Story 6: The Brothers Who Became Lightning and Thunder
When the world was new there lived among the people a man and his wife and one child, a boy of about twelve years. The people called the man "Medicine Man." Now and then he went out on the hunt and almost every time he came home with a big buck. One time when he was out hunting he killed a deer and then started back for home, and when he reached home he found his little boy alone and frightened. When his father asked him where his mother was he began to cry and said he did not know. She had taken a water bucket and went down toward the creek. He said that he had run over there two or three times calling his mother, but no answer came. Then both the little boy and Medicine Man went to the creek but they could not find her. They found foot-prints at the edge of the water, and then the Medicine Man knew that something had taken his wife. They came back to their home and mourned for her six days. They built a fire and watched it and stayed by it for six days and nights.
The seventh day Medicine Man told his son that he was going hunting, for their meat was about out. He went out to hunt and the little boy stayed at home alone. While his father was gone the boy would play around the house, shooting with his bow and arrows. When Medicine Man came home he found his little son there waiting for him. Medicine Man went out to hunt the second and the third time and found the boy safe on his return. He went out a fourth time and the little boy went out to play. While he was shooting with his bow and arrows he saw some one coming toward him. He was not a man, but a boy of his own size, and had with him a bow and arrows. Medicine Man's boy was afraid of him, and was about to run and cry when the unknown boy spoke to him, saying: "Don't be afraid of me, brother; I know you don't know me. I am your elder brother." The unknown boy looked strange to him. He had a rather long nose and very long hair, but Medicine Man's boy was not afraid of him since he had spoken. He continued: "I know you are lonely; that is why I thought of coming down here to see you. Every time our father goes out for a hunt I will come to see you, but you must not tell him that I came to see you while he is gone. Say nothing to him about me. Now, brother, let us see who the best shot with the bow and arrows is." They began to play. Finally he said to his brother, "Father is coming and I must go," and he ran back to the woods. Medicine Man was far from home when the boy saw him coming, and when he came the boy was gone, and his son did not say anything about him.
Again Medicine Man went to hunt, the second time and the third and the fourth time. When he came home in the evening after he had been out the fourth time the boy seemed troubled. They ate and then went to bed. About midnight the boy woke up and thought of his secret brother, and he thought at once that he must tell his father. He woke his father and said: "Father, I have something to tell you, although I was told not to say anything about it to you." Medicine Man paid very close attention. "Father, somebody comes here every time you go out to hunt, and he is not very big; he is about my size. When he first came he frightened me and I started to run, but did not know where to go, and I began to cry and the boy told me not to be afraid of him, for he was my brother. He has a long nose and wears long hair and has a bow and arrows, and we always play around here every time you go out to hunt and he treats me kindly. He seems to see you, no matter where you are, and when you start home he knows when you are coming, and then runs for the woods, and when you get here he is gone." "Well, my boy," said Medicine Man, "we must capture the boy some way. You must go out there and play just as if I had gone away again, and whenever he asks you where I am, tell him I am out hunting. I will turn into a very small insect and stay behind the door."
The little boy ran out next morning with the bow and arrows and began to play at the usual place. Finally the other boy came, but before he came near he spoke and asked Medicine Man's boy where their father was, and the boy said that he had gone out hunting again. The boy began to look around, and finally he said: "Who is that man behind the door?" at the same time running back to the woods.
Again the next day the boy went out to play; this time Medicine Man placed himself at the edge of the roof of the grass house. When the boy came he asked his brother where their father was. He answered that he had gone out hunting, but the boy would not come near. He began to look around, and finally he said: "Who is that man under the roof?" and he ran back into the woods again. Then Medicine Man said: "We must catch him some way. When he sits down near to you, tell him that something is crawling in his hair, and then he will let you look in his hair. Then catch hold of a small bunch of his hair and tie it up four times; then call me and I will be there just as soon as I can. You must not let him go until I get there." The little boy understood.
The other boy had already run away twice and this was the third attempt. This time Medicine Man placed himself in the middle of the fire. The boy went out and began to play. Soon the other boy came. He asked the boy where their father was and he told him he went out to hunt. The unknown boy began to look around, and finally he said: "Who is that man in the fire?" and then he ran back to the woods. The next day the boy went out and began to play and the unknown boy came again, and asked the boy the same question. The boy answered that their father had gone out to hunt. This time Medicine Man had placed himself behind another door, and the unknown boy found him again and went back to the woods. And so the fifth time came, and this time Medicine Man placed himself in the air, and when the unknown boy came he found him again and went back to the woods.
Medicine Man tried once more. If he failed the sixth time he could do nothing more, for he would have used all his powers. He told his boy to go out again to play as usual, and this time his own boy did not see which way he had gone. Finally the other boy came and asked where their father was, and he told him that he was out hunting. This time the unknown boy believed him, and so he came near and sat down by him and the little boy got hold of his hair and said: "There is something crawling up in your hair, brother," and then the boy told him to get the bug out of his hair; and the boy began to do as he had been told, and when he got through he called out, "All ready, father." Medicine Man jumped out from the grass house, and then they captured the boy and took him into the grass house and held him there for six days. At the end of the sixth day the little boy boiled some water and they washed the other boy, and Medicine Man cut his nose off and made it look like a human nose. Medicine Man said: "You have been coming here when I am absent and have been playing with my son and you call him brother. Now you may be his brother and stay with him and go out and play with him." The boys went out to play, and before Medicine Man went to hunt again he went over to see the boys and told them he was going to hunt, and told them to stay at home and not to go to a certain place in the timber, where some very large squirrels lived, for they often killed little children. After their father was gone the unknown boy told his young brother they would go there and see the squirrels, and so they started. They could not find the place for a while, but finally they did, and they stood there for a good while watching the big hole in the tree.
After a while one of the big squirrels came out and took the younger brother into the tree. The other boy stood there watching the squirrel take his brother into the hole. He did not try to help his brother, for he knew he could get him out of the hole whenever he wanted to. After the boy had disappeared he went back to their home, and when he got there he found their father already returned from the hunt. The father asked him where his son was, and the boy told him that his brother and he were making lots of arrows, and that he came home after fire to dry the arrows with it. He took the fire and carried it to the timber, where he placed it near the tree where the large squirrel was. Then he brought some hard, red stones and put them in the fire, and when the stones were very hot he took one of them and threw it into the hole, and then another one. While he was standing there watching the hole he saw the large squirrel come out from the hole and drop down on the ground dead. Then he went over and cut the squirrel's stomach open and found his brother in there, still alive. He took him to the river, washed him and then they went home.
Sometimes these two boys would go out to make arrows. One time when they went out the unknown boy made two arrows for his young brother: one he painted black and the other he painted blue. They made a small wheel out of bark of the elm tree. One of the boys would stand about fifty yards away from the other, and they would roll this little wheel to each other and would shoot the wheel with the arrows. They played with the wheel every day until finally Medicine Man's boy failed to hit the wheel, and the wheel kept rolling and did not stop until it went a long way from them, and they never found it again. The boy felt very bad, and he wanted to get the wheel back, and so the unknown boy said: "Don't worry, brother, for we can get the wheel back again." And so they started out, and they did not let their father know where they were going, nor how long they would be away from home. They went a long way and they could see the trace of the wheel all the way. Finally the unknown boy said: "Well, brother, we are about half way now, and we must stop for a rest." They began praying to the spirits to help them. The unknown boy had two pecan nuts, and he told his brother to watch, that he was going to put one of the nuts in the ground. Then they began to pray again, and while they were praying the pecan nut began to sprout, and it grew taller and larger. Finally the tree grew so tall that it went clear up into the sky, and then the unknown boy told his brother that he was going up on this tree, and that he must sit near to the tree, but must never look up to the sky, but down on the earth, and that he was going to be gone for a good while, until he dropped all the bones that he had in his body; that at the last he would drop his head, and then the boy must gather all the bones up, put them on a pile, cover them with buffalo calf's hide, take the black arrow and shoot it up just as hard as he could, and when he heard the arrow coming down to tell him to get out of the way, that the arrow was coming right on him, and that the pile of bones would get out of the way. Then he started climbing up the tree and the little boy sat on the ground looking down. After quite a while he saw one of the bones drop, and then another and another, and so on until all the bones had dropped, and then he gathered them up and piled them together and covered them with the buffalo calf's hide. Then he shot the black arrow just as he was told, and when he heard the arrow coming down he cried out: "Look out, brother, the arrow is coming down right on you. Get out of the way." His brother jumped out from the buffalo calf's hide, and the arrow struck right where the hide was. He said, "My father gave me very dangerous power, and so, brother, you must climb up the tree and he will give you power, too." The little boy climbed the tree, and he went clear up as far as the other boy had gone. He did not know where he was, and it seemed like a dream to him, and when the bones began to fall from his body he did not know it. All he remembered was that there was some one talking to him, but he did not see who it was, and the next thing he heard was, "Look out, brother, the arrow is coming right down on you. Get out of the way." He jumped out of the way and saw his brother standing there. His brother asked him what kind of a power he had received, and he told him that it was a great power. The boy told his brother to show him what kind of a power he had, and then the little boy began making a loud noise that sounded like thunder when it rains, and then the unknown boy let his tongue out and it looked like a flash of lightning.
They went on until they came to a large lake, and when they looked near to the edge of the water they saw the trace where the wheel had passed into the water, but they could not find any place to cross. They sat down on the bank of the lake and began to pray again, and the boy planted another pecan nut, and soon a large tree sprang up; but this time the tree did not grow upward, but bent over across the lake to the opposite bank, and so made a bridge for them to cross upon. They went across the lake, and when they got across they saw the trace of the wheel, and a little way from the landing place they saw a narrow road leading toward the east, and a little way from the end of the road they saw that the trace of the wheel was gone. A little way from there they saw an old man going toward the lake, and then the boy who had the power of lightning said: "We must kill this man, because we know he is a bad man; he is a cannibal." When they met this old man Lightning boy said to Thunder boy: "This is the old man who took our wheel, and he has it with him now, and it is in his right side." They killed the old man and found the wheel and took it, and then they went on and they saw, a long distance from them, a smoke, and they went there and found many people. The people did not know who they were at first; they thought they were the old man, for this old man whom they had killed was their head man; and so these two brothers killed all the rest of the people. They began to look all around and finally they came to a pile of human bones. They found the bones of the wife of Medicine Man. Only one little finger was missing. They piled the bones together and covered them with the buffalo calf's hide, and Lightning boy shot the black arrow up, and when they heard the arrow coming down they said: "Look out, mother, the black arrow is coming right on you. Get out of the way ." And the woman jumped out of the way. The boys greeted their mother, and then they all started back for their home, and when they came near to their home Lightning boy said that he was going on ahead. The other boy and his mother came on behind. Lightning boy got there first and found their father a very old man, and still weeping for his children. The yard around the grass house was overgrown with tall trees and weeds and grass, for the old man was not able to work any more. Lightning boy told him that his son and his lost wife were coming. The old man was glad, and went out to meet them. They all lived happily for a number of years; then the father and mother died. The boys were lonely then, and so they decided to leave this world. They went up in the sky, and we see them now when the clouds gather together for a storm.
This story takes place “when the world was new” – in other words, it represents a point of transition from the external, primordial temporal register of many primary and secondary creation stories to the real-world, calendrical time frame of past, present, and future events. The heroes of this story, who became Lightning and Thunder, also took on the role of mediating relationships between the visible and invisible realms of the world, and between the living community and the souls of deceased ancestors. In this capacity they are the same as the coninisi, two “boys” that 17th century Spanish missionaries learned about who helped Caddo priests communicate with the spirit world. The story of the Boys Who Became Lightning and Thunder is thus perhaps the charter account for historic-era beliefs in the coninisi and their role in the religious affairs of east Texas Caddo communities.