Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Walt and Henry and Jim and Sarah 
They were working on the form gang that summer. Walt and Henry were Omaha Indians who lived on the reservation. Jim was a student who needed a Summer job, one that paid good.
Sarah was another student who had said in a class with Jim that she wanted not to be married and that she would teach her children to do the same. She hung out with guys on the paving crew that summer, and sure enough when fall came Sally was expecting child. And not married.
Walt was a young Indian buck who after payday wouldn't come back to work the next day.  He smoked cigarettes and drank his booze.  Indians have a bad reputation for their booze, but on this job he did just fine.
Henry was old and wise. He would sit while on a break and pull out whiskers that he could find. This he did by pinching them in his spring from an old window roll-up shade and then pulling them out.  He didn't have many to pull. He said that Indians don't have very much facial hair. Jim had  sometimes pretended to be an Indian and this learning spell about Indian hair gave him doubts but what he was indeed part Indian himself.
There was an old Ford truck that at first only Walt drove.  Filled it up with forms and took them upfront where another gang would make a rail-combo-form to use the next day.  The mixer rode the rails, from Tekamah to Craig, making cement along the way.  That was a long three month task, just right for a summer job.
Jim had another summer job the year before.  His foreman got nasty one day, before a bunch of girls and young ladies working with him in the corn fields detasseling the seed corn.  And he invited Jim to play.  Jim declined his game and the nastiness ended right there.  Jim called it an "escapade almost," but there were no accolades for him for saying no.
Jim learned a lot that summer from working and talking with those Indians.  But ask him what he learned and he'll only remember for his telling that those Indians are nice fellows who worked very hard, were clean, well mannered, and for sure they didn't play nasty games. 
And that one, young man Walt, taught Jim how to drive that form truck that they had named Hot Rod.  It wasn't for certain that Henry knew how to drive.  Oh yes, Sarah proved to the town that the paving crew was up to no good and that they should keep their daughters reined in.

This is a true story the best I can remember.  Some of the names I changed.

[click on pictures to enlarge]
Photos and poem copyright, Jimmiehov 2014, all rights reserved
Today I am linked with Susie Clevenger at the 
Susie challenged us to appreciate and help disseminate "the voices of Native Americans. They have a profound connection to earth, nature, spirit, and wisdom."  Then she listed some profound quotations by some of the Indian folks. 
A quote she posted that may be appropriate for today's revelations here might be:
'"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset." - Blackfoot.'  
Very likely I ("Jim") am the only one now living of these four characters as they were all older than me, even "Sarah" I believe.
I wrote of a highway paving summer job experience where I worked alongside a couple of Native Americans for my specialized job as a 'form gang' member.  "Sarah" was not employed by the paving company and not even seen by the American Indians but was affected by the other workers' presence in our town.

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At Wednesday, August 20, 2014 7:59:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

How fortunate to have experienced a connection like this with Native Americans along with other folks of differing backgrounds. A wander down memory lane, shared, makes for a good story.

At Wednesday, August 20, 2014 8:16:00 PM, Blogger Jazzbumpa said...

Interesting vignette

You could develop this into a pretty good short story, along the lines of Raymond Carver or T. C. Boyle.


At Wednesday, August 20, 2014 10:51:00 PM, Blogger Susie Clevenger said...

Yes, this would make a great short story. I lived in Oklahoma for nine years, and I met a lot of Native Americans. I wish I could have spent more time with them, learned more from them. Thanks so much for sharing your story for the challenge!

At Wednesday, August 20, 2014 11:44:00 PM, Blogger 21 Wits said...

What a fine storyteller you are!

At Thursday, August 21, 2014 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Sherry Blue Sky said...

A wonderful story. I worked for eight and a half years among First Nations and such honest, warm people, who love to laugh, they were and are!

At Thursday, August 21, 2014 6:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting, Jim. Good memory.

At Thursday, August 21, 2014 9:10:00 PM, Blogger Magaly Guerrero said...

Interesting things happen when people the world thought different from one another spend time together... and teach the world that people are just people.

At Thursday, August 21, 2014 10:12:00 PM, Blogger Sumana Roy said...

a wonderful write Jim, you've beautifully expressed the virtues residing in the Native Americans' characters...

At Friday, August 22, 2014 1:30:00 PM, Blogger Chatty Crone said...

You know I have never ever met a native American Indian. I would like too. Sounds like they have some great values - which we need more of.

At Friday, August 22, 2014 11:57:00 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

I agree with the above and also think this is great fodder for a short story. Nicely captured, Jim.

At Saturday, August 23, 2014 1:08:00 PM, Blogger restlessjo said...

Nice to find you doing different things, Jim. Life's too short to put all your eggs in one basket, isn't it? :)

At Sunday, August 24, 2014 6:45:00 AM, Blogger audrey` said...

Richness in diversity, Dr Jim :)

At Monday, August 22, 2016 10:11:00 PM, Blogger Gel said...

JIm, it's easy to tell that the exprriences that summer had a profound effect upon you as a young man. Your appreciation, knowledge, and caring for Native American people as individuals is captured well here. It seems like this story came from deep within your heart.


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