In the beginning of the 19th century they called this region "Indian Country" and rightly so, for there lived a tribe of Chickasaws in the rich bottom lands at the base of the 300 hundred foot bluffs.
Legend has it that a mighty chief ruled wisely, yet his heart was heavy, for his only son had been born with a deformed foot. As the boy grew up he developed normally, but his walk was different from all the other tribes men. He walked and ran with a rolling motion, so his people call him Kalopin, meaning Reelfoot.
When the old chief died, Reelfoot became chief. He, too, was sad and lonely. Although, there were many maidens in Reelfoots tribe, he found no feelings for any of them. His father had often told him of the mighty tribes dwelling to the South, and of the wondrous beauty of their maidens. So, restless in spirit, when the robins arrived from the North seeking a mating ground, he gathered a few of his chosen tribesmen and wandered south seeking a princess.
The journey lasted for many days. Finally their canoes, floating down the river, entered the domain of a mighty chieftain.
Reelfoot sent runners forward to notify the great Choctaw Chief, Copiah, that a friendly party approached. Soon the chief's councilor came forward to welcome the strangers to the council fire.
When the village was reached Reelfoot went forward to offer homage to Copial. When he stepped from among the tribesmen and looked to Copiah, he beheld the most beautiful maiden in all the domain, the chief's daughter, Laughing Eyes.
The old chief was stately and dignified, and after they had smoked the great peace pipe and eaten of the freshly killed game, he inquired of young chief Reelfoot the reason for his visit.
Reelfoot replied, "I am on a pilgrimage to find a princess to rule my tribe with me and...", looking at Laughing Eyes the chiefs daughter," ...now I have seen the laughter of my soul."
The old chief was filled with wrath, for he knew the beauty and entrancing charm of his daughter, and he would not allow her to marry someone that was deformed, no matter how powerful he may be.
So the old chief answered, " It is true that my daughter is enchanting, and she will only be given in wedlock to a Choctaw Chieftain. I will not ever permit her to join a tribe which is so unfortunate as to have a clubfooted chieftain."
Reefoot's heart sank, but he was more firmly determined than ever to have Laughing Eyes as his princess. So he offered her father pearls and skins and other treasures which would arouse envy in even the greatest chieftain's heart. The old chief sent for the tribes medicine man, who called publicly on the Great Spirit of all Indians.
The Great Spirit spoke to Reelfoot and said, "An Indian must not take his wife from any neighboring tribe...such is tribal law... and if you disobey and take the princess I will cause the earth to rock and the waters to swallow up your village and bury your people in a watery grave."
Reelfoot was frightened at this threat of dire punishment.
Summer had come when he and his tribesmen cam home, but to Reelfoot it lacked on e thing, Laughing Eyes. Through the long summer days the Indians fished and hunted, and Reelfoot as chief was doing his part in storing up food for the coming winter...yet his thoughts kept returning to his only love. Reelfoot began to question if the Great Spirit would actually do what he had said.
For the first time Reelfoot did not want to believe the Great Spirit; so, as the days grew short and the maize was gathered, he planned with his warriors to go south and capture the forbidden maiden. When the first snows came they started, and, swooping down on the Choctaws, he captured the princess and fled back to the North.
Laughing Eyes was greatly frightened, for she had heard what the Great Spirit said to Reelfoot. She feared for herself and implored that he send her back to her father; but Reelfoot was in love and , now that he possessed the one that brightened his soul, he was willing to defy everything.
One starry night he brought his princess bride home, and there was great rejoicing among his people, for now their tribal family was complete. The festival fires burned; the pots boiled and the venison browned over the fires.
In the midst of the festival and the marriage rites the earth began to roll in rhythm with the kettledrums and tom-toms.
The Indians tried to flee to the hills, but the rocking earth made them reel and stagger. Reelfoot cried out for mercy on his people, for they were innocent. The Great Spirit heard and spoke to Reelfoot and his people as the waters began to bury them..." I will show you and your people mercy...but you will have to pay for your disobedience. I will form a lake where I stamped my foot and you and your people will forever watch over the lake for I will rest your souls in the Cypress."
Where the Great Spirit stamped the earth the Mississippi formed a beautiful lake, and Chief Reelfoot, Laughing Eyes an d all the tribes people stand watch over the lake forever resting in the Cypress trees.