The wake and the feasting which marked the tribal ceremonies were in progress, for a Flathead brave was about to be consigned to his last resting place. But young Sam Lasso stirred in his bier and scared the devil out of a lot of mourners and ever after, sincere in the belief that he had risen from the dead, he was known as Sam Resurrection.
Very young, I had come to Arlee as a bride, and I went, one Saturday morning in early April, to answer three methodical raps and found this old-old Indian at my door. He was a picture in his high-crowned hat with its beaded band and feather. There was grey in the braids that framed his wrinkled face and they were tied together over the front of his coat with a red string. New moccasins peeked from beneath blue-blanket trousers.
"Me . . . breakfast," was his deep-voiced greeting. One brown hand made an illustrative sign while the other held a walking stick.
Why had he come to our house? Our little reservation town boasted two restaurants, but I was so astonished by this unfamiliar turn of events that I went without questioning to grant his request. Now he sat motionless in the tiny living room of my converted boxcar house, unreadable black eyes peering down the two steps into the kitchen where I was nervously burning his toast and eggs.
I knew the old man's name for he had been a familiar figure trudging the highways and hitching rides for longer than I could remember. What bothered me was that he was said to harbor a bitter resentment at the treatment of the red men by the Great White Father in Washington.
My husband had long-since gone to work and my nearest neighbor lived beyond shouting distance. All the Indian tales I'd ever heard began to unfold in my gullible mind.
Somehow, his food was ready, but I would NOT bring him into that little kitchen with me! I decided he should have his breakfast at the little table in the living room where I could have access to the only door. I started up the two steps from the kitchen with his plate and cup. At the moment he rose and turned away from me, and bent forward, to expectorate out the door.
I gasped, audibly, I'm afraid, and all but lost my grip on that plate of food and scalding cup of coffee. Those blanket trousers were patterned after a pair of "shotgun" Chaparajos and at the level of my eye, from beneath the tails of his white man's coat was an important area of copper colored skin looking me squarely in the face!
MUSTN'T LET HIM KNOW I WAS SCARED. With one eye on the door and the other on the old-old Indian I made boldly to the little table. Could those be WAR TOGS? I shivered. But it helped somewhat that he ignored me completely while he ate, then, slowly, as if his old bones protested, he rose from his chair and departed without so much as a grunt.
I watched him pad away down the railroad tracks with a sigh of intense relief, and when my husband came home from work that evening he laughed uproariously about the "half naked savage" who had come to see me.
It seemed that the devout old man had simply donned his Sunday best and was hiking the twenty-odd miles to the church at St. Ignatius for Easter services. Not being afflicted with the white man's false modesty, he was oblivious to the fact that there was no seat in his bright blue breeches.