A few old guys of the same species sitting around Kerrville, Texas wondering where the world went. Each too different from the others to guess which parts they missed. Old guy the others knew walked up and sat down.
Silver gray hair in a ponytail, 70ish, shorts and sandals with athletic stockings, heavyset. We shook hands and I studied his features. In Texas he looked definitely out-of-place, though he could have been Hispanic throwback gene pool. But something in the features and skin pigment had me suspecting he was a Navajo or Apache. A curiosity because Native Americans aren’t much drawn to Texas as a home.
Finally my puzzlement got the best of me. “Where are you from?”
He grinned at the others, then at me. “I’m Swedish.”
“Yeah, but what TRIBE Swedish?”
Minneconjou Lakota, it turned out. Born in a US Public Health hospital on the Rez in Minnesota. Mama a party woman, no idea who his pappa was. Reared by his grandma, then sent off to Indian School. Learned to be a welder and pipe-fitter.
By 1970-or-so he was up in Alaska on the North Slope a few years building the first Alaskan pipeline across the permafrost. Had a few stories to tell about that, then all of us began picking his mind for all manner of details. “How deep did they have to go setting the pilings holding up those pipe joints?” “How were you housed?” And so on.
Turned out all the oil from that field was shipped directly to Japan. US refineries weren’t tuned to that sort of crude. But the fields are still producing.
Guy has a tribal census number, but never went back to live on the Rez, but visited his grandma there until she died. Brought tears to his eyes thinking about her. Never used the free health-care/dental-care for life benefit available to him because of the tribal census number US Public Health Service offers.
“I worked hard all my life and settled here. Paid my own way every step along. Making a lifetime job of being an Indian didn’t appeal to me much. When they quit shooting us they tried to offer that as the next best thing.
“They’re still trying, got all those liberal white people to worship blanket Indians. Better than getting shot, but not as good as kicking the whole damned mess.” He shook his head. “Damned white people and their congratulations for being victims will finish off all the ones left.”
Nice meeting him. I hope I see him again before I head for the tall timber. Being born into a trap doesn’t mean there’s no escaping it, I reckons.