Manataka American Indian Council
OLD REZ ROAD
by Nikki GreenFireEyesWoman Lucero
My Granddad was a kind and generous man full of life. Granny said he was full of "piss and vineger," but she loved him all the same. She always had a twinkle in her eye when he came into the room, something I didn't understand till I grew up.
My mom used to tell me how, long, long ago, sometime in the early 1900's, Granddad built a car, they called them automobiles back then. Actually he built two cars...inside the house! He later had to knock the walls down to get them outside. He built one for himself and one for Granny. Granny was Cherokee and very beautiful. They look so happy in the old picture I still have of them sitting, side by side in their homemade automobiles.
Granny had that special childlike grin, the kind that melts your heart, the kind that melted the heart of Granddad long, long ago. Granddad was Irish and looked something like a Leprechaun, except he was not so small. He was bald with thin white hair wrapping around the sides and back. Granddad smoked a long curved pipe that dipped down like a slide and a big bowl he always filled with tobacco whether he smoked it or not. He looked the part of a Leprechaun with his odd looking pipe.
Granddad gave me my green eyes and Granny gave me the name Green-Fire Eyes Woman. Like Granddad's, my eyes had a circle of reddish-orange around the green encircled by black.
His eyes had seen battles and wars, people and many events before the Great Depression. His eyes were always alive with fire until one day, the day he and I walked down the Old Rez Road.
Granddad called the dusty lane the Old Rez Road, because he said, " it goes where we want to go and stops where we want it to stop, by a that little creek."
Sometimes we fished the little creek all day close to sunset, but on this day we just strolled along the Old Rez Road.
"If you can't keep a promise then don't make one," he said holding my small hand in his well-aged and hard-worked hand. " Remember the Earth Mother and respect her, keep planting things, as long as you live. Always remember where you come from and where you are going." He said. In his voice I could tell he wanted to say more, but he got quiet. So I waited, as I always do. "Always keep your feet on the ground," he said finally after songbirds seemed to remind him to go on.
"Always be the best that you can ever be." He
said trailing off like he did. I wasn't sure what he meant and thinking it meant that I could
fall down. I agreed with him. Then in the middle of his lesson, he told me about the days when he
used to ride horses and how the wind raced through the horses mane. In
that moment, I felt
how young and strong my Granddad's heart was years ago and what a wonderful life he had living close to the Earth as he did, how free he must have felt long, long ago.
The sun was very warm that day and we lay on the grass and drifted of into dreams thousands of miles away from Old Rez Road. Later, as I a woke, the songbirds seemed to be too quite. The sun cast shadows across us and there was a fall chill in the air. I reached over to Granddad to wake him up and to start for home for supper. But before I could touch him a blast of his tobacco filled my nose and I stopped.
Something was different, I finally let my hand touch him and the warmth I felt from Granddad before was gone. Tears wetted my cheeks as I felt his lifeless body.
It was the saddest day of my life as a young kid growing up. But I wasn't scared, Granddad always taught me about the Promised Land that lay beyond the Old Rez Road where we would return to all our relations in the Spirit World.
Years later, I took my son for a walk on the same Old Rez Road. I told him to remember the Earth beneath our feet and to always give thanks for everything we received from her. I advised him to be the best that he could be and if you can't keep a promise then don't make one. I told him to keep both feet on the ground.
I laughed when
he stomped both feet on the ground and said, "OK Mommy!" I know somewhere Granddad smiled too.
Note: With great respect I tell this true story inspired by Granddad and a beautiful song, "Reservation Road, sung by Bill Miller. Reservation Road is produced by David Hoffner and Bill Miller © 1992 by Shadowchaser Music (BMI) Dreams Of The West Music (BMI) Eaglespath Publishing (ASAP).
Nikki GreenFireEyesWoman Lucero
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