Hawk Stone

A True Story of Mitakuye Oyasin

One afternoon, returning from an appointment, as I was driving west on Delmar Boulevard, close to Old Bonnehomme Road in Clayton, MO., a Red Tail hawk swooped down in front of the car ahead of me. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Missouri but for it to happen on a busy street at the beginning of rush hour was unusual. Unfortunately for the hawk, he was not careful enough to avoid the car and was struck.

The car that hit the hawk kept going as if nothing happened. As I got close enough, I stopped my car, out on the emergency lights and got out to see if there was anything I could do. Tragically, the injuries sustained by the hawk were massive, and he appeared to be dead.

Having work gloves in my car, along with small, plastic garbage bags, I set about picking the hawk up to transport him to the wild. As I slowly picked him up, one talon grabbed onto a flat stone and locked it in place. It was almost as though he was clinging to life but failed.

I tried to remove the stone, but it was as tough complete rigor mortis had rapidly set in, and I could not remove it. Taking this as a sign, I brought the body home and amputated both talons and a few feathers which I preserved. The remainder of the body, I took out to Creve Couer Park, near the Missouri River and returned it to the wild.

Since that day, I sense I have a connection to a power greater than myself.

I feel my eyes opened to the true meaning of Mitakuye Oyasin.

Living Mitakuye Oyasin

A true story.   

At the turn of the 21st Century, I received my Social Security Disability which allowed me to stop living on the streets and get a place. I found a furnished room with bath and carport (I had no car), in the Casa Grande no-tell Motel on Rte 66 (Watson Rd.) in suburban St. Louis. It wasn’t the Days Inn, but it was out of the weather. The rules didn’t allow cooking in the rooms, so I got a small grill and put it in the carport, there to enjoy my grande cuisine; also got a microwave and small coffee pot.

The motel still exists; it’s on a business strip, heavily trafficked with a small creek and wooded area in the rear; probably more like a drainage ditch. I suspected there were raccoons and possum back there, so, rather than throw away foods I couldn’t eat, I would place it in a small dish I secured on a low tree limb. It worked; miraculously, every night, the food disappeared. Lol.

What I also began to notice was raccoon paw prints in my carport, so I got dry dog food and a couple of plastic bowls from the dollar store and put it out there and the miracle of miracles, every night the food disappeared All that remained was soggy crumbs in the water bowl.

Slowly, as the raccoons and I got accustomed to each other, I would leave my room door open while sitting just inside; there to watch the action. To say the least, it got interesting. I had eight regular visitors and a couple of party crashers. I tried getting them to wear name tags, but they refused to be labeled.

On the perimeter of my carport was a concrete curb. The side away from my door had bushes where the raccoons had blazed a trail to the food dishes. Almost as soon as the sun started going down, they would appear; most heading towards the food but one occasionally marching right into my door and checking things out. Then one night, she sat at the top of the curb trying to climb down, but her front paws weren’t working.

As I watched her struggle, she would look at me cautiously as if to say, “Will you harm me?” Using my walking stick, I put some food on the end and slowly pushed it her way. She was hungry but couldn’t feed herself. It was then that I noticed that both of her front arms were broken so I walked closer and put food within her reach.

In the morning, I called a friend who worked with wild animals and told her the story. That afternoon, she brought over a trap, and we set it up. The next morning, there was my little friend waiting patiently, as if to say, “About damn time you got up!”

We took her to the rescue center vet who operated, repairing both arms. The vet stated it appeared she had attempted to climb into a dumpster when the heavy open top flew over and smashed her arms before she could avoid it. I think the operation took about six hours. When done, the vet said he wasn’t sure it was going to work, but hoped so.  He kept her for a few days of observation then released her to my friend who would nurse her. She also paid the $ 6,000.00 vet bill.

Following about four weeks of recovery, she was fit enough to leave so we took her back home and released her. She stayed close then one night didn’t come. She was gone for maybe four weeks when she suddenly reappeared at my door with four little ones in tow. They walked up to me as if to say “Hi, gramps, we’re home.” No fear, no anger just as if they always belonged.

It was a reminder that Mitakuye Oyasin is real.

Voices long silent speak only truth.

Last night, in my dreams

A shadow did appear.

Pure ebony spirit

No reason did I fear.

His voice familiar,

His manner serene.

He spoke with love’s passion,

His peace I did glean.

“We stand with you.” said he.

“There shall come a renewal.”

“Forgotten lessons of our past.”

“Once taught in life’s school.”

“See not with your eyes,

those deceptions vast.

But know with your heart,

Love shall recast.

Hate not another,

For color of skin.

But remember always,

Mitakuye Oyasin

Things I Never Told Nana

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My father and I never bonded, hell sometimes I wondered if he even knew who I was. From the time I was born until age 15 when he died, he only actually communicated to me twice. Oh yeah, once in a great while he told me to do things, but that’s talking, not communicating. My bad, I forgot, he taught me the difference in spelling lavatory and laboratory when I was about eight, but that was it for father/son bonding. I can remember as a young kid how I wanted to badly for my dad to notice me the way he seemed to notice my two older brothers, especially the older one, Ronnie. But he didn’t: as a matter of fact neither did Ronnie.

I first began to notice this when we moved from our house in Camden, a suburb of Minneapolis to an apartment over the “dairy store” my parents bought at 1119 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. In the front room, which was over the front part of the store, my parents had their bed set up in a closet area. Next was the living room with an inside staircase to the store, then my brothers’ room (I had two brothers) was next to the dining area where the space heater was. At the back wall of the dining area was a door into the kitchen, bathroom and my room sort of behind the refrigerator (a Kelvinator, in case you wanted to know). My room was the darkest as it only had one window which had a large tree overhanging it. I always wanted to climb that tree but never did because I was afraid of heights: the fact is heights still bother me but not as bad as when I was a kid.

The kitchen had a door leading out to a very scary old set of wooden stairs leading down to the dirt parking lot in back of the store. About halfway down, there was a small landing then where they made a left angle (if you were ascending) turn and ran adjacent to the “bottle shed” where we stored all the empty refundable bottles. Everything was refundable back then, well not exactly everything, I wasn’t, but then that was my fate. Almost from the time I could walk, it was my job to sort the empty bottles by make, size and what they were used for. I learned to hate Grain Belt and Hamm’s beer bottles cause their labels were always sticky.

Constructed of corrugated tin panels over the wood frame on a dirt floor, the “bottle shed” had no heat in winter and no air conditioning in summer. Winter wasn’t so bad, but summer was a killer with the heat, humidity, and bugs. Come to think of it, we had those same three problems in the apartment, the bugs especially in my room because it was almost right over the shed. I can remember having a lot of those sticky fly traps things hanging over my window and the doorway. The spiders never had to weave webs in our home, the fly traps provided their meals.

My room was the coldest one in our apartment, but I got used to it. Guess that’s why I can’t sleep well when it gets too warm in my bedroom now. Thank God for central air conditioning, back then we cooled at night by setting a block of ice in a large bucket then having a fan blow over it. If that didn’t work, we soaked our sheets, then got as much water out of them as possible before wrapping ourselves in them to lay down in front of the ice block. I’m surprised I never wet the bed, then or now.

I don’t recall my mother ever coming into my room at bedtime for anything other than to tell me to put the book down and go to sleep. My dad didn’t even come in to do that. Nope, I never heard: “Did you brush your teeth? Did you go to the bathroom? Did you say your prayers? I wasn’t subjected to any of those ridiculous practices. To this day, I don’t know if my brothers were either because they slept near mom and dad; I didn’t have to.

I was lonely at times, but I had my good friend Teddy with me. Yep, you guessed it, I had a real Teddy Bear. Nana gave him to me, and I named him Teddy; I was talented even as a child. Nana told me that Teddy was named after President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt so I should be proud; I was, and still am.

I told Teddy everything – all my hidden stuff and more. Even things I tried talking to Nana about, but they might hurt her to know. I don’t know why I felt that way other than the fact that I never, ever wanted to hurt her in any way. I guess I was afraid of losing her love yet knew Teddy would always love me: he was the brother I never had.

For awhile, I wanted to call Nana and tell her everything, but I didn’t dare. Back in the 1950s, we didn’t have cell phones, and long distances calls were expensive. There was no way I could hide calling on our phone, and I didn’t have money to use the pay phone on the corner. I think I once tried to call her on the police call phone next to the pay phone, but the operator told me to hang up. It was ok though, I probably could not have heard Nana with all the buses and streetcars making noise. I liked the streetcars but the buses always coughed black, smelly smoke when they started to more.

My older (by 3 years) brother David hated Teddy, but I think he hated me even more because he would do things to hurt me. He would think it funny to steal from me, lie about me and even harm Teddy. Once, he even cut Teddy’s neck so bad I had to suture it up. That’s when I learned how to sew, not real well but I did suture my Teddy until Nana could show me how to do it properly. She said I did a good job of basting it then gave me a curved needle and heavier thread to “heal your Teddy.”  I actually enjoyed hand sewing for many years and later in life when I began getting arthritis, I started to do satin stitch embroidery. I figured that is Rosie Greer could do needlepoint, so could I.

“Be sure you sew the cloth, not the fingers!” was Nana’s credo. Funny, even now, some sixty odd years since last we spoke, I can still hear Nana’s voice. She was a born teacher; one that never stood at the head of a class but she was always at the head of my class.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom of My Nana

As a child, I often sat with my grandmother beneath her grape arbor in Mankato, MN, there to talk and listen to her stories of nature. She was not a learned person in the sense of a formal education, but she was a sagacious woman in the ways of the world. Tragically for me, and the world I lost her when I was fifteen.

Before she died, she had to have one of her legs removed because diabetes had shut down the circulation and she was developing gangrene. I lived in Minneapolis, MN, at the time so I went to Mankato, (90 miles) and stayed at the hospital with her from the night before surgery, during surgery and most of the day after, when I had to leave. That was the last time I saw her or heard her voice. Her last words were, “we will share our love of nature under the arbor again one day.” I miss her wisdom.

Starting yesterday, and continuing throughout the night and into today, St. Louis, MO is experiencing severe storms. The thunder rages like the sounds millions of buffalo stomping over the plains in the days that were. Lightning, the arrows of Father Sky, piercing the darkness,   illuminating their way while torrents of rain assail their path. These were the visions my grandmother gave to me. She made me understand that nature is not science, nature is alive.

When I would ask her why storms came, she would tell me about how she had to do the spring cleaning of her house and that Mother Nature was no different.

“Mother Nature’s house is much bigger than ours.”, she would say. “She has more work to do, so she tells Father Sky he has to help her.”

“Make the Sky Buffalo run over the cloud prairies to warn all the creatures that we are going to clean. Wake them with the light of your arrows that they may prepare and seek shelter.”

But Nana, the wind blows so hard it shakes my brain to pieces!

“Child, pay attention, it is rare that the wind begins by blowing that hard but if it should then you best hide down in the root cellar cause a tornado may be coming. You don’t recall cause you were only two, but a big twister came through the town in 1946  killing eleven people and injuring a hundred or so more. They are very dangerous.”

Does Father Sky send tornadoes to hurt people?

“I don’t think so. I’m not sure what causes twisters but, like everything else in nature, they serve a purpose. Perhaps it’s a way for nature to make sure humans know who is really in charge. An old Lakota lady once told me that twisters were nature’s way of cleaning out the weak and cutting new paths for the strong. Heard tell on the radio that cold and warm air crashing together cause them. I just do not know.”

What happens to the animals when a tornado comes?

“Sadly, many animals are killed by twisters because they have nowhere to hide from them. Humans, at least the smart ones know enough to find shelter when they can.”

Nana, does the Sky Father always send twisters when he sends the winds?

“No darling, sometimes he just sends the big winds to clean out the old nests and dead branches from trees so there can be new ones.”

But Nana, if he does that, he might hit me on the head with a big branch or nest!

“That is possible, yes but most of the time the Sky Father will send warnings such as gusts of wind, thunder and many times the temperature will suddenly drop just before the storm to warn us. Course, nowadays, we have the weather guessers who might be able to predict a coming storm.”

So the Sky Father makes the wind blow and the rain fall to help the Earth Mother clean her trees and stuff?

“That’s right hon, he washes out old branches, nests, leaves and even dead animals then rinses the trees to wash away the dust.”

And the Earth Mother likes for him to do this?

“I believe she does for aren’t we all a part of her? Don’t the minerals contained in decaying branches, leaves, and animals return to the soil to help fertilize it?

But Nana, if it rains really, really, really hard all that water will fill up the creeks and rivers to flood stuff!

“Yes, that is true but what happens when there is flooding?”

I dunno know.

“Just like the trees, when Father Sky sends his rain down upon Mother Earth, the water washes away natural debris and vegetations into our streams and rivers. There, the debris-filled water will carry its burden to larger rivers such as the Mankato River which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. As the rivers fill with water and debris, they will overflow their banks and fill the land. When the water recedes, it leaves the sediment which is a natural fertilizer. I heard that this happens every year in the Nile river in Egypt and it may happen in your lifetime. “ (Nana, if you’re listening, it occurred in 1993 – worst flood in history.)

Nana, does the Earth Mother have a big dumpster or trash can to put stuff in?

“She certainly does, she has seven of them – the Seven Seas.”

But Nana, what happens to all that sediment stuff that goes into the seas?

“That which can be recycled by Mother Nature will be. That which cannot becomes deltas such as we saw down in New Orleans.”

I remember, but we saw stuff like soda bottles, and glass and stuff down in the delta place.

“Sadly, you are right. There are things that even Mother Nature cannot rapidly fix. It is a tragic mistake of human greed and indifference that produces the filth and poisons we see on our Mother Earth every day. Perhaps one day people will wake up before it’s too late and realize what they have done.”

Nana, I miss you and love you more now than ever before.

Did you ever?

Did ever rest by tranquil stream,

In Maple copse, neath amber bower,

There to ponder pleasant dream,

Midst opulence of Nature’s power?

Did ever smell a forest floor,

Its perfume forever rife,

Eternal turmoil to the fore,

Where death transforms to life.

Did ever walk on forest path,

Where shades obscured the sun,

An anxious sense of virgin wrath,

Did force your heart to run?

Did ever hear gnarled oak tree cry,

A chipmunk’s song,

Or Cougar’s sigh,

Linger still for you may erelong.

Did ever see a woodland sprite,

A goblin, nymph or gnome,

Take silent walk in late, late night,

Perhaps you’ll find one home.

Did ever sit by burning log

A chill to warm, alone you thought,

Yet voice did hear within your fog,

“Rest my child, your sins I bought.”

WE ARE ALL RELATED!

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Mitakuye Oyasin

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Mitakuye Oyasin to you all my relations.

 

Papa Nyk