Thank You, Tohono O’odham

We got a foot of snow Tuesday in Denver and I loved it, even though it made driving a car like ice-skating on an amoeba. It reminded me of the Thanksgiving snowstorms and tackle football games with my brothers in Chicago when I was a kid.

One year we got 19 inches of snow around Thanksgiving. When it snows that much you can play tackle football, because you can’t get up enough speed to do harm, and if they knock you down into a foot and a half of snow, so what?

Everyone in our country has Thanksgiving memories. I remember my years on the rez.

I’ve written about this before and don’t want to repeat myself but am proud to say, 37 years later, that I did not get on that horse, no matter how many times Cherwilly told me to.

“He’s tame, Kahn! He’s tame!” Cherwilly said. The little liar.

I know a wild horse when I see one.

I taught music, English and journalism on the Tohono O’odham reservation for six years, but what they remember me for — if they remember me at all — is as Coach Kahn, because our cross-country team won state two years in a row. Class B, true: Fourth-smallest from AAA to AA to A to B to C — classifications based on student population. But still, we won state. Two years in a row.

Three of our runners died this year, and some of the old team members got back in touch with me. It’s sad, all right. I should have died before them.

Being invited by Indians to Thanksgiving dinner was a highlight of my life.

I love y’all on the rez, especially REDACTED and REDACTED and — hey, wait a minute. Who just changed the font?

I give thanks today to Stan Throssell, who has kept the Runner alive all these years.

I know how hard it is to work for a newspaper

But to run a newspaper — to know how to keep it alive — that’s beyond me.

But Stan did it, and still is doing it, last I heard.

Now, I shouldn’t single out Stan here, because anyone on the rez would think I’m tryna be jum skug.

(Jum skug = trying to act, on many levels).

But that ain’t it.

Back in the day, it was really hard to get a discussion going in my English classes at Baboquivari High School, because in Indian culture, you’re taught to not try to stand out too much, whereas in Anglo culture, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.

So, once Mr. Kahn gets the discussion of Huck Finn going, two sophomore girls make one comment each. Then everyone clams up because they don’t want to be jum skug.

I tell you what. I prefer that to what’s going on in the Anglo world these days, with everyone spouting off about whatever they like, whether they know anything about it or not.

But in a small town, and the rez is essentially a 3 million-acre small town, everyone knows who knows what about what, and who don’t. So there’s much less shouting there, at home, in the streets and in the newspaper.

And that sounds pretty good to me.

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