Mother never called me
on the job. If she wanted to see me she usually just drove up and onto the
campus at Chilocco Indian School. The guards were like old women. They knew
a bug if it walked across the campus and by name, yet. Family of the
employees were never bothered though, when they came onto the grounds.
Part of my job was to answer the telephone so when I heard her voice,
immediately I knew something was not right.
“Your cousin, Warren,
was killed last night,” she told me.
“What time did he
die?” I asked.
“It was around two
o'clock.” Mother had raised him after his own mother died when he was eight
years old. He was more like a brother than my cousin. She had gone through
all the things a mother suffers with him but she seemed okay in spite of
“I heard the Owl call
his name at two o'clock last night. The funeral?” I needed to know. Since
he was not immediate family as the White world saw it, there might be some
problem with getting away from my job. Dr. Wall was well schooled in the
traditional ways of the Native American and he knew they called each other
brother and sister all the way down for generations instead of like the
Anglo's who felt fourth cousin was probably enough for the sake of being
related. I made up my mind, I was taking off. The family was so close. It
would be a hard and bitter pill for them to swallow.
Dr. Wall was solemn and
not his normal light-hearted self when I approached him about taking off for
the funeral of my cousin.
“With someone who is
not immediately family it isn't a customary practice.” he told me.
“He was like my
brother. My family will be devastated. It is very necessary I be with my
mother, especially, since she raised him like her own.” I had made up my
mind, I wasn't backing down on my stance in requesting permission for
leave. It was a common understanding that anyone who left without
permission while we were in the school was considered, “A-wall,” Absent
With Out Leave or AWOL.
Dr. Wall was not moving
in his decision either, it appeared. However, after some thought he did say,
“I can give you a half day off for the funeral.”
There was no question
in my mind a half day wouldn't take care of all that had to be done. Warren
was in a funeral home at Pawhuska which was a long drive, around eighty
miles, over roads that were then, not so easily maneuvered, especially in
the ice storm. The funeral at the little cemetery out of Foraker, Oklahoma
would involve another long drive out through prairie roads and onto an icy
cemetery. I said nothing.
The next day we were
eating at a little café in Shidler, Oklahoma after we had visited the
funeral home. There was no joy while the little family huddled together.
Warren's sister was almost in a trance she was so grieved. His father, my
most beloved and dear uncle, was ashen and pale. I looked at my watch and
noticed it was twelve o'clock. The funeral was to be at two o'clock. We had
yet to make our way over the vast prairie for the burial. Again, I said
nothing although, the time allotted for my cousin's funeral was up.
Somehow, nothing seemed
to be that important, not the expensive automobile Uncle drove, the rare fur
piece on Warren's sister's coat, or the obvious respect given to us as we
were seated at the restaurant. What was it all for? What possible good did
these things do? Could any of it bring the warmth of Warren's light hearted
ways back? Yet, I had known. The history of the Osage people was written in
their blood from all over Osage County, and yes, even reaching out into the
expanses of the nation where crimes were committed even against the children
to strip them of their wealth.
How could the threat of
being AWOL from a job at Chilocco during such a time mean anything, anyway?
I stretched the band of my watch and slid it about on my arm and still, I