Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Childhood fears - One minute writing

The thing I was afraid of when I was a kid was the Indian I used to see outside my bedroom window.  He had feathers in his hair and I knew he was there . . . watching . . . stern-faced . . . never mind that my bedroom was on the second floor of the house.  In the daytime, I could see that it was probably just the shadow from the streetlight coming through the tree outside my room, but at night, it was definitely an Indian, and no mere pane of glass was going to protect me from those eyes.

There is a One Minute Writer website where a prompt is given each day.  Today the prompt was "What were you scared of when you were a kid?"  And this is what came out from that prompt.  I didn't even have to think about it - even after all these years, that fear came back to me instantaneously.

Too many westerns watched as an impressionable child?  Maybe.  The Native American man who lived in a school bus near the path I took almost daily to Janey's house in the summer?  I'm sure he played a part in it too, although I never even heard him speak.  In fact the only time I ever used to see him was when he would walk past our house on his way to Mr. Kimber's corner store with an empty beer bottle in a brown paper bag and then a few minutes later when he would pass again with his bag containing a full bottle.

Growing up where I did, the minority that was discriminated against was Native Americans.  There were no black or hispanic people up there in the snow zones at that time - just lots of scandinavians, a few germans and englishmen - and the Native Americans.  Since the whites vastly outnumbered the reds, the Native Americans were seen as "other" than the rest of us.  It never occurred to me as a child that their ancestors had been there long before ours came from Europe.  And no adults ever pointed that out to me.

Our school mascot was the Redman, and none of us ever thought anything about that.  I will say that we always regarded our school representative as a good thing.  He was not mocked or disparaged, but rather, since we were playing sports, regarded highly for his fighting spirit.  Years later, someone came in who was more politically correct and wanted to see the figurehead for the teams changed to something less offensive.  But I think in the end, the school administration received so much heated response from the alumni who were proud of our Redman that I don't think they changed it after all.

But now, as an adult, I can't help but wonder how the kids who were Native American felt about our Redman.  Did they see it as a respectful gesture or as yet another put-down to their ancestry?  I guess I'll never know the answer to that question.

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