Sabtu, 29 Maret 2008

Great Crested Flycatcher

Why the Great Crested Flycatcher? Well, it's a bird that lives high up in trees, so it appeals to the "Andrew Henry" in me. (Andrew Henry's Meadow, by Doris Burn, was a favorite book of mine when I was a girl, and now it is one of my son's favorite books.) The Flycatcher stuffs its nest with treasures: fur, feathers, string, snake skins. I seem to gather clutter too: rocks, books, old newspaper clippings, poems, pieces of string to short to save (that's a Donald Hall title, and something I might have found scrawled on a box in my grandma's attic). Maybe the real reason is that the Great Crested Flycatcher sounds like a Native American name, which seems right since my Grandma was Keeshegogoqua: Lady of the Sky. She got that name when she was adopted by a Chippewa Tribal Chief.

For a few years after she graduated from college (from 1929 to 1932), my Grandma drove around Michigan (both peninsulas) in a Model A Ford, working for the Tuberculosis Association. She wore an Indian costume, was known as "Princess Watassa," taught people how to live healthy lives, and shared Indian stories and legends to school children. She traveled alone and followed two-tracks through remote areas, navigating with bad maps to reach country schools. It was hard going. Dusk was a lonely time, especially when she drove past homes with warm, glowing windows where she could see families gathered, eating supper. A deputy once tried to arrest her for vagrancy, and in Bay City she endured some bitter criticism from a man who didn't think much of Indians. She listened to him with grace and diplomacy, and after her presentation a Chippewa Tribal Chief approached her and complimented her composure. On the job, she rarely revealed that she was a white woman with English ancestors, but it wasn't right to pretend otherwise to a Chippewa Indian. When she shared the truth with him, he invited her home and adopted her into the tribe. And so it was that she became an Indian Princess. But she wasn't a typical princess...she climbed trees into her 80's, worked in the apple orchard with my Grandpa, wore Red Wing boots, and taught me the names of wildflowers.

Note: I also considered naming this blog Northern Shoveler (a medium-sized brown duck). It was tempting, but since it's almost April it was not irresistible.

Cindy Hunter Morgan

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