This is the poem:
The Legend the first Woodpecker
Once on a time, down to the earth,
The wise "Great Spirit" came;
Disguised as an aged man, he sought
A wigwam's leaping flame.
"I am faint; pray give me food," he begged;
And the Indian squaw replied,
"I'll bake you a cake of my golden meal."
"I will wait," the Spirit sighed.
When the cake was done, it had grown in size;
"It is far too big," thought she.
Aloud she said, "If you longer wait,
I will make one presently."
When the second was baked, it, too, had grown--
A monstrous cake it looked;
"'Tis more than enough for a feast," she thought;
She said, "It is not well-cooked."
The third, the smallest of all, became
By the Spirit's magic spell,
So great that she laid it away with the rest,
And cried, "I know full well
You deserve no food. Begone, I say!
In the bark of the forest trees
You can find enough for such as you!"
Then she dropped upon her knees.
For the Spirit arose, aflame with wrath,
And he spake to her angrily.
"Thou art selfish and mean, and quite unfit,
An Indian woman to be.
Go out to the trees and search for your food!"
She felt herself grow small;
Wings grew from her sides, and away she flew,
With a woodpecker's noisy call."Quirk! Quir-r-k!
For my food I must work!"
by Alice E. Ball
The above page is part of an entire online book, with illustrations:
"A Year With the Birds", by Alice E. Ball (published in 1916)
The poem also appears online on these three pages, although they fail
to provide the name of the author:
According to the The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe website, it is a story
told by the Ojibwe people:
Papase (The Woodpecker)
"A woman wearing a red scarf, a black dress, and a white apron was
cooking in her kitchen early one morning when an old man approached
her. "May I have some bread, please?" he asked. "Sure," she said.
The woman had just prepared a big batch of dough to make fry bread (a
traditional Ojibwe bread), so she put a nice big piece of dough in the
fry pan. It turned out to be a really nice piece and she thought, "I
cant give him this one its much too nice." For the second piece,
she put a smaller amount of dough in the pan. Well, this piece turned
out much better than the first and she thought, "Oh, this one is also
too nice to give to this old man." So, she started on a third piece.
This time, she put barely any dough in the pan. When it was ready, she
was very surprised, for this piece had turned out even more beautiful
than the all the others.
Finally, the old man asked, "Is there any bread ready yet?" So she
threw some crumbs in the pan and they produced by far the most
beautiful piece of fry bread. This made her angry. "Quit begging," she
cried. "Get out of here! You cant have any of my bread!" The old man
stopped begging all right. He stomped his foot a few times and said,
"From now on youre going to have to hunt and search for your food."
And he turned the woman into a woodpecker."
The story also appears in this book:
The Bear-Walker and Other Stories
"into a woodpecker" -circe
bread woodpecker "old woman"