Well now, Brother Deer and Brother Terrapin were both courting of Mr. Coon’s daughter. Brother Deer was right sure enough a gentleman, that he was, while old Brother Terrapin was a poor, slow, old man. All the creatures wondered how the girl could smile on Brother Terrapin with Brother Deer around, but I tell you, old man Terrapin had a real taking way with the girls when he put his mind to it.
Mr. Coon, he favored Brother Deer, and he was powerful set again Brother Terrapin. He complained about him constantly to his daughter. But the more Mr. Coon found fault with Brother Terrapin, the more the hard-headed girl giggled and flirted with her suitor. It drove him crazy.
Mr. Coon, he was about done with her foolishness, so he said he was going to settle the matter once and for all. He told Brother Deer and Brother Terrapin that they had to run a seven-mile race, and the one what got to the finish line first could marry his daughter. Mr. Coon was certain that Brother Deer was bound to win, for he could run much faster than poor old Brother Terrapin.
Old Brother Terrapin, he pulled his head inside his house and gave himself over to study for a bit, considering Mr. Coon’s proposal. And he came up with a plan to win the race, despite Mr. Coon’s efforts to cheat him. He popped his head out of his shell and told Mr. Coon that he’d run the race on one condition: That the racecourse should be set in the water to make things fair, on account of him being mighty slow on his feet when on land.
Now sir, the fact was that Brother Deer was very slow when it came to running in the water. Mr. Coon knew that setting a race in the water would give Brother Terrapin the advantage over Brother Deer. He wasn’t going to take a chance on having the poor old turtle for a son-in-law, no how. So, Mr. Coon proposed a compromise. He would set the race along the riverbank. Brother Deer would run seven miles along the shore, and Brother Terrapin would swim in the water beside the bank.
This sounded reasonable enough, but really, Mr. Coon was being sneaky. He was sure that Brother Deer could run much faster on land than clumsy old Brother Terrapin could swim in the water. The outcome of the race would still be the same: Brother Deer would marry his daughter. But it would seem like he was being fair to Brother Terrapin.
Brother Terrapin smiled when he agreed to the new terms for the race. He also offered to raise he head out of the water at every milepost and say, “Oho, here I am,” so that Brother Deer could mark his progress during the race. Brother Deer and Mr. Coon had a quiet chuckle over this statement. They were sure that Brother Deer would pass Brother Terrapin in the first mile and would never be around to hear this statement.
Well, sir, Mr. Coon thought he’d outsmarted Brother Terrapin but fact of the matter, ’twas the other way around. Brother Terrapin had tricked Mr. Coon into running the race on the riverbank, and he had a foolproof plan to win. An hour before the race, he asked six of his brothers to join him in the river. He set one brother in the water at each milepost, and he set one in the water at the starting place. Then Brother Terrapin set himself in the water at the seven-mile mark which was the finish line.
When Mr. Coon and Brother Deer came down to the starting line, they saw “Brother Terrapin” waiting for them out in the water. So, Brother Deer took his place on the bank, and Mr. Coon gave the signal to begin the race. Then Mr. Coon rode his horse to the finish line so he could declare Brother Deer the winner when he arrived.
When Brother Deer reached the first milestone, “Brother Terrapin” stuck his head out the water, and said: “Oho, here I am!”
Brother Deer jumped in surprise and started running faster. He was certain Brother Terrapin must be getting short-winded from swimming so fast. He would surely pass him in the second mile.
But when Brother Deer reached the two-mile post, there was “Brother Terrapin” again, sticking his head out of the water and saying: “Oho, here I am!” Brother Deer was so astonished that he tripped over his own feet and almost fell into the river. But he righted himself and kept going.
When Brother Deer came to the three-mile post, before God, there was “Brother Terrapin” poking his head out the water and hollering: “Oho, here I am!”
By now, Brother Deer was puzzled and a bit scared. Brother Terrapin couldn’t possibly win this race, could he? The notion was ridiculous! Brother Deer put his head down and pushed onward. He was determined to have Brother Coon’s daughter’s hand in marriage, no matter what it took. Still, every time Brother Deer passed another mile marker, there was old Brother Terrapin, popping his head out of the water and calling out a greeting. It was maddening.
When he reached the final mile, Brother Deer put on a burst of speed. Just as he came a-puffing and a-blowing up to the place where Mr. Coon sat waiting for the winner, old Brother Terrapin stuck his head out of the water across the finish line and cried: “Oho, Brother Deer, here I am! I’ve won the race.”
And that’s how Mr. Coon’s daughter came to marry Brother Terrapin.
Copyrighted content: This is a retold folklore story by S.E. Schlosser, who owns the copyright. This version of the story may not be reproduced, reprinted or used in any other way without the permission of the author. Teachers may link to or photocopy this story as part of their classwork.