This is a very self-indulgent post. So I’ll begin with a 1972 photo of myself in my classroom in Browning High School (now the “Old” high school) with Candi Henkel (r) and Geri Show (l), two energetic and charming young students. Probably grandmothers by now.
Next we go to Ty Show in a photo I stole from the GF Tribune about outstanding Montana students this May Day Sunday.
Now consider one of Bob Scriver’s fav stories. When I came in 1961, Bill Show owned a service station in Browning, Montana. His son, Joe Show, was a co-owner, so Bill could afford to relax on the bench out front of the outfit soaking up the sun with his cowboy hat tipped down over his face. One day a big ol' Cadillac convertible pulled into the pumps. A set of longhorns was attached to the grille in front and the license plate said Texas.
“Waal,” drawled the big ol' so-called cowboy in the front seat, addressing whomever. “Waddya got here we ain’t got in Texas?”
Bill never even looked up, but he tipped his hat back enough to be heard. “GREEN GRASS AND WATER!” he said, and went back to sleep.
Bill and Reese Show were the parents of Joe and Jerry Show. (Jerry is the father of Geri Show and was also on the school board.)
Joe was the parent of TJ Show who married Shonnie Kipp (sister of Woody Kipp) and produced Ty. I think that the grandmother with the Ph.D. mentioned in the news story is Billy Joe Show Kipp, a name that sort of sums things up. Other names in this family tree include a Heavy Runner and a Sanderville. If you know your rez history, you’ll recognize these names. Otherwise, look ‘em up.
Geez, I sure hope this is right, but if it isn’t, please forgive me and add comments to straighten it out. I tried to look it up on the Internet but discovered I was waaaay behind and would have to do hours of work to figure out what genealogy was there and how to decipher it. I can’t remember what Jerry’s wife’s name was -- just that she was small, smart, and pretty -- or who it was that his daughter Geri (the one in the photo) married so I can’t figure out what Ty’s relationship to her might be. Cousin is a safe guess, though she’s older.
What I know for sure is that Ty is a pretty special kid and comes by it through both genes and upbringing. You could put him down anywhere and he would shine, but his real roots are right here in a place that’s supposed to prevent achievement. He’s been one of the change-makers, always thinking up a community improvement scheme. But he’s also an athlete, including rodeo competition, with a specialty at bull-dogging. The Show ranch is off to the west where the “inside road” crosses the Two Med river, and it would be hard to find a more beautiful place to summer. Plenty of water and grass.
Because of this blog, I get occasional inquiries about Blackfeet history, usually about battles or ceremonies. My tendency is to rock those people back on their heels. What they’re really looking for is what Sharman Alexie called “The Toughest Indian in the World,” though no one got what he was talking about. (That’s the story that caused some people to think Sherman was gay.) He meant that 19th century construct of the nude long-haired warrior on horseback, painted and feathered. You can’t kill that dude. He’s a shadow, a myth, a trickster, who seduces every teenaged girl wanting to be initiated and every mid-life-crisis white desk jockey who thinks he can become acculturated by reading some books. Maybe picking up a few tips from a tubby old white woman who’s been around the rez a long time.
Why isn’t the story of Ty Show, a handsome senior with a near 4.0 GPA and a Catholic cross on his necklace but -- just above it -- a Napi mischief smile, why isn’t that good enough? Why isn’t THAT an inspiration? I reckon it is around here -- on the rez and in Montana. That “Toughest Indian” doesn’t live here -- he’s an urban dream.
Partly it’s a question of scale. We think in terms of family and place. (That’s what local means.) When I’m trying to figure out a kid, I ask “Who’s your grandmother?” which generally tells me more than his or her last name which may or may not belong to his grandfather. It works for Valier homesteaders just as well as rez families. Cut Bank, an oil town with a lot of drifters, not so much. When the kid does NOT know the names of his grandmothers, that tells me quite a lot.
Darrell Kipp (related to Ty somehow -- probably another “cousin”) taught a special class in Missoula at the U of Montana this winter. He was telling me that there was no lectern or chalkboard or even whiteboard. Instead there was an electronic console and a big projection screen behind him. He was supposed to bring his laptop to plug in but it also had internet access. When he looked out at the classroom, the students were all eyes-down to their electronic devices. The text was Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock,” (1984), costing a penny on Amazon. (No doubt thwarting profits at the student book store.) You can get it for Kindle or as audio. I expect this is predicted in the book itself, which is no longer a prediction since most of it has happened by now.
Also, Darrell said that Tom McGuane read from his latest book in Missoula not long ago. Tom broke into literary consciousness with “The Bushwacked Piano” (1971, now ten bucks for a used paperback, no Kindle or audio version) and has been haunted ever since by the Toughest Author in the World -- the guy who wrote the Great American Novel. Maybe Hemingway, maybe Faulkner. Not Alexie. At the least McGuane established the eastern side of the state as a place to write. After the reading some “seasoned” guys went to a big new coffee house, expecting to kid around and laugh the way we all used to in high-backed booths when the beverage was more likely to be beer. Instead, Darrell said the place was quiet, people sitting separately at tables with earphones, laptops and hand-held devices, clicking away. No one meets eyes anymore. No one checks to see who’s in the room. Anyway McGuane had gone back to the hotel to sleep.
What’s this got to do with Ty Show? He’s not missing what we old guys miss. I don’t know how much he’s into the world conversation where Tim’s boys post, but I expect his computer is as much a part of him as that Toughest Indian’s horse was and he can ride the internet easily with a bulldogger’s timing and strategy. So will you city white guys give up the fantasies and try to keep up? Ty Show is not in Texas. We're pretty proud he's in Montana.