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My love affair with American Indians

My love affair with American Indians

Posted By Sunny Lockwood

I’m thinking of a new name for Sweetheart Al.

A Native American name (at least something that sounds Native American to me).

When I was a little kid growing up on the shores of Crooked Lake, near Kalamazoo, Michigan, I wanted to know Indians. I wanted to know them because I thought they were the most exciting, most romantic, most natural humans in the world.

There was lots of talk about Indians when I was little. And every so often someone found an Indian arrowhead. But no one I knew had ever seen an Indian.

In my mind, Indians were tall, slim, bare-chested and silent. They wore leather loin clothes and leather moccasins. Their glossy black hair was adorned with beautiful feathers. And their bodies rippled with smooth, well-defined muscles. I thought they could talk to the animals and the birds. I thought they were wise and brave and good.

One summer morning when I was probably about five, I woke up before my parents and walked to the big picture window in our living room that looked out over the lake. I stood there, watching the mist that was rising from the mirror-still water, when I noticed a boy of about 10 or 11, bare chested, with a bow and arrow and a Mohawk haircut, walking along the lakeshore.

Now summer in Michigan can be unbearably hot and muggy, and some parents way back in the 1950s gave their boys Mohawks for the summer as a way to both combat the heat and prolong the next trip to the barber.

But I saw this boy in the morning light, with mist floating around him, and I suddenly understood a great truth. I suddenly realized that seeing or meeting an Indian was nothing compared to actually being an Indian. And the transforming truth that filled me that morning was that if I could just get a Mohawk haircut, I could be an Indian. A real Indian.

I pestered my parents for days, pleading for a Mohawk haircut. At first they found my request hilarious. And in their grownup way tried to explain why it wouldn’t work the way I knew it would, and why little girls do not get Mohawk haircuts. But after days of begging, and many bitter tears on my part, they started worrying about my mental health. Was something seriously wrong with their little girl? Who had ever heard of a little girl wanting a Mohawk haircut?

I don’t remember how it all ended. Obviously I did not get a Mohawk, so I was never able to test my hypothesis…but I’m still enamored of my imaginative Indian world.

And today I’m thinking of names that sound like Native American names, even though they aren’t.

Sweetheart Al has many talents. Photographing California wildflowers is one of them. I believe his photographs are a spiritual experience. You can judge for yourself. Just go to his website: mossbloomstudio.com and enjoy his images of mid-Sierra wildflowers.

But after we married, he designed and built our farmhouse and had such a good time doing it that he studied for and obtained his general contractor’s license. Now he designs and builds things for others.

And now his lovely, artistic hands are covered with cuts and bruises. He always seems to have at least one fingernail sporting a large blue-black blood blister from being whacked on the job.

He’s not too keen about the fuss I make over his damaged hands, so I’ve come up with a way to "ennoble" his wounds. I think I read somewhere that some Native American tribes bestowed new names on braves who achieved some significant accomplishment.

In that spirit, I’ve decided to give him a new name honoring his bruised and bloodied digits.

Whenever he comes home with on-the-job injuries, I’ve decided to call him Wounded Finger.

Sounds like a big chief name to me. What do you think?


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