Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Running Bear's out; Thor Is In

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Running Bear's out; Thor Is In

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

In fall 1991, my 6-year-old son, Tyler, signed up for the YMCA's Indians Guides program.

Soon after, the other fathers in the newly formed Mosquito tribe of the Timucuan Federation outwitted me and elected me tribe chief. That meant I had to attend a meeting designed to provide novice chiefs with tips on how to run a successful tribe.

One of the speakers brought with him an impressive collection of shields, headdresses and lances his tribe had made, all decorated with the skulls of small animals.

His secret to acquiring the animal skulls, he told us, was that he kept a bucket of acid in the trunk of his car. Whenever he spotted road kill, he stopped, tossed the dead varmint in the acid, took it home and waited for the flesh to dissolve.

I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

Happily, it turned out, most of the fathers in the Timucuan Federation took a far more casual approach to the program. It was a lot less organized than Cub Scouts and a lot less competitive than Little League.

Which was just fine.

The point of Indian Guides was to encourage fathers to spend time with their children. About once a week during the school year, we would meet, tell some stories, maybe play a game or do a simple craft, eat cookies, drink juice and let our kids enjoy themselves.

We wore leather vests and headbands if we wanted and gave ourselves Indian names. I was Running Bear. But we rarely talked about the real culture of American Indians. The seriousness with which most of us took that culture was demonstrated by the father who called himself Rolling Rock after his favorite beverage.

Twice during the year, once in fall, once in spring, we made the trip down to Camp Immokalee outside Keystone Heights for the camp-out we called a Longhouse. …

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