Beautifully Ugly


I am about six to seven years old and always looking for adventure. My Choctaw elders and friends tell me to never enter God's house up on Church House Hill south end of Eagletown. This warning has me tomboy cat curious.

On a Sunday, sunrise breakfast fixed for the boys, mules fed, hogs slopped, eggs brought in from our henhouse, my daily chores are dutifully done. Sunday is our day of rest, no knocking down weeds nor mule plowing and I have a hankering for an ice cold nickle soda pop from Hendon's general store up in town.

Sipping my soda out on a boardwalk front of this only store in town, I spot fancy dressed people walking into a church. Curious like a cat I look myself over. Yesterday, Saturday, is wash day. Takes me most of a day to wash our clothes. I look presentable, barefoot but my overalls are clean and no knee patches. My white long sleeve shirt is crisp and only one elbow patch. I am certain God will not mind my not wearing a going-to-church dress.

Returning my empty bottle to Kutcher Hendon, I thank him for this cold refreshing cream soda then walk across our dirt road and on up to top of Church House Hill.

This is my first time in a church. Quite impressive, long rows of bench seats either side, carpeted aisle down the middle and on walls there are paintings of people wearing white robes, some I know to be portraits of that Jesus boy. A preacher man, a Southern Baptist, comes walking this aisle towards me with his arms spread wide and a grin on his face, "Welcome to our church, young lady! Please join us in prayer."

An old gray haired woman turns and looks at me, stands and steps over to this white collared preacher man then takes to whispering in his ear while giving me looks. He becomes somber, walks up close to me, "You must leave. You are not allowed in here, you are an Indian."

We traditional American Indians, along with many people, see this beauty of a church building and see this ugliness contained and concealed within. Symbolism is all personal perception which lends a certain magical quality to photographs both good and, bad.