Vans Vault OG Runner LX
There are only a hand full of Midwestern stories that predate the history of Ohio itself. Long before the hustle and bustle of modernized living, even before the land was boundaried by Statehood, all was still. Calm. There is not much that we know about the Natives who inhabited the land, except for a handful of stories; however one tale stands above the rest; The Story of Kitchi.
During the 17th Century a widespread of foreign sickness, emerging from the East Coast, traumatized the inhabitants of the land that we know today as West Virginia and Kentucky. Native villages were disappearing as salutations drastically decreased due to illness. Of those who managed to elude sudden death, many were forced to relocate and travel westward in hopes to survive. As hundreds of families began to head Southwest, one particular group of people set their sights north, although not by design. Most villages of this particular land had not expanded north into Ohio territory for a variety of reasons, the main two reasons being the brutal Winter months and the vast Ohio River. The word 'Ohio' derives from the native word "O-Y-O", meaning "The Great River". The river had received a reputation with the locals for being powerful and impossible to cross at most points. Aside from being the main source of agriculture for the entire land, the people mostly stayed away from it. It was believed that The Great River was protected by guardians who took the form of the Black Bear, and that the bear was sent to protect the resources of the river.
As the tale reads, the natives of the Northern West Virginia territory had begun their migration West into modern day Kentucky. The monotonous trek to new territory was more grueling than one could imagine. Families had to uproot everything they had known and, in most cases, domesticated in search of the unknown. The mental toll was likely to have been more demanding than the physical, and on a late Fall evening the stress on a particular village reached a tipping point as a mother's scream tore through the makeshift tents of the resting travelers. Her young son, Kitchi was missing. Kitchi, who's modern translation means "Brave", was a known adventurer, however, tonight was different. Why would a 7 year old boy wander in the dead of night? It was unlike anyone to venture away from the village for the simple fact that it was dangerous. Desperate to find the young boy, the people decided together that it was more important to bring him home, even if that meant shifting the direction of their journey from West to North.
It was getting late, and after a long day of travling on-foot, the village had found a desirable location to set up for the evening. Tired from the day's journey, Kitchi's mother had prepared an evening meal for her family, which included herself, Kitchi and his father. Before they knew what hit them, both parents were fast asleep before the sun had even fully tucked itself behind the hills. Kitchi took full advantage of the opportunity and snuck away on a mission to chase fireflies, as the insect was a new discovery that he had never seen before. A moment's time grew into the complete span of the evening and, without carefully considering how he would get home, Kitchi had found himself lost and alone in the neighboring woods to the North of the tribe. The first few days on his own were uneventful. The boy had come up with a good system to stay off of the menu of local wildlife, however, with limited hunting skills he knew that hiding would only solve half of his issue. He had to find water to fish, he knew that it was his only chance at survival.
Five days had gone by since he wandered off from the travelers, desperate for food and shelter Kitchi found a river and began gathering resources together in order to make tools to catch his prey. The openness of the body of water took away Kitchi's greatest asset; his ability to hide from other predators, but, desperate to fill his belly he disregarded the dangers and plodded ahead with the task at hand. After a few hours of gathering and preparation, Kitchi realized that things had grown a little too quiet. Where were the birds, he thought. Their music was the only thing that kept him upbeat for the past few days. As Kitchi slowly began to piece the details of his predicament together he heard a massive roar from behind him. Startled he fell back into a shallow pool of water, turned, and was amazed to see a bear in front of him. The creature must have been 10 feet tall standing on two legs with a paw size nearly three-quarters the size of the boy. It did not take long for the amazement to turn into fear and before the bear could land back on all fours the boy took off running into the woods.
Dodging trees and hurdling low obstacles, Kitchi found himself running aimlessly. He did not have enough time to climb a tree as the bear was relentless in its pursuit. The chase, which seemed to last forever, was going nowhere and neither boy nor beast seemed to tire. Panting heavily, Kitchi had to think quickly or end up on the bad side of lopsided fight. Suddenly, he made a sharp turn and headed back in the direction on the river. At this point he could no longer feel his legs, but his mind told him to keep running. Alas, he could hear the crashing waved as they hit the rocks nearby. He could also hear the steady and monotonous breaths as the giant creature chased behind him. Out of ideas, Kitchi locked his eyes on the wide gaping river and just hoped internally that the beast could not swim. He could feel the breathing on his neck as he continued to take step after step, each one faster than the last. He could now feel the vibrations coming from the bear and knew he could be no more than a few feet behind him.
As he approached the river Kitchi took a deep breath and closed his eyes... THUMP! He was hit! He could feel the pain shoot all throughout his body. He knew for sure that he had not even made it to the water because he did not feel wet. Reluctantly, he opened his eyes, slowly. First the left eye, then the right, and to his surprise the bear was gone. What happened? He could barely move, but realized that he was still at the edge of the river. After finding a rock to help himself up with he looked around and saw a small tree that appeared to be knocked over. Examining the tree, he saw his own blood splattered across its leaves. Then suddenly, he heard a load roar. This time more faint than the last time. He looked to see where it came from, but had to adjust his eyes to see all the way back across the river. What had happened? How did he cross the raging waters of the river and manage to reach the other side? He did not remember anything other than closing his eyes and holding his breath, then feeling a large thud. He tried to walk to the water but could not move his left foot. He looked down and saw three slashes across his heel. It was from the bear.. he must have struck him as he entered the river.
Hurt, dazed and confused, Kitchi's body shut down and he fell into a deep sleep.
As water from the river splashed his face, Kitchi woke up to find several silhouettes emerging from the shadows. It had been evening and he was unsure how many days he had been asleep, but the voices sounded familiar. He slowly helped himself back up off the ground and wiped his eyes. It was his mother and father and several other people from his village. They had found him! Overjoyed, the boy mustered up the strength to run over into his mother's arms and embraced her as tears streamed down her cheek. It was a great ending to a long adventure. After several minutes of jubilation, the family loaded up on a boat that they had made out of logs from the forest and prepared to continue down the river.
"My son, how did you end up on this side of the river without a boat?" asked his mother. Kitchi had no answer. He knew that they would not believe his story even if he tried to explain it. After a moment of conversation between the elders who had made the rescue trip, they decided that only a higher power could have kept their boy alive and decided to continue their journey North before eventually settling in modern day Zanesville, OH. They never had to worry about a bear again. The river that they once thought was protected by the massive mammal now did its job to act like a barrier, forever keeping the black bear south of it's shores and away from their new home. And all was peaceful again.