Mescalero Pickup


During summer break from high school, two years in a row our girl and I are absolutely delighted to live with and live like a small band of Mescalero Apache down in the American Southwest. This proves to be amongst the best events of our lives.

Arriving in a Greyhound bus station in a medium size city of the Arizona and New Mexico region, my daughter and I do not need to see someone standing and holding up a sign with our names while waiting on us. We Indians can spot each others hides in tanning yard from a quarter mile out.

As soon as we step down from our bus a young Apache boy, looks to be late teens, immediately comes over and gives each of us girls hugs and squeezes. He welcomes us and introduces himself. The boy is all grins, he is really nice. He insists on carrying our gym bag. Our guide lifts our gym bag up and down, "You are traveling light!" Our girl takes his arm and walks alongside, "We only packed two pairs of jeans, two shirts, our camera and a water canteen." He nods approval, "Our tribe will provide everything you need. If you go hiking your canteen will be handy."

Out in parking lot at his old truck, our new friend drops our gym bag in bed and is quick to open the passenger door for us; he knows his manners. He fetches a gallon milk jug and tells us, "I'll just be a minute. I have to add radiator water, leaks a lot." He raises his hood, adds water then closes his hood with a bang. After tossing his empty jug in back he opens an ice chest then fetches cold 7-Up soda pops for us.

His engine is a bit cranky, backfires a little, then starts and runs good. Our friend pats his dashboard, "I love my old truck, she never lets me down." Our girl squeezes at his arm, "That's what my daddy does, he loves his truck!" They both laugh. Already my daughter really likes this boy. We are off with rattles, clanks and some engine coughing now and then.

Along our way to his village and home, our girl and he talk much about future plans. He is in his first year of college. He wants to be a geologist, "...so I can help our tribe grow more crops to feed our families, maybe farm to sell crops to grocery stores." He asks our girl about her future, "I'm going to be a psychologist. I have to, my momma is crazy." I hit her head. The boy leans forward and looks at me, "You will like our medicine man, he is crazy too."

While negotiating a series of dirt roads our Mescalero boy cautions us several times, "You must wait for our chief. Don't say anything and do whatever he tells you. This is our tradition."

He drives us to a small clearing on side of a hill. Pointing through his dusty windshield, "He is our medicine man, he lives here in his trailer. Don't believe anything he tells you, he is crazy, he eats too much peyote."

Walking towards a nice Airstream trailer, our guide tells us their village is about a mile down a trail, "I brought you here so you can see our whole village down below, the most beautiful sight you will ever see! There are a lot of rattlesnakes down through here, you be careful."

We are introduced to their medicine man. He doesn't offer to shake hands nor hug us rather simply stands with a typical stoic Indian face. We cannot read his face. He nods at us then tells us, "You are crazy." My daughter asks why he thinks us crazy, "You are going to the village to live. Those people are crazy, they eat too much peyote. I live up here, I am not crazy."

Our Mescalero boy interrupts to save us, "I have errands to run but I will catch up with you back at home. I will drop off your bag at my house. I am really pleased you have come to live with us!" He gives my girl a sincere smile of admiration. Medicine man points, "That way."

Walking this trail my daughter asks, "Did you hear him? He said ‘home' to us!" Tell her, "Yes, and we are home, we belong here."

Clearing a small hillside valley, there is their village down below. Our guide boy is right, this is a beautiful sight. An area, looks to be twenty acres or so, is clear cut into this hill. Dirt is well compacted reddish clay and silt. Couple hundred yards to east is a small stream. Between this and their village is a good size field of vegetables and a lot of corn. Almost straight below our feet is a huge cistern of water, has to be fifty feet across.

Homes are arranged in a circle and resemble classic Pueblo adobe brick with plastered exteriors. In middle is a big common area. This is a delight to see a communal oven for cooking food for their entire tribe. Four roads lead into center. Those roads match the four points of the wind, west, north, east and south.

Our medicine man teaches us, "Our homes are interconnected by hallways inside, we can walk to other homes without going outside. We have gravity fed running water from this open air concrete tank down there. This is filled by rain water coming down hills."

He continues instructing us. He points out a building south end which has electricity, a well and electric water pump with a standby generator, "We use the well during drought." Inside this building there is a recreation area with tables, chairs, a television, radio and, most important, a telephone. He points out homes which have electricity, most do not, "Soon, all our homes will have electricity," he pauses then adds, "I don't have electricity where I live. I am not crazy like those people. They eat too much peyote."

Medicine man leads us down this well worn path. He takes us to a communal area at south end. We are near edge of this circle of homes and their communal oven is just north of us. We are told, "Wait here. Stay here. Wait for our chief. Don't speak and do whatever the chief tells you."

People begin collecting but do not approach us. Families, mothers, fathers and children, come out of homes and down their roads. They form a circle around us but leave the west end open. They talk, now and then a child runs to us, looks at us, pats at us, then runs and laughs back to momma and daddy. I whisper at our girl, "Something spiritual is about to happen, the west side is open for spirits to come in." Two of us girls don't know what to think, we never anticipated anything like this.

There is a loud whistle followed by a hush, a quietness. We look, there is the boy who met us at the bus station. He sticks two fingers back in his mouth and whistles again. He walks over to a house and steps in. Minute or so the medicine man comes out and walks over towards us but keeps a distance from us and their tribal peoples. Then our Mescalero friend comes back out and stands next to his medicine man. All is silent.

A middle aged man, rather handsome, comes out of the same house and walks towards us. His hair is neatly braided and wrapped reaching down to his waist. He is wearing ordinary jeans and a shirt but he has a ceremonial waist sash knotted in place. He is our chief. Dawns on me this Mescalero boy with whom my daughter is so taken is a son to our chief, likely oldest son. He enjoys high tribal status.

Our chief stares at my girl and I and comes up to about five feet away. He simply stands and stares. Anxiety is beginning to well up, I am certain same for our girl. We silently and stiffly stand before our chief. We cannot read even a hint of emotion on his face, perfectly stoic, deadpan, poker face.

Few minutes of dead-eye staring us, he raises his arms and hands to overhead then talks Mescalero to our sky while slowly lowering his arms and hands to pointing south and pointing north. He stares at us for a bit then does this again, in English, "Spirits welcome our friends into our homes and hearts."

In perfect unison and harmony, all those villagers repeat his Mescalero words.

All remain silent, Chief resumes staring at us, folds his hands behind then starts up like a Marine Corp drill sergeant facing down green recruits, "This is not a vacation. You are not here for fun. This is our home, you will work hard and earn your keep. You will live as we do. You will abide by our traditions. You will obey our mothers and fathers. You will obey me and do whatever I say."

A good sweaty five minutes later of silently staring at us he steps forward and speaks Mescalero. Then he loudly barks at us, "Take off your clothes!" Boy howdy, we just about tear our clothes, we cannot get out of our clothes quick enough.

A young girl and boy run up from south, same from north, girl and boy child. Girls hold out their arms and hands to take our clothes. Each girl carefully folds our jeans, hands those to a boy, carefully folds our shirts to give to the boys. When done each girl tells us something in Mescalero, then those four children run back to their parents and families.

We hear some murmur, a bit of whispering, a giggle here and there. We don't know what to do or how to behave.

Chief stands there, straight face staring, eyeballs don't move, doesn't seem to blink, not once. He stands with us under a hot blistering sun for a good five minutes. I am certain there is a pool of sweaty water beneath my feet. Anxiety is so high I feel my head might explode. I can only hope my girl is doing alright.

Chief says something Mescalero, there is muffled laughter. He holds up a hand and all is quiet again. He slowly clockwise circles around us while looking. Behind, he says something again, there is a lot of laughter this time, then quiet. Coming back around front of us, he points at each of us girls, points right where we are both clean shaven. Still a stoic look, more Mescalero words, a young girl voice shrieks and laughs! Then a lot of laughter and talking. His hand shoots up, all fall silent.

He stands in front of us, not a word said. Five minutes we are fit to be tied, my daughter breaks down, her intense need to do right and please has her blurt, "Chief, what should we do now?"

Our chief jerks his head around and stares her but I can see a smile twitching at his mouth corners. Chief ear-to-ear grins and in an amused friendly voice tells us, "Nothing, I just wanted to see you girls naked!"

We are mobbed, entire tribe crushes in on us, there are shrieks of laughter, hoots and tongue trills. They give us hugs, squeezes, shoulder pats, hand shakes and elder women kiss our cheeks. We hear invitations to supper, requests we live in their homes and most of all, "Welcome to our family!"

Some mothers remove their shawls then tie those around their waists so they will be bare breasted like the two of us girls, they are honoring us. A teenage girl, naked, comes over and hugs up to our girl, "You are going to live with us. You can wear my clothes!" They are excited and take to flapping their jaws a mile a minute.

Ten and fifteen minutes we begin settling down. Some menfolk appear with folding patio chairs and have their elderly sit in those. Elders always come first. A group of young boys carry in some picnic benches for mothers and girls. Then folding tables appear and not long are covered with hand-fired clay platters of sliced fruits and vegetables. Everyone simply eats with their fingers as is traditional.

Chief's son comes along carrying a gallon jug of chilled tea of sorts. A young boy is tagging along with a trash can which he sets by a table then reaches down and pulls out a plastic bag of styrofoam cups for table top. This is becoming a Saturday night party! Our girl and I are deeply honored. Everyone treats us well and offer invites to join them doing this and doing that. We are family now.

Our pickup driver, Chief's son, comes over to talk, wants to know if we are having fun which we are. We idle talk a bit. Our girl gives his daddy, our chief, a look then sidelong glances me which is our secret signal, "Play along, I'm going to do something ornery."

My daughter hits at our young friend's chest, "This is not fair!" Reading Chief's face he is a little startled. His son has "startled" written all over his face, "What is not fair?" Our girl chastises, "I am standing here naked and you get to see everything. You are standing there with clothes on and I don't get to see anything. That's not fair!"

The boy almost makes an audible sigh of relief, "You wait here, I'll be right back!" He takes off running for their home.

Chief is looking back and forth at us two girls, he doesn't know what to think; baffled. I ask our girl, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I know what our girl has in mind, our chief does not. She tells me, "Yes, I do!" She turns to Chief, "You, your son, all of you planned this, perfectly planned this. I've have never enjoyed more fun nor felt more honored. You talked us out of our clothes, this is fair of me to talk your son out of his clothes!" She pauses then adds, "I have to do this to protect my Indian honor."

He is impressed, tells me, "Your daughter has fire in her heart. She is a true Indian but she will never talk me out of my clothes!" My girl is quick with a biting retort, "I can't talk you out of your clothes but my momma can!" She gives a signal, "Take over". Our chief knows he is had, easy to read on his face. Chief must agree with our girl to defend my honor as a woman. He looks at me, gives me a wink to let me know he is playing. Chief slowly looks me up and down, turns to my daughter, "Yes, your mother can talk me out of my clothes!"

Our girl makes a smug smile, she is winning this contest of wits. She pokes the chief, "Look, here comes your boy!" We look, our girl's new friend is hurrying and he is naked as a jaybird! I look around to take stock, none are watching, nobody cares.

This young boy comes right up, plants his feet, jams his fists on his hips, "There! Now you can look all you want!" His chief daddy is grinning and shaking his head in disbelief. My girl looks at the boy, slowly, down and up. She exaggerates looking there, right there, she intentionally makes big eyes and grins. Might be real, he is good looking, muscular and well hung, enough to have me grin while looking; he is tempting.

Oh boy, here comes the ornery. She squeezes at his upper arms, "Muscular!" She pats his chest, "Thick muscles, powerful!" The boy is loving this, she is playing his ego with certain talent. Rubbing at his belly, "Hard and firm, nice!" Moving her hands down, panic rushes across his face, Chief's son didn't plan for this, she plays him well, makes him mindless. Instead of what he thinks, she lifts up and places her hands on his chest and pats, "You have a really nice body!" She is reading his face. I teach my girl well about such games. She waits until relief is dancing on his face, then she looks down, takes a hold of him and gently pulls him a few times, gives him some squeezes, pulls more, "You are big, almost as big as my daddy and he is huge!" Hapless boy, his eyes are about to pop out of his head, smoke curls up from his ears, his jaws are clinched, he is bewildered and on the verge of falling over backwards. She lets a final cupid arrow fly at his libido, "And you are not circumcised!"

She lets go and looks up at him, "I like what I see!" Shyness overwhelms him, the boy shuffles his feet, stammers, opens his mouth to talk but no words come out. He is unaware of being safe, this is as far as she will ever go with a boy; nothing else.

I chance a glance, he is at least partially aroused. Few more minutes my girl would have him pointing straight at the coming sunset.

Chief is looking at me to not see, he is rubbing at his forehead. I don't think he has ever experienced such Indian wildness. Finally he smiles at us, "You girls are bringing fire to our hearts and tribe. We are honored you come to live with us. You will teach us much."

He takes his son by arm, "Come on, if you stay here you will be married before moon-set. You are a chief's son, you need to put on traditional clothing then walk around with me to greet our family and tribe." As Indians do, he turns around and quietly walks away. His son, however, looks over a shoulder then grins at my daughter.

Previously, I write in my Playing Doctor essay, "If they cannot take off their clothes, they cannot open their minds to new ways of thinking."

These behaviors of ours are common, almost stereotypical. We Indians are able to enjoy this playfulness because of our being close, familiar and of one mind. We are not Christians, we do not suffer this crazy notion of guilt and sin. Christians eat too much peyote.

This is important for young and old alike to become aware Christianity severely dampens and lessens their sex lives. Mainstream Americans cannot enjoy full and free sexuality; minds are hampered by religious faith. Americans are generally lousy lovers, especially American men. They cannot cut loose, cannot be imaginative nor enjoy a bit of wildness. Christianity does not allow sexuality to be displayed and limits, or tries to limit sex to no pleasure and only for procreation.

Another favorite question of mine is, "When was the last time you got naked with friends?" You, the reader, know the answer, "NEVER!"