So a truck comes this morning to haul away two abandoned cars
from the big open space
overlooking Tulalip Bay, the big open space where
sell to townspeople for celebrating the fourth of July.
Walking from the longhouse to the
school, tribal elder Raymond Moses pauses
their wreckerís towing crane into position and hoist both of the
beat, windowless hulks, one at a time, onto a flatbed trailer.
Raymond owns a little bit of July fourth, having been decorated for
bravery in Korea, fighting for the same army that killed so many Indians.
"Ironic, enit?" He grins, "But just like in World War II,
the other side wouldíve done us even worse."
Hitching at his Levis and tugging the bill of his "Korea Veteran" cap,
the old brave spits through stained teeth into the gravel and strides
slowly across the road, onto the parking area shared by tribal court,
tribal assistance and the tribeís alternative school for Indian kids.
Inside the school office, Raymond Moses glances out to
see the truck and trailer heading to town with the two wrecks and
those old eyes that watch the tribeís children daily in school,
those old eyes take on a familiar expression.
A horizon-gaze, brows compressing, almost squinting as when
a voter sees the same old
politics, or a laborer looks at his paycheck and feels
coming home disheveled, just after dawn.
Some kids call Raymond "Teatmus," storyteller or teacher in Lushootseed,
the pre-invasion language, and he
watches them grow through childhood when
those who stay will dance the rites of passage.
Raymond sees grandchildren of his contemporaries outgrow the
elementary school, middle school, high school, he watches dark eyes
peek through straight black hair at the sad path of parents who
bought at the carry-out because they werenít welcome at the bar.
Raymond Moses grins at hiphop clothes, juvie detention haircuts
he acknowledges resigned faces and he looks off when kids
make fun of the old ways, because he knows, when these kids
go into town they pass dozens of mute road signs naming their relatives.
At every curve, every crossroads on the road to town,
signs stand black and white and silent alongside the old road
"DONíT DRINK AND DRIVE (in memory of Jones, Hatch, Young,)
"DONíT DRINK AND DRIVE (in memory of Williams, Cleveland, Zackuse)
"DONíT DRINK AND DRIVE (in memory of Hillaire, Parks, Fryberg, Henry)
"DONíT DRINK AND DRIVE (in memory of dad, mom, uncle, auntieÖ)."
And long before legal age they drink on the way to town.
Raymond knows the signs along Tulalip Road, the road to town, built
decades ago by braves caught
speaking their language or their beliefs, braves on
drank their way along that road ó eased their pain, enit?
Painful how the land was taken, the language was taken, the old names
were taken and the old ways were taken and folks hung on to poverty
cause it was all they had left besides the pain of being unwelcome along
streets built on their ancestorsí ten thousand year homeland.
Raymondís old eyes show that loss, that resignation of witnessing the
drunken, mistaken exit of a loved one who may soon be named on a new
sign along Tulalip Road, or who may someday return to slowly fall apart
like these two abandoned wrecks on their last ride to the junkyard.
A while after the truck disappears up Tulalip Road, children
wander in to begin their schoolday, and Raymond Moses greets them
by name, greets them with a smile, with old eyes full of high expectations,
expectations that some will grow up strong and the tribe will survive.
Copyright © 2002 Thomas Hubbard. All Rights Reserved.