Maybe I am abusing the patience and goodwill of readers but I have one more blog of memories to post before I move on.
I have to laugh at myself at times when I recall childhood adventures and wonder that I emerged into adulthood intact.
I ran the woods like they were my personal domain, at times stalking imaginary foes with a child’s bow and arrows in hand – I would have taken on anything and anyone, and I never had a child’s fear of the dark.
I would log ride down the river sometimes and once during spring runoff got carried miles downstream and spent hours walking home to arrive at night to a worried mother and grandmother as preparations were being made to look for me.
No tongue lashing, no corporal punishment, just the shame and regret of knowing I had caused unnecessary worry and fear as it was expressed to me.
The agent hope was pinned upon was that I was in the company of the hounds, my ever present companions who would trudge along with me wherever I went, wait if necessary, and greet me joyously when I returned.
A demonstration of their unconditional faithfulness was they ran along the river bank barking and yelping furiously during the entirety of my infamous log ride and waded out to meet me when I was able to begin swimming ashore – what a ride.
I was far enough downriver to be in unfamiliar territory but knew I need only follow the river back – what a bedraggled mess we must have looked like when we, boy and dogs, got home limping with bruised and cut feet and paws looking the worse for wear.
In the following days I made something of an effort to stick close to home, within hailing distance, but nature’s lure would not be denied and soon I was running my favorite haunts again, as I grew older a confidence set in with my mother and grandmother that I knew what I was about after extracting a promise not to log ride anymore at least until I was no longer as young as I was.
Other times a friend of mine and I would fashion faux spears with rags and grass tied around the end to soften the impact and using a battered garbage can lid or something we fashioned as a shield, mount up and attack each other attempting to either count coup or unseat the other – a form of something referred to as jousting I later learned.
Our heroes weren’t movie stars, Buffalo Bill, Custer, dead presidents, rock bands or sports figures, they were warriors of the nations and that was who we pretended to be, who we wanted to be like.
Not content with “jousting” we would collect empty 30/30 shell casings and snug them down on the ends of our arrows, separate going in different directions and then begin hunting each other.
Even a child’s bow can launch a projectile with enough force to sting and raise a welt if close enough, but with the added weight of the shell casings making our arrows nose heavy and the limited draw strength of our bows distance and accuracy were of a questionable nature, no real harm, no real foul, and there was never any animosity, respect was shown for a well executed plan.
And while mothers and grandmothers would express concern and caution about eyes and such I believe they understood it was the acting out of a genetic memory, it wasn’t like we had toys, bicycles, cellphones, and gaming consoles to entertain ourselves with.
Winter and ice on ponds, lakes, and rivers signaled the beginning of hockey, or more accurately something resembling a combination of hockey, la crosse, and a free for all – no finesse or rules I can recall just pure competition.
If someone would have attempted to tell us it isn’t about winning but how you play the game we would have shook our heads in disbelief because it was about winning and a lack of effort to that end would have been frowned upon if not ridiculed.
Russell Means in one of his attempts to sound “spiritual” once made the statement that as ndn’s we don’t compete with one another, a statement made for the non indigenous as so much of what he said was because when it’s game time it’s on, we compete, end of story.
Doctors were an ephemeral lot, a scarce commodity seldom in anything that could be considered proximity – once I am told when I was a year old I developed what is known as the croup and became very feverish,
Grandmother had been away for a couple of days, was sent for, and when she arrived my fever had become high enough I had some sort of convulsions.
Grandmother bundled me up grabbed an ax and with my mother and the hounds in tow took me to a frozen river, chopped a hole in the ice and “baptized” me a time or two to break the fever.
It was said that on the final dunking as she began to raise me an otter rose with me with it’s front paws on my back pushing or helping to lift me – a medicine sign taken to be a good omen.
Once back in the house grandmother brewed one of her medicines, dosed me with it, wrapped me in a blanket, burned sage, smudged me with the ashes, and held me to her body warmth singing healing songs.
My mother felt helpless and like any mother wanted to hold and comfort me, but in such instances grandmother had her mojo going, was trusted, deferred to, and wouldn’t broker any interference in the course she took.
Obviously I recovered, and while the river dunking may sound primitive or even ill advised to some I would point out patients in hospitals patients running a high fever are at times packed in ice in an effort to break the fever.
I believe I survived the convulsions and baptism none the worse for wear with my mental faculties intact – though there may be those who would argue the point.