The Blackfoot Attack

As adults we are aware that trust is earned and taken absolutely seriously, but as a parent, there is something inside us that can’t help but test this trust with our children. This may be our worst attribute as adults. This trusting little person has depended on us its whole life and knows nothing else but what we have taught it. We shouldn’t take advantage of this (Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Krampus), but at times, temptation gets the best of our weak minds.

I know this isn’t just me, as I’ve seen all parents make this poor judgement call, with varying degrees of hilarity, or in some cases, a breach of trust that scars the offspring for life. If we are lucky, we eventually grow up, and as adults reverse roles by seeking mild revenge on our aging parents by playing on their lack of tech savvy. Yes Mom, they watch you through the camera on your phone.

One such memory from my childhood comes to mind that borders on the extreme. I wouldn’t say I’m scarred from the event, but I will say, my sisters and I could be considered a little “off” by self-proclaimed normal people.

We were raised with what I now consider a mixed household. Some kids get cool mixes like interracial parents or inter-political ones. Not us. We got a father who is full on American Cowboy and a mother who is cowboy and Indian all wrapped into one. Dad wears a big handlebar mustache that he curls on the tips. He has unparalleled cow sense and a belief that in his previous life he was a mountain man. (It should be noted the nearest mountains were a full four hours away) He trapped anything with hair back then, had a small arsenal of antique black powder rifles that hung on every wall and adorned every corner of our house, and the diamond plate on his flatbed feed truck was never without blood smeared all over it. Still the case.

On the other side of the bedroom was my full Okie, part Potawatomi Indian mother who like my father was mixed up just as interestingly. She too embraced the Agustus McCrae persona wearing assorted cowboy clothes and punching cows her whole life. But the small amount of Indian blood in her veins was strong as well. We attended powwows in Oklahoma City, she learned a little bead work, and even collected Indian art which hangs next to her Western Cowboy art. Cowboys and Indians all in one person, in one house. A conclusion could be drawn that I still don’t know who the hell I am or what I’m supposed to sympathize more with. Should I romanticize the Cowboy for his poetically rustic toughness, or the Indian for their spiritual connection to the earth? Like my mother, I’m still torn.

Since dad trapped critters to supplement our ranching income, we kids saw a lot of country from the dusty pickup seat. We’d bounce through the sagebrush and wind around locust tree groves trying not to discharge the rifles that rested between us nosing the floorboard. On one such outing, we were checking beaver traps with dad on a tiny creek that trickled through a cottonwood forest. That morning he talked at length about his experience with Indians, and had flat out turned us against them, in particular the Blackfeet tribe. I think he and mom must have had a fight the night before.

We had always believed they were the “baddest sonsabitches of them all”, likely from overhearing Natural Light fueled adult conversations and Kevin Costner movies, but today he had us convinced they still roamed the plains as they did a hundred years ago. Even worse, he had recently seen their signs while trapping in the wilderness. We tried to argue that they were extinct or at least modernized, but he laid it on so thick we stared out the windows in silence, fully expecting to see a bloodthirsty “savage” peeking around every tree with painted face, a loin cloth, and a feather dangling from his long stringy black hair. I was wishing we were back home watching Yosemite Sam, not worrying about being murdered…

He parked at the top of a bluff and us three small children reluctantly piled out to follow him the hundred yards through dense forest down to the creek and to the traps he’d set. We couldn’t have imagined staying alone in the pickup by ourselves, tempting the Blackfeet to kidnap us without any adult protection like Cynthia Ann Parker. He asked if we heard the drums in the distance. We halted and could hear what was obviously the thumping of a pump jack in the distance. Or was it? Our ears were perked up like nervous kittens as we followed him single file into the shadowy forest.

The sagebrush faded into spongy forest floor and we hoped the creek and the beaver traps were getting close. Oddly this man who customarily packed heat when checking traps wasn’t armed which made us even more nervous. Suddenly he stopped, slightly crouched, and scanned the forest from under his greasy hat brim as if he heard something. We gasped and followed suit. “Nothin'”, he said and he started walking happily again. We instinctively stuck close together behind him wondering if we would ever see our mother again. Then all of a sudden in mid-stride he crashed to the ground as if he had been hit by a car. He rolled onto his back in the leaves, an arrow sticking out of his barrel chest.

Our eyes grew three sizes and my two sisters screamed bloody murder. He let out a groan holding the arrow where it appeared to have sunk into his heart. My first reaction was to save him. I jumped to his side and grabbed the arrow shaft trying to pull it out but it wouldn’t budge. Looking all around for the killers, I glanced over my shoulder to see my sisters sprinting on short legs back towards the truck. “Dad!” I yelled as my grip on the aluminum arrow (that might should have given it away) stayed firm, still pulling in vain. Hey groaned, “Save yourself!” That’s all the persuasion I needed. I took off after the girls knowing I had left my own father to die on the forest floor. They would remove his scalp for sure. If he was really unlucky they would cut his balls off and shove them down his throat. I was now weeping as I ran.

It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds after I started running when he caught up with us. We were all sobbing and almost back to the truck at that point. With the arrow in hand he scooped us all up and apologized as he giggled. I could tell he was a little remorseful, but I wasn’t yet in the forgiving mood. After I caught my breath and gained control of the sobs, my Potawatami blood boiled to the surface and all I wanted was to cut off his balls and shove them in his mouth.

An arrow in the arm pit was our childhood equivalent to the old thumb removal trick. Only a little more shocking. It took us years to think the Blackfoot attack was humorous. My guess is we found it so outrageous there was no other way to deal with it but laughter. My other guess is that mom didn’t think it was too funny at the time either, and I can only imagine the ass-chewing he received that evening. He probably wished he’d just been scalped and gotten it over with.

Dad telling stories.

Published by willbarch78

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas. The nearest Walmart was a full two hours away. My family still runs a ranch back home that I grew up on, but at some point in my treasured youth I hung up the idea of becoming a cowboy, and pursued my passion for architecture. Today I still find myself trying to fit in to a life that has treated me with the average ups and downs one can expect after a certain number of years. My wife and I moved to Denver after attending Texas Tech School of Architecture in Lubbock as we needed a grade change from the Llano Estacado. We camp with our three growing girls all summer and into the fall while I write and create and fly fish to maintain sanity. Life is moving fast as our careers and children progress in all areas, so being outdoors with each other keeps us mostly grounded.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: