by Stan Gedzelman
Almost every fall, the broadleaf, deciduous forests of the Northeast United States from Maine to Minnesota put on a magnificent display of vivid red, gold, orange, and even purple colors. The spectacle is so striking that people both native and foreign to the area have long been amazed by its splendor.
Early Native Americans in the region viewed the occurrence as an epic death struggle: a legend of the Oneida Indians of New York tells of how hunters pursued the Great Bear to the ends of the Earth, and when the Bear attempted to escape by leaping into the sky, he was riddled with arrows. His dripping blood turned many trees of the forests red. Then, when the squaws cooked the bear’s meat, the fat that splattered out of the kettle turned other trees yellow.
In the 1800s American painters joined in the celebration of fall foliage. The display of brilliant colors was so extraordinary that, during the early years of colonization in America, people of other countries who had not witnessed it before tended not to believe it was possible. When Jasper Cropsey showed his American foliage paintings in England in the 1850s, the eminent art critic John Ruskin ridiculed him and accused him of gross exaggeration until Cropsey pulled out a few brightly colored American leaves he had brought with him to convince British cynics.
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