The Haxtun-Fleming Herald - What can we reason but from what we know? -Alexander Pope

Under the Wire

Me and the chief

 


When I was eight years old, the favorite game neighbor kids, my sister and I use to play was “Cowboys and Indians.” Because I had black hair and mostly because I was younger than everyone except my sister who refused to run around without a shirt on, I usually was assigned the role of Indian.

I really didn’t mind. I thought Indians were pretty cool, even though my only contact with them was old Gary Cooper and John Wayne movies. Indians got to do all the things I was good at. According to stereotypes, we both liked running around without a shirt, riding horses everywhere, hollering a lot and hiding in the weeds. I was a natural at being an Indian. Only once can I recall being asked to take the role of Pale Face. An older playmate came home from school with the idea we should play “Little Big Horn” and I would have the starring role of some guy named Custer. My friend wanted to be Sitting Bull.

After that particular experience, I developed an interest in reading American History. Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, my fault. Obviously, the first real life Native American I read about was Sitting Bull, Medicine Man and Chief of the Hunkpapa Sioux. Real life experience at Little Big Horn hadn't been a typical Cowboy — Indian encounter. I wanted to find out more about who was responsible for my thorough playground stomping seven decades later.

Imagine my surprise to find a dyed in the wool, card carrying cowboy had so much in common with this famous First American. As I write this, I am roughly the same age he was when he died. We both had an event happen on a June 25 that would lead to hard feelings. He went to Big Horn, I got married the first time. He was murdered by tribal police. I got clobbered by a sneaky radar cop.

Our biggest similarity is that Sitting Bull saw his people’s land and water taken from them, ending their life style and forever altering the landscape of the land he loved. I find myself also witnessing the end of an era for much of the West as the “Great White Father” decides water is for flushing toilets, growing lawns and paddling around on rather than wasting it growing food. GWF has refined his techniques since his dealing with Sitting Bull’s people. Instead of sending us off to a barren reservation, he found it cheaper to just leave us where we are and turn our surroundings barren. One glaring difference between the principle Chief of the Teton Sioux Nation and us “Cowboy” farmers and ranchers. He ticked off the government over that Custer thing. I don’t think we did anything to deserve this.

Some things never change, though. I still like to run around hollering a lot and riding horses. I don’t really hide in the weeds anymore. I just seem to be good at growing them.

Oh, one more thing. Remember that sneaky neighbor kid who talked me into not playing an

Indian once? I heard he became a water lawyer.

 

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