by Bob Lovely
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
After a while Albert heard the screen door open and close. Behind him Bob said, “Would you like to go for a walk, Albert?”
Albert looked up at the night sky. “Yes.” He stepped from the porch and walked off into the cool, moonlit night. “What about the guests?”
Bob followed. “Susan will tend to them. I asked her if it was all right to leave and talk with you. She said yes. She is a wonderful wife and the perfect hostess. I am very fortunate.”
This made Albert think of apple pie and strong coffee. “So how do you know my grampa?”
“Our people have been traveling here for some time. Old Eagle is a holy person. In the cultures we have contacted successfully, we usually had the best luck approaching holy people.”
“Why is that, I wonder.”
Bob looked to the stars. “They usually have the easiest time accepting us and not thinking we are demons. We did have a lot of trouble with that in Europe, though, especially with the holy people. At first I wondered if perhaps the name was coincidence but when I heard you talk tonight, I knew you must be related.”
“Your people, at least your holy people, have known of our existence for some time. They call us ‘star people’.”
It occurred to Albert that he had heard Grampa refer to star people. Good thing I never listened.
Bob turned his head toward Albert. “We found that your people’s spiritual beliefs and our science had a lot in common.”
Albert crossed his arms. “Do you believe in Creator — God?”
Bob stopped walking for a moment and looked directly at Albert. “Of course.”
This seemed to Albert to be a rather human reaction. “Uh, what I said in there, about you being alien.”
Bob saved him from saying anything further. “It’s all right, Albert. Ironic, isn’t it? You were concerned about being the alien because you were Indian, then you meet me, and I am an alien who is also Indian?”
“Yeah, but you lost me.”
“Old Eagle adopted me years ago. He taught me all the things I assume he taught you while you were growing up.”
“Yeah, about that, I never really listened. I guess I don’t know much.”
Inside Albert’s head, Bob smiled. “And here we are and I can tell you. Everything is a circle, that’s one of the first basics of our science we teach our young and one of the first basics of faith your elders teach your children.
“Certain elements of humanity have fixated on the straight line, linear thinking, and it works in certain ways, of course. They use the phrase ‘circular argument’ to describe an argument that goes nowhere and is, therefore, inherently incorrect.
“Our view would be that the circle describes a thought that does make sense, that is complete and whole. The linear argument goes nowhere and dies, incomplete.” In the silvery moonlight, Bob put a grey hand on Albert’s shoulder. “Your Grampa taught me that.”
“Yeah, I guess he taught me, too,” Albert replied. “Maybe I listened more than I thought. It certainly sounds like him.”
“You listened just fine. You were with him all the time. You loved him dearly and took what he said to heart. I can see it in you.”
The two had walked onto an open plain some distance from Bob’s house. Albert pointed around with his chin. “This would be a great pow-wow grounds. Dance arbor right here, host drum where we’re standing.”
Bob crossed his arms. “Never got to dance. I went to several pow-wows with your Grampa, but I always stood back, covered so no one would see I wasn’t human. He was almost always the announcer. When he wasn’t, he would always dance, though. That old man could dance like the wind.”
“Yeah,” agreed Albert. “We should do it. Why not? I can ask Grampa to announce.”
Albert looked at him in amazement. He had known Bob for only a short time, but had spoken with him several times and now was having an intimate conversation with him. Bob always seemed to greet anything and everything with alien coolness. This time he actually jerked with surprise.
Bob turned to face Albert squarely. “That old fart is still alive?”
Despite the potentially derogatory term, Albert was not at all offended. Playful insulting was traditional. It made him think of Grampa. Grampa teased everyone but never in a bad or hurtful way, always in a loving, supportive way. When Albert had asked about that, Grampa had told him teasing was a social mechanism to show love and to keep people from getting too full of themselves.
Many things in Indian culture, Grampa had said, are not done directly but are alluded to, instead. A great deal of affection or the need to inform someone that they were being a jerk may be embarrassing or awkward if addressed too directly, so people often “talked around” things. Teasing was often used to do this.
Albert thought it was rather interesting that showing affection and keeping people in line when they were being an ass was accomplished by the same mechanism. In any case, when Bob called Grampa “old fart,” Albert understood it meant Bob really loved Grampa. He reached out and touched Bob on the shoulder.
Bob turned to Albert. “I miss my boy.”
The two stepped into an embrace. Albert felt a powerful shock as if he were falling very fast. Somewhere in his mind, Bob asked permission for something.
Albert said yes, then simultaneously felt very hot and very cold and as if he had suddenly failed to hold back a tremendous surge of water.
Albert stepped from the hug. “Yeah, his birthday is coming up. He’ll be, jeez, I guess he’ll be a hundred and twelve this year.”
Bob straightened his shirt. “Call him.” Albert phoned Old Eagle, who crabbed at him for never calling or writing. Albert asked his Grampa to come visit, to help him run a pow-wow. That made the old man happy; he said he’d be right there.
Two weeks later Old Eagle and his 112th birthday arrived. Old Eagle, Albert and Bob spent some private ceremonial time together while word went out in Indian country that Old Eagle was holding a pow-wow. That’s all anyone needed to say.
Within a week, 1200 Indians arrived in Litton. The townsfolk pitched in and a dance arbor was built out of local trees. Many of the local people got their first experience helping to pitch a tipi, several of which were set up in the hay meadow behind Bob’s place.
Only a few of the locals asked, “Do you people still live in those?” There was some tension, and a lot of laughter. New friendships were forged. The folks of Litton, who had seen their first Indian in Albert, discovered that Indians had their own way of seeing the world and their own ways of doing things but that really, in any important way, they weren’t so different after all.
When the grounds were set and all was nearly ready, Albert and Bob were standing together under a cloudless noontime sun. The heat was intense and the air still. Albert noticed Bob didn’t seem to sweat. “It’s all ready, except for the honored position of announcer,” Albert said. “I have to get ready to approach an elder.”
* * *
Albert Old Eagle, his hair braided, knelt on the floor in Bob’s living room, which had been converted into temporary living space for Old Eagle. In his hands Albert held certain ceremonial items one offers when making a request of an elder. He spoke softly but clearly and strongly. “You have come a long way to be here with us. You are an Old Timer and you have seen many things — know many things. I am just a young man and know nothing. I ask you today to help us. We have built this arbor and we are going to dance. The people are assembled and ready to celebrate life, love and friendship. I ask you to be the announcer at our pow wow, to pray for us and to help us so we do everything just right.”
“I will do as you ask, but you must be there and help me,” said the old timer.
* * *
Grand entry was set for 10:00 a.m., Indian time, which meant it would happen about noon. By noon, the sun was hot overhead, with only a few wispy clouds in the sky.
The public-address system popped on, and Albert spoke. “I’d like to thank you all for attending the first annual Litton Indian Days and Pow-Wow. We’re gonna start off with grand entry here in just a minute. I’m gonna ask our host drum to start us off and I’ll ask those in the audience, that can, to stand.
“Once the dancers are all in, I’ll ask you to remain standing as our host drum plays us an honor song. Then I’ll ask you to stand just a little longer, and work our host drum a little harder, as we start off with a special as our first dance. It’s gonna be another honor song, this one for our head man dancer, my Grampa, Old Eagle, who will be dancing solo.
“Now I’m gonna introduce our announcer. This guy has come a long way to be with us here today. Those of you from around town already know him. He’s a friend of my Grampa and I’m proud to introduce — Litton’s own Bob Smith!”
The drums around the arbor gave a few thumps as Bob turned on his microphone. “Thank you Albert.” He wore a ball cap emblazoned with the word “Chief” and a tee shirt depicting an eagle’s head and the words “Native American and Proud of it!”
Bob continued, “Now I’m going to ask our host drum to play the dancers into the arbor. Everyone please stand.” The host drum began to pound and the dancers flowed into the arbor. At the head was Old Eagle and the head lady dancer, Mary Wolf, followed by a current of color, feathers and dancing, swirling people, all the way from tiny, little children to the very old, all smiling.
Bob’s voice came over the public address system. “Now I’ll ask our host drum to play us an honor song for my Grampa, Old Eagle.”
In the heat, Old Eagle knew he would soon go into the next world, and that was okay. His grandsons were together. He looked up to Sun and Moon and down to Mother Earth. He heard an eagle call overhead and looked up to see him circling.
The old man smiled into the bright sun and blue sky. The host drum began to pound and sing an honor song. Old Eagle’s feet began to move, and he danced like the wind.
Copyright © 2016 by Bob Lovely