Shu mani tu tonka Ob'Wa Chi and Generation Next

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Three stories in different tenses interleaved to illustrate the frustrations of an old employer with a non-caring young worker.

Submitted: May 19, 2011

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Submitted: May 19, 2011

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O wad some Power the giftie gie us,
to see oursels as ithers see us.
from “To a Louse” by Robert Burns
Shu-mani-tu-tonka Ob'Wa-chi and Generation Next
by Nadia Private
July 27, 2008
 
Christine is leaving. 
 
I liken Christine to Shu-mani-tu-tonka Ob’Wa-chi, John J. Dunbar, in the movie Dances With Wolves. I liken myself, Lloyd Benson, to the warrior Wind In His Hair. Made before she was born, the movie is three hours long. Even though she has Native American ancestry, I never could get Christine to watch it. It is a complex story with rich intercultural implications. In frontier days both the white and Indian cultures respected their elders. In the movie a lot of caring is shown. There are many leavings and returnings.
 
In the movie, the Civil War cavalry Lieutenant John J. Dunbar tried to kill himself but wound up being a hero. After he took a ball in his foot and learned that it was to be amputated, he rode in front of the Confederate lines during a stalemate. If he were going to lose his foot he did not care to live—did not care about himself. Then the Union troops rallied to a victory. The commanding general awarded the horse he rode, Cisco, to him. The general said, as Dunbar lay exhausted on the field after the battle, “We’ve got an officer that’s worth something lying here.” The general cared. Dunbar’s foot was saved.
 
I took a test once to determine my basic personality types. Supposedly everyone is some combination of warrior, guardian, dreamer, romantic, stoic and star. Christine and I are warriors, and writers. She is a black belt in martial arts. I am a guardian; I don’t think she is. I am a romantic; maybe that trait is stirring in her. She is a star; I am not. Maybe she is a dreamer; I am not. I don’t think either of us is a stoic. She is 20, I am 66. Although I am not her best friend, I count myself as a friend to her. This is the guardian in me. I ask Christine to clue me in on Generation Next, the 15-25 year old crowd—perhaps sometimes designated Generation Y. I always try to keep in touch with younger generations.
 
I am writing a Celtic musical. I suppose it is a little romantic. It begins with the narration of an actual letter written after an Englishman witnessed Gaelic peasants boarding a train from Ballymena to Derry in September 1866 to emigrate to America. Family and friends cry and cling to the carriage car windows as the train pulls out of the station knowing that they will never see their loved ones again.
 
It will be Friday, September 12, 2008. Christine will arrive early on the Simi Valley train platform with her parents, boy friend Rod, and a few friends, for whom she is a star. Rod will come down from Washington to take her away--away from the little house on Erringer Road a little to the west where she will have lived and learned the entire first part of her life. They will sit under the sea-foam-green shade roofs on the same color benches waiting for friends and family. They will get a Coke and stroll up and down the platform waiting for the Amtrak Surf Liner between the magnolia trees outside of the sea-foam-green railings and the “STAND BACK OF YELLOW LINE” stripe at the edge of the track. It will be a momentous occasion.
 
It is Labor Day weekend, 2008. Christine is camping in Yosemite with her parents. It is a "last time with her parents" before she leaves. She thinks that she is going to be able to use the Internet but the RV camp connection is down. She says one time, "Generation Next is impatient; we’re always in a hurry.” It takes a day to drive to Yosemite. They leave Saturday and get back late Monday. She thought "the weekend" was Saturday and Sunday and is now cramped to finish her packing. She has little sense of time and spatial orientation, much less of history. These are characteristics of a dreamer, I suppose.
 
Decorated and fully recovered, Dunbar was awarded the posting of his choice. He asked the major at Fort Hayes to be posted at the Western Frontier because he cared about it and wanted to see it before it was gone. Referring to Dunbar as “Sir Knight,” the major wrote out orders for him to join the frontier outpost, Fort Sedgewick. The teamster Timmons took Dunbar to his post with a load of supplies. “The foulest man I ever met,” wrote Dunbar of Timmons in his journal. But as the Good Shepherd called his sheep by name, Timmons called his mules by name.
 
As Dunbar left for the frontier, the major who posted him to the fort—apparently suffering from terminal prostate cancer—committed suicide. When Dunbar arrived at his post he found the fort abandoned. "Lieutenant," said Timmons, "there ain't nothin’ here"--importuning Dunbar to go back. "Not at the moment," he replied. On the way back to Ft. Hayes Timmons was killed by the Indians, so no one knew where Dunbar was; he wondered why reinforcements never came. As he died, the teamster’s last words to the Indians were, “Please don’t hurt my mules.” Even he cared for something. Alone at the fort except for Cisco, Dunbar cared for the horse dearly. He made friends with a wolf that he named Two Socks. As he cared for Cisco, he also cared for Two Socks. After having passed through the beautiful panoramic vistas on the way to the fort and on patrol, Dunbar wrote in his journal, “There can be no place like this on earth.” Dunbar was caring for himself and his life abundantly. The journal became his link to his past, present and future. 
 
I am not among those on the train platform. I am not her parent, priest or teacher. She is there with some of her martial arts classmates. After all, she is a warrior. I am high on a hillside at the western end of Simi Valley looking out over the train track from the new Moorpark College library waiting for her train to pass and reminiscing about our acquaintance. Across the track on the ridgeline a little to the west is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Christine is a home-schooled child. She is now beginning to learn from “life experiences” outside of her home. 
 
The shaman of a neighboring Lakota Sioux Indian tribe, Kicking Bird, tried to steal Cisco one day as Dunbar bathed in a pool nearby. Suddenly appearing naked he startled the Indian who rode away empty handed. Trying to evaluate the meaning of Dunbar’s presence alone and unafraid at the fort, Kicking Bird said in council, “I see one who might speak for all white men who are coming.” Rumors of their numbers weighed heavily upon the Indians’ minds. Later, three young braves led by Smiles A Lot stole the horse but Cisco broke free and returned. The same happened when the warrior Wind In His Hair stole Cisco again.
 
"We’re confident, self-assured, self-oriented and aggressively go after what we want, she says.  She is a warrior. "Some people think we’re selfish and spoiled." It is three and a half months before she is to leave. On her last work day my wife and I take her on a tour of Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez to Nipomo—where we treat her to a 14-ounce steak at Jocko’s—and down the California coast from Guadalupe to Lompoc and back east to Solvang. Among the highlights is the Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch that she enjoys very much. Afterwards she posts a video on youtube of a just-born foal standing for the first time. She has a romantic fascination with horses, knights and monster war games. My wife runs out of film on our day trip at the horse ranch and we ask Christine to give us copies of her pictures of the beaches and color-patch-work-quilt flower fields but she never doesonly some pictures made at the horse ranch. We give her hundreds of dollars from our retirement funds for her trip and pay on her last work day and she gives little back.
 
From the horse ranch on Christine’s reaction seems all down hill. At the Danish community, Solvang, we sit down at a Danish bakery and have coffee and Danish sweet rolls to catch our breath before the 100 plus mile trip home after seeing several “all of one kind of thing” shops. We saw the an olive, knife, candy, leather, music box and clock, Christmas items and bakery shop and our favorite, the Mole Hole, that sells a variety of one-of-a-kind and unusual items. My wife shares her Danish with Christine. Impatient to leave, Christine orders her coffee to go and pays for it. She buys a book at a bookstore in Solvang to replace one that a friend stole from her. She gets a call from her best friend on her cell phone inviting her to an impromptu event that evening and says she would love to come. On the way home we try to engage her in conversation—get to know her better, get to know something about her boy friend and review the day’s activities to gauge what she liked. Tired from being up from bed in anticipation from 4:15 AM and lacking in social graces, she reverts to her first grade behavior—the ultimate cause of her having to be home schooled. She sticks her head in the book on the drive back and hardly looks up like she only read her book instead of participating in activities with the rest of the class. She misses indigo water, powder blue sky and steep jade green mountainsides up to Camino Del Cielo where Reagan’s ranch was along the Santa Barbara Channel. 
My wife is shocked. I wonder if her nose were in a book on the way back from Yosemite. As we pass under the trestle over highway 101 that I pointed out in Ventura on the way up she calls her friend and remarks that she will not be able to get there in time because she is “in the middle of nowhere.” When we let her out at her house she gets out and perfunctorily says, “Thank you very much Mr. and Mrs. Benson,” and that is it. After all, business is business is business and she has to go. She takes the money and runs.
 
There will be many hugs on the platform; Christine will not have expressed herself much physically with me. Many things will have already been said. Some will remain to be said. Christine is close with her heart and some things will never be said. “I hope you’ll finish college before you marry,” John will say. “Don’t get pregnant before you marry,” Amanda will repeat for the nth time. “Thank you dad and mom, we’ll keep in touch and see each other for many more special occasions,” Christine will reassure; “I’ll be OK and so will you; I’ll start a new life with Rod. I’ll be successful as a writer and will finish my degree in Computer Network Engineering.” She will continue to be very capable. Her codependent friends will express a false gaiety. “I’m so happy for you; I’ll miss you so much and will be jealous of you and Rod,” Carol will say. “I hope you’ll find a good martial arts class in Seattle. I’ll be OK,” Ken will say. There will be an awkward silence. John and Amanda will board the train with her and Carol and Ken will wave good bye. Her parents will get back off of the train and go home to the mausoleum. The conductor will yell, “All ‘board.” The train will pull away from the platform. Carol and Ken will now have to find friends within themselves. Christine is gone.
 
Tired of waiting for something to happen, Dunbar set out in full military uniform carrying the flag one day toward the Lakotas. On the way he stumbled upon a white woman, Stands With A Fist, who had slit her wrist in deep mourning for her recently killed husband. He bound her red and white wrist with a piece of the red and white stripes and carried her to the Indian camp. But he was rebuffed and turned away after Wind In His Hair pulled Stands With a Fist to the edge of the camp. Dunbar cared for the white womanraised by Kicking Bird who had found her alone after her family had been wiped out by the Pawneebut she feared being taken away by whites.
 
Last fall Christine comes into my life in a writers club and playwrighting class at Moorpark College. We have coffee at Starbuck’s every other Thursday. One day she remarks, "Generation Next people feel a sense of entitlement. We’re impatient. We take what we need as soon as possible." She and I watch a few memorable DVD movies together and she introduces me to some music DVDs. I write a play using some things from her life as back-story for my heroine. She steals the idea for a play that she has to write for the class from me—-without crediting meand then the class is over. In response to my giving her the idea she gives nothing in return; she promises a Teddy bear for Christmas, but in some pique never gives it. A warrior takes the spoils of the battle and leaves the field. For Christmas I give Christine some writing materials. Later she gives me some candy “reality pills.” She says, “Generation Next kids are arrogant.” She is the sole judge of her reality. She suspends the biweekly meetings for coffee. She takes her “A” and runs. Christine is gone. 
 
The council decided to send emissaries to talk with Dunbar. After their second visit he gave them presents of coffee and sugar; he was beginning to care for them. Kicking Bird asked Stands With A Fist to interpret but she resisted. In anguish she remembered running for her life across the prairie alone. Her mother yelled, "Christine." She yelled back, "Mommy," but never saw her loved ones again. Kicking Bird returned to the fort and asked if Dunbar had seen the migrating buffalo but was told "no." He gave Dunbar a buffalo robe. The archetypal rites of giving to neighbors were being reciprocated. Dunbar offered them food but they were too proud to accept it.
 
Christine needs a job after the course to pay to have her palomino stallion Buddy shipped to Washington. Via email I tell her that I am looking to hire a college student to help me clean up my yard and prepare to add to my driveway. I wind up offering it to her and she accepts. Starting in January Christine is shipping ahead her prized possessions, including thousands of books. She plans to commercially ship Buddy soon after she moves. From February to May she is earning the money for the shipments by working for me. Gradually during breaks she takes her nose out of the books that she keeps in her pickup truck and talks to me. At last I am getting some insights into her generation. “Generation Next,” she says, "is Information Technology oriented.” Work and the day trip are frequently interrupted by a call or a text message on her cell phone. Her attitude is almost that she has invented Information Technology. She met Rod on the Internet. She tells me that she may be moving to Washington to live with him at the end of the summer. Christine is leaving. In the Generation Next room people come and go, not necessarily talking of Michelangelo.
 
The train will cross the trestle at Ventura where I pointed it out on our day trip and told Christine that she would pass over it. She will have noted it with interest. She and Rod will be sitting on the left side of the train for a beautiful view of the Santa Barbara Channel and Pacific coast. “I’ll do the laundry but not the dishes,” she will say. “I found a place to board Buddy,” Rod will say. “I don’t know how to cook,” she will say. “I do,” he will reply. There is nothing more beautiful than a young couple. It is Christine’s first love. They will catch their first sight of the Channel. 
 
Dunbar was invited to the village to tell about the white men rumored to be coming with Stands With A Fist interpreting, but he held back. She sensed his reticence but did not divulge her suspicions.
 
“Generation Next likes simple, repetitive tasks and games,” she says one day at break. She is working with her hands and upper body for the first time. She expresses an eager interest in learning. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in company, and works hard when I make a repetitive game out of a task and challenge her to compete with me, a 66 year old man and my 65 year old spouse.
 
The train will pass miles of state beaches lined by hundreds of RVs. “This is Carpenteria,” Christine will tell Rod. “There’s a real Santa Claus Lane here. There used to be a big Santa statue over a store. They have a little train for kids to ride on. John let me ride it on one of our trips.” “That sounds really nice for the kids. What happened to the Santa?” Rod will respond. “Someone has it in their yard in Oxnard,” she will say. The train will soon be in Santa Barbara.
 
Christine works about half time for three months. I am setting a new planter barrel on the right side of the driveway entrance to match the one on the other side. I need an 18 inch deep trench 40 feet long from the fence at the front of the house to a light on a post in the new barrel for burial of an electrical cable to meet the code.As one of her last tasks for me she diligently helps dig the trench in the clay and rock. She says, "We in Generation Next know how to manipulate to get what we want." As I innovate a simple tool out of scrap wood she tries to manipulate me with flattery. “Oh that’s intelligent,” she says as I make an 18 inch stick to repetitively measure the trench depth. “Monkey see, monkey do; human see, human improve,” I respond. 
 
Christine will continue, “Santa Barbara has the Queen of the Spanish Missions. The Indian woman Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins is buried there. The Bensons took us to the see the museum behind it but it was closed. We did see the skeleton of the blue whale and the lovely garden around it. The harbor is beautiful. It has a really good fish restaurant.”
 
A while after returning to Ft. Sedgewick, Dunbar was shaken awake by the thundering hooves of the migrating buffalo herd. He hurried to the village to tell the Indians who were performing a sacred dance and they set upon him--beating him. Finally he was able to communicate that he had seen the buffalo and was welcomed as a hero. A hunt was organized. During the hunt the young brave, Smiles a Lot, was dismounted by a charging buffalo and was charged again. Dunbar repeatedly fired his rifle into the buffalo until it fell dead, saving the boy. Again, Dunbar was a hero.
 
The train will pass the path to the nude beach that we pointed out at Gaviota on the way home on our trip and she will remark, “The Bensons are a little wild. He said I could see some very well hung dudes there.” Christine will continue to be a little prudish and judgmental and I will have constantly teased and embarrassed her. She will have retaliated in play by referring to her martial arts skills. “Christine,” I will say, “you can always say 'No' or say that you don’t like that kind of talk.” But she will continue to like it. She will always blush beautifully—like a red Christmas light flashing at the tree top.
 
Dunbar was made an honorary member of their tribe. He gradually adopted their ways. When he gave Wind In His Hair his army jacket the warrior gave Dunbar the Indian’s bone and shell breastplate. Dunbar said, “Good trade.” After Dunbar lost his hat in the buffalo hunt, he saw a brave wearing it and wanted it back. Wind In His Hair said that the brave could keep it but must give Dunbar something for it. The brave gave Dunbar his knife and Wind In His Hair said, “Good trade.”
 
Just before Mother's Day Christine shows up at work with a Mother's Day card for my wife. Sweetly, she says that she likes my spouse who reminds Christine of her grandmother. My wife is touched. Christine is learning a lot. But still, I make her work; she could be playing good cop/bad cop.
 
The train will pass Surf Beach where we found an Amtrak stop on our tour. My wife and I will be able to catch the train at Moorpark to the beach, spend the day there and return home on the train without paying the high gas prices. “We stopped here and then took pictures of the flower fields between here and Lompoc,” Christine will tell Rod; “Mr. Benson tried to embarrass me by pointing out a guy who had taken off his pants to wade in the surf and whose shorts kept falling down.” “Did you look?” Rod will ask. “No silly baby,” she will reply. “Would you have looked if it had been me?” he will follow up. “If there had been no one around I would have done more than that!” she will exclaim with a giggle. “We walked to the beach barrier protecting the white plover nesting grounds. Half of the world's supply of commercial flower seed is grown in the Lompoc Valley in the seven miles from the beach to the bedroom town of Lompoc. They have a flower festival the last Saturday of June; you can drive up the southern slope of the valley and see a patchwork of acres of different colors of flowers,” she will relate. She will go over the written contract of their living arrangement including that she will not cook but will do the laundry. She will have arranged that she can get up anywhere from 4:00 AM to noon, have breakfast cooked for her, and do essentially as she wantsnot necessarily eating meals with Rod. She is a dreamer.
 
The Indians moved and Dunbar went back to his fort. He danced with Two Socks one night by the light of the camp fire. Indian scouts watching them gave him his Lakota name, Shu-mani-tu-tonka Ob’Wa-chiDances With Wolves. He wrote in his journal, "Of all of the times I have been alone, I have never felt so lonely." After a few days he went back to the village to visit and was given his own lodge. The Indians were planning to make war on the Pawnee and Dances With Wolves asked to join thembut was refused. Kicking Bird said he could stay in the village to protect the shaman’s familya great honor. Dances With Wolves learned his Indian name while they were talking.
 
The train will pass a wide, level beach above the high tide line. Christine will exclaim, “Look at that basalt; that’s 3.5 billion year old pillow lava! This must be Pt. Sal.” Rod will ask, “How do you know that?” Christine will answer, “Mr. Benson tried to take me to this beach. The road was washed out and we couldn’t get here but he described it. You have to backpack in about five miles. The commander of Vandenberg Air Force Base won’t repair the wash outs.” Rod will say, “It's a pretty beach and it is secluded. We could skinny dip there.” Christine will blush and put her head on his shoulder responding, “You sound like you have somehow been perverted by the Bensons.” Rod will exclaim and ask again, “I don’t need them to inspire me when I have you! Would you?” “With you, if nobody else were around,” she will confide. She will want to cuddle. 
 
Christine winds up working over 260 hours for me. She is almost always a few minutes late. I remember her telling me during a break, "We in Generation Next never make mistakes and we don’t feel that we can learn from the older generations. We already know everything, ha ha ha." One time Buddy escapes from his paddock and she is really late. She parks on a side street out of sight of the front of the house where I usually meet her. She is so worried about her horse, and is torn between wanting so badly to fix the gate and fulfilling her work obligation. I make her work anyway and she makes up the time. In the end she refuses my offer of assistance to repair the paddock gate. She is growing. My third cousin grew up in the real Old West and taught me to ride as a boy. Christine never lets me ride her palomino. Christine has a fertile imagination to get herself out of scrapes. She is a dreamer.
 
Not understanding the Lakota mourning rites, Dances With Wolves began courting Stands With A Fist. One day he inquired why she was not with a man. She left him. He asked a brave why and the Indian explained that it was not polite to speak of the dead, but because Dances With Wolves was new, he would tell him that she was in mourning. The next Day Dances with Wolves left. That night Stands With A Fist told Kicking Bird’s squaw that she realized that she had hurt him and that she should talk to him. When informed that he had left she ran to his tipi. She had learned to care for herself and another again but he was gone.
 
“Look at the gantries!” Christine will exclaim. The train will be rolling northward through Vandenberg Air Force Base. “They tested the minuteman missiles and anti-ballistic missiles from here. They were going to launch the Space Shuttle into polar orbit from here but the winds, fog and cramped space caused the project to be cancelled,” she will say. “How do you know that?” Rod will ask. “Mr. Benson worked on the Space Shuttle project for over a year here,” she will answer. “The launches were top secret but when the motels filled up with Generals the locals went out and sat on the beaches at night and watched the rockets go up,” she will say laughingly.
 
He wrote in his journal that he loved Stands With a Fist and signed his name “Dances With Wolves.” He finally was able to feed Two Socks by hand. The wolf crept up and backed off repeatedly to and from the jerky, then took it and ranbut not farbefore eating it. Dances With Wolves came back to the village and struck up a secret affair with Stands With a Fist. Just after making love one day he found out that 50 Pawnee were on the way to attack the village to steal the food stores. He took Smiles A Lot back to the fort in the rain to get guns and ammunition. After a search the young brave was finally able to locate the ordnance that Dances With Wolves had buried for safekeeping. After helping fight off the Pawnee, Dances With Wolves was made a full member of the tribe. After the battle he felt that he then knew who he really was. He had found his new frontier within.
 
A month or two after she starts work I give Christine a fresh ground and brewed cup of flavored coffee in my wife’s favorite mug with a pretty purple iris on it. We tell her that when she is through with it to put the mug on the back bumper of my pickup truck in the front drive, but she puts it on the arbor bench where we keep the dogs out back. Sniffy Dolly’s nose pushes it off onto the pink concrete in front of the bench. It was but a little mug but it meant a lot to us, and if she had done as we asked it would not have been broken. The next day she brings a humorous mug to my wife. Christine is learning.
 
The train will slide by Hearst Castle.  Christine will remark, "This is San Simeon where William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, built his mansion.  He had his own wild animal park on that grassy mountainside where zebras still roam, and the Grand Lodge is an art museum now housing thousands of art objects.  It takes six tours to see them all."  Rod will reply, "I didn't know you were an art aficionado also."  "Well, he did newspapers, and I do writing," she will reply. It will be a long trip all of the way up to Washington. She will hold his hand. Her grip will be stronger. She will have told me a few weeks before her work with me was completed that her martial arts instructor was elated that her arms had gotten strong enough for her to do push ups. The hard work will have paid many dividends. I will have told her to join a gym or take PE fitness courses at a community college and work out three times a week for the rest of her life and that as a result she will write better. She will have seemed to have noted that. Her increased strength and endurance will fare her well as she throws herself into a last minute effort to pack the rest of her life to take to Washington. 
 
Kicking Bird’s squaw told him of the by then not so secret affair between Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist, and Kicking Bird told Stands With a Fist that she was to mourn no more. After Dances With Wolves married Stands With A Fist, Kicking bird said to him, "I was just thinking that of all the trails in this life there is one that matters most. It is the trail of a true human being. I think you are on this trail, and it is good to see.” He had seen Dances With Wolves’ caring. Eventually Dances With Wolves told Kicking Bird that the whites would be coming in numbers “like the stars.”
 
I sit looking at the empty track through the library’s large panoramic window. I wonder, had I been there, what I would have said to her on the train platform. I think, “There is Caring, Thinking and Writing. Always feel, think and act, in that order. There is a strong nexus between thinking and writing. Writing is action that records thinking. A great writer writes for all generations and shows caring in his or her writing.” How pompous, verbose, lengthy and asinine I am being! I would not have said those things out loud. What is the nexus between caring and being physical? Between caring and thinking? Between caring and writing? Is the next generation going to learn to care? It is going to be the end of civilization if it does not, so it is going to have to. Christine is going to when she has children, or when they grow up. As the chief Ten Bears would have said, “It is easy to become confused about these questions.” I would have said, “Seek your own new frontier within you.” I mean the emotional frontier. For a few years she will be busy adjusting to her new physical location and the new physicality of her relationship with Rod. I see myself saying, “I will look for you in print. Go get ‘em, tiger!” Writing is all that she has done.
 
On the light side, I tease Christine a lot about sex. She says Generation Next women take any teasing about sex from older men "as an attempt to hit on them." Generation Next young people talk about almost nothing but sex among themselves but "dirty old men” are not allowed that prerogative.
 
The train will wind in and out of coves and promontories up the coast by Big Sur. The view of the waves crashing on the rocks sending sea-foam-green jets of spray skyward will be spectacular. Will she miss it with her head buried in a book? Or will she say, “This is where the Big Sur fires were this summer. The beetles had killed the pines and a lost hiker set a signal fire that got out of control. They had to evacuate the residents and the fires burned through the dead forest. All of the businesses were shut down for a week at the height of the tourist season and over two dozen homes were lost.” “This may not be PC,” Rod will say, “but it might have been better had the hiker remained lost.” I do not know the route north of San Francisco. Does the train cross the Golden Gate Bridge or go through Oakland? How does it go through Oregon and Washington to Seattle? Is there a train change? I will not know some things about her future. She will have to learn some things by experience. I will have seen her quickness—when she wants to learn, when she thinks that it is to her advantage to do so. She will be successful. Will she make a caring contribution? No person will really be mature until he or she learns to do so.
 
Dances With Wolves returned to his outpost to retrieve his journal and orders that he kept in it. He found the fort reoccupied by soldiers. Thinking that he was an Indian the soldiers attacked Dances With Wolves, killing Cisco. An illiterate soldier had taken his journal to use pages of it for toilet paper. He was with Dances With Wolves after he had been clubbed unconscious with a rifle butt as a suspected deserter, and denied seeing the journal. Seeing the vultures devouring the remains of Cisco and being pushed to look only ahead, Dances With Wolves attacked the soldiers and was again beaten unconscious. Scouts from his tribe saw him at the fort.
 
"Generation Next," Christine says, “is aggressive. We criticize but don’t like to be criticized or we will be retributive." She is rebelling and occasionally she projects angry feelings about her parents upon me with dagger looks. I wish Generation Next people could be assertive but not aggressive. I give Christine four boxes of pencils, a spiral notebook, several lunches, pay to ship her property to her new home, mugs of coffee and pop and treats during breaks. She gives my wife a mug and a greeting card. Christine gives me some reality pills, two boxes of Pocky candy, the back-story for a one act play, this story, a pound of See's chocolates for my birthday, a few pictures, several barrels of Buddy’s manure for my compost bin and my link to Generation Next. She critiques some of my writing and I critique some of hers. She helps me clean up a 1/4 acre lot and excavate for my driveway expansion. As Wind In His Hair would say, “Good trade.”
 
On the ridgeline above, Two Socks followed the wagon below carrying Dances With Wolves to his court martial. The soldiers were taking pot shots at the wolf. Dances With Wolves attacked one of them and yelled to frighten the wolf away. But Two Socks, ever loyal, refused to run and was killed. Later Dances With Wolves’ tribe attacked the soldiers as they were crossing a river; the Indians and Dances With Wolves killed all of them. The journal was floating away in the river and Smiles A Lot retrieved it. 
 
Christine told me once that "Generation Next is confident." She has a strong idea of what she wants and an amazing determination to get it. She is on her way to a new home with her boy friend. She has no job except the capability to quickly write and sell stories for a few hundred dollars each. She does not own a car. She only learned to drive last year. Her bank account is maybe in the hundreds of dollars and a lot of that will go to ship Buddy, her only real property except her books, in September. She is a dreamer. The grassy green slope in front the library window undulates down to the gymnasium and then stretches out flat across the athletic fields and Campus Park to the 118 Ronald Reagan Freeway. On the other side of it snakes the train track. A few minutes after 11:30 AM a train comes into view. Its electric horn sounds, it rounds a curve and disappears.  Christine is gone. Now I am become Dances With Wolves. 
 
Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist were reunited in the Indian winter camp, but he realized that the army would be after him. He did not want to stay with the Lakota because his presence jeopardized their safety. He cared for them more than he cared for himself. The Indians tried to protect Dances With Wolves because they had learned to care for him. They tried to provide him with a safe home. He insisted upon leavingjustifying his decision with the declaration, “I must go and talk with those who would listen.”
 
Christine gives me a glimpse into what makes Generation Next tick—a small but significant victory for an aging warrior. I can still learn and change. I am drawn to learn more about them—to try to write for them and about them. She thinks I am crazy for trying to include them in the market for my writing. All of my efforts to establish rapport with them, to learn about how they are, to interest them in my writing up to now are rebuffed and ignored. While working on a graduate degree I learn, “Don’t Quit.” On our day trip I show Christine a beautiful single-arch bridge—the longest in the country. She is my Bridge Over Troubled Waters regarding the generation gap. I must stay and write to those who would read. 
 
He took Stands With A Fist and left when the snow broke. In preparation for his departure, Dances With Wolves carved a pipe for Kicking Bird. Kicking Bird gave him his ceremonial knife. The archetypal parting gift exchanges between close friends were being observed. Smiles A Lot, with tears streaming down his cheek, returned the journal to Dances With Wolves. A life was saved, a life was returned. 
 
The Indians moved their camp right after he left. The soldiers with their Pawnee scouts arrived to find the camp empty with campfire ashes still warm. As Dances With Wolves and his wife climbed out of the valley of the camp on horseback, Wind In His Hair, in full war paint and regalia, raised his spear high above his head from atop his horse on the opposite ridgeline across the valley. “Dances with Wolves,” he shouted, “I am Wind In His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that I will always be your friend?” Warriors could not weep. They did not say, “I love you.” They did not know the Greek words, “philios, agape.” The Indians had no words to express that they cared in modern psychological terms. He physically expressed how he felt in the mode that he was best at—as a warrior. Dances With Wolves was gone.
 
Shu-mani-tu-tonka Ob’Wa-chi,” I cry to the empty track, “I am Lloyd. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that I will always be your friend?” I take one last look at the track, email this story to my Generation Next bridge for her farewell present, and put my lap top in my back pack. I get up, and as I head for the door, become aware that the students in the library are looking at me quizzically.
 
Near the beginning of her working for me Christine says, “Generation Next uses the 'F word' a lot in obscene, scatological and profane language. The opposite sexes like to hear each other talk explicitly and make excuses to do so. We’re rebelling against superficial rules.” I ask Christine to critique this story. It is not all sweetness and light. She refusesreacting angrily with crude language to my reference to her behavior returning from our day trip. 
 
By about a decade later the buffalo hunters had decimated the herds and the Indians’ plains horse culture died. An Indian was an Indian was an Indian and they had to go. The story did not say if Wind In His Hair ever saw Dances With Wolves again. He had to make a new life as John J. Dunbar again. But the Indians had seen him change. Did he have children? Did they learn what their father had learned? One of the symbols of the Native Americans was the Great Circle. It symbolized the earth—the Mother of all life of which we are only a part. It symbolized life that comes back and returns to itself, completing itself. Some of us in my generation have learned to care for others. The circle has continued to close. 
 
"Generation Next people reserve the right to change our minds. We don’t feel tied down by commitments. We are flexible and can change," Christine says. My spouse and I go to her going away party and she gives going away hugs to her friends; but to us she gives nothing—not even a piece of cake. No, I am mistaken; she shakes my hand. Early in our acquaintance she promises to introduce me to some of her friends but she does not introduce us around. We leave to take a boat ride with some of our friends. I try to say good bye to Ken and she steps in between me and him, blocking the attempt. More of a taker than a giver, a successfully published Generation Next 20 year old female writer has no need for the friendship of a 66 year old retired man, and he cannot give it. Reading and writing is her bag, and she knows how to use people to get what she wants. Her church does not teach its members to care for people who care for them. The reality pills are working.
 
The story is not over until it is over. The bridge we go under on our trip is high and is made of steel. It would be hard to burn. The communication bridge between human beings is the most distinguishing human capability, but it is more tenuous than steel. "We in Generation Next defend ourselves," Christine announces one day. "If we’re crossed or don’t get what we want we retaliate." I make attempts to assure Christine's privacy concerning the biographical material in this story and note that she does not address our concerns about her behavior at the end of the day trip. I receive another email from her but before I can read it is deleted before my eyes. Someone is hacking my computer and email. Communications important to my life disappear and other messages disappear several weeks later. I feel that my humanity is being raped. Mitnick went to prison for hacking. In the story, Dances With Wolves bridged the culture gap and was able to relate caringly to the Indians. There are gender gaps, ethnic and sectarian gaps, political, regional and all kinds of gaps. The gap between humans and wild animals may never be safely bridged. Dances With Wolves bridged even it with Two Socks, but that was just a story. Perhaps the most difficult to bridge is the generation gap. In Texas we had a saying, "You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink." Interests in friendship and non-romantic caring may not be reciprocal. A dance with a wolf by firelight may be only limited to a specific time and the embers of the fire may quickly die. Some stories do have definite ends.
 
As Dances With Wolves continued up the trail of his life, a lone wolf on the ridgeline above howled, “This is my territory. You are gone, Shu-mani-tu-tonka Ob’Wa-chi; now it is mine alone.”
 
Christine has to build her own life. 
 
The train will pull into the Seattle station. Rod and Christine will disembark. His father and mother will be there to meet them and she will sense that something significant is about to happen. There will be hugs all around. “So glad to see you again.” “How was the trip?” “Long and tiring.” “With Christine like a trip to Heaven.” “Take Rod’s arm and close your eyes until we get to the parking lot.” When they get to it she will open her eyes and spy his father’s car. Beside it will be a brand new Ford F150—her new truck. Unbeknownst to her, there will be a crate in the pickup bed holding a shining suit of armor. Locked up in the glove compartment in a small ring box will be a one-carat diamond to match the necklace that Rod gave her for Christmas. Rod will drive to their new home where he will don the armor and propose as her knight. How romantic! Old circles of life will be closing; a new one will be opening. Christine will be arriving and she will begin to learn.
THE END
Notes: The embedded travelogue in a different type face was influenced by Robert Pirsig. Certain moods and aspects of the writing were influenced by a story by a friend about her playing an Internet game. Some characteristics of Christine’s generation noted in this story were documented in Judy Woodruff’s PBS “The News Hour” (DVD “Generation Next, Speak Up, Be Heard,” copyright 2007 by Films For the Humanities & Sciences). The copyright to the 1990 version of Dances With Wolves from which certain quotes were used is owned by TIG Productions, Inc. My grandfathers were the models for Lloyd, the old man. The narrative style was influenced by Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird. Julia Reynolds provided information about the Big Sur fire and Gillian Dale provided editorial help with the manuscript.
Copyright © 2008, Nadia Jean Private. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
Word Count (body/overall): 7632/7812


© Copyright 2018 Nadia Jean Private. All rights reserved.

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