I began seeing advertisements for a play called The Great Hurt by Carl Gawboy. It was written about boarding schools. I have long admired his work as a painter, even used one of his paintings on the front cover of Walking The Rez Road when it was reprinted.
This play was showing a new facet of his talents. I made plans to attend a reading of his play in Duluth at the College of St. Scholastica, Mitchell Auditorium because I was a boarding school survivor.
Then, in a late afternoon surprise, I got a phone call from Carl himself. He asked if I would read what I had written about my boarding school experiences. I said shore (which in a Minnesota accent means sure).
Carl said he would send me a script and asked if I would dress all in black. I looked at my wardrobe and decided that would be easy to do because I have a lot of black clothes. That might be a survival mechanism because of our long Minnesota winters or I could still be honoring Johnny Cash’s memory.
On the night of the event I took only a small part of my extended family to the doings. I took one wife, two sons, one daughter in law and one nephew. We got there in time to miss rehearsal but since I was reading my words I knew it would be real easy.
The doings started off with a welcome song by the Little Horse Singers.
After some introductory remarks, the readers began reading the words of Captain Pratt of Carlisle and some students from that school, and time period. I read my words. My part was about Pipestone Federal Boarding School near the town of Pipestone, Minnesota.
After the other readers painted the grim picture of boarding schools I told a story about running away and my recapture. Later as an adult I learned area residents were paid a bounty for recapturing runaways. Before I recited my poem "Ditched" I asked the boarding school survivors in the audience to stand for a moment.
There was a discussion about boarding school with questions from the audience. There was a reception following the traveling song by the Little Horse Singers. I felt glad to share my sad history of boarding schools.
**** Fond du Lac Follies motored to Green Bay, Wisconsin to take part in some veterans doings. Dan King, the Oneida Veterans Service Officer had asked me to come and talk about my time in the military and to recite some poetry. Dan and I had walked on the same veteran’s trails in years past. My wife Patricia traveled with me.
It was easy to get to Green Bay because we traveled in between the snow storms. We Googled our way across Wisconsin and checked into the casino hotel when we arrived.
We were driven to the Supper Club where the doings were held. The reception we received from the Oneida veterans was mamaakaaj, truly astonishing. We were treated like rock-star royalty and were ushered to a table. We ate supper at the Supper Club and were given many smiles and nods from the Oneida veterans. What a warm welcome I thought.
I noticed how well the veterans got along with each other, the feeling of camaraderie was as tall as a parachute flare and was as wide as a 155 mm artillery shell. Some veterans told me they had seen and heard me when I was at LZ Lambeau. One even told me I was the star of that show at Lambeau Field.
Our table was selected to go first through the chow line and of course I had to buy some 50/50 raffle tickets on the way by.
I stood up and told some stories about my time in the military and recited poetry about my time in the Vietnam war and afterwards. I could tell my words were resonating with the Oneida veterans. I felt like I was related to the veterans there, even the not so pretty ones. There were young veterans, old veterans, female veterans and family members.
I would gladly go back to Green Bay and visit with the veterans there anytime.
After the doings, we went back to the casino where we had some modest wins on the slot machines. I noticed the difference between their casino and our casino. There, a lot of people dress up for a night at the casino, slinky dresses and high heels on the women, suits and sports coats for the men. At our casino there were not as many dressed like that.
We motored home with a full tank of gas and full smiles on our faces. The warm welcome will be long remembered.
**** Mii sa iw.