Friday, January 06, 2006

The Protector Song

When I was a small boy, I used to spend the summer with my father on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Sometimes when he drank, he complained that I was too much of a "chicken" and scared of my own shadow. He decided to "toughen me up" and so he would send me on little errands after the sun went down. "Hey Barry," he would say as he pretended some casual need had just come up, "Why don't you walk down to your ya-ya's house and borrow a cube of butter."

"Right now?" I would say, as I looked out the window with dread and saw only blackness. My parents spent the better part of my childhood teaching me to stick close because the tu-tu would get me, and now he wanted me to walk a mile through the woods by myself in the dark. I thought he was crazy and just a little bit cruel.

Of course, I tried to argue and find some way out of having to go, but he wouldn't hear it. He had powers of pursuasion far more advanced than my little brain (and my little back side) could handle; not to say he ever spanked me for not going, but he had a way of making me believe I would incur certain death if I did not comply with his most reasonable request (at least that's how he described it).

As much as I tried to resist, I had to finally accept my fate and set out to walk the the DARK. Who knows what kind of wild beasts, spirits, bigfoot, or other manner of Indian juju would find me out there by myself where no one would hear me scream? I hate to admit this now, but my reputation as a chicken was somewhat deserved. If there was any kind of ghastly doomsday scenario conceivable, I was sure to think of it.

So there I was walking in the woods at night, absolutely terrified out of my mind. If I heard a twig snap, I was sure it was bigfoot, or a pack of wolves, or a bear just ready to carry me away and tear my legs off. Finally, I did the only thing I could think to calm my fear: I prayed.

As I prayed, I heard an old Indian song; maybe coming from the wind, or maybe it was just in my head, but I heard a song and I sang along with it. That song comforted me until I got to my destination and back.

The reason I thought of this story is because I heard that song again tonight. This was the first Indian song I ever learned, and now it returns to remind me of the healing and protective power of the spirits.

No comments: