A Thanksgiving Story

     Here’s a story from my six years on an Indian reservation.
     I taught high school and coached track on the rez in southern Arizona many moons ago. To get my kids ready for the State Meet, I’d enter the team in big invitational meets up north: meets with 30 or more giant high schools, where we’d score points in distance races and have our heads handed to us in sprints and field events.
     To get to an invitational, I’d check out a school van on Friday afternoon, get up at around 3 Saturday morning and start driving, picking up the kids in their villages.
     I’d drive 150 miles collecting the team before we even hit the paved road.
     Drive another 150 miles to the meet, go through the prelims and finals, collect our medals, then load up and drive back to the rez and drop the kids off in the dark.
     We’d do this every other Saturday for a while, to get ready for state.
     So.
     Late one afternoon, after one of those invitationals, I was driving the van south. Rather briskly. I mean, come on: Even after we got to the rez, I had another 3-4 hours to go, up those dirt roads to the villages.
     I was going 80 when the cop turned on his blue lights.
     We pulled into a wide spot in the road.
     The team loved it.
     “Woo-hoo! Kahn’s gonna get a ticket!”
     Just what I needed. It was 105 degrees. I opened the door and hobbled over toward the cop, barefoot.
     I was wearing white cotton pants I’d bought in a Maya village in Yucatan. Comfy pants, they were. My ponytail fell halfway down to my butt. I wore a team T-shirt and a beaded headband made for me by a team member named Valentino Montana.
     Dressed like that, red-eyed and covered with sweat, I stumbled over the burning white rocks toward the Arizona Highway Patrol.
     Sitting inside his air-conditioned cruiser, the cop looked me up and down.
     “We’re coming back from the Buckeye Invitational,” I said before he could start. “I’ve got to drive another 200 miles to drop the kids off in their villages before I get home to Sells.”
     The white cop looked at me.
     He looked at the kids in the van.
     It was obvious that everything I had said was true.
     “Look,” the cop said. “I’m going to give you a warning. But when you get back in that van, I want you to tell those kids that I gave you a ticket. We don’t want them thinking you can drive like that.”
     “Yes, sir,” I said. “I surely will. Thank you, sir.”
     The cop wrote me a warning. Tore it off his pad and handed it to me.
     I hobbled back toward the van over those hot white stones. Hobbling perhaps a bit more than necessary.
     The cop waited in his roller.
     I opened the door and got into the van.
     “Woo-hoo!” the team yelled. “Kahn got a ticket!”
     “Fuck you, I did not,” I said. “It was only a warning.”
     I passed it around.
     

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