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Creek Running North
July 03, 2004
Raccoon digs everybody up
The first thing was the marsh. Before any of our towns existed, before there were people, there was the water and the mud, and only cordgrass and pickleweed grew there.
Raccoon was in there, walking back and forth through the cordgrass. The water was about up to his belly, and mud stuck to his fur as he walked around. The cordgrass stems tangled his legs. He didn't like it. He thought "I need some dry land to walk on."
So Raccoon started digging up some mud, making big piles of it, and he tamped it down with his feet. He made a path from his house to the mouth of Strawberry Creek. Then he walked up and down his path, feeling pretty good about the work that he'd done.
Where he had dug the mud away, he left a ditch that filled up with water. The water was good, and Raccoon liked the way it felt to drink cold water after a hard day digging. Every day he would go to one spot and stick his head underwater, and drink and drink.
One day, Raccoon was drinking and saw Crayfish walking along the bottom of the ditch, underwater. Raccoon caught Crayfish and brought him up out of the water. "What should I do with you?" asked Raccoon. "Put me in your mouth" replied Crayfish. So Raccoon ate Crayfish. Crayfish was the first thing Raccoon had ever eaten. He tasted good.
The next day, Crayfish was there again, and Raccoon ate again. This happened every day for awhile. One day Raccoon caught Crayfish again, but he didn't eat him. Raccoon said "I'm tired of eating nothing but Crayfish all the time. I want to eat something else."
So Crayfish told him "Dig more sloughs like the one I live in, and you'll have some different things to eat."
So every day after that, for months, Raccoon dug a different slough. In one he found Striped Bass, in another Steelhead, in another he found Scallop and Clam. He had something different to eat every day.
"This is a good idea," thought Raccoon. "Every time I dig a bigger slough, I get something better to eat. If I dig the biggest slough of all, I'll never have to worry about being hungry." So Raccoon dug and dug until he had made a slough ten miles across, and a hundred miles long. He looked for someplace to put the dirt, and finally he just decided to pile it up on the banks of his big slough. You can still see some of those piles of dirt right by the Bay, in Albany and the Coyote Hills and Mount Tamalpais.
But Raccoon got too greedy, and dug too deep. He had the idea that he was just about to find something really good, so whenever he found someone new, he just tossed them over his shoulder, thinking he'd find something better soon. Some of the people he found landed in the water when he threw them—Crab and Salmon and Eel—and they still live there today. Some others — Grizzly, Coyote, Skink—landed on the bank, and now they all live on the land.
Finally Raccoon found a woman stuck in the mud. She was young, with long black hair, and her belly was all swollen. Raccoon tried to pull her out, but she was too heavy and stuck too deep in the mud. Finally, Raccoon got her out and onto the bank, but he had dug too deep. Out of the hole where the woman was stuck came a flood of water. Raccoon tried to stop up the hole but it was too late; the water flooded almost all of the land he had dug up. If you go out past the Golden Gate, you can't even see the land on the other side: that's how much water came out of that hole.
But some of the sloughs weren't completely flooded. Raccoon could still find enough food, and there were a few different things he really liked to eat. He never got bored again. And the woman's belly got bigger, until one day she had babies. They were the first people.