I was mischievous most of my childhood but it also meant I was entertaining for my parents. I was conducting my nightly routine a 6-year-old goes through. Mostly messing around, asking for water, using the bathroom a lot. All that to try to stay up for a few extra minutes. We were living at the 6th drive house. I was wearing an old oversized t-shirt going on my fourth or fifth trip to the bathroom. This time, not that is wasn’t there all the other times, I saw an orange and white Bic disposable safety razor sitting next to the sink. The same one I watched my Dad use in the morning. My Dad could grow a full beard, something I still can’t do at age 32.
But I saw the razor and thought I would try it on the only facial hair I had in those moments. My eyebrow. I took the safety razor and guided it along the left side of my left eyebrow. I looked in the mirror afterward and thought to myself, “It didn’t work.” I put it back on the counter and walked out of the restroom. I nonchalantly walked back into the living room to wait until my parents told me to go to bed for the fourth or fifth time. But instead I was greeted with my Mom’s puzzled look and question, “Did you shave your eyebrow?” To which I replied, “I don’t know.” My Mom insisted, “Did you use that razor?” I said, “sure.” She continued, “Well I think you shaved it.” Her and my Dad both laughed and told me to go back to bed. It’s the reason my left eyebrow still grows a little differently than my right. And then I witnessed it at a camp I was working at on the Nez Pearce rez about 14 years ago.
I was in Lupwai Idaho working at a Native youth camp. As with all kids, there was one Native kid that was particularly rowdy. He was continually sneaking away, disrupting the instructors and just being generally mischievous. He was assigned to my team and shadowed me most of the week. And as rowdy, as this kid was, he was equally hilarious. As we were gathering for the morning activities I saw him stroll by and I said, “Hey, did you shave your eyebrows.” He started laughing and said, “yeah.” I mean it was obvious, people look funny with no eyebrows. And I just laughed. The rest of the week he used a sharpie to draw in his eyebrows. When he was angry, he would draw his eyebrows with a gradual slope and quick drop at the end. When he was happy, he made them little hills.
My point is if you don’t think you’re funny or you want to be funnier or if you want to be more entertaining, shave your eyebrows.
I remember being taught in elementary school about inventors such as Thomas Edison, Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, etc. You ever wonder why we were mostly taught about White European descendant inventors in elementary school? Surely there were inventors from other ethnicities that we could have learned about. In my later years of life, I realized there were actually lots of inventors from various ethnicities and even Native inventors.
I was at the Arizona Indian Gaming Association meeting a few years back hosted by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. A councilman from the tribe stood up and greeted the crowd in a room named after Wassaja, Carlos Montezuma, one of the first American Indians with a medical doctorate. He went on to share the story about how Carlos Montezuma developed a mixture of vaseline and menthol to treat chest coughs. It was later called Vicks vapor rub. I never knew that all those years as a kid, my Mom was rubbing medicine created by a Native on me. Natives have been inventing things for years and I began to think more about Native inventions.
Around the same time of the Gaming meeting, I was listening to a lecture from a Native scholar. They were talking about assimilation etc., but the lecturer was making a point about traditional Native marriages and went on to say that it was acceptable (in some tribes) for older Native women to marry young wild Native men. Because it was believed that the older woman would tame the young wild man. I looked at my friend, looked back at the professor, looked back at my friend, looked back at the professor, and looked back at my friend a final time and said, “Dang, Natives invented Cougars!”
So, for all the single older Native ladies that want to go back to traditional ways, it’s acceptable to marry a younger wild Native man. And for all the educators out there, it’s time to think about inventors from other ethnicities who contributed equally as much as White inventors.
My Dad used to always tell me crazy stuff when I was growing up. One time when I was 8 years old, I got mad and went and sat on our curb. My Dad walked toward me, stood over me and said, “get up, a car is going to run you over and I’m not going to clean up the blood.” But one of my favorite things he told me was a story about his perspective on bad grades.
I was worried one day on my way home from school because I received a horrible grade from a teacher. I knew I would have to show my Dad eventually. My Dad was a disciplinary man. And I got spanked a lot during my childhood. Not ever out of anger or hate. My Dad was patient. He always calmly told me, “Go to your room, I’ll be there in a second.” My room was scary during those times. I just had white walls with no posters, a blanket on my window (later in life I got knock off Mickey Mouse curtains), not Pendleton because those were expensive. The room was in the middle of the house, north facing, and was always dark. My room had an old brown fan that wobbled and felt like it was barely hanging on by an electrical wire and fastener. I would move a chair to the middle of the room, and wait for my Dad. That’s why I didn’t want to tell him about my grades, because I knew what was about to happen.
When I worked up enough courage, I showed him my paper. To my surprise my Dad told me, “JD it’s Okay.” He went on to share a story, “There was a kid who used to get these kinds of grades as well. In fact, one day, he brought one home to his Mom. His Mom asked him how come he got a “0” on his paper?” The son told his Mom, “Well, Mrs. Wong ran out of stars, so she had to give me the moon.” He finished our conversation by saying, “JD we may not be “A” students, but we are moon students. Don’t be afraid of failure when you try, and your perspective will keep you going.” The words allowed me to see the value of my culture, and never fear failing in life.
Then my Dad spanked me.