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Donna Flood
Shell Shocked


Warren Little CookMarty walked into their lives as quietly as a shadow. If he was casting a long shadow and walking with heavy steps, they were not aware of it. He was a handsome young man with the dark good looks of a leading movie star of the period. There were the same attitudes and look about him as Richard Conte too. The scars on his face where the shrapnel he carried from battle only gave him more of a deep, thoughtful, studied appearance, as if he were contemplating some event of such heavy significance, it rendered him somewhat, apart. So involved with his own demons, the man, made no attempt to be interested in the world about him. The only wish he had to make a bond was with the children and their father. Well, not completely. He did have an interest in a dog he kept with him at all time. The dog was named simply, "Boy."

The man's depression almost reached to a place close to that of being disturbed. Emotionally, he was distressed. His family around him, grown brothers and sisters, Father and Mother, recognized his mental unrest. They did all they could to offer him encouragement, since they knew his time in the military and the war was his torment. His withdrawal from family traditions they had to accept. But, his pulling away from time with them was more than they could accept. The term for his condition at that time was "shell shock." Today in 2001, the term used for the Viet Nam experiences is "flash back." This is, probably, a more accurate description for what Marty was experiencing. To sit for hours, looking into the distance as if he were observing some scene before him, amounted to something closer to the word, "flashbacks" than the word, "shell shock." At any rate, this was the climate surrounding Marty's circumstance. His family discussed what was happening, and it was a cousin who volunteered with an offer to do what they could to try to penetrate the sick man's sorrow.

Marty's cousin "Trish," was married to an American man who was not of their tribe, but who wanted to make an attempt to reach and bring the young man back from his shadowy world.

Trish's husband, Lester, was a deep thinking man, who could usually penetrate any problem set before him, whether it was mechanical or like this one, something unseen. Lester always expressed himself with the idea, "where there is life there is hope."

Lester would sit with Marty in the yard under one of the large old spreading trees. The family lived on a large parcel of land and they were not bothered with the thought of having crude intrusions made on them. For how, ever long it took for Lester to gain the confidence of the struggling man, this, the patient man did. The breezy part of the day would see the two, deep in conversation. Well, actually, the conversation was very much one sided. Lester could be seen leaning out of his chair, one arm resting on the arm of it, and the other hand gesturing softly while he made some point. The serious studied attitude was seen even if one could not hear the words.

The lost far away look on Marty's face was being more and more replaced with a more thoughtful, awakening a glimmer of understanding where before there had been sorrow and despair.

The first noticeable break through came when Marty came walking into the yard with a medium sized dog. The animal was of no pedigree. He was a friendly, steady pooch who seemed to be totally loyal to his master. This was a bit of a surprise. They did not know Marty owned a dog.

When he was questioned, he said, "Oh he just came up into the yard a few days ago." But, for all appearance the dog had been born and raised under this man's teaching. It was incredible to see how well mannered the simple beast appeared.

"I think this is going to be a hunting Dog!" Marty was proud of the animal.

If Lester was unsure of the Dog's powers, he never spoke a negative word. This was his way. He could point out a rare ability in the most tattered person or animal "Have you picked out a name for him?" Lester was stalling for time and the laying of a foundation between them all, Marty included.

"Boy!" "I'm callin' him "Boy." No other explanation was to be made as to why he chose "Boy"

"Well, Boy!" "Looks to me you have found yourself a mighty fine master." Lester was addressing the dog. The dog in its way, the children would learn, only was loyal to his master, no matter how far away and removed that master could at times be.

As to the way of the American Indian there was little conversation where Marty was concerned. The man for basic appearances could still be in his lost quiet world. However, as the family began to know him, it was evident changes were being made. He began to take an interest in the children. The hours he spent in conversation with Lester were now narrowed down to the times the family was around the dinner table, or some other quiet time when they were present too. He was forming a friendship with the boys, especially. There was a genuine practicing of his culture in a way of daily living, although he had dropped the formal traditions of gatherings, and dances. As was their way, he began putting his energies into teaching the boys to hunt. This was probably, brought about with Lester's gentle manipulations. "No telling," how many careful illustrations had been put before the young man to make him believe he had made the decision.

No one will ever know the length and depth of Lester's persuasion to lead Marty up from the depths of his despair. The children alone would know, because they themselves were at the edge of these same teachings. The teachings to have reached back for hundreds of years to an ancestor who was an arrow maker. These depths were no deeper at the moment than at the end of the shovel where Marty helped Lester turn the soil at this small area for a garden. Lester reached down to pick up a small object. As its carefully cut edges caught the light there was a short stabbing reflection from the sun making a glint of light. Lester rubbed the object between his fingers in order to remove the dirt clinging to it.

"You see this." Lester showed Marty the small sharp object. "This here is a lost art."

Marty took the arrowhead from Lester and turned it around slowly, feeling the sharp tip, the chipped out small gouges which made it into what it was.

"You see," Lester was ever the teacher, "You see," he said. "This is not a sword." "This is an arrow." "Life comes from one source." "You and I know that."

"The creator designed all life for a purpose." "That original purpose left no place for the letting of blood." "But, we as men sometimes, run ahead of the creator." "We make a decision as to the purpose for life." "Your ancestors and mine had a purpose." "This arrow was made by your folks, just as my folks in another part of the world made these same arrows." "I know what went into the forming of these small pieces." "Respect was the first thing taught." Respect for the stones in the choice of the best material, and honor must be given to the maker, who had to learn the skill at the feet of his tutor." "If our folks had to make these objects with deliberation as to every stroke to keep the wrong blow from shattering the whole thing, this in itself gave the creator of the object an understanding of how carefully life is formed." "With one wrong strike, the arrow can be destroyed." "Just as one release of the bow will send the arrow to strike its target."

Later in the day Lester would show Marty his great collection of the found arrowheads he had unearthed while he was at work with the soil. Lester had a way of finding beauty and art in the most difficult environments. If it was in hateful surroundings he could point out and pick out a philosophy leaning toward the rare and beautiful. He didn't hit a person with strong attitudes or deliberate doctrine. The teaching would come in this way that of a simple object as this arrowhead left by some other teacher of another time. The strengths of these values were confronting the dark forces ever present over Marty's mind and were now being examined. Could there be a way he could come to a place of reckoning with these powerful guests? He wanted to learn to entertain these guests at his own place. Would he be a lord of his estate or owner of his personal psychic? Would he be able to rise from the ground with his wounds as he had done in battle, not once, but twice? These, short, vignettes, Lester was serving up to him, was directing him to a place where he could begin to get some control and reason back into the life he still had to walk for many years to come.

Trish was visiting with Marty's father, her uncle. "I believe Marty is doing some better."

"Thou-A-Cha-Wah-Thee." Marty's father quietly commented.

It was true. He was pitiful. The battles he endured in the nation's wars had scarred his handsome face, but the scars reached deeper than the surface of his skin. They embedded themselves in the total being as they rested at the center of his thinking.

"He won't have anything to do with our dances." Trish commented.

"It's all right." Marty's father was accepting. "Most folks don't know what they mean, anyway." "The steps they do are taken from what the animals and the birds do, when they go into battle with each other." "Those things are not known by our people anymore." "They don't know this is how we taught our young warriors to survive, this watching the animals and birds to see how they conducted themselves in war situations." "Every thing is civilized." "No one knows about the ways of the wilderness." "We have lost our respect for creation, and the Great Spirit, who allowed these ways of the beasts." "Marty had to learn too, but his learning was upon him, in the instant of powerful great guns far superior to our weapons of counting coup or ancient spearheads." "Now he can see and understand the ways of the dances." "No one should expect him to play at something so much a terror to him." "I'm of the old ones." "I know." "And I, I release him from this part of our culture." "He has already proven his bravery." "Never again should he need to be placed in this position." "They gave him metals for his falling in battle." "It is enough."

According to tradition, Marty's father was the last of the family head or leaders. What he said was accepted, by his family, and by any other of the tribe, at that time.

Marty could be seen with a slow gentle smile on his countenance as he worked and trained "Boy" to help him in his hunting efforts. The dog could be seen dashing out ahead of his small group to stand at the base of a tall pecan tree. His plaintive yelping was a signal to the squirrel and to those hunting the squirrel. Foolish squirrel! He believed he was in his position of lofty protection and would whip in and out of the branches barking back at the dog in such a disrespectful way. His swishing tail signaled his position as he flagged the dog. The crack of the 410 in the hands of a master marksman would bring the careless little beast dropping to the ground. With the gathering up of a number of the little pecan thieves two purposes would be accomplished. One of them was a lowering of their population, so as to interrupt the disappearance of a good pecan crop. The other was to provide a tasty squirrel pie prepared by Trish in the old, heavy, wood, cook stove, oven.

Another time the waters of the river close by had pushed out and over their banks. Taking refuge in the branches of trees were the small birds, which were also tasty in a pot. The morning saw the faithful "Boy" making trip after trip, out into the flood waters, to dutifully bring a downed bird back to the feet of his master.

Each hunting excursion could be identified as to the sound of Boy's bark. If rabbits were his target one could almost see the dog darting back and forth hot on the trail of the rabbit's dodging path. The strong back legs of the rabbit gave the animal the ability to change and redirect his escape route.

Boy was more lumbering in his size, but somehow he had learned to follow the animal in its natural way of escape. He was never quick enough to catch them, but he would run them into a place of hiding. Usually, the place would be into an old empty log. Marty taught the boys how to take a long stick, cut into the edges of it to create a brush like hook on the end of it. By shoving the stick into the hollow log, he could then twist it around and around into the fur of the rabbit. If the boys could pick up the log and hold it up, Marty could then pull the kicking protesting animal from its place.

As Marty was providing the little family with protein rich food, the shadows of the spirits, who tried to possess his life were being pushed farther and farther back from him. He began to become a little like his youthful age. Certainly, he would never be that, but at least he was becoming able to live under the umbrella of his creator's love.

As time and unforeseen circumstances were put upon the man his valor was forgotten. To society he was simply an aging, bent, old Indian man. There was no memory of the supreme sacrifice he had made in the wretched, burning, agony of battle. No one would know of what he had seen, other than the other warriors who fought beside him. If records were lost, ignorance prevailed. There were written accounts, but never to be published. Only the most interested, would see these notes. The terror of the circumstances, Marty had encountered were forever buried in the man's memory. The atrocities of war were beyond comprehension anyway. No respect was asked, none was given.

At his funeral when grown strong men stood at his casket and grieved, there were some youth who were sensitive enough to wonder why. They made the statement, "when strong men grieve beside a casket it is a statement of something more than we know or understand?"

Those who understood could not answer. How could there be an answer to such a layered thing?

Are we wise enough to question the forces resting on the shoulders of the man? Without a knowledge of what the man knew how could there be an explanation to the youth, be they brave or cowardly? Those who have never been to the places of terror and agony of war could not empathize. There was no answer to those who never who would never know of the man's humility and acceptance of depths of teachings reaching as far back as to the arrow maker's of ancient times, these teaching which allowed him to hold back for a time, those spiritual adversaries.


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