WHAT DID YOU DO FOR THE FOURTH?
Awarded: July 10, 2008What did you do for the Fourth?
Oh, I had to chase my mother home!
She was in Standing Rock when I found her
at that casino there.
How far away is it, anyway?
About 14 hours from here.
I just followed her back from there.
We visited my Grandma in Wolfpoint.
When did you get back?
Did you go to the Pow Wow?
Yeah, my wife and son, we all went over there.
How was it?
I got a chance to rock and roll there.
Yeah, we went and the dancers were out there.
So they had an intertribal and I went for it.
Shawn Thundershield is his name;
he’s about 26 I guess now.
I met him a few years ago.
He married a girl from this rez,
and she is usually with him;
and his son is about five I guess now.
His name is Ronnie.
His Mom comes from up around Wolfpoint.
Her own Mom and sisters live there now.
They have been down here on the Navajo rez for some time.
She married a man from here
and he adopted all her six kids.
Shawn was one of them.
When he was young he sure was a wild one,
liked to hit the Pow Wow circuit,
and danced pretty good as a fancy dancer.
He has one of those long bodies made for fancy dancing,
that move with ease
and flow with the feathers.
Some say he has children on different reservations,
and this is probably true.
I didn’t know him during the wild times he went through,
though I have heard about them.
His mother comes from Standing Rock,
and she knows Fort Yates pretty well up there.
To look at her she is almost like a white woman,
with light brown hair,
but when you talk to her
she sounds and speaks Indian.
She talks her own language.
For a lot of years she raised them kids herself.
Their father left and went somewhere.
He came back long enough to divorce her
and leave the kids with her
and went to Wisconsin or some place.
Shawn was the oldest
and he tested all the waters like most kids do,
seeing how far he could stretch things.
One time he went to Wolf Point
and went out with a bunch of young guys.
They partied all night.
There were five of them in the car;
they were looking for a good time.
It was a 1970 Challenger convertible,
red with a 440 Hemi engine.
He knows a lot about cars
and every once in a while
I see him crawl under somebody’s car
or get into the engine to fix it.
I guess in those early days, he sewed a lot of wild oats.
He was a handful for his mother,
and liked to really party I guess.
He went up north to go to school at St. Gliske College,
and on the weekends partied with his new friends.
They preferred to drink Coors, not the hard stuff,
but every once in a while they would try it.
The car was fast
and the BIA cops couldn’t catch them;
and they knew where to party,
so getting caught wasn’t a problem for them.
Her name was Lola,
she was a pretty one,
she looked good,
and lived a life fancy and free,
not having many cares or worries.
She was a party animal some say,
but lately had been spending time with Shawn.
He met her at school and she had a free spirit.
She was from Nebraska,
she was maybe an Omaha,
and there were a couple of Sioux boys in the back seat,
from around there,
one they called Dakota and the other Elvis.
They killed a couple of cases of beer
and thought to go back and get some more before closing time.
How fast is this car anyway?
Can it really go?
It just looks good, but can it really fly?
They said these things to Shawn,
and, without saying a word, he slid the engine into gear,
and let the engine do the talking.
They headed back into town toward Wolf Point.
They were missing a few of the curves,
but it was ok, the car was under control.
But then there was one turn near the dump,
and the edge of the road caught them.
It made the car shudder,
it was like a pole vaulted,
the car went up and over the front left wheel,
it somersaulted over and over,
and Shawn, Lola, and the Walker boys
were thrown around like rag dummies.
They spilled out into the dirt.
His mom got a call
and she traveled all night and the next day going to the hospital.
Shawn was in rough shape.
He was pretty messed up by that accident.
She didn’t recognize him after the accident
since his face was all covered up.
She wanted to know what happened
and found Lola and talked with her.
Lola didn’t want to talk about it,
she didn’t say much.
It’s not my fault,
it just happened.
We missed the turn and the car rolled.
She was ok,
but since Shawn wasn’t really her boyfriend or anything
she dropped him and started seeing some guy from Hardin, Montana.
It is a parent’s worst fear to get that call,
to wonder how your child is
laying there in a hospital far away.
Luckily, Shawn recovered,
and has a couple of long scars on his arm to show for it.
It took him a year in physical therapy,
and he came home.
Somehow, what happened that night changed him,
and he settled down.
He stayed around the house
and worked on some old cars,
crawling under them to fix them
and he could be seen digging under hoods.
There was this one girl,
a quiet shy one,
she got to know him over time
and they got together
and they hooked up
and had a little boy.
She is different, that one,
she can do just about anything:
cook, clean, take care of her man and boy,
and keep their place really nice.
Shawn volunteered a lot of his time
to work with kids here and there.
He was one of those guys
who help the kids who aren’t so fast,
who get chosen last during baseball games at school.
One time he took the scrubs.
They were the ones that were too short,
and maybe a little too heavy
and not so agile,
and he put them together as a basketball team.
They went into the city league,
they were just junior kids,
and he talked to each of them and said,
you can be good,
just stick with the basics,
and he worked with them so they could handle the ball.
He worked with them early in the morning,
driving around and gathering them up
and taking them to a church gym before school
and had them just work on basic skills.
I caught a game,
the final championship game,
and wouldn’t you know it,
the final game was with Shawn’s Indians and the town heroes.
One kid called Shorty played his heart out,
and, with the practices he had,
he could shoot the ball when he was set.
They played each other, them two teams,
and the Indians won.
There are times in your life when you struggle
and may not be very good at things,
and the parents of those kids knew that.
They were all there
and watched them kids play their hearts out,
going up and down the court.
They were man handled,
were not so tall,
and not so fast,
but they had the basic things down:
to pass to the open man,
to take their time
and to keep their hands up on defense.
It came down to one shot
and Shorty, the smallest player,
took it and made it.
They won the city junior league,
and it was a good day.
Like I was saying,
I saw Shawn after his trip,
and he told me that they had gone to the Pow wow.
He said the place was crowded,
and his wife had no place to sit,
so they moved to the opening where the arbors were.
There were 24 drum groups playing.
They were competing for a prize
to see who would be the best drum.
There was one group,
they were young guys,
and they called themselves the Wonder Boys.
What a name for drum group.
They were from Standing Rock,
his mother’s people.
They had those kinds of voices
that were cracking, changing,
and so some sang husky
and the others could really hit those high notes.
Their drum when they started to sing,
made you want to get up and dance.
They sang an intertribal
and everybody got out there,
not only the dancers
but also the crowd that was watching got into the act.
Shawn’s wife went out there with his son and her sisters,
and Shawn sat there and watched.
He found himself moving his head to the beat
and tapping his hands on his legs.
It had been a long time
since he stepped into the Pow wow arena.
His mother had hoped
that he would be a really good fancy dancer.
He closed his eyes
and though he wasn’t dressed in any feathers,
had no leggings or bells, and beadwork;
he could see himself, stepping to the drum.
When those high notes hit their mark he was there with them.
He was stepping into the turn,
moving his front arm down
and beginning to pivot on his right leg,
kicking up his back one
and twirling, fancy dancer style, across the arena.
He moved his head up and down,
and his roach with two feathers rocked back and forth.
He could feel the eyes of the crowd on him
and knew he still had the moves,
it was easy for him.
Yes, it felt good,
the sound of young voices from home picked him up
and took him away
and he was dancing.
The arena lights were bright,
the air was crisp,
and he could feel the earth move under him,
the sound of the bells around his waist
keeping perfect time with that drum.
It felt good,
oh so good
to dance, to move
and there he was;
it was like rock ‘n roll.
He thought to himself,
my son will be a good dancer,
I will teach him,
and so he moved across the arena.
As he passed the drum
they beat their drum out of sync,
hitting it hard four or five times,
and the women’s’ high pitched voices joined in,
and they took everyone to a higher place.
The drums were for him
and in the background there were eagle bone whistles.
He had closed his eyes
and just went with the song.
When he opened them there was no one around him,
he was there by himself.
all of them there
cheered him on.
It was something to see.
I heard about this from my kids
so when I saw him the next day we talked for a minute.
He looked at me and told me,
I really rock ‘n rolled last night at the Pow Wow.
It made me feel good.
He smiled at me
and turned his wheel chair down the hall
and I could hear him singing that song.
©Copyright July 8, 2008 by Johnny Rustywire