The Legend

He is alive!

Homer Trecartin
The Legend
Photo by Katherine St-Pierre on Unsplash

Old Uncle sat quietly staring into the fire. It was evening in his African village, and he was alone in the center of their small group of huts. Little by little, other villagers began to join him. They were tired from a hard day of work, but no one would even think of missing this nightly event. It was story time!

A hush fell over the group as Old Uncle raised his eyes and looked slowly around the circle. Children shivered in excitement and snuggled in close to their mothers. What would Old Uncle tell them tonight? Would he repeat one of the stories of their ancestors? Or maybe he would recite a long poem from memory. Sometimes he told them about the world news. Other times he carefully described a plant, bird, insect, or animal—telling them where it lived and how to care for it and use it. What would it be tonight?

Finally, when everyone was there, Old Uncle stood slowly to his feet and cleared his throat, “Once upon a time a traveler started out on a long journey.” As he said those words, the cares of the day slid silently into the darkness, and everyone whispered in their minds, “Oh, tonight it will be a legend.”

Old Uncle was a master storyteller, and soon everyone had almost forgotten him, the stars, the fire, and the cool night air. Instead, they found themselves trudging through the hot desert sands on this journey Old Uncle was describing for them in vivid detail.

The traveler had started early, but it had gotten very hot. By midday he knew he was in trouble. Somehow he must have missed a turn, and he was lost. Lost out in the blazing desert.

As he reached for another drink, he realized his water was gone too! Oh, no! What would he do now? Carefully he checked each bottle, but all of them were empty. He shook the last drops from the sides of the bottle into his mouth and continued walking.

Mile after mile he plodded on, not really knowing where he was going, but knowing he had to keep going or die for sure. Suddenly he stopped. What was that? He rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. There was a tree in the distance! A real tree! With a dry little gasp the traveler rushed forward as fast as his dehydrated body would go. Finally, when he thought he couldn’t possibly take another step, he reached the tree and collapsed under its branches.

Now, if he was going to die, at least he could die in the shade! Then, as he lay there, he heard something. Drip. Drip. Drip. It sounded like water! He sat up and looked eagerly around. And sure enough, there was a slow drip of water coming out of the tree and into the sand.

Quickly the traveler pulled out an empty cup and set it in the sand. Drip. Drip. Drip. He licked his lips. No, he wouldn’t let himself take the cup yet. He would wait till it was almost full, and then he would drink it. But it was so hard to wait. Drip. Drip. Drip. Again and again he reached out to take the cup and then had to pull his hand back.

Now. Just a few more drips, and he could drink. There. It was full. But just as he reached for the cup, something whooshed out of the tree, hit the cup, and spilled the precious water into the dry desert sand.

“No!” he screamed at the bird that had flown down and tipped over his cup.

Hot tears of anger and disappointment ran down his cheeks. He grabbed the cup and jabbed it back into the sand. Drip. Drip. Drip. This time he stood guard. And finally, just a few more drops, and he could take a drink. Whoosh. The bird, a dove, flew in from another direction, tipped over the cup, and swooshed back up into the tree.

Screaming in rage, the man set the cup up again. Drip. Drip. Drip.

Four more times, just as the cup was almost full, the dove swooped out of the tree, through his legs, under his arms, and spilled the cup just before he could drink. Now the angry traveler noticed a large rock nearby. For the seventh time he set up the cup. This time he stationed himself with the rock raised over his head. He only half heard the drip, drip, drip. He only half noticed that the cup was again slowly filling. Instead, he held the rock poised and ready. And sure enough, just as the cup was almost full, the dove flew in and tipped it over.

“Aaaggghhhh!” the traveler shouted as he hurled the rock at the retreating bird. The flying rock hit the dove, and it fluttered to the ground. The traveler muttered. “Maybe now I can get something to drink.” But as he set the cup back in place, he noticed something. “No,” he shrieked. “You can’t stop now!” But the dripping had completely stopped!

Crying and shouting angrily, the man fell to the ground and sobbed. Then suddenly he stopped. What was that? Right up above him? In the tree where the water had been dripping? A huge snake. Its fangs were right over the spot where deadly venom, not water, had been dripping into his cup. Suddenly the traveler realized that the little dove had saved his life. And he had killed it!

Quietly Old Uncle walked slowly out of the flickering firelight. No one moved. They were deep in thought, wondering what the story meant.


“When I first heard that story as a little boy in the village,” my friend Peter told me, “I had no idea what it meant. But now that I am a Christian, I know. There is an old serpent called the devil and Satan who is going around trying in every way he can to destroy us. Jesus saved us from that ‘serpent’ poison, and we nailed Him to a cross when all He was trying to do was to save us!”

Peter went on with a smile, “But I praise God there is more to the story than what Old Uncle told us. Jesus didn’t just die for us. He rose from the grave! He is alive! And He is coming again to rescue us.”

Homer Trecartin