“I'm so glad to learn
we ain't poor, we is jest deficient.” Dad's usual humor with Okie ways were
always fun even when the situations involved were sometimes fairly serious.
Laughter about the most dire circumstances often pulled a family away from
what could have been defeat.
I watched the wretch
of a tattered little boy dressed in wet, long, baggy shorts.
His rubber shoes worn
to wade on a rocky bottomed stream were saggy and soggy. Standing in front
of a small fire wrapped in a wet towel while his teeth were chattering made
my heart melt for him. The child with bright sparkling blue eyes was
little more than seven. A short crew cut made his blond hair into almost a
shaved head. Shivering with the cold but aware of every part of the world
around him and the constant need to be alert was upon his expression as
strong as an outdoors man might be using care while stalking through a new
“Aren't you cold?” I
asked the drenched rat looking child. Playing in the water of the lake at
the banks had left him muddy as well.
No answer was given.
However, the steely blue eyes narrowed as he looked closely at me.
“You need to get in the
shower and get some warm clothes on your body.” I pressed the issue.
One of the older women
who was busily picking up and doing the chores around the campground spoke
to me. “This is my son's wife's boy by her first husband. He sort of has an
attitude. You know, Mama has a new life, my Daddy's gone, all that.”
My mind was now all at
once tied to this child's and he sensed it while we exchanged glances but
used no words.
“Are you ah.....
Indian?” Again he narrowed his eyes as he looked at me.
“Aahh.....sure as the
world.” I answered him and then immediately took my own grandson in tow.
“You need to get into the shower and get some warm clothes on your body.”
Now, the other grandmother pulled this boy by his arm while he fought
against her protesting at every step.
It wasn't but just
minutes later when the little boy stepped out of the tent where he had been
dressing after his shower. The clean white muscle shirt, long silky blue
shorts, clean socks and shoes made him a different looking child. The only
tie to the boy before was the bold letters on the back of his shirt which
read, TAZ. No doubt, Taz, short for Tasmanian Devil I am thinking as I
chuckle out loud.
The outdoor evening
around the campfire and cement dinner table was pleasant as the banter of
conversation flowed smoothly. The folks visiting from Missouri were hunters
and fishermen who lived in a wooded area not far from Branson. They
maintained their love for living the old ways while working in the city
during the day. Stories were told of their life in a different world from
ours and that was pleasant fun. The men who evidently cooked were ready to
share recipes for wild game while they told of how their people traded
different meats, foods and other material things.
They listened politely
when I told of how my Mother's people camped outdoors, all the time. The
observations made when I was a child as these close relatives easily managed
outdoor living was always kept in my mind as a memory of a time now gone. Of
course, this wasn't exactly what these folks were going to do. They loved
the outdoors for a week-end or for a short vacation but that was the end of
that. The return to the comforts of a home with all the amenities was more
to their liking.
“What happened to
Nola?” Someone noticed one of the visitor's disappearance.
“Oh they went on
home.” Another volunteered information.
“Did they say if they
are coming back? Didn't say anything to me. Maybe they went after ice?
There wasn't anything wrong was there?” One of the women was
I did not notice my
new acquaintance had stationed himself on a bench back behind me. The flat
top of the seat was long enough for him to stretch out. He was readily in
ear shot of the conversation just below his higher place. The alert child
was rather like an owl in a tree waiting for some tidbit below. In this case
the morsel had nothing to do with food but was to build another block into
his quickly developing and recording of knowledge gleaned from the
conversation of the adults.
All at once I realized
why the nickname Taz.
The little boy was
alert to an advantage and opportunity for revenge. Even in his tender years
he had developed a means for survival. Only my culture and understanding for
human nature allowed me the same advantage as I chuckled at the boy's loud
comment. The brief silence of the adult's voices gave him the perfect
“Yeah, they left all
right. It wuz thet Indian thet run 'em off.”