The stick, p.1
The Stick, p.1Lee Crystal
By Lee Crystal
Copyright 2006-2010 Lee Crystal
I was born on the open southern plains of an Indian reservation sometime around 1863. At least that was the date a white man, who was in charge of the reservation, said I was born. I can still recall most of my youth, even though now I'm just over 90 years old.
Before I leave this world I thought it would be best that I tell this strange tale from way back then and pass it on to all my clan and tribe. I was never a good storyteller, but I'll give it a try. Even now my granddaughter is using some kind of strange white man's box to put my words on paper for me.
It all happened at the beginning of summer when I was seven or eight seasons, I mean years old. That was when I was given my first bow and arrow. It was only a stick with some string, but I had the greatest fun with that thing. I imagined being a great warrior hunting for huge buffalo like our people used to on the Great Plains in the stories that my grandfather used to tell. That was back before our people were driven from our lands and the buffalo were as plentiful as the stars in the night sky. All the tribe had was whatever the white men would give to us and what we could grow from the barren dry desert grounds of the reservation.
One day I must have been troubling my mother a little too much so she sent me out to perform a task. Handing me a long straw of hay she told me to go out and hunt for a big rabbit. Quickly, without thinking, I grabbed it and was off, paying little attention to my mother's warnings not to go too far out into the desert.
There were few of us children then and none even close to my own age. It was still a troubling time for the tribe. A few thought it might be best not to have any children at all except for my mother and father. They thought they should while they were still young enough to do so. My mother and father tried their best to raise me in the old ways but were very reluctant to do the same with the new ways. They eventually realized that I might not be able to survive at all without learning at least some of the new white man ways.
I found myself venturing further away from the tribe's encampment than I have ever gone before. I knew I could play the rest of the day pretending to hunt for a rabbit with my toy bow and arrow, but I wanted to catch a real one. I knew that there were very few of them around and I would have to go out quite far to find any. I thought it would be a good test of all the old ways that I had learned so far, and the fresh meat would be much appreciated back home.
I roamed through the tumbleweeds and sparse grasses for many hours in the warm sun. When the sun was at its highest point, I came across a stick. I thought that it was a little strange that a stick would be found here. I knew the bow I was carrying came from a tree at the watering hole near our tribe's camp.
I scanned the entire horizon looking for any sign of a tree which might have lost one of its branches. There were none anywhere in sight.
Then I saw my rabbit! After it saw me, the rabbit quickly disappeared into a nearby burrow and I quickly scrambled towards the hole. When I got within a dozen yards or so of the burrow, I stopped. I realized that this was not the way I was going to catch this rabbit. I thought quietly to myself and remembered all the hunting skills my father and grandfather had taught me. I placed my toy bow and arrow on the ground beside me. I knew that the toy would only get in my way.
With as much skill as I could muster, I very slowly crept up near the hole. Making sure to approach it from downwind I knelt down. I remained there patiently with my hands near the hole, ready to grab that rabbit once it decided it was safe to come back out again. I must have been there a good hour or so before I noticed my throat was becoming dry and parched. My arms and legs were becoming numb. I was just about to give up when the rabbit finally stuck its head out of the hole. I lunged for it and quickly scooped it up into my arms.
I was very excited: It was the first time I had ever caught anything in my life and with my own bare hands. It also turned out to be the first time my prey would get away from me.
The sound was like a thousand eagles screeching from behind me. The rabbit and I were both frozen with fear. Then the loud clap came. It sounded very much like thunder and it threw me to the ground. I lay still in the sand for a few moments and didn't move. I quickly realized that my prize was now long gone. I became angry then quickly jumped up to see where the noise and thunderclap had come from.
“If the spirits did not want me to have that rabbit they should never have let me catch it in the first place,” I said to myself and was about to yell out at them.
Then I saw it! From nowhere it had just appeared. It was only a few hundred yards away, not far from the stick I saw earlier.
I gathered my courage and ever so slowly crawled behind a nearby tumbleweed. I held it firmly to make sure a sudden gust of wind wouldn't take away my only cover.
I was now able to look at this strange thing more closely since I felt that I had hidden myself so well. It looked like a large shiny dome, like one of those new chrome hubcaps. I could also see that it was floating a few inches to a foot above the ground. It looked like some kind of heavy rain cloud unable to climb back up into the heavens. It glowed and glimmered brightly in the desert sun. It was so bright that it was hard to look at it directly. In fact it was so bright that I almost didn't notice a small trail of smoke going skywards from the hubcap. It was coming from the side nearest to me, near the bottom.
Were the spirits angry with me? Was it my time to join them?
I soon noticed a doorway, more like a crack, suddenly appeared on the side of the shiny dome. Within it I could see multicolored lights and hear strange soft tones.
At this point I was very scared and unsure of what I should do. I had no idea what this thing might be?
Then they came out of it.
At first I saw a tall white man emerge from the opening, then a black one.
They were wearing very strange and brightly colored garments. It was nothing like I have ever seen before or since. They seemed to fit them perfectly, almost skin tight. Kind of like those long johns I see the white men wearing to keep them warm, but I don't think these men were wearing those garments for that reason.
It was odd to see the two of them together like this. They seemed to be talking to each other in the white man tongue, English that is.
They made their way around the dome towards the area that was smoking. They touched a few spots on the dome and as if by magic a small section of its shinny skin just disappeared.
It was difficult to see anything beyond the new opening now. The smoke was really starting to roll out from it.
The white man leaned into the opening and began to do something. All this time the black man was standing looking over his shoulder as thought he was giving instructions to the white man.
A white man was being ordered around by a black man? This was very strange indeed. In all my life I have never seen anything like this. To this day I still wonder about this. Maybe my memory is not as good as I thought it was. Who would ever believe such a thing?
Then things really got confusing. The white man did something that caused sparks to fly out of the opening in the dome. He and the black man quickly retreated. Then as the white man made his last step I heard a snap.
He had stepped on that tree branch and it had broken.
The lights from inside the dome turned red and a loud whine filled the air.
The two men became quite frantic and quickly ran back into the shiny dome. I believe they were saying something about a pair of ducks, or maybe it was a word more like par-a-dox?
Within moments the shiny dome just vanished.
I was startled. Was that word some kind of magic word?
I must have stayed behind that tumbleweed for several minutes before I gathered up enough courage to get up. Maybe I was af
When I finally stood up I looked from horizon to horizon but saw nothing. I gathered up my toy bow and arrow nearby and ever so slowly walked over to where the dome was.
Did I fall asleep while waiting for that rabbit and have a dream?
When I saw the broken stick I knew then it was no dream.
Also the men's tracks could be clearly seen. I could see where they left and entered the dome. Their tracks began and ended at the same spot.
I bent down and looked at the stick. I pondered there for a while about everything I had just seen.
For some reason I placed my own stick, my toy bow, down beside the broken stick.
I got up and headed back home with only my hay straw.
Then, just as I was only a hundred or so steps away I heard the men talking again.
This time I was not afraid. I turned and saw the shiny dome and the men had come back again.
Both the black man and white man were at the opening in the dome. The smoke was still coming out, but it began to thin and then it finally stopped.
I then saw a third man standing at the opening talking to the others on the outside. The lights behind him all started to turn green. I could not see the third man very well because of the bright lights behind him.
The man in the opening said something else to the other men. After looking inside the opening for a few more seconds, they backed away and touched the dome. The opening disappeared and the shiny skin was back in place.
Very slowly the two men made their way back into the dome. They seemed to be making an effort to stay clear of my bow.
The two men entered the dome and the third still continued to stand in the opening. He leaned out of the dome and looked at me.
He was a tall tribe's man just like me. He wore the same strange clothing that the other two men did.
I was puzzled and stood there frozen. Not from fear but confusion. Where the other two men being commanded by a brother tribes man?
Then the tall brave smiled at me.
I smiled back and for some reason I knew everything was alright.
He retreated into the dome and the opening just seemed to fill in.
With a load thunderclap the dome was gone again.
I went back home and never told anyone about what happened until this day. I never thought anyone would ever believe me even if I did.
Today I finally got up enough courage to ask someone about that magic word I heard those strange men utter on that day. Maybe I was still afraid the word might make me vanish too if I said it out loud.
A young brave had recently returned from going to the white man place of learning called college.
I thought it would be safe to ask him if he knew what that word was. Maybe he might have seen it in one of their books. Even now most whites don't tell us anything they feel we shouldn't know.
I was still hesitant to say it out load again even for my granddaughter who is placing my words on paper.
When I tried to say the magic words to the young brave he laughed at first. I tried to say it again the way I remembered hearing it. Quickly he stopped laughing and wanted to know how I knew this word.
Reluctantly I told him the story.
He then explained its meaning to me as simply as he could. He told me that it meant that if something happened in the past it could change what occurs in the future.
He then told me he believed that since I placed another stick to replace the one that was snapped I must have fixed the problem, maybe even improved the previous events. He wondered how such a simple thing as a stick could have affected events yet to come.
He insisted that I must record this event. It might be important for all to know. So here I am doing as he asked.
I had some trouble understanding what he was saying to me. According to the young brother I guess I must have seen what he called time travelers. They must have been from the future and had traveled into the past.
So is it possible that the white men, black men and even people like me can be brothers sometime in the future?
Only time will tell I guess.
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