The barn is built on the slope of a hill. The dirt floor in all stalls is uneven. In winter, although it isn't aesthetic, I rake up the night deposits and instead of loading up buckets to carry them out, I use the material to level the floor as best I can, a bit at a time. This involves packing the stuff down with my feet in a pathetic excuse for a native American circle dance: step to the side, together, step to the side, together. My imagination fills in the buckskin clothing and rhythmic drumbeat as I do my doo-dah dance and, of course, my mind goes free-wheeling again.
In what might seem a checkered career (it all made sense then), there was a time when I rented a spare room to boomers, out-of-town iron workers. The most memorable returning guest was Joe, a Chippewa Indian who was legendary in the trade for many reasons. One thing about Joe; he could drop asleep anywhere, anytime, and once he was asleep there was no waking him. Deb was living with me then. She came home late one night, came in and woke me, saying, "Mom! There's an Indian asleep at the dining room table!" "Yes, dear. That's Joe and he'll be staying here for awhile." "Shouldn't we wake him?" "I tried." Joe and I had been sitting, talking, and making arrangements for his rent when he went out like a light. I was just glad I'd removed his dinner plate before his head hit the table. His buddies were known to rent a pool table for the night if Joe happened to crawl up on one for a nap; easier than trying to get him to go home. Joe was big. When I opened the front door to his knock, he completely filled the space. He referred to himself as the FBI (freakin' big Indian). Joe was full of get-rich-quick schemes and he was a story teller. Deb and I loved to listen to his rough, gravelly voice as he told of his trips back to the Michigan "rez," and his friend, White Mouse. Joe was notoriously late for work, but his bosses put up with him just to hear his outrageous excuses, made up on the spur of the moment and funny as all get out. Iron workers are a close-knit clan, a tribe unto themselves, who work hard at a dangerous job and party even harder. My boys, well, they became honorary members. Dave has stories of his own to tell of his times with the guys. "Act like a lady and you'll be treated like a lady," was the men's creed, and neither Deb nor I was ever worried in their company. Later, Joe and Steve became great friends. We sure had a lot of fun.
Yah'eh-teh seems to be a universal greeting. I'd sure like to say it again to Joe. He liked to dance, too.