“Pioneers and Indians”Posted: August 14, 2012
As a child with an overactive imagination I pretended to be characters in books, movies, and at times characters I invented. Though mostly drawing inspiration from the fictitious, every so often a factual setting would prove irresistible to my creative impulses. Around fifth grade, a certain historical group struck my fancy: the pioneers. Could have been that we were studying them in school, could have been a cowboy movie, most likely it was the residual result of reading all that Laura Ingalls Wilder. However the seed was planted, it grew for years. My grandmother sent my sister and I a pioneer style blouse, skirt, and a bonnet, which I wore anytime the sweltering Corpus Christi heat allowed it. On Field Day at St. Patrick’s School, my fellow students chose me as the rider in our wagon in the class races. I was quite the “half-pint” myself, and the obvious choice- the lighter the load, the faster the flight. My mama remembers watching from a distance (she was a pre-K teacher at St. Pat’s) as the starting shot was fired and the strongest and fastest boys in each class pushed and then released the vehicles down the length of the field. As she watched in apprehension, which with increase in speed turned to alarm, I was having a ball! I imagined I was part of the original land rush, that I was flying toward the plot of land(finish line) I would stake for my family(class). I cannot for the life of me remember if our class won that year, what I do remember was the thrill of the race, the rush of excitement, and the willingness to put myself in harm’s way to bring honor and prosperity to my pioneer brethren.
Another memorable (though mortifying) memory of pioneer persona taking over happened the summer after fifth grade. My BBF(Best Bud Forever) Jackie and I were playing at my house, and decided to trek five blocks down and several streets away to an empty garden lot we dubbed The Green Place. We used The Green Place to play pirates, runaways, secret garden, etc. and heading there was not an unusual plan of action. What was unusual was my proposed mode of transportation. Because it was July in Corpus, I decided that we should travel with as many supplies as we could, you know, in case we were attacked along the way. And so, using wire hangers and thermal blankets, we fashioned a covered wagon out of my mundanely modern radio flyer. With our created Conestoga in tow, filled with stuffed animals, canteens of water, sour candy snacks, and the two of us sharing the pioneer costume- I wearing the long muslin skirt, a wolf t-shirt, and the bonnet, Jackie rocking Umbros and the frontier blouse- we set out for the land of the free! About halfway there, we passed the house of a gal pal. She and four friends were laying out in two-piece bikinis, listening to Smashing Pumpkins, and reading Seventeen magazine. They looked so sophisticated and cool, so mature. That was them, and the two kids playing make believe were us. Knowing they would recognize us immediately, we froze. We both hid behind our wagon and pow-wowed(excuse the mixed metaphors) on what to do. Deciding that our social lives would fair far better without them being the wiser to our now decidedly infantile antics, we both climbed in the wagon and sticking our arms out like oars, the street our river, we paddled to the safety of the next street corner, turned it, hopped out, and pushed the wagon home, abandoning our Green Place plans. We didn’t talk about what happened until we laughed about it years later, but soon after that day our childish imaginative adventures took on a markedly stealthy enactment. We never stopped pretending, we were just more discreet.
I was reminded of how historical figures and groups can capture the imagination on a day at the park with Mr. Man and Big Cat. On this particular day we’d opted for a park with a playscape including a bridge. I was musing that the playscape could be turned into so many different things; It could be a castle or a pirate ship, or a ship escaping the advance of pirates! Mr. Man asked, “Are we the Good Guys or the Bad Guys?” to which I replied, “Whichever you want to be!” His face lit up and he ran over to Big Cat and said, “Big Cat, we’re the Good Guys and our ship is being chased by pirates, ok?” Big Cat nodded, weighing the implications of this imposed scenario, thinking of a way to add to the story, then, visibly perking up, excitedly inquired, “Are we Native Americans?!”