from The Reservation by Ted C. Williams

One of my favorite memoirs is THE RESERVATION by Ted C. Williams, Tuscarora. I have a copy I've managed to hold onto for awhile. I usually lend it out and don't get it back. It was published in 1976 by the Syracuse University Press. Don't know if it's out in a new edition.

I included a chapter for my memoir-writing class to chew on and enjoy. There's nothing like those old-time storytellers. Even in print in Williams account you can hear the nuances of the voice, see and hear the gestures. And you laugh along with everybody else in the pages.

Here's an excerpt, about gift-giving near the holidays as everyone is gathered in the church, from the chapter "The Feast". The best part in the chapter is the account of the hunting contest and the debate at the feast. Maybe I'll try and scan and include later. We need some laughs, and to learn from this talented storyteller how to tell a real story.

"..Next came the giving out of the presents and here's how that was done. Every present had to have the name of the person of who it was for, shouted out, before it could be taken to that person. So two women were appointed to yell until their voices gave out. The some man referee let in a substitute.
It was my habit as it was most others, too, to give trick presents. Like, I might transfer the label from a tin can of peaches with the pretty pictures of the peaches on it to a can of surplus meat and give that away. Once I found a lead brick that weighed seventy tons and I painted it gold and put a red ribbon on it and gave it to Jumbo. I had to have Ju-gweh carry it up the back stairs, it was so heavy. Or, for instance, I happened to have a look up as the names were being called out and Goth-hoff (give me) was holding up a toy bugle and yelling, "Lye Man." Lye Man had just been in a car accident and had all his front teeth knocked in. Another time Mars was holding up a pair of four-runner kids' ice skates and yelled out Annie Dink's name. Annie Dink could hardly walk because she weighed, maybe, two-fifty. Naturally, it was late by the time that these mountains of presents were given out, even though there was a steady stream of kids taking arm loads 'round and 'round the church..."

Just a bite.

A fine up-and-coming writer Eric Gansworth from up that direction reminds me of Ted C. Williams in style and humor. He's Ondondaga, raised in Tuscarora country. I believe his last book was MENDING SKINS.

1 comment:

redbird said...

Hi Joy, Homer here-
this post reminds me of my family and I guess alot of Native families. Someone mentioned to me once about "Indian humor" and I tried to explain that I guess it's like we try to have a "balance" in situations. Indian people have a way of making humor out of the most horrific situations. I agree we do need more humor these days