Paula Gunn Allen
Two young men were out snagging* one afternoon. They rode around in their pickup, their Ind’in Cadillac, cruising up this road and down that one through steamy green countryside, stopping by friends’ places here and there to lift a few beers. The day was sultry and searing as summer days in Oklahoma get, hot as a sweat lodge.
Long after dark they stopped at a tavern twenty or thirty miles outside of Anadarko, and joined some skins† gathered around several tables. After the muggy heat outside, the slowly turning fan inside felt cool. When they’d been there awhile, one of the men at their table asked them if they were headed to the stomp dance.‡ “Sure,” they said, though truth to tell, they hadn’t known there was a stomp dance that night in the area. The three headed out to the pickup.
They drove for some distance along narrow country roads, turning occasionally at unmarked crossings, bumping across cattle guards, until at length they saw the light of the bonfire, several unshaded lights hanging from small huts that ringed the danceground, and headlights from a couple of parking cars.
They pulled into a spot in the midst of a new Winnebago, a Dodge van, two Toyotas, and a small herd of more battered models, and made their way to the danceground. The dance was going strong, and the sound of turtle shell and aluminum can rattles and singing, mixed with occasional laughter and bits of talk, reached their ears.
“All right!” Ray, the taller and heavier of the two exclaimed, slapping his buddy’s raised hand in glee.
* A slang term that means cruising to pick up women.
† “Skins” is slang for “redskins,” which is slang for Indians.
‡ The stomp dance originated with the Creek (Muscogee) people, but became a part of Western Cherokee cultural practice after the Trail of Tears and arrival in Oklahoma. At this time, the Cherokee Green Corn Ceremony has been replaced by the stomp dance, which is usually held during late August and early September.