pillar of snowy salt once stood on the
Nebraska plain, about forty
miles above the point where the Saline flows into the Platte, and
white men used to hear of it as the Salt Witch.
tribe was for a long time quartered at the junction of the rivers, its
chief a man of blood and muscle in whom his people gloried, but so
fierce, withal, that nobody made a companion of him except his wife,
who alone could check his tigerish rages.
In sooth, he loved her so well that on her
death he became a recluse and shut himself within his lodge, refusing
to see anybody. This mood endured with him so long that mutterings
were heard in the tribe and there was talk of choosing another chief.
Some of this talk he must have heard, for one morning he emerged in
war-dress, and without a word to any one strode across the plain to
On returning a full month later he
was more communicative and had something unusual
to relate. He also proved his prowess by brandishing a belt of fresh
scalps before the eyes of his warriors, and he had also brought a lump
He told them that after traveling far over the prairie he had thrown
himself on the earth to sleep, when he was aroused by a wailing sound
close by. In the light of a new moon he saw a hideous old woman
brandishing a tomahawk over the head of a younger one, who was
kneeling, begging for mercy, and trying to shake off the grip from her
throat. The sight of the women, forty miles from the village, so
surprised the chief that he ran toward them. The younger woman made a
desperate effort to free herself, but in vain, as it seemed, for the
hag wound her left hand in her hair while with the other she raised
the axe and was about to strike.
At that moment the chief gained a view of the
face of the younger woman-it was that of his dead wife. With a snarl of
wrath he leaped upon the hag and buried his own hatchet in her brain, but
before he could catch his wife in his arms the earth had opened and both
women disappeared, but a pillar of salt stood where he had seen this
thing. For years the
maintained that the column was under the custody of the Salt Witch, and
when they went there to gather salt they would beat the ground with clubs,
believing that each blow fell upon her person and kept her from working
Compiled and edited by
of America, updated March, 2017.
About the Author: Charles M.
Skinner (1852-1907) authored the complete nine volume set of Myths and
Legends of Our Own Land in 1896. This tale is excerpted from
these excellent works, which are now in the public domain.
Legends, Myths &
Campfire Tales of the American West
Myths & Tales of the Native Americans