It ain't easy being indian


When I was a little brown kid the remedy for having skinned one’s knee or other abrasions was to summon a neighborhood dog and have them lick the wound. Rather like Republican health care plans. It was said, I don’t remember by whom, that dogs have cleaner mouths than humans and I in my ignorance went along with it. It was much later when I realized that dog’s can also lick their hind ends and what is so antiseptic about that? Ick. I love my dog, The Mitz, but she knows to limit her puppy kisses to my ears. Every so often she sneaks in a kiss on my face but I worry more for her because of all the cosmetic products I apply there.

It occurs to me that I write like I’m an old, old woman telling stories about my youth like it was last century. Oh wait! It was last century. I don’t ever want to be age seven or even 25 again, but what I do miss is my mobility and ease of movement. Oh, the long gone days of skipping, hopping, jumping and practicing for the Olympics by doing backbends and cartwheels! Alas! Alas!

Nowadays, and I mean like right now, I am on medical leave from work; I slipped on my way to work on my own front ramp on the first frost of last season. I was wearing my Minnetonka moccasins that have the traditional plastic soles. I went out my door, took one step and slid, falling on my back and head. The Rezberry bus driver that day, Maddie, saw me fall and quickly tried to help me up. Of course I was dazed but I told Maddie that I thought I would be okay because I had landed on my head.

Well……..I’m not okay. Initially I was diagnosed with whiplash but the pain never went away, nor did I get better. So, back to my Doc. She had me X-rayed and then referred me for an MRI – you know, where you have to go into a tube, while there’s all this buzzing and bleeping sounds, and try not to panic. I said to the technician, "you’re not going out for lunch are you?"

Turns out my back is in bad shape (my words). I have several small protrusions on my spine and two large ones, one of which is pressing on the nerve that goes down both my legs. The result is me scuttling about like a five-legged crab while enduring chronic pain and misery. Sheez, yanno? Now I have a consultation with a neurosurgeon and I was like, what? Is he going to cure me of my neuroticism? I was informed that they specialize in the head and spine, but I would be totally open for neurotic surgery.

I have spent a lot of time alone and had time to think. What happened back in the day when an Indian got sick or broke a bone? My Great-Grandmother Delma passed on a remedy for skin infections. She put milk on a slice of bread, added sugar, applied it to the infected area and let it soak up the pus. I asked my Gramma Rose what she remembered and she was put on the spot but did say they used skunk oil glands on their chests to help cure the illness. Man, if anyone did that to me I would have a miraculous recovery real quick-like, I would even rise from the dead.

Indians discovered aspirin and many more healing techniques using herbs, grasses, and plants too numerous to cite here. My point is that our ancestors had it all in lock; that is until Those-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named arrived on our Eastern seaboard with their tactical weapons including germ warfare.

Some time ago I found a book in the library titled; "How the Indians Lived" by Frances R. Dearborn, published 1927 by The Athenaum Press. So I read the chapter on caring for the sick and I found these gems of wisdom:

The Indians did many queer things to stay well and to keep off the evil spirits. Sometimes they fasted, used ointments and took sweat baths to drive out the evil they thought was making them sick. The chapter includes a description of a medicine man. To wit: The medicine man might have been chosen because he knew unusual songs and prayers. The people liked it too if he could make strange and dreadful noises. In curing the sick person he sang and shook his rattles and tambourine and he danced. Besides doing all these things, he yelled and made terrible noises. And all the time he was waving his wand to send the evil spirits.

Ahem! Excuse me while I make strange and dreadful noises after reading this information.