as possible.

So, he started to walk into the water, thinking about how nice it was going to feel.

But as he started to walk into the water, he looked around and noticed that catfish started coming after him.

As the catfish got closer to bull buffalo, they started to stick him with their stingers, one after the other, first on one side of hoof, then the other side, then on his legs.

Bull buffalo was so surprised and shocked, he started to jump up and down trying to get away.

But every time his hoof came down, he stepped on a catfish head, stepped on a catfish head, stepped on a catfish head, catfish head, catfish. . .

That is why, to this day, catfish have flat heads because of what bull buffalo did that day a long time ago.

This is a true Alabama-Coushatta story.


                                                                                              –  Armando, the storyteller

Storyteller Bio

My name is Armando Rodriguez.

I am in my 60s and a member of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. Our Reservation is located about 90 miles north of Houston.

We have been in Texas since about the late 1700s, before Texas was a state. The stories that you will read are an important part of our tribal culture. These stories were used to explain what we saw or tried to explain why things were the way they were. These stories were also used to convey attitudes and behaviors that we thought our people should model or live by.

I am also a grandfather and feel that we must pass as much of this part of our culture on to our children and grandchildren. With that in mind, all of my grandchildren have, at different times, sat beside me and listened to these stories and many other that you will not read. Several of them over the years have also told them.

Finally, every culture has its stories. I encourage you to sit with your elders, listen and start telling your stories.