The summer after I was forced to resign from Heart Butte, the Methodist organist rented me his tiny yellow "mother-in-law" house behind his photography studio, separated by a hedge of caraghanas so old that the trunks were as thick as my wrists. In the wind at night they knocked together like warriors' staves and on the long hot afternoons the pods dried and exploded open, making soft fusillades of tiny dry peas against my screen door. I kept the screen door hooked. I was just down the hill from the School District #9 administration building.
First thing in the morning, against the stone retaining wall behind my little house, old men would gather to welcome the sun. They sounded like birds out there, telling stories and laughing. I would stand at the window with my cup of coffee, trying to overhear. Sometimes they spoke, Apikunipuyi.
In the middle of the day middle-aged drunks came to sit under my shady hedge and share Big Bear Bear, fortified malt liquor in quarts. Around lunch time younger men, just out of high school, would come with fast food in sacks to eat and hoot at the high school girls going downtown on lunch break. Cars would speed in and out and dust would settle on my rooms.
Late at night when things had quieted down, a very few older men came to the empty lot next door. They sat at the foot of a big security light pole and "sang Indian," sometimes keeping the beat on a log with sticks. They were my lullaby.
One night at the end of summer, after even the singers had gone and dawn getting close, I woke up and looked out the window. One man was sitting out there, silhouetted against the white stucco hardware store across the street. He was just sitting and gazing, as though he were on empty prairie, one knee drawn up and his arm out straight resting on it. He was autochthonous, indigenous, of the place, the land, and many long times running into each other-- always going on. It was easy to imagine him long ago, relaxed in some high place, watching for a vision or perhaps just watching, wondering if there ever might be a time of no more buffalo.
One of Darrell's recent letters began with quotes from Emerson:
"Everything teaches transition, transference, metamorphosis; therein is human power." "We dive and reappear in new places."
The little yellow house where I stayed belongs to Blackfeet owners now. It is occupied by a young mother and her child. Next door, where the photography studio once housed the negatives of portraits of old-time Blackfeet, the Piegan Institute has a workroom, a think tank. Dorothy Still Smoking works on her Ph.D. upstairs. I wonder if the men drinking in the caraghanas ever look up at her window. I wonder if she ever sees that lone dreamer just before dawn.