Poor Old Dog - Quick action,
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
“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
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.