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Lizzie
Page 1


Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay stretched and yawned. The child looked about the walls of her room which were softly lit by the dawn. She pulled the lace curtain back and looked out the window to see her mother. The morning light shown faintly around the woman's figure. Rays of the sun touched her shining black hair which fell softly about shoulders and arms. Her hands she held palms up and lifted them toward the sky.

The girl could hear the soft sound of their native language, Ponca. It was flowing, rising and falling in a lyrical way almost like a song. There was a pleading, running together of the words. Rapidly, in short little bursts the woman spoke. Her daughter could see her mother's breasts rise and heave with the emotion of it. The child listened to the appeal.

"Great Spirit. I have no special intelligence but I can look around me to see the beauty of your creation. I see this great sky you have wrapped around us. Your sun is coming up now to warm the ground beneath our feet. I listen, and I hear, the sweet chirping song of the little birds you have made to give us pleasure. Daily I come to you at this early hour. I speak with you first,  before I do anything. As I look about me to see these things, I come to you to plead that on this day you will look to all we do. See that our paths be straight. Even as I straighten and comb my hair for the day, I will part it directly in the middle of my head to remind me of this straight path. The shawl I pull around my shoulders will be edged with dancing fringe to touch my legs. These fringes are like your many good laws.” This was the way Esther Broken Jaw, Little Cook completed her morning prayer.

Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay slid slowly from her bed. She now could hear her father in the kitchen. Father must be getting the fire in the stove ready for her mother to start breakfast.

The year was close to around the turn of the century. Sam Little Cook, Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay's father,  was dressed all ready for his work. Sam owned a lumber mill at the little town of White Eagle. Although he was full blood Ponca he was dressed in the costume of the day. He wore a suit coat, a white shirt, shiny leather shoes, which was the typical dress for the Anglo businessman of that day. Gone were the soft tanned leathers of his dress he had worn when they as a tribe were brought from their traditional home in the Black Hills.  That was another time. Sam Little Cook, OO-Hah-Shingah, Little Cook, now was settling into his new life style much as an immigrant from another country would settle into an American way of living.

As Sam worked about the stove he was observing his child standing in the doorway. She was also watching him. The four years old child had managed to touch his heart with her goodness. He felt gifted to know this little girl who had been given to them. She was the youngest,  but she was so aware of everything around her.  This intelligence made her seem older. His last child was a large measure of joy to him. Little did he know the grief he would soon suffer because of uncontrollable events to come upon the little family.

Esther walked into the kitchen. Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay saw her mother's hair had been smoothly combed. It was neatly parted down the center of her head and pulled into a bun at the back of her neck.

"Good morning Little One." Esther greeted the small child.

"Good morning Mother.” The little girl ran to her mother.

Esther gathered the child into her arms and lifted her from the floor. "Did you sleep well my girl?"

"I did not wake once during the night. I only woke when I    heard you speaking with Great Spirit this morning."

"That is good. Now, I want you to wait for me while I get breakfast. Your father has promised to take us to town today. I want to shop for a few supplies I need.

Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay climbed up on a chair close to the table and watched her mother making biscuits for their breakfast. There was a large round wooden bowl Esther always used for bread making.  Into the flour mixture of baking powder and shortening Esther made a small well. This created a reservoir to hold the fresh milk she poured there. Gently and carefully she pulled the edges of the flour to the center of the liquid until a round ball began to form. Still working gently she kneaded the ball a few more times until it became smoother and more elastic. This ball she dropped onto a floured surface beside the bowl and with a rolling pin rolled the dough out flat. She then took her biscuit dough cutter and pressed out the small round shapes. She took these and placed them carefully onto the greased pan beside her. As soon as they were arranged in the pan, Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay watched her mother pat the top of the biscuits with some bacon fat she had taken from the container setting at the back of the wood cooking stove.

"Come on, let me get you ready while we wait for our biscuits to cook." Esther lifted the child from her chair and carried her to the bedroom where she helped her dress.

"My! Just look how long your hair is getting." The mother lovingly admired her child.

"May I wear it loose today?" the child saw the opportunity to bargain for her wishes--as to having her hair loose like some of the Anglo girls she had seen.

"OH, no, my child. No no. You know we can never be seen without our hair nicely combed and braided. Some of our family will be in town today. What would they think if we had been so careless as to not have our hair, first of all, in order?"  The mother reasoned with the little girl.

Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay sat and listened quietly as her mother advised her again of the importance of braid and comb. She had known the answer to her question but being the child she was, she felt compelled to ask again.

"You must never wear your hair loose; only in weakness will you ever cut it or wear it unbraided." Esther told her no more than this. In later years Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay would see her people slash the length from their hair and leave it loose as a symbol of their grief at the death of a loved one. The act itself made her, as a woman, respect the depth of grief a person was suffering. It was a statement. “Part of my life has been cut off.” These were some of subtle laws her people practiced.


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