February 14, 2009

Legend of Lovers Leap

Did lovers really leap from Lovers Leap?A real up-and-coming place like Waco also needed a tragedy. It needed a romantic tale to sell postcards, inspire songs and poems and bring tears to the eyes of the corseted ladies.

For that purpose the “Legend of Lovers Leap” was made to order.

The story of doomed romance was attributed to the Waco Indians, who lived on the banks of the Brazos, and it’s set on the tallest limestone cliffs in Cameron Park, still called Lovers Leap. The cliff park is now under renovation, to reopen in time for the park’s centennial next May.

It was on this cliff that the fair maiden Wah-Wah-Tee, daughter of the chief of the Wacos, stood in the moonlight embracing her secret Romeo, a brave from the enemy Apache tribe, according to the legend. And it was here that the couple, cornered and facing the vengeance and “demoniac yells” of her father and fellow tribesmen, made their fateful decision, recorded by one Decca Lamar West in 1912.

“Quick Wah-Wah-Tee and her lover, in the last embrace of love and death, sprang from the cliff into the maddened waves below, since which dreadful night it has been known as Lovers Leap,” West wrote in a widely reproduced booklet, The Legend of Lovers Leap.

Such is the legend, told with some variations in songs, poems, postcards and Chamber of Commerce brochures over the years. But an authentic Indian legend? Don’t bet your tomahawk on it.
Comment:  In addition to the psychosexual dimension, this legend has vengeful, "demoniac" Indians chasing noble, romantic Indians. This lets us feel bad about the good Indians and good about the bad Indians. "If only more Indians were like that Indian prince and princess, who sacrificed themselves like pure, chaste Christians. And less like their fellow tribesmen, who chased them like a ravening pack of wolves. Alas, this confirms our beliefs that most Indians were subhuman savages and not Shakespearean characters."

For more on the subject, see The Myth of Princess Wenonah.

No comments: