Fond du Lac Follies


Fond du Lac Follies motored to Oklahoma with my family. I had been invited to Tahlequah by Richard Allen, a Marine who had served during the Vietnam War. He asked if I could talk about that war and recite some of my poetry. I said shore.

First of all, I could have flown there from Duluth, Minnesota and rented a car when I was close. I decided against that because I didn’t want to be groped or radiated at the airport.

So, we took a road trip. We estimated the distance as 850 miles, mostly interstate. Our plan was each driver would do 200 miles then trade off. That worked well for us and we got to see Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri from the four lane highway. We only stopped for fuel for the car and us.

Near Joplin, we continued following our planned highway to meet a highway that led to Tahlequah. We didn’t know two states had the same highway number and we found ourselves in Arkansas. The road narrowed, and at times rock ledges covered both lanes of the highway.  They were huge chunks of rocks that had fallen off the ledges in both ditches. On that narrow dark highway I thought I heard banjo music from the movie Deliverance. We were glad when we found the highway that went to Tahlequah.

It was hot there and the sun was merciless. The temps were in excess of 100 degrees (F) and we noticed the people didn’t walk, they sauntered.  So right away we tried to saunter.  After a while we got good at sauntering. We leisurely strolled along. One of the places we strolled to was one of the Cherokee’s casinos. We won enough at the slots to buy a tank of gasoline.

One of the places we sauntered to was the Cherokee Cultural Center. There we learned more about the history of the Cherokee people. We also met Richard Allen and shared a roast pork feast and listened to some Cherokee singers.  

The following morning we motored to the the University where the days events were being held. I did my part by speaking and handing out wild rice.

The next day we went home. We started early in the morning long before the sun’s rays came into view. We once again took turns driving our 200 miles each and before dark we were home again. The trip home didn’t seem to take as long as the trip there. We celebrated by going to the Black Bear Casino where we lost enough to pay for a tank of gasoline.

**** The Thursday night language table at Fond du Lac has started again.  Dan Jones is back from his sabbatical so he is once again teaching us. He also has a whole load of new corny jokes.

**** Manoominike mii omaa, we are making rice right here in Sawyer.  The lakes were bountiful and there were many pleased ricers. The Rez was buying rice at four bucks a pound.  

On one day when I crawled out of my sickbed the average canoe came in with 55 pounds of rice. My wife Patricia, the old pro, came in with 84 pounds. She was ricing with my son Jimmy. He is the guy who won the rice pole race at the language camp last June. We will eat good manoomin until next ricing.

We set up our rice camp in the yard where we always set it up. My son Aaron and nephew Kris put the kettle just the way I like it. I didn’t have to tell them how to do anything but I was ready to. It wasn’t long before the smell of wood smoke and parching rice was wafting through the yard. We parched and parched. Channel 10 from Duluth came out to film what we were doing, I made it a point to park the Corvette so it would be part of the show.

Aaron and Kris rebuilt the dancing pit and the dancing and fanning commenced. We had a lot of people who came to learn how we make rice.   There were even some students from Germany who came to spend some time in the dancing pit. They didn’t come just to learn how to make rice; we were just part of their exchange program from Cloquet High School.

I am glad we make rice like this every year, wouldn’t dream of selling our rice to the Rez even if they were offering eight bucks a pound.  

**** My wife wanted to wish our daughter Dolly Dow Happy Birthday in the Follies but I told her we couldn’t use valuable column space for a personal message like that. Mino-debishkam my girl Dolly Dow.

**** Mii iw. Mii sa iw.