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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 8


Poor Old Dog - Quick action, accurate aim

Hot winds thick with the dust of soil stacked beside the new foundations blew into the eyes, clothing and over the legs of the Vista volunteers. Nevertheless, they worked with enthusiasm. One of them was what everyone thinks of as an all American girl. Her long blond hair, she had pulled into a pony-tail, and it swung back and forth as she wielded her shovel. Without much imagination it could be believed that she had only this morning stepped from her parents understated, elegant, front door out to where ancient trees drooped over wide, streets.

“Take a break!” Velma offered the volunteers a glass of lemonade and they were thankful for a moment to wipe the riverlets of sweat from their foreheads because it was combining with the fine, sandy dust of
the soil.

“Great lemonade!” The girl held her glass in a dainty way and that too, told of her tender beginnings. She had managed to overcome any culture shock and fit immediately into the program. Everything seemed to be all right.

The children of the reservation were the ones in audiences and this may have been new to the girl. “Where are the adults?” She might have asked. Of course, this inexperienced girl knew nothing about the Native people. How could she know the differences in their world? Could anyone educate someone with the fine points of living and surviving as a tribe? She didn’t know the young ones were active participants in an ancient life style. The story “Dances With Wolves,” merely touched on this reality. It showed how the youth played a valuable role in the different aspects of the story and without them, in fact, the account could not have been told. These parts of the Native culture may have shown why the conquerors could see no other way but to totally destroy the Natives beliefs because they were so different from their own.

An old, mangy, sick dog was walking across the street coming toward them. The girl was obviously overcome with sympathy for the animal as she stood, staring at it.

“Oh that poor old dog. Oh poor, thing!” She was all but in tears.

As smoothly and quickly as if the child had done this one-hundred times one of the boys, who was around eight years old, picked up a rock and hurled it at the dog. The animal fell, instantly, in death. The boy turned and gazed up at the girl with a slight smile on his face as if he was waiting for praise. His own people would have been proud and pleased with his quick actions and accurate aim, so surely this girl would also approve.

For the moment, the girl was quiet but that night she cried to her companion while they were bathing in the bathroom.

“That child killed the dog thoroughly and easily, then expected me to be pleased, I believe. I just can’t understand. This isn’t going to work, I know it isn’t.” She was more than appalled and miserable about something she could not understand.

It was only a matter of days the girl gave up her Vista volunteer work and returned to her home. Who knows the stories she may have taken back to her family and friends? Would they be something like the stories a Native American woman took back to her tribe about a witnessed event of how cruel and dangerous the enemy was because they beat their own children?

Ponca children were taught to be observant and responsible from infancy and when at all possible to act on a situation, immediately, for the sake of remaining alive. If the child saw the young woman’s concern certainly his immediate reaction would have been to do away with the threat even as if it could have been any dangerous animal. A girl coming from such a neighborhood where there wasn’t and never would be, such an incident could hardly be expected to understand.

No, the dog was probably not rabid but it was sick. With little medical care even for themselves taking an animal to the veterinarian would have been like saying, “let’s go for a trip to the moon, tonight.” This is the way things were on the reservation in and around that time. Was the killing of the dog possible with one rock by a child? Perfect, eye, hand coordination is a wonderful thing. Is it inherited through genetics or developed through the skillful use of crafting delicate beadwork, leather work, and of the many other crafts involved with daily living? However this was achieved is not important. It is a simple fact of life and every Native American child had this coordination at an early age. It remains to be seen whether modern day living and television will have any influence on this.


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