Unraveling your life in an attempt to understand and relate to other people’s needs to know can prove to be as frustrating as unraveling a knitting project that has grown a life of its own. Three sleeves, no collar or place for your head, a waistband that would be fit for an elephant and a gaping hole where your hand would fit in the second sleeve. All of this work and worry for what possible purpose? With only six skeins of the most expensive wool and the only pattern and color in stock, it begins to be an endless task. While telling a story is a transient thing, writing it down is forever. Whether or not it reaches other hearts and minds is a choice over which I have little control. Where to begin is only part of the problem. Would a zipper do a better job of securing the secrets and confidences or would buttons and buttonholes do the job? In matters such as these, the “whos” and “whats” are usually easy to agree on. Even “wheres” and “whens” can be negotiated to a point of mutual satisfaction. But “why” and “what for” are more complex and difficult to sort out.
Maybe, just maybe . . . Now, however, by writing this shit down, I have fulfilled my obligation to posterity.
Being born in a wiki-up tent on the south shore of the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi River at the start of February, 1933 on the Flathead Indian Reservation didn’t make me a fucking cowboy from Montana. Nor did the pint-sized ten gallon cowboy hat with Bud Lutz embroidered on the brim and the kid-sized cowboy boots ruined in sight and smell by wading in pig shit at a six-year old’s birthday party and a four mile walk home over the bridge.
That said and with a nod in the direction of history, a couple of other world-shaking events occurred that year. One was the political power grab from aristocratic von Hindenburg of the weakened Weimar German government by Adolf Hitler. Hindenburg won the election but fearing a loss of control by the populists of the National Socialist Party, around noon on January 20th he allowed Hitler to be sworn in as Chancellor of the Third Reich and Fuhrer for what was left of the German people. In February, the Nazi Party hatched a plan to burn the Reichtag building and end democracy for Germany once and for all. Some twelve years and fifty million dead later, Hitler was dead and the world was left with a legacy it would never live down.
The other significant event was the first inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the 32nd President of the United States of America on Saturday, March 4, 1933. That was the last time that date was used for that purpose. Inauguration ceremonies since that date have been held on January 20th. Later, he was remembered for telling the American people they had nothing to fear but fear it self.
Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your personal political point of view, both of these guys are gone now and I’m still here. It should be noted, however, that the things they are remembered for are still around, too.
With Rooseveldt’s help, the world’s banking industry has lived on to lie again and prosper and the Nazi frame of mind, sometimes referred to as National Socialism not only survived but continues to grow on a daily basis at various locations on the face of our big, blue marble. It isn’t limited to Skokie, Illinois in the grand old party’s good old US of A where the US stands for the us of we in We the People and the A stands for all the other assholes who don’t agree with the us of them.
Chewing the face off of a rubber teddy bear is one of my earliest memories. Following in no particular order the next memories are cloudy but vivid in some details. They include a sip of beer and a broken glass proffered by one of my drunken brothers much to my mother’s dismay. She somehow managed to use the broken glass as a reason to end my first drunk at age three or so
Then on a Fourth of July, my “baby brother”, the one that was only 17 when I was born, gave me a burn on the nose courtesy of one of those hand delivered sidewalk explosive devices. About the same time, I learned my first big word by getting into my older brother’s briefcase. As a member of the Young Democrats of Lake County, he had entered the race for State Representative and was busy campaigning for himself and Mike Mansfield, who actually won that election. He yelled, “Get the hell out of my continuity!” All this occurred while we were living in a house that was known as “the Erath place”.
My sister was married there to a guy who sang tenor, played saxophone and guitar and owned a ukelele that sported a picture of Betty Boop on its belly. Getting used to being a member of the family, he declared that I must be a poet, since he heard me say, “Yessiree, son of bee, I found a marble?” Little did he know what he was warning the world about.
When the traveling carnival came to town. I was four years old, and barely tall enough to look over the edge of the mummy’s wooden casket. By standing on my tiptoes and reaching over the edge, I was able to feel the brown skin. It was smooth as silk and soft as a baby’s ass or so I was told. I wasn’t in any position to compare my ass to the skin of the mummy. As a brief stop side show feature in the traveling carnival, the Egyptian mummy was indeed memorable.
Another sight and sound that is still with me after all this time was on the midway of the roadshow carnival. Holding tight to father’s hand, I was stopped in my tracks by seeing and hearing a very large black man dressed in the kilts and tartan of Scotland, wheezing out the strains of a Highland tune of sorts on what I later learned was the bagpipes.
Being born on the Flathead Reservation I had seen many red and white folks on a daily basis. The colorful diversions of an Egyptian Mummy and the Black bagpiper definitely widened my horizons of humanity at large.