(June 20 to July 19, 2009)
Another year has passed, another 10 months of planning, discussions, calculations and keeping fingers crossed… And there I was – again stepping out of little jet that carried me to Billings, Montana. It felt so ordinary and usual, it was almost frightening – except for its length, the flight felt almost no different from getting up on the bus and driving a few stops somewhere. Thus I was there again, ready and eager to start my second stay at Eugene Little Coyote’s home and my first Cheyenne Epic. The big surprise: Tony’s gonna pick me up, Eugene isn’t back from Wisconsin yet. The second, this time not pleasant, big surprise: the luggage wasn’t loaded on the plane during my last stop in Salt Lake City – they gonna ship it tomorrow. Oh well, c’est la vie! But this strange chain of good and bad things happening one after another, as if they were a balance of powers, will accompany this trip much, much often. In fact the whole trip was clear symmetry of things going from bad to good.
When we arrive, it finally gets clear to me how much I missed the whole bunch. Immediately little Island wants to be held, carried and ride piggyback on me. I don’t protest, it feels good – almost like in a family. Even their dog, Skank, is a little too happy about my return. Later I tease Eugene that his own dog likes me better (and listens to, too) than him. Gene comes back the next day, not happy with the trip, but happy to be home and having a new pick-up truck. From now on, we slowly start planning on how we’re going to run Cheyenne Epic this year. We know that compromises will have to be made – our budget seems to be just 1600 dollars – much less than we would like it to be. But Gene is not giving up – there’s always a way and, as we’ll find out, there will be.
But first the sweat – and how much I needed one! No hot shower will replace a good round in sweat lodge. From then, we had sweats every two or three days, often joined by Eugene’s “little bro” Joe and cousins. Eugene’s family’s sweat is located near Ashland just on the banks of Tongue River, so one can actually go and swim between the rounds. There’s an unpleasant surprise to it though: wood ticks – whole herds of them – bigger and more difficult to kill than ordinary ticks. It is enough to just go in the tall grass to find five or more already crawling on one’s thighs. They’re easier to detach though, although their big jaws tear a little piece of skin, too. Yet though it was always a good idea to inspect yourself after getting back home – one bloodsucker, to disgust of Judi who spotted it, once attached itself to my throat without me even realizing it. From other, more pleasant, visitors: I always find a little mouse that hides under the rocks left from previous sweat and there is one funny cricket that visits the sweat almost every time we start, chirping to the songs. Sometimes we are visited by horses that are grazing nearby. Once we found a little chick, probably a swallow, that fell off the nest. Nothing beats a lone calf, that we once discovered wandering near the lodge, though. It left us a little gift, you guessed it, a cow dung right in front of the sweat lodge.
One sweat after another I’m practicing my skills of being the “door man” – opening and closing sweat lodge covers between rounds – and the “rock man”, that is taking care of hot rocks and fireplace and bringing the rocks to the lodge. I’m observing others doing it and refining my ability – it impresses Gene. It hasn’t been easiest pie at the start though: the second sweat lodge I assisted in building nearly disintegrated – luckily for me it was at the end of the ritual and I have never made the same mistake again. Sometimes I’m amusing others when instead of “coming in” I say “incoming!” when bringing in the rocks, or “here’s the megaton one” when I bring a big and hot one. It’s another change from bad to good: from being like an awkward duty to me at first, in the end it becomes enjoyment and I always volunteer for the task, when asked. Even gathering the wood became a welcomed activity, although once we found ourselves caught in the middle of thunderstorm – and I wasn’t about the thunderstorm itself (I like thunderstorms), but that we were surrounded by high cottonwood trees and thunderbolts were hitting way too close to comfort. One sweat is also special to me, it’s my birthday sweat – In the last text I wrote how sincere and open people are here and how good one does feel being among Cheyenne – I am among friends, no doubts about it. Plus, I learned Cheyenne take on a “happy birthday” song!
Soon after my arrival another good friend and adopted brother of Gene comes to visit – it’s Everett, I met him at the sun dance last year. This time however he has dreadful news – he can barely use his right hand. Glass from shattered window cut artery and nerves in his arm and, while doctors managed to stop the bleeding and heal the wound, he can barely grab anything and doesn’t have feel. It’s obvious he’s very concerned, even if he tries to hide it. He’s generous – Judi was given a new microwave and nice purple Ford Escort, Gene’s got another truck and I got a nice native-themed statue. I feel a little awkward and humbled by that, but I know it’s not a competition: I wasn’t holding up from him, when Gene needed help, shared what I had – and that’s what really is important. Gene and his family offer the best help they can, but as Gene’s father points out, nobody can heal Everett as much as he himself – by finding strength and loosing doubts, finding the good spirit he lost after the accident.
This year’s stay was far more relaxed and slow-paced. Truly an Indian time – everything happens “in due time”, which I start to appreciate after hectic and sometimes stressful last months at work. Also the reservation politics seemed so pleasantly distant, only to chime in with mentioning of Gene’s pending job at Tribal Housing. Sometimes a rumor or two came out, but they weren’t paying attention and we went about our lives as good as we could. One notable mention goes to… the fridge. Gene was keeping one in the garage and, because of warm weather recently, he decided to make use of it to keep more food cool. It obviously needed cleaning, so we took it out of garage and Gene used the hose to do the job, which in turn woke curiosity of Skank (he likes to catch water bursts from the hose). Unfortunately, that has an annoying side effect to it. As soon as we try to lift the fridge, Skank is there to thoroughly lick my face. When Gene uses the water to chase him off it makes things worse – now I’m wet in addition to being covered with dog saliva. Finally after we somehow manage to lift it back in (Gene still teases that his back is twisted from my “tomfoolery”), I suggest that we wait until it dries up before plugging it in, so nobody will get unwanted “enlightenment”. Well, he isn’t listening: he fires it up and, as soon as he touches it – you know it – gets jolted. Ah ha! That should teach him to listen to me next time (heh heh).
In the nights I go in front of the house to photograph moths – the first days were somewhat disappointing though, as barely anything interesting was to be seen. Gene says it’s been a lot of violent thunderstorms and rain before I came to the rez – I’m pondering if that could be responsible for the lack of specimens. As the month progresses though, more and more often I find an interesting insect and eventually I was able to catch a few Hawk Moths, big gray Gloveria moths and colorful Io Moths. Gene is teasing that most likely the most of my pictures from this stay would be of the moths – he’s right: of about 4 thousand photos I took, about 1200 were of insects. My readiness to go outside isn’t even damped when Judi spots a mountain lion close to the house – I only requested a flashlight. “Rambo scares us, because he’s not afraid of anything” – they comment to others.
It’s good to have my laptop as I can immediately edit and send the photos to my gallery online… unless the Internet connection gets broken by a phone call. I’ve been trying harder and harder to fix it, only to succeed for about a week after which it almost broke for good. Finally I gave up and made it as it was in the beginning – “maybe phone calls break it, but at least it works!” I explained. Meanwhile we travel around the rez: Skyline Drive, Garfield Peak, Badger Creek Tower, Morning Star View – so happy to be back there. And there’s more – Soda can: 75 cents, chipping in for fuel: 25 dollars, riding in the back of a pick-up truck 65 mph on an interstate: priceless! We briefly went to Chiefs’ Pow-wow but, although I took my entire gear with me, ultimately I didn’t feel like taking photographs of people I didn’t know – although I’ve seen tourists who did, no matter how spectacular their regalia were.
As my stay progresses I’m lobbying Gene to finally go on top of one of the hills surrounding Lame Deer and have me finally take picture of the town – something I wanted to do last year but ultimately didn’t have time for. My wish is finally granted when Elijah, his oldest son, takes me for a ride and we catch it in the last rays of setting sun. We’re also making a short trip to Colstrip, the town where all the coal strip mining takes place and the second-largest power plant west of Mississippi resides. The mines are far away from the road, but you can see the large diggers and while the surrounding country may look barely touched by man’s hand, the large open areas left from closed and covered mines make no illusion: it’s a dry grassland. Undoubtedly it will take many years for vegetation to recover – no matter how supporters of mining on the reservation will defend it, the proof that it will do harm to the land is visible to the naked eye.
When we’re at home, like the last year, I’m catching the big 18-wheelers, realizing a funny paradox which later will be proven to the amusement of Gene: as soon as I grab and arm my camera, long minutes will pass before any comes by, I put it down and step away, a whole bunch will pass. I still managed to catch a few nice and unique shots. It was proposed that we could go to Oklahoma, but Gene had mixed feelings about the trip and – when we finally are ready to go – the people who were to take us there change their minds. But that also was good because the money originally planed for that trip went for gift for the kids, as I didn’t buy any gifts for them to have as much money ready for the stay as possible. I noticed they were charmed by little netbook I had, in fact Gene alone liked it very much. And thus, after short consideration and him agreeing, we went to Billings and got back with a brand new one – even better than the one I had.
Soon the news breaks out: our friend Valerie, a.k.a. Rezilla is “in town” – she’s Genes long-time friend and driving force behind Rezkast – multimedia portal for Natives. Her friend Garry is also here, as well as two kids. Together we make a sweat at Rufus’ place. In the evening we all go to Billings. Here, missing the opportunity to take “photo of the trip” because of a misunderstanding, I feel hurt and hold a grudge against Eugene, but we quickly settle our differences and look forward to have fun at karaoke bar. And we really do – and happily I don’t feel out of place at all. Gene sings “Heavy” by Collective Soul, then in the end is joined by Rezilla for U2’s “One” – which, with Garry, we document both with pics and video recording. I still use it to blackmail them (heh heh)… Looking for something to do, we visit Gene’s good friend and mentor, an old hacker named Lane (oh, you know who you are!).
In the middle of my stay we begin preparations for Cheyenne Epic. It’s gonna be a three day event, but instead of renting vans we’ll simply gather families that have bigger vans and pay for fuel. The places we’re going to visit are also familiar to me – to most we’ve been last year: Bear Butte, Devils Tower, Vore Buffalo Jump, the Fetterman and Rosebud Battlefield. There will be some new places to visit, too: Shell Canyon, Lake DeSmet (or Medicine Lake) and Battle of the Wolf Mountain. We’re also doing a test drive to Bighorn Mountains and the Medicine Wheel, making a short stop at Shell Canyon and Falls. In the end, it will prove to be a very good decision. The timing is good, about 5 hours round trip – we can do it for Cheyenne Epic. Again, it’s good to be back in Bighorns, see the familiar sights and visit new places.
We start at Shell Canyon – a tight valley carved in granite by strong current of Shell Creek, which resulted in creation of a really spectacular waterfall. They all got the “shell” name from discoveries of fossils of shelled animals in sandstone layers above the granite.
As we head towards Medicine Wheel, the weather turns nasty – dark and heavy storm clouds form and a violent thunderstorm begins. But that won’t stop us, no way! On our way we spot a coyote, a moose and a juvenile deer, unfortunately my crippled zoom lens can’t keep up and photos turn embarrassingly bad. Too bad.
As we near Medicine Wheel the storm moves away and sun starts to shine through misty evening sky. The mountain the Wheel is at is covered with snow. Kids are having fun – snow in summer, imagine! Well, obviously we’re well over 9 thousand feet above sea level, it’s mighty cold, too.
Another critters to add in observation log: kids are chasing ground squirrels and a rabbit, then suddenly spot a fox. The sun slowly reaches the horizon, it’s time to get back home. On the way back we spot a pair of moose. This time the lens doesn’t let me down and, even though they’re on the move, the pictures come sharp enough to choose a best one.
Soon enough the first cold shower comes. When we try to transfer the money we gathered on PayPal it turns out that Gene can do withdrawals of only $500 a month and when we transfer the money to my account I am greeted with “your account has been limited to prevent money laundering” – luckily this time I just can’t close the account. My previous account they locked because of $5 transaction they deemed as account compromise (way to go!) and I couldn’t even withdraw the money. Yet, as if that wasn’t bad enough, I can’t transfer the money to my own bank account – it was used on the closed account and they don’t allow it to be reused. In the act of desperation I’m trying to send money to Rufus’ account. I’m advised by a nasty looking message that account data are verified and a fee will be taken if the transfer is aborted because of mismatching data. Oh well, I’m trying anyway: so far, so good, now just to press “Send Money”… wait, “account holder name: Marcin Roguski”? No, wait! Cancel, CANCEL! STOP! “Your transaction is now pending”… #@&%*^$! Oh, well, que sera, sera. At the end of the week the status of the transfer changes from “pending” to “completed”, but Rufus reports still no money on his account. Bad! The alternative is $700 I managed to gather from my salary: way too little, but Eugene doesn’t give up – he thinks of doing potluck, that way the families participating can bring and gather food, so we will only need money for the fuel.
The coming weekend is probably one of the worst I had in my life – uncertainty, fear and waiting for news that doesn’t come. It was the first thing I prayed for in a long time – for things to work out. Finally, on Monday we’re actively trying to catch Rufus and even when we do, he’s reluctant to give an answer. After long seconds of getting through his annoying sense of humor, we can finally take the relieved breath: the money is here! I’m so happy I’m almost doing the victory dance – to sincere amusement of everyone. We can finally begin the full scale preparation – in total we have something over 2200 dollars now, more than enough. Gene gives me the assignment to calculate distances to check how much would fuel for 5 vans cost – worst case scenario, taking end of the world into account, it comes to 1100 dollars. Taking the food cost estimates for planned 35-40 people into account: 1700 dollars, not bad, not bad at all. We’re in business! In the end of the day Gene formulates draft itinerary, to which we carefully calculate distances and times… after which, distracted, I loose the whole thing. To add insult to injury I can’t even redo it, because the Internet connection breaks for good and I can’t get the distances again. Bummer!
At first Gene lists Little Bighorn Battlefield as one of our stops, but changes mind pretty quickly – I’m defending the idea because Rufus said the commemorative plate remembering Cheyenne as the key fighters in the battle has been finally erected. The final decision is that we’ll not go. I understand his reluctance, I don’t like this place either – it’s been heavily commercialized, it’s not as humble and quiet as the other battlefields we’ve been to last year.
The next day – two days before planned start of Epic, the final phase of preparations begins, Judi takes the van and heads to Billings to buy food and snacks for the trip. Gene makes first arrangements for making t-shirts that will be given away as gifts at the end of Epic. Everything goes smooth and easy… Too easy… In the evening we get the call – a deer got in front of the car, there was no way Judi could have avoided it. The damage doesn’t look menacing but radiator is dented and looks like the fan broke off, too. Judi is devastated, but we try to cheer her up – it’s obviously not her fault, it’s that STUPID (with strong emphasis on “stupid”) deer. The next day – and a day before the trip we take the van for a test drive to Birney and it turns not as bad as it looked – even with broken fan, the car runs nice and smooth without overheating. Eh piva (It’s good)! There’s some uncertainty though, although Tony didn’t not say “no” to taking a part in Cheyenne Epic, he’s nowhere to be found to confirm.
The night before first day I will remember for a long time. It was the time where all the bugs in Gene’s house suddenly decided I was the best supply of blood. I wake up at 4 AM with my right arm burning like on a live fire. It has well over twenty bite marks. Finally I end laying in the living room under a blanket, watching TV. In the morning though it turns out I’m not the only one the day started too fast for, though. Sleepy and a little moody, we set up to meet with other participants at the gas station. Hello! Tony’s here, waiting for us, very good! – we quickly pack the food onto his truck and wait for others… And wait… And wait… Finally, after having everyone arrive, we fuel up and move out with 45 minutes delay towards schedule. I’m riding with Tony and Eugene and two young men: Gene’s cousin Alex and Possum. We’re last, trailing the others – as Tony later explains, for warriors to be the last in the group was a privilege: their task was to defend others about possible attack and such from the back was easiest for the enemy to commence. I’m curious how Eugene will carry the presentation. I sort of know that Eugene has a very fresh approach to what is to be a Cheyenne (and because of such freshness Rufus, being “hardcore” traditionalist, doesn’t see eye to eye with him sometimes), but there’s still that little seed of doubt. It dies soon, as Eugene starts talking about the reasoning behind Cheyenne Epic and then Tony jumps in. Now I know why I liked to read Gene’s all email explaining things to me from a Cheyenne’s perspective. It’s not the “preaching”, it’s not the dry, isolated from reality, lecture about “Cheyenne of old vs. Cheyenne of today”. It’s exactly the opposite, it’s about how fragile the balance is. It’s about how to be a Cheyenne in the today’s world. It’s the question who actually is the Cheyenne and what makes a Cheyenne today. Its an advice on how to struggle against odds of life on the reservation while still being faithful to the ideals the Cheyenne of old held dear, incorporating these ideals in daily life. It’s not just about Cheyenne life, it’s about life in general. The camera quietly records all this, we’re going to edit it and publish as a presentation of Cheyenne Epic camp.
On our way we had to overcome a few unscheduled slowdowns before we finally reached Bear Butte. After a few logistical problems, one being lack of key to the lock of the gate separating the land north of the mountain and another being Gene’s van overheating for the first and only time, we moved to the south side, not as intimate and basically meant for the general public, but which ultimately proved to be good to settle down and have kids rest. Eugene, because of us being now almost two hours behind the schedule, has to be brief about what Bear Butte means to the Cheyenne and the story of Sweet Medicine. He still manages to convey why it is important to know, not just because of knowing the story, but because it is the history of their people, which was unwelcome by American government not until a few decades back and literally has been being hidden from them. I mentioned it in the last story about St. Labre Indian school, that was historically meant to “civilize” the Cheyenne, stripping them out of language, heritage and history and punishing desire to know and explore them. And when that knowledge would not be passed from one generation to another, there would be no Cheyenne anymore. Only the name would stay and Cheyenne as the people would disappear, just as Sweet Medicine warned. And that’s why they were here, to pass on the story and Sweet Medicine’s warning as other Cheyenne parents did that to their children in the past. The kids ask questions. One of the Gene’s twins is curious about when a boy becomes a man and when a man becomes a warrior. Gene explains smiling – a boy was considered a man when he was big and strong enough to use bow and arrow and hunt. And warriors? – when they went through initiation by a warrior society.
After leaving Bear Butte our pace relaxes slightly. We’re heading to Devils Tower and on our way we briefly stop at Vore Buffalo Jump, which I described in the previous text. The mountain from a distance greets us with unpleasant, thick cloud cover and barely no sun over it. I cautiously complain about it to Tony, who replies “maybe this it the picture you’re supposed to take?”, “HELL NO!” I smile to my thought.
Sure enough, as we draw near, the clouds disappear like magic and we can marvel at the mountain with a cloudless sky. I don’t hesitate and take photographs, but only after some time I realize I missed two things: one – I set the sensitivity higher than I supposed to and second – there were about five or six eagles circling the mountain. Gene shares the story about sister and her brothers who became stars of the Big Dipper after running away from an enormous bear that left claw marks on the mountain. After that we move down to the campground to have “a feast”. The park warden recognizes Eugene and we’re gifted with free coal for the grill and invited for a lecture about Lakota astronomy and astrology. From the beginning I have mixed feelings about it, just explaining Lakota name for a planet raises a red flag in my mind. My hunch is proven when the presenter starts explaining complex astronomical and even geological theories using Lakota point of view. Definitely it’s not paleo-astronomy, not even close. I didn’t share my views with Eugene, but not long after the lecture he was raising the same concerns. Yeah, fishy…
The warden brings us two copies of the Standing Witness: Devils Tower National Monument, A History book, we quickly look up Eugene’s name in it – Judi will later gift me one book, but it will disappear from my bag during the flight home unfortunately. Meanwhile our friend Neil Beartusk (see the last year’s story) and Tony fight with the grill to get it lit, without much success – I might add.
Suddenly another familiar looking car parks by, it’s Eugene’s mom and brother Joe with kids. Incidentally, the grill is lit and warming up. Now the feast can begin. Hot-dogs, beef and sandwiches – not bad for a limited budget. Meanwhile I’m craving for something smothering with sugar, but – oh agony – everything is dietary, ugh, not even a single soda can in reach… Something about 8 PM we clean up and gear up. Its a long way back. We will only stop to refuel once. Just after the sundown dark clouds start to gather on both sides of the interstate and soon we can marvel at two thunderstorms with spectacular light show. After two hours we’re back home… first. I ask Tony to leave me to wait for others. Soon enough another van shows up – now the twins are here, but Eugene with Judi are still on their way. Not for long – just 10 minutes, but we could marvel at cloudless sky and millions of stars. After getting in we exchanged thanks and tapped each other on the backs for a great day – a true success…
Day two – we overslept! Rushing towards gas station we quickly revise the plan. First we go to Medicine Lake, then the fish hatchery in Story, then Fetterman Battlefield and finally to Rosebud. We’re not the only ones oversleeping though, almost everybody’s late – except Tony, of course… Soon after we’re on the move. We briefly stop by the
Eagle Osprey nest by Kirby road, you can see two eaglets on their way to get they first feathers a pair of Ospreys (everybody makes mistakes 😉 ) sitting on the edge. I’m taking the picture of them, of course. Upon arriving at the lake DeSmet there’s slight confusion on finding the entryway, after driving back and forth we finally find it and unpack food at the rocky shore. Here, Eugene shares the story he learned from his father. For Cheyenne this lake has power, that’s why they call it Medicine Lake. After letting kids wade in the water and taking a few group photographs, we make a quick lunch and move on.
When we arrive at Fetterman Battlefield it’s almost empty – and it’s good so. We can spend some time and let the kids wander on the trail there. Gene tells the story pointing out that inscription on the stone monument there is actually plain wrong and misleading. It is a proof of political correctness, which calls a battle massacre, in where it was plain military fight the wake of Sand Creek massacre, where Black Kettle’s peaceful encampment was literally slaughtered by self-named militia. This was a main reason for the battle – a retribution. It states “an overwhelming force” without saying that Fetterman, angry at mocking him up “decoys”, foolishly led his men into a trap. It also attributes victory to Sioux under the command of Red Cloud. In the end it dramatically states that there were no survivors, again making it look like uneven fight. Gene and Tony give Cheyenne account of the battle, getting things straight. As Epic participants go on the trail, we can hear two newly coming tourists discussing just way too loud, to our amused grins, what they know (or rather think to know) about the battle. After everyone’s back from the trail, we drive to nearby fish hatchery – which, oops, turns to be closed (it wasn’t mentioned on their site). Oh, well, back on the road then.
We move to the last place for our journey today: the Rosebud Battlefield, for Cheyenne known as Where the Girl Saved her Brother. It is, again, described in the last years trip story. I do notice a difference though, ever since it’s became state park, there are much more “rules and regulations” plates hanging by the entrance, including… a parking fee (with no living soul around, go figure). After sharing the story of the battle we pack up and everyone returns to their homes. After a short rest we head for Ashland for my last sweat. It also feels special, because more and more people, like Dana, Gene’s mom and Joe arrive to take a part in it, so finally Eugene decides to make one additional round for newcomers. I’m thanking all, it’s a bittersweet feeling: although I’ll leave in less than two days I will still be in touch with many. I know I’m not an outsider anymore – not a mere tourist but liked and welcomed guest, some even suggest I’d stay longer (and I wish I could). There’s something else: when I was younger I made and said a few silly things in my naive belief that I’ll become a Cheyenne. Not any more, the longer I am on the rez among Cheyennes the easier is to be just myself – and it feels good that way.
In the beginning of the third day of Epic bad news arrive: one of the vans’ wheel broke yesterday – can’t be fixed on such a short notice. In addition another one’s tire starts to act funny. After short deliberation we decide to postpone the drive to Medicine Wheel and will just make a short ride around the rez, to Birney and then stopping at the banks of Tongue River. A few miles behind Birney – White Birney to be exact is the place where Battle of the Wolf Mountain, or Battle of the Butte took place. Many of present grown-ups admit that they haven’t known this place and the story of integrity and courage behind it.
The battle was held in wintertime of 1877 and proved fatal to combined forces of Crazy Horse and Two Moons. Military managed to capture some of Cheyenne people, especially women and held a defensive positions against warriors, who were fiercely rallying them to free their kind. The warriors finally retreated and, while historians assume it was because of strong blizzards, not many knew what was the true reason for that. But Cheyenne will know and the story is now being passed on to the next generations. Both Gene and Tony have many stories of virtue and standing for one’s ideals to tell, sometimes profound and sometimes humorous and tongue-in-cheek. After they’re done, we move to Ashland – but not through Lame Deer as we used to drive but with a road that I’ve never been to before and marvel the sights of rocky hills on the left and Tongue River on the right of the road. After we arrive we set up grill and get ready to do the feast. Women go to town to buy some more food and Gene drives to get the t-shirts. Meanwhile we go to swim and I should mention – I actually can swim, but really poorly. Upon encountering a deeper area and not being able to overcome the current, I’m finally asking for help – scaring “little Joe” a little. But it’s OK, I’m OK, nothing really happened. After an hour or so, everyone, who’s left, is back and we start the feast and give away t-shirts.
After the feast people slowly split and finally we too head home. I begin a slow-paced task of packing up. I still miss a few things, but it’s fine – there’s always next year to pick them up, I joke. There’s an obstacle though: Gene discovers flat tire in the truck and brainstorms on how we’ll get to Billings. Fortunately, his friend Neil Elkshoulder also heads there too, so we jump in – kids joyfully help me with the bags – and move out. As Gene wants to show some pictures to his friend, the obvious question pops in: where’s the computer? SCREECH (I wish)! Luckily we didn’t go too far and we quickly turn back and I bring back the items which were left – turns out Ev’s gift is among them, too. In the early dawn, finally the moment comes – I say bye to Gene and catch a shuttle to the airport. After several minutes I’m on my way home.
I feel so much different than last time: fulfilled, happy. It was an eventful and fruitful trip. And obviously, not the last one I’ll make to Lame Deer, Montana.
Memorable quotes and new words I learned on the trip
- “That’s ok – I make everyone look good” – Garry;
- “I don’t know what you’re trying to do to me, but I like it” – Me;
- “prairie dogging” – I’ll let you figure out that one by yourself;
- “FYF” – use when someone’s very funny.
You might wonder why no Cheyenne story is actually cited in the text. There are a few reasons, but there are two major ones. Firstly, it’s always the best when one experiences storytelling among the “real” people, giving it away in my story takes the whole “magic” away. There’s another, even more important reason, though. Cheyenne take great pride in their culture, I wrote that in previous text – not many non-Cheyenne are allowed to see their ceremonies. They pass their stories unchanged, making no room for (mis-)interpretation. One also must earn the right to – I felt humbled and privileged to, unfortunately many of the stories are now published and told from non-Cheyenne perspective. I’ll try to avoid it.