Friday, March 24, 2006

Putting the Indian in Indiana

I was in Second Grade in 1970-1971. It was my third school in three years. We lived in St Louis when I went to Kindergarten, and moved to Ft Wayne in the summer of ’69 (cue Bryan Adams) where we rented a house for a year while I went to first grade. We moved to a different rental house in ’70, which my parents eventually purchased and where we lived until 1977.

I was a very bright kid back in those days, before gifted programs. School was not terribly exciting for me. I knew how to read already, and I could to the basic math (I was not a math savant like my son). I remember telling my first grade teacher (Mrs. MacIntosh, bless her heart) that I just didn’t want to go to school anymore. I remember that during quiet time, I would go to the bookshelf to find the “L”encyclopedia that had the neatest entries about Robert E Lee and Abraham Lincoln. I loved the Civil war as a 7-year old. Man was going to the moon, and that’s what I was going to do on the way to being President of the United States. I loved reading about Presidents.

In second grade my teacher was Mrs. (Ruth) Cochran. I recall that she was 64 and very grandmotherly. As most teachers do, she would read from a book out loud to us almost daily. One of the first books she read was “Little Turtle, Miami Chief.” It didn’t say “Miami Chief” on the cover, so my first impression of the book, before she even opened it, was this was going to be a lame book about some turtle that talks and has adventures with life lessons along the way.

She started reading. The Miami Indians lived throughout the Midwest, including Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. One of their principle villages, Kekionga, was near the present site of Fort Wayne. Chief Little Turtle was one of their greatest and wisest War Chiefs. He was great because he killed a lot of his enemies so the Miamis could keep their land. He was wise because he knew that eventually the Indians would be defeated and when he saw that defeat was coming, he tried to convince the other chiefs to negotiate. He was ignored, and shortly later proved right.

He was cool because he adopted a 12-year old white boy, William Wells, who he loved very much but later allowed to re-join the Whites.

After defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Little Turtle helped to negotiate a treaty between the United States and the Indian nations. It was considered a good deal for the Indians. And we all know what happened to any treaty the favored the Indians.

This book entranced me. I imagined that the Indians must have lived in my very neighborhood. I would convince my pals to explore the woods that were near our homes, looking for artifacts and maybe even an old Indian who didn’t know that civilization had come to his land.

Thankfully, our school library had lots of local history books. I learned about Frances Slocum (who my First Grade school was named after), who was abducted by the Indians as a youth and as an old woman declined to return to her family after they found her. I learned that William Wells, the beloved adopted son of Little Turtle, was killed at the Fort Dearborn Massacre just weeks after Little Turtle passed away. Wells was killed by Indians while trying to escort white settlers out of the fort, and had fought so ferociously that when finally vanquished, the Indians who slew him cut out his heart and gave slices of it to warriors to eat, hoping that his courage, bravery, and skill as a warrior would be transferred to them. I learned this at age 8.

I would find out about many Indian battles. I never thought about who was right and who was wrong. I understood that the Miamis had to kill settlers and soldiers to keep their land. And I understood the Americans sometimes and to kill Indians to get the land they thought they deserved.

Mrs. Cochran was my favorite teacher. No one (until Steven Smith at A&M) turned on the lights for me like she did. This was back in the days when a teacher could take students out for supper, one or two at a time, and get to know them. Mrs. Cochran took me twice, once on a weeknight with another student, and once on a Saturday, just me. She took me to lots of the battle sites around Fort Wayne. She showed me the place where the Maumee River emerges from the St Joe and the St Mary’s, where Little Turtle won a battle in which the bodies of the dead created a bridge across the river. She took me to Little Turtle’s grave. It was right between a couple of houses in an older part of Ft Wayne. This was before “Historic Fort Wayne” was rebuilt in the late 1970’s. This was before Little Turtle’s gravesite was cleaned up and turned into a park area.

To this day I can’t pass an historical marker on the side of the road and not think of her.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to find a copy of “Little Turtle, Miami Chief” online. It is long out of print. But thanks to the power of the Internet, I found a copy on Amazon and ordered it. It arrived last week, and now I’m reading it to my son. When I told him that I wanted to read a book about Little Turtle, he expressed the same skepticism that I did 36 years ago. What could be interesting about a little turtle? For the last week, he has found out.

Thanks, Ruth. Thanks for turning the lights on for me. The Social Security Death Index tells me you passed away about 10 years ago, but your memory and love of books lives on.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Rusty Remarries!

(AP-Houston) Rusty Yates married Laura Arnold, 41, during a private ceremony Saturday at the church where they met.

The church minister said Yates chose to move on with his life while resisting temptation to pity himself.

Congratulations to the newlyweds. I hope Laura enjoys the isolation and control as much as Andrea did.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Reaching Out...Part 1 1/2

An update.

Nita has removed herself from the WIU Alumni Directory, and is no longer listed in Yahoo! White Pages.

I’m really hoping this isn’t my fault.

It was not a creepy letter.

And no, I’m not stalking her.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lent me, baby!

I gave up Diet Coke for Lent. Yes, it’s a little extreme. My Diet Coke consumption averaged about 4 gallons a week, or about 42 twelve-ounce cans, or 25 twenty-ounce bottles. My devotion to Diet Coke is famous, almost notorious.

There was no over-arching spiritual reason for giving up Diet Coke. I heard that a relative’s chiropractor suggested that aspartame was contributing to her back pain. Now, everyone has opinions about chiropractors. I happen to believe and respect them a little more than I believe and respect L. Ron Hubbard; which is to say, it’s a nice way to earn a living, but no thank you.

Still, I’ve been suffering from back pain for many years, and lately it is a lot worse. Conventional Medicine (CM) has diagnosed the problem to some extent, but is unable to find a solution to managing the pain. In other words I’ve been told to just “buck up”. The long-term solution to my back pain is to strengthen my abdominal muscles, which involves exercise. My fitness trainer sister says I should “engage my core”. I understand this. I’m not opposed to exercise. I need to make it a priority, and I’m sure to move it up on the list as soon as I stop hurting. In the meantime, if not drinking Diet Coke can help the pain go away, I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

It’s been two weeks, and other than a mild headache after Day 2 (relieved with Equate brand Headache pills -- a wonderful combination of caffeine, aspirin, and acetaminophen) I’ve had no ill effects. My craving for fizzy drinks has been resolved by drinking seltzer water. I bring a half-liter bottle to work, and then re-fill the bottle with bottled water throughout the day. I sleep better at night, and can probably focus a little bit better.

The only downside that I’ve found is that Mount Gay Rum does not taste so good with seltzer water. Their website suggests Tonic Water, but I’m not sure I would like that.

This has revealed something to me: I always thought it would be very difficult for me to quit Diet Coke, and it’s actually been quite easy. However, I always thought it would be easy for me to quit alcohol, and it hasn’t been as simple. If I do drink, it is on a weekend, and I’m don’t get ‘rip-roaring’, but when offered, I can’t say no.

The things we find out about ourselves

My back is still killing me, by the way. Each Friday night, I am in agony. Why it’s on Fridays, I don’t know. I can tell you this, three ibuprofen, three naproxen, three aspirin, and I feel a lot better. I’ll have liver failure, but I won’t be in pain.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Achilles' Heel

Living in the shadows of the things that might have been
Torn between the blessing and the curse
You may stop the hunger but you'll never slake the thirst
For the nectar you remember but you'll never taste again

Dan Fogelberg, from ” The Lion’s Share” on The Innocent Age album.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


If you want a piece of me, let me know.

Adrian, or may I call you Asshole for short, perhaps someday you will have a daughter. Then you might understand why everyone (with the exception of your asshole parents and your asshole friends) thinks you are a gaping asshole.

Just so we are clear, Asshole. After all, I wouldn't want you to ever feel victimized because you were charged with rape:

No girl or woman who is so drunk that she is vulnerable to having sex with 4 guys while being videotaped is ever "consenting". You were lucky this time to be found "not guilty". That doesn't make you innocent.

Where is your father? And why hasn't he kicked your ass yet?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Climate Psychology

In early December, when Northern Illini get their first serious snow (or, when we're most likely to get our first serious snow), we are quick to grab our snow shovels or fire up the snow-blowers and clear not only our driveways and sidewalks, but we also go an extra 20 feet or so and clear some of the neighbors sidewalks as well.

In March, when we get snow, our attitude changes. Looking down our street, I see that NONE of the neighbors (including me) has bothered to clear the 2 inches of late winter snow. Heck, it'll get up to 36 degrees today, let it melt!

I have a very long list of things I want to accomplish around the house (exterior projects), but all I can do is pace in front of the windows, because it is just too damn cold!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ten Years!

As much as I gushed over your brother yesterday, you remain my precious princess. You’ve inherited my smart-ass mouth, and it gets you in trouble with mom on just about a daily basis. On some level, I’m proud of that.

You are a great example to your brother. I give all the credit for his love of learning to you. You, too, love to read, and that is my greatest accomplishment as your father. I don’t know if I could give you a greater gift than the love of reading.

You remind me so much of my younger sister, so tall and lanky, and so beautiful. Your heart and spirit are even more beautiful. You are very thoughtful and concerned about the world around you. So much, in fact, that I find myself being mindful of what you see on the TV news each day. I try to help you make sense of all the bad things that happen, and reinforce the good that we are all capable of. You went with me to serve breakfast to the blind people last month, and I think you learned a lot about how fortunate you are, and how not having sight doesn’t seem to slow down these people. They cope, adjust, and succeed.

You are in a phase where you don’t seem to be interested in Girl Scouts or Cheerleading, or other group things. You want to stay home with Mom. I guess this is your adjustment to her going back to work…she’s home for you, but her focus isn’t completely on you like it used to be.

Now at age 10, you want to be a schoolteacher. I’m behind you completely. You love to learn, and you’ve taught your brother many things, including the “invisible elbow to the head” move that you have perfected. I can’t see it, but I know it happens. You can be very bossy and love to supervise. You will be a good wife to some lucky man some day (hopefully, after you are 40 years old, if I have anything to say about it!).

I am thankful that we have such a great relationship. I know that 5 years from now, you’ll hate my guts, but that will be temporary.

I still marvel how such a wonderful person could be the product of our love. I learn something from you every day, and look forward to tomorrow.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Connor-Bonnor Now 6!

Well, now you are six years old! You are, without question, the smartest six-year old boy I know. Your mind is screamingly fast. You have a deep sense of humor, if only to please your father. You devour Captain Underpants books, you even got the Big Melvin BM joke. You are awesome.

You are a thoughtful boy, too. You emptied your piggy bank to help Katrina victims. Although you like to tease, you get a little sensitive when someone returns the favor. You listen to what others say to you, and are concerned about how people think about you.

You don’t know this yet, but you are probably going to skip First Grade. It offers nothing for you. You won’t learn anything in First Grade. You already can do the math, you can already read, you write complete, complex sentences about both silly and serious things. You will miss your pals, but you will make new ones. I want you to do this, I need you to do this, because if you don’t, you will learn to hate school, you’ll be bored by school. I know what this is like. I know it will be a difficult transition, but I’ll support you.

Every night we read books that you bring home from school. I am thrilled that you are interested in so many things. We gave you the “Big Book of How and Why” for Valentine’s Day, and it is your Bible. You learned right away to look in the index for topics, and now you ask me for topics to look up. When was the first Comic Book published, anyway? You won’t leave the house without this book. I am so happy for you.

You are adjusting to Mom working. You get along with your older sister much better than I got along with mine.

A large part of you is just six years old. But in many ways, you are so much older.

You are a great son, and I am a truly fortunate father.