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[A Delaware story told by John Armstrong]






Thunders--Thunder is Plétho


AN old man and a little boy lived together with great affection. They were not relatives; they called each other "Friend."

One day the old man put on new moccasins, fixed new feathers in his head-dress, trimmed his hair and painted his face.

The little boy, watching him, asked, "What are you going to do, my friend?"

"I'm going on a long journey, I want to see what there is in the world."

"May I go with you?"

"If your father and mother are willing."

The boy asked his parents and they gave their consent. His friend gave him a new bow and arrows, trimmed his hair, painted his face and put a new feather in his headdress. Then they set out together.

When night came, they made a fire in the woods, ate and slept.

They traveled many days. At last they came to a lake so broad that they could not cross it.

"How can we get to the other side?" asked the boy.

"We'll make a canoe," said his friend.

Will it take long to make a canoe?"

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"It will not."

The old man looked around in the woods till he found a hickory tree. He pulled the tree up, stripped the bark off and made a large canoe. The next morning they put their bows and arrows into the canoe and started to cross the lake. Toward night they came to a low island and, without going on shore, they fastened their canoe to the bullrushes.

"How can we sleep here?" asked the boy. "Maybe in the water there are creatures that will come out and kill us."

"We are safe here," said the old man.

"If the wind blows, we will be carried out into the lake," said the boy.

"The wind will not blow.

The boy and his friend lay down and fell asleep. About midnight the boy heard the water roar and it seemed to him that the canoe was moving swiftly. He thought the wind was blowing. He sat up. It was clear overhead, and the wind wasn't blowing.

"The water must be running very fast," thought the boy; and putting his hand out he touched the water and found that it was going with great swiftness. He roused the old man by reaching his feet and shaking them.

"Get up, friend," said he, "something is the trouble. The water is running by very fast. Where is the lake going?"

"Lie down," said the old man, "no harm will come to us."

The boy lay down, but couldn't sleep. Just at daybreak a voice spoke to him, and, opening his eyes, he saw a fine looking man, ornamented with paint and feathers. He saw also that the canoe was on dry land.

The stranger wakened the old man, and said, "Come with me!"

Taking their bows and arrows the old man and the boy followed the stranger, who led them to a long house. 1 There were many persons inside, some asleep, some awake. When the old man of the house met them he said to their guide, "Oh, you have brought them?"

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Then he turned to the two friends, and said, "I am glad that you have come. You have heard of us. We are the people whom you call Thunder. We bring rain to make corn and beans and squashes grow. We put it in your mind to come on this journey from the East. We want you to help us. You are more powerful than we are. We want you to kill some of our enemies."

Old man Thunder placed food before the friends, corn beans, and squash, and said, "We have plenty of this food. We take a little from a great many fields. When you see a small or withered squash, or bad kernels of corn on an ear, or dried-up beans in a pod you may know that we have taken our part from them. We have taken the spirit and left the shell. If you see a whole field of withered corn, you may know that we have taken the spirit from it, but we seldom destroy a whole field; we take only a little."

After the friends had eaten, the old chief said, "On a hill is a great hemlock tree. On that tree is a porcupine of enormous size. He hurls his quills and kills everyone who approaches him. We Thunders are afraid to go near the tree. We want you to destroy this porcupine."

As they started for the hill the little boy went ahead, The old man and the Thunders laughed to see him, and the old man said, "I think my little friend might try his luck first." The boy heard this and was greatly pleased.

They stopped some distance from the tree. No one would venture near it. The boy went into the ground and forward till he was directly under the porcupine. Then he put his head and arms out of the ground, took aim and sent an arrow into the porcupine's body. The porcupine moved a little. The boy sent another arrow, and still another. The porcupine, feeling something, raised up his quills and shot them off in every direction, then groaned, rolled from the tree, and fell to the ground dead.

The Thunders came up, cut open the porcupine, took out its entrails, and ate its flesh.

All wondered at the power of the little boy. Old man Thunder said, "We have another enemy, a sunfish that

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lives in our river here and lets no one come near for water.

The boy said, "I can kill him."

The next day the Thunders and the old man went near enough to show the boy where the sunfish lived. A great tree had fallen into the river, under the trunk of this tree the sunfish had its home. The boy saw the fish. He sent an arrow and the arrow went straight to the heart of the sunfish and the sunfish came to the surface and died. The Thunders sprang into the water, pulled the body out and dragged it off to Old Thunder's house.

The next day Old Thunder said, "We have one more enemy. Every day there flies past here a creature as big as a cloud. He brings sickness here and many of our people die. If we could kill this creature, few of us would die. He passes here from the West, early in the morning, and goes back in the evening."

The next morning the old man and the boy went out and hid in the grass. Soon they saw the creature coming from the West. When it was over the place where the two were hidden, the boy sent an arrow into its body. The creature didn't fall, but it turned and went slowly back in the direction from which it came.

Old man Thunder was very thankful. He said to the two friends, "You may stay here and live with us."

The old man said, "I cannot help you, but my little friend, WÍSHAKON, may stay. He is so powerful that he will be of great assistance to you."

"We will go to your place to-night," said old man Thunder. "We will carry you with us in the clouds."

When they came to the old man's place, the council house was full of people. As Thunders entered they began to dance. When they shook their heads, lightning flashed around the room.

The chiefs said, "Our grandfathers are here to-night. They may do us harm."

For a little while Thunders quieted down. Again they got excited in the dance and shook their heads till lightning flashed everywhere and the people were frightened. When they had danced as long as they wanted to, they went home, leaving the old man, but taking WÍSHAKON

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with them, and to this day the little boy goes with them everywhere.

After the great Thunders roar we hear the little fellow with his alto voice, and we say, "That is WÍSHAKON, and we burn tobacco saying, "This is all we have to give," and we thank him for rain.


207:1 The Indian council house.

Next: The Adventures Of Haníshéonon