Fiction

When the Redskins took over Twiggeville

The trouble started, really, when skootamata went to college and turned up a yellowed treaty that soon turned the town upside down

JAMES ALVERTON March 1 1953
Fiction

When the Redskins took over Twiggeville

The trouble started, really, when skootamata went to college and turned up a yellowed treaty that soon turned the town upside down

JAMES ALVERTON March 1 1953

When the Redskins took over Twiggeville

Fiction

The trouble started, really, when skootamata went to college and turned up a yellowed treaty that soon turned the town upside down

JAMES ALVERTON

IT’S ABOUT time somebody told the real story of the Twiggeville affair. Maybe you remember, for a lot of it got into the newspapers and it sure stirred up a fuss, but there was plenty more that wasn’t printed.

Feeny McCausland is the name. Citizen of Twiggeville. Got a bit of a coal and lumber yard which is moderately prosperous, although with taxes here and taxes there and . . . Well, that’s get nothing to do with this story.

I was just looking over some back numbers of the city papers and see that most of what was printed about the Twiggeville affair was that the Indians up here got a bit shirty with us Twiggevillians over a parcel of land.

A parcel of land, indeed!

Brother, there was a lot more. A whole lot more.

It takes us back to about five years, a June day—the 13th to be exact, and it wasn’t what you’d call a lucky number either. Anyway it —.. .Mt_f -bright sunny day. Nothing much doing in Twiggeville. Usually

Around noon I happened to drop into the office of Nofen Kefldïfè who was the mayor, furniture merchant and undertaker for the toffST I*c heard that Sam Hilton who runs a rival lumber yard was trying to’^fmloac some shoddy stuff on the School Board for the new school at top qUaliÍ2 prices. A sharp trader Sam, and I figured that Noren being a friend ojí mine maybe I could show him how the town could save some money by dealing with me.

Noren and me were getting along real fine on the matter when Agnes Seeley, his secretary who looks like something left overlong in a dusty attic, burst in on us. She was screaming fit to burst. “Indians! The Indians are here!”

Noren and me looked up, no little surprised. “Calm yourself Aggie,” said he smiling. “Tell ’em we don’t need any scalps today.”

That Noren is a real card, even at funerals.

Aggie collapsed, sniffling, into a chair.

Before we could say another word there was a shuffling of feet at the door and when we looked over we forgot all about Aggie and her hysterics.

Walking tall and proud into the room came Albert Skootamata, Chief of the Mazinaws—which is our local tribe of Indians—and behind him was half a dozen of his braves.

Noren gulped. My chin dropped and by the time I had picked it up Skootamata and his bucks were gathered about Noren’s desk.

The Indians had on their best town clothes—blue serge suits, plaid shirts and moccasins. It was on top, though, that brought the big shock,

for instead of the usual old felt hats or tweed peak caps the bucks wore feathers in their hair and on their cheeks was honest-to-God warpaint— red, blue and yellow, like you see in a horse-opera movie. All except Skootamata, that is, who was mighty sharp in a new gabardine summer suit and brown suede shoes.

“What’s this,” roared Noren, pounding the desk, “a circus? What do you mean by bustin’ in here and scarin’ the livin’ daylights out of Miss Seeley? What ...”

“Oh shut up, Noren!” Skootamata spoke sharply. His men grinned and nudged each other.

“We’ve come to take over,” Skootamata went on.

“You’ve what?” said Noren.

“You heard me,” replied Skootamata. “We’re moving into Twiggeville. rrfhe whole Mazinaw tribe. My people.”

“Hey, you’re drunk,” I shouted. “Get back to the reservation right quick or we’ll call . . .”

“The cops,” finished Skootamata. “Quiet, you! Our business is with Mayor Kendrick.”

The chief flicked back his gabardine sleeve and glanced at the gold watch on his wrist. “Twelve fifteen,” he murmured. “Well, no point in you gentlemen attempting to call the constabulary. It’s too late. My men have them securely locked up in the jail by now.”

At that announcement one of Skootamata’s sidekicks, Buck Round Eyes, who is a dandy fishing and hunting guide, let out a scalp-shuddering war whoop.

“Enough of that, Buck,” said the chief. “Let me explain to these gentlemen.”

“Now lookit here,” began Noren. “You can’t come in here like . . .” Skootamata held up one hand to command silence. “We have,” he said. He began to fish around in his pockets and finally he produced a yellowed sheet of paper.

“Ah, here it is,” he said.

“What?” Noren was sulking by now. “Patience, my man, patience,” said Skootamata. “See this document?” Noren nodded.

“Well, it’s something I discovered when I was at university . . .”

I remembered then how Skootamata had gone to college and how proud we were in Twiggeville when he made the All-Star team as quarterback and how as a distance runner he had whipped the pants off everybody who had come up against him, and that included some Yankee stars. Now I began to wonder if maybe all the studying and athletics had perhaps driven him a bit queer, him being a child of nature, as the saying goes.

“This document,” said Skootamata tapping the yellowed paper, “was, as you will see in due course, legally drawn up and signed in the year 1848. In June. At that time it gave your people, the palefaces, rights to build on the land which Twiggeville now occupies. It also gave my forefathers, then led by Chief Laughing Loon, full rights in perpetuity to the acres on which Mazinaw Village, commonly called the reservation, is located.” “So?” Noren tried to look haughty, but being short and fat, and Skootamata so tall and slim, he looked like a butter tub lying against a pine tree.

“Ah, but we haven’t finished yet,” chuckled Skootamata. “You’ll notice the contract is binding for exactly 99 years and 364 days. Not an hour more, not a minute less.

“At the end of this period,” he went on, “it says here that the Mazinaws will regain full rights, for eternity, to Twiggeville and all that it contains. Since the contract does not elaborate it is obvious that this means your homes, school, shops and public services, etc., etc. Everything!

“The hundred years,” Skootamata concluded, “are up. So here we are to take over.”

Buck Round Eyes let out another war whoop.

Noren’s jaws just opened and closed silently, like a gasping mudcat.

“Now, Mr. Mayor,” Skootamata spoke again, “we are not savages, but we do insist on having what is legally ours. So we are giving you (he looked again at his gold wrist watch) until 6 p.m., Daylight Saving Time, to clear every paleface family out of Twiggeville. My people are even now assembling on the outskirts to move in. “Since we do not wish your good people to suffer any inconvenience we are happy to offer them the «heiter of Mazinaw Village, commonly called the reservation, and its homes and land rent free for the time being. Later we can discuss some sort of financial arrangements. There, is that not being generous? I am sure you will be quite comfortable out there, although the mosquitoes and black flies are rather bad at the moment. Always are in June.”

Skootamata took a deep breath. “There it is. I might add, however, that it will do you no good to rush off to try to contact government authorities by telephone. They’ll be here soon enough as it is, and what’s more my men are taking over all key communication points immediately.”

“Yeah, but . . .” stammered Noren. “No buts, Mr. Mayor,” said the chief. “I have spoken. A bargain is a bargain, even if it was made a century ago. You have until 6 p.m. to settle your affairs and get out. Good-by!”

SO THAT was how Twiggeville’s folks were tossed out into the woods and found themselves that night of June 13 living where the Mazinaws had been for a hundred years, and the Mazinaws living in Twiggeville.

Of course there was a lot of weeping and wailing among the women and kids. Some of the more hotheaded men in town had to be held down from starting bloody war with the Indians, but most of them thought better of it once they saw that the Indian braves were prepared to be as tough as they found it necessary.

A lot of folks thought it was Noren’s fault for having been too soft with Skootamata, and when we reached Mazinaw village there was such a bickering and nattering that nobody got around to going after the authorities at Ottawa that night. A bunclv of soreheads got together and said that Noren wasn’t fit to be mayor and elected that Sam Hilton to the job. Didn’t seem legal to me.

Even with two mayors we got settled at last. Being a bachelor I drew a very small, not too bad, shack on the edge of the village.

The kids soon got over their bawling and began to think the whole business was a great lark and went off whooping and hollering around the street and into the bushes, making more racket than a dozen tribes of Indians, and getting the devil bitten out of them by the skeeters and black flies, which true enough were mighty bad.

Seemed to me I had barely got to sleep that first night when a great racket started outside. It wouldn’t stop, so I pulled on my pants and feeling like to brain somebody, staggered to the door. On the way I noticed it was just about 5 a.m.

Sitting out on the road in a spanking new car was Buck Round Eyes, his hand hard on the horn.

“Hey there, Feeney,” he yelled. “Come on, we want to go fishing!” “Go yourself, then,” I retorted.

“Oh no, we need a guide,” said the Indian.

“So what?” I grunted. “You’re the best guide hereabouts, why bother me?” Buck let out a whoop. “I’m not the best guide now, Feeny. I’ve retired. You’re the best guide now. Things have changed, remember? I want to hire you. Five bucks for the day and a buck for the canoe. Okay?”

We argued back and forth for all of two minutes, I guess, and since I kind of liked Buck, and still do, 1 ended up guiding for Buck and his wife.

It was no picnic, though.

As I hoisted the canoe up onto the top of Buck’s car he jittered and nattered about how I was scratching

the paint, that guides today had no respect for their customers, and stuff like that. I was mad enough to spit in his eye.

We got started and drove down to Betty’s Lake, which is a pretty good spot for big speckled trout, and I like to bust when Buck just stood around smoking while I wrassled the canoe off the car and onto my shoulders.

“Might at least give us a hand with the cushions and grub sack,” I grumbled.

“Tut, tut, tut, my good man,” said Buck, “you can’t expect me to work. What’m I payin’ you for? I hate lazy guides that do nothin’ but beef. Come on now, Feeny, get goin’.”

So I tottered off down the portage, tottered hack over it again for the other gear.

Buck and his bride were just about to get into the canoe when Mrs. Round Eyes gave a little squeal.

“Ooh, Buck,” she piped, “look at all the water in the boat. I can’t sit in that!”

“Yeah,” said Buck, “how’d all that water get in there? Canoe leakin’?”

He knew darned well it wasn’t. All the wet was just a bit of morning dew

POOR TIMING

I rather think I might be game

To bound from bed, alert and gay, If things were fixed so morning came

At any other time of day.

JAMES W. POWER

and maybe a quart or two of lake I’d slopped into the canoe when getting it into the water. Certainly nothing to squawk about.

“Dump it out,” ordered Buck.

So I did and tried to wipe it dry with some grass and leaves. Finally we were off, cruising along the shore.

“That looks like a good spot,” said Buck as we slid past a little bay. “Let’s try there.”

“Now lookit,” I protested. “You of all people know damn well that nobody’s ever taken fish out of that spot.”

“Me know? Why? You’re the guide. Stop, I say.”

“Okay, Buck, but . . .”

“Mr. Round Eyes, please. Let’s not get too familiar. I’m payin’ you, so you’ll kindly do what you’re told.”

Well, the day went on and Buck, who is a mighty fine fisherman I’ll admit, got some nice trout, although he needled me hour after hour. He lost one fish, deliberately, then gave me hell for being sloppy with the net; he bellyached over the beans at lunch, said they were burned, which wasn’t far from the truth.

I was dog-tired and fuming when the fishing was over and we drove back to Mazinaw Village. There Buck peeled off six dollars and handed them to me.

“How d’you like guidin’, Feeny?” he asked. “Meet some real nice folk, eh? Believe me, I know, I’ve been doin’ it for years. No hard feelin’s, Feeny?”

I turned and walked into my shack and slammed the door.

A moment later Buck stuck his head into the room. “Say, Feeny, 1 forgot something.”

“Yeah?”

“This. I don’t believe in tippin’. Money isn’t much use to you children of the forest anyway, is it? So here’s a little remembrance. A good plug. A trifle beaten up and there’s one ganghook missing, but I’ve caught lots of fish on it. It’s yours now, all yours, and thank you for a pleasant day and maybe we’ll look you up again when we come this way some time.”

“Oh, Mister Round Eyes, thank you, thank you, ever so much.” I tried to be as sarcastic as I could. “I couldn’t accept . . .”

“Nonsense, fellow, you must. Goodby.”

I said a nasty word and hurled the old lure at Buck’s heels as he walked away. He laughed, climbed into his car and scooted off in a cloud of dust.

AFTER supper and a snooze I looked T\up Noren, who had moved into Skootamata’s old house, certainly the best in the village, neat and clean. Some folks, those who had elected Sam Hilton new mayor, thought he should have had the house, hut Noren had got there first and anyway a lot of us still looked on him as the legal mayor.

Noren was sitting on the stoop, and he looked awful tired and sad.

“A tough day?” I said.

He nodded.

“Me, too,” I said. “Made six bucks guiding Buck Round Eyes.”

We sat in silence for ten or fifteen minutes.

“What you and me need, Noren,” I said at last, “is a good drink. Let’s go into Twiggeville and spend Buck’s six bucks.”

“A good idea,” said Noren. And we set off to town.

Things in Twiggeville looked about normal, and nobody paid much attention to us. The bucks and squaws, young and old, were strolling in the streets or sitting on the verandas of the houses that had belonged to us. The papooses were playing around just like our own small fry, only not making near the racket that white kids do.

It was quite a shock, though, to see a cop with a couple of turkey feathers in his hair, and a tomahawk instead of a gun in his belt.

We walked into the beverage room of the Queen’s Hotel. It was most empty, though.

The waiter, a dour Indian by the name of Joe Whitefish, strolled over.

“Hello, Joe,” said Noren cheerful like, “give us a couple of draught beers.”

Joe shook his head.

“Hey?” I protested. “We got the money.” I waved Buck’s fiver at him.

“Can’t sell liquor to anybody off the reservation,” replied Joe. “Ain’t legal. They’d take my license. Close me up. They say palefaces can’t hold liquor. Firewater no good for white man. Drive him crazy. See?”

We didn’t, but Joe stood his ground so we slunk out and had no trouble

buying a carton of cokes which we were all set to guzzle on the sidewalk, until the cop with feathers in his hair chivvied us along with a warning against loitering.

That was our big night on the town. We went back to the reservation disgusted.

WELL, things went on like this, more or less, for better than a week. It took several days for the legal eagles up in Ottawa to get their red tape packed and get down to Twiggeville. They just couldn’t believe what had happened, and the local member of parliament being off to Europe to solve the problems there we couldn’t get any help in that direction.

Most of us had got to kind of like the native life. I did okay in the guiding business and found that some of the Indians who came out from Twiggeville were pretty good sorts— would even slip a fellow a bottle of beer or a nip of whisky once in a while.

Things were sort of tough for Noren, though. He tried to get his wife to weaving baskets and taking them into Twiggeville to sell door-to-door to the Indians, but she just plumb refused.

Agnes Seeley, who you will recall had taken the flap when Skootamata’s war party walked in on Noren and me, was none too happy with reservation life. She missed her filing cabinets and typewriter, I guess, but she bucked up somewhat when J. Kelly Putnam, the Ottawa Indian expert, finally arrived and asked her to take his dictation and look after the red tape.

This Putnam was a queer duck, a little squirt with thin sandy hair and red-lidded watery-blue eyes. A fussbudget, but kind of nice when you got to know him better.

He had umpteen conferences with Skootamata and Noren and Sam Hilton, but never seemed to get very far. Always there was that old contract waved by Skootamata and as it was legal, strictly legal, Putnam was stymied.

So the days went on and on and on until most of us, except for a handful of the lads who had gone real native, became a bit tired of the enforced holiday. Oh, it wasn’t that we weren’t enjoying ourselves to some extent, but even more we missed the clatter of cash registers that means so much to a white man’s soul.

Buck Round Eyes admitted to me once on a fishing trip—for bass this time—that a lot of the Indians were fed up with Twiggeville. Their fingers were getting calloused from punchin time clocks, and they sure detested having to put nickels in the tow r parking meters. Some of them, toe. had taken such a scunner at telephones ringing and ringing that they had torn them off the walls. They liked it better in Mazinaw Village where there were only two phones—one at the general store, which Sam Hilton was running, and the other at Skootamata’s house.

So there came a time when the two sides showed signs of getting together. Still, the Indians didn’t like to admit defeat and we were just as stubborn, I guess.

PIJTNAM then came up with the idea of a vote to be taken separately in each community, whether to stay put or go back to the old way. There wasn’t much doubt of the result and sure enough the Twiggevillians polled a landslide to give Mazinaw back to Skootamata’s folks, and the Indians were only too delighted to dump Twiggeville back on the palefaces.

This time, though, we took two days to organize the switch, and I’ll never forget the night before we were to leave Mazinaw Village. Skootamata and a parcel of his braves came honking into the village early in the day and called Noren and Sam Hilton and Putnam over to the Council House. There

Skootamata announced that he thought it would only be fitting that, since it had been something he had forgotten about, the evening should be given over to distribution of bounty money to the palefaces.

“Three dollars and sixteen cents for each adult,” he announced. “Five

dollars and a big shiny brass medal for your chief, and as an added bonus a hunting knife to each male over the age of sixteen, but under the age of twenty-one. For females in this lesser age group a handful of colored glass beads. Generous, eh?”

This disturbed Putnam no end. “You can’t do it,” he raved. “You can t. Ottawa won’t like it!”

Skootamata just grinned. “We must repay the generosity of our white brothers in kind before it’s too late. We, too, hav£ big hearts.”

Putnam clenched his fists in frustration.

“Oh, yes,” added Skootamata, “I’ve invited the Press to attend, so maybe you folks could get into your tribal costumes. Something quaint that’ll make good pictures. Maybe you could put on a native dance, too, that would give the reporters something to write about. Some jitterbugging, maybe, or a conga line would be real savage.” “Sure,” I butted in, “we could get Noren, here, to wear white tie and tails and his plug hat.”

“Good idea,” agreed Skootamata. “Now that’s settled. See you this evening, and don’t forget the dancing girls.”

Well, it was quite a party, although of course there was no bounty, no knives, no beads, no brass medal. That Skootamata just had to have his little joke. But it was a dandy shindig, mixing up the folks of our two communities.

Putnam had a roaring good time, and Aggie skipped around like a spring lamb even to the extent of trying to do the Indian Dance of the Autumn Corn Grinders with Mrs. Buck Round Ryes. The big surprise of the evening, though, was when Noren Kendrick stepped up and announced he had made a trade with Skootamata: a one-quarter share of Noren’s furniture business in return for the right to use Skootamata’s house on the reservation as a hunting and fishing lodge.

“It sort of makes me and Skootamata blood brothers,” Noren said expansively.

“And besides,” Skootamata added practically, “you needed someone to help out in the store anyway.” ★