My Mother was considered a woman of beauty and a great dancer. She was considered a great prize. My Father was known for his intelligence and became tribal chairman at 19. The youngest tribal chairman ever. He was considered quite a catch. My Grandfather, Sam Brown, had the habit of arranging marriages for his sons. He approached my Grandmother, my mother's mother, and attempted to arrange a marriage between her daughter and his son.
My grandmother was a modern Indian and did not believe in arranged marriages and told him so. My Grandmother believed that people should fall in love. So my Grandfather left and did not ask again. A few years later my Mother and Father met and fell in love. They were married anyway. My Grandmother would remember this and she would tell me the story from time to time. It would make my Grandmother stop and think about the old ways in this new world.
One day a Japanese women came to work at my job. Her parents had an arranged marriage and I think she was the only person I met who got this story.
My Mother told me how my Father and her were married. They ran off to Las Vegas and were married. On the return trip home they got a flat tire. My Father was whistling away as he changed the tire. My Mother thought "What a guy." A few months later my Father was fixing a flat tire in the front yard. My Mother looked out the window to see how my Father was doing and she heard him swearing to high heaven as he tore the inner tube to shreds with his hands.. She wondered "What happened to the man I married"?
My Father is a very even tempered man of humor and I have never seen him rage about anything. So I asked my Father about this and he remembered the incident. It happened during the war and inner tubes were very hard to come by. (In the old days auto tires had inner tubes like bicycles) You had to repeatedly patch the inner tube you had because there were no new ones.. He patched the inner tube and mounted the tire. It was flat again. He did it over again and again it was flat. Each time he put the inner tube in the tire and re-mount it, it would become flat. He did it three times and on the fourth time he tore it up.
I wonder if my Mother ever asked him what happened that day? I don't think she ever did.
No one patches car tubes anymore. I guess bicycles still have tubes. There was one kind that you would clamp to the tube and then light it with a match. It would smoke and fizzle and bound to the tube. I guess they don't make those anymore. I thought those were fun to use. I guess my Dad didn't use those kinds.
My Mother has been gone for several years now but I can still remember the funny stories she told me about learning English. She sat at the back of the classroom at the last row. She remembers that the students were required to state "On my way to school I saw a..." and fill in with a English noun. As you can imagine people get nervous as the word you wanted to use was taken. She remembers the students saying "On my way to school I saw a house. On my way school I saw a tree. " and so forth. When she finally got a turn all the words she knew were gone so she said... "On my way to school I saw a butterfly". It was the dead of winter with snow on the ground and there were no butterflies.
That doesn't mean she didn't see one.
When there is a death in my tribe, we have the tradition of removing the persons memory from this world so there will be no reason for the person to stay in this world. Among the things that happen is the burning of the deceased clothes and other belongings. A large pit is dug and the items are burned in the pit. Sometimes songs and dances are done.
My Father had a good friend that lived next door. He was a white man and was 30 years my Fathers senior. I don't know what they would talk about or what they had in common but my Father liked the man. The man was a widower and one day he died. Three days after his death my Father went over to the man's house.
He dug a pit and burned the clothes and belongings. My Father didn't tell anyone what he was going to do, he just did it. My Father did the whole thing. He dug the pit, burned the items and buried the pit. My Father then came home and didn't say anything to anybody. I had already married and moved away at the time. My Mother told me about it. No one ever said anything to my Father about it but everyone knew why he did it. It has never been done before or after for anyone except a member of the tribe.
When my Dad died we burned his belonging and we cut our hair and burned our hair. We sat around watching the fire as the whole community turned out. I thought back to what my Dad did for his friend all alone.
Dad's are like that sometimes.
In the past there was just horse and buggy. There were no autos on the reservations. As time passes, things change. Autos begin to show up on the back roads of the reservations. My Dad remembers when his Father decided to get one. I find this real odd because, even when I knew him, my Grandpa didnít speak much English. He could understand but if things got too complex he said people spoke English and it sounded like they are going "Wa Wa Wa."
Despite my Grandpaís inability to read or write he went and bought a used Model T. I guess the seller gave him some instructions and would you believe it, he was driving down the road shifting gears and steering in no time. So my Dad remembers that he, and a few of the older kids, took the first ride home on that Model T. The others took the horse drawn wagon. My Dad was amazed how his Father had adapted to this new technology. For all my Dad knows this may have been the first tribal driver.
I was always fascinated about how this experience can never happen today. Cars have existed since we were all born. I think is is fun to imagine how they felt riding a car for the fist time ever. It must have been like a carnival ride.
Everything went fine until they approached home. It was then that my Dad and his Dad realized that they forgot to ask how to stop the thing. Well my Grandpa did slow down but the "Tin Lizzy" just continued on its way into the yard. The road ended here and there was lot of shouting and yelling, as no one knew what to do. My Dad remembers his Mom yelling, "Put a rock under the wheel! Put a rock under the wheel," after all that would work for a wagon. The Model T just went over the rock and my Grandpa steered it into some bushes. It acted like it was going to go over the bushes but with one final lunge it stopped.
Some people say, and some Indians too, that we are rather stoic and donít get excited too easily. I know that in many cases that is true but at that time, in that place there was shouting screaming and running around. They were acting like a bunch of..er "Wild Indians."
Did I say that?†