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CritterPainter's Blog

Various ramblings of a country gal


My spring break, weather record

Category: gardening among the rocks | Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2008 4:48 pm

I actually have been back a week, but the day after I got home I had a massive fever a couple of days, and have been sick ever since 'cuz it went to a sinus infection.
I woke this morning to snow. The weather experts say that in recorded and oral history it has never snowed this late in April,. Darn global warming anyway.
So my week of spring "break"...
We had been invited and authorized by a tribal elder of the Yakama Indian Nation to come help out, part of an ongoing effort to do some projects there. Together, our three teams re-roofed a home that was in dire need of it, chopped several cords of firewood, and did some yard work. Doesn't sound like much, but let me elaborate.
The firewood is to go to the oldest tribal members. They can no longer manage to chop enough on their own, and that sets up a vicious cycle. When they run out mid-winter, they are forced to use electric heat. But since the homes often have broken-out windows replaced with boards, it costs an awful lot to get them even tolerably warm (it hovers in the 20's in winter around there). The electric bill comes and there's no way they can pay it; electrical programs to help the elderly are nonexistant since the tribe is a separate, independent nation. So the power gets shut off. The person is forced to find somewhere else where they can stay for awhile- if this was an easy thing to do they would have done it in the first place. While they are gone, their home freezes, pipes burst, and when they thaw they further cause havoc to the home. If the person has to stay away any length of time, the home gets broken into and everything taken. All this is to say, firewood is no small thing.
The yardwork crew was where I worked. Whenever the elderly gal left her home the neighbor could see and would come break into her home, often. So a crew, the week before us, built a solid board fence so the neighbor can't see. We stained it, and another fellow replaced a couple of windows that needed it. Three of us just couldn't stop there; we went to the nearest town and bought gerbera daisies, thyme, and lavender to plant by the front door, and painted a pretty , picketed "welcome" on a leftover fence board for her to see when she came home. That was the fun part!
Then we went and played games with the kids in the town farthest into the reservation. Blowing bubbles, kicking a ball around, giving the kids a snack (don't mean to make anyone cry, but that was the only food some of them got that day). And there were dogs everywhere, often feral. I had met a really sweet gal from the high school there, waaay back when I was in high school. But the town has taken a severe downturn since then. It is very much like being in the most intimidating inner-city now, in some ways more third-world. I guess the adults have pretty much just been overtaken by apathy and other things; one young friend I made was proud because he'd made it all the way through 8th grade, two grades higher than his father had completed. They have different rules for school attendance I guess, because this is very typical.
In all, it really opened my eyes to what I take for granted. And I'm not just talking about lights that come on when I flip a switch. I mean, here, if a car is flipped over in the road with gasoline flowing out, there will be a patrol car there in minutes, and people redirecting traffic. We unexpectedly wound up driving through the gas trail; when others in our crew drove through some time later there was still noone directing traffic. I was going to tell more on this but still can't without crying...
We were honored to be allowed to do work on the long house. The tables & benches needed sanding, priming & painting. The only downside was that we didn't have time to get a second coat on, but it was cool how that spiffed things up. The splinters on the benches would catch on the older folk's ceremonial clothes and damage them, we sanded & smoothed that away. They even let us eat dinner in the long house one evening! A very interesting thing about the long house- if you ask someone traditional where they live, they will direct you to the longhouse. Their house is just where they stay. As for tribal etiquette, you never interrupt a speaker, even to tell them it's time to wind things up. And a firm grip when shaking hands is regarded as hostile, though they are very understanding of noodleheads like me who don't know that!

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