Thomas Doty – Storyteller

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The Boy Walked into the Sun, His Father into the Moon

Along the Klamath River, the people tell this story....

At Sundown Place, there was a woman pounding acorns inside her house. The fire was low, sending out small flickerings of light, and in that firelight, the woman's baby boy was playing.

Now the baby became hungry. He crawled across the floor mats, the fire lighting his eyes. He crawled into the shadows where his mother was working. He crawled up on her, making hungry sounds. But carefully, gently, she pushed him off, and she kept on pounding acorns. Again, he crawled up on her. Hunger was in his belly! But carefully, gently, lovingly, she pushed him off. And she kept on pounding acorns in the shadows of the house.

Near sundown, all was quiet. The woman stopped pounding. She looked around. She listened. No sounds.

The baby was gone!

The woman pushed open the door and ran outside. The sun was going down, the full moon rising. She ran around the house, looking in different places, but she could not find her baby anywhere.

She went back inside, sat in the shadows, and kept on pounding acorns for a long time ... long time...

In the light of the full moon, her husband came home from hunting. She said, sobbing, "I -- I lost the baby. He's crawled away. Our baby is gone!"

The husband threw the deer he had brought on the floor mats near the fire. He tossed his bow and his arrows into a carved box, clacking the lid down. He ran outside, frantically searching for the baby, from tree shadow to shadow, all night under the white moon.

Next morning, as the sun rose, it lit the trail of the crawling baby at that place the baby had crawled out of the house. The father started walking east, following the trail of his son. That night the moon started shrinking, rising later, started chasing the sun.

The father kept following his boy, and farther to the east he saw his son's footprints and knew that he had begun to walk. He saw the places the boy was spending the nights resting, and he saw where he played along the way.

The days were cloudless and sunny, and the late nights were full of the shrinking moon.

The father kept on, never eating, weeping as he walked, and soon he saw the place where the boy had made a bow.

On he went, day after day, night after night. He saw where his son had built a fire and places he left his father food along the trail: cooked birds and squirrels and other small animals.

He kept on, and after a time he noticed by the size of the footprints that his son had grown quite tall, and he found the place where he had killed a deer. The father ate the roasted deer meat that had been left for him, then kept traveling the trail toward the east, crying as he walked.

Now the nights were darker. Only the curved brow of the moon was showing in the sky.

Farther to the east, in the faint light, the father saw something in the trail that told him his son was only a little ahead of him. He went on down the trail, and at sunrise he heard his son singing. Woodpecker scalps, bright red in the dawn, had been left by the side of the trail. He knew he was close, the singing was loud and clear ... an ancient song, a power song, a sacred song.

oo-na-ha
oo-na-oon
na-wee-ee-hee
oo-na-ha
oo-na

sun and moon
together we will fly
sun and moon sometimes
sun and moon always

oo-na-ha
oo-na-oon
na-wee-ee-hee
oo-na-ha
oo-na

The boy was thinking, "Poor man, my father. He's traveling day and night. I'll sing and let him find me."

In the dawn light, far to the east, the father caught up with his son. The boy said, "I thought you would turn back from here."

"No," his father said. "I will go with you." He was surprised to see that his son's eyebrows were bright red, the color of woodpecker scalps. And the boy was amazed at the whiteness of his father's hair.

"Go back after your hunting things," said the boy, "and then you may go with me."

The father traveled back along the trail toward his old home at Sundown Place. When he got there, it was strange. He noticed moss growing all over the outside planks of the house, and the trees all around were much larger than when he'd left. Years had gone by.

The father crouched down and crawled inside. It was dark. The fire was dead. He put his hand into the firepit, and under a heap of ash, he felt the charred bones of his wife, who had died a long time ago. No one knows how she died. Maybe old age. The place smelled musty. The floor mats were rotting away. Years had gone by.

The father moved through the house, searched through the darkness, and found the carved box, the one with his hunting things. And then he started back along the trail, toward the east, where his son was waiting.

He got to that place at sunrise, one moon later. His son pounded incense root and bathed his father in it, and then they traveled together to Sunrise Place.

They still live there, mostly traveling the world each by himself, the father through the night, his son through the day. But sometimes they travel together, in the daytime.

The boy had walked into the sun, his eyebrows shining, and his father into the moon, his white hair wild in the night.

Forever. And ever. And ever.