Keeping the annual Corn Fast is not without its problems, nor, as we
all know, is it without a goodly dose of humbling lessons. Often, these
are learned humorously but unintentionally. Such was the case at Pine Arbor
many years ago. Related stories of two women have been combined as one.
Well, it goes like this . . .
* Sometime in the early 1980s or thereabouts when the movie "Quest for Fire" came out, Grandmother, as we called a former Matriarch (one of Nahoga Ward's many great grand daughters), went to the moving picture show the week just after the Berry and Arbor Dance.
* This was the first movie in a long time for that fine ol' lady. According to previous reports, the show was to be a bit interesting and somewhat filled with tongue-in-cheek humor, especially the part about discovering the "missionary" position. "Hummph!" said her husband, "Didn't know they had missionaries back then!" Grandmother got up to use the restroom and get a drink. Well, you know how theater lobbies sometimes smell all buttery and spicy. It was too much for her. Without thinking, Grandmother got two over priced cokes and a big tub of fresh hot buttered popcorn. Upon returning to her seat, she gave her husband a drink, sat the popcorn in her lap and returned her full attention to the scenes flashing by on the silver screen.
* Well, "whadduyu know!" That particular day, one of her sons, his wife, Heles-Hayv and few others happened into the theater that same time. They quietly took their seats in a row up behind the Matriarch. The movie ended, the lights came up and all trotted out the door. With great grace and gently spoken words, her son said, "Mom, how was the popcorn?" Grandmother stopped cold in her tracks--in mid-stride, even. A startled look, one that had to be seen to be believed, flooded across her creased but otherwise wisdom filled face. Her jaw dropped, gaped open even, but the words would not flow. After a pregnant pause of stunned silence, a meek little "I forgot, it smelled so good in the lobby," came out. "Heles-Hayv is gonna' get me now!" she exclaimed. At that point, being hidden from view, Ol' Heles-Hayv stepped around front and grinned like a pink 'possum on a highway. After another deafening silence, all burst forth in simultaneous laughter that turned every head in the parking lot. With handshakes and goodbyes said, all went their own separate ways.
* Poor Grandmother. She worried upon that incident for two months until Green Corn rolled around again. Fast Day dawned hot but beautiful. Her work in the kitchens with all the other women laboring over three cast iron cook stoves produced one of the best feasts to date. Corn was noticeably absent except for Michelle's old-time corn souffle--about the best there ever was! The Ribbon Dance moved stately with intense concentration. Soon, the dance ended. A grandson received a new name and a daughter was gifted with a silver brooch by Atasse Hyfield, as were all the ladies present at the Busk. A "Long Talk" was given, Medicine brought forth and all lined up to be scratched at their respective Arbors.
* Grandmother presented her bare arms for the scratching rite--she trembled a little bit but with the sweetest look of honest apology one had ever seen. As Halaka, a son-in-law, began to wipe medicine on her arms, Grandmother stopped him and said, "I need to be dry scratched this year," as she began wiping off the medicine. "No you don't Grandmother," said Tempunvyv and Ayo in unison. All the men stepped forward and showed their bare arms. Each and everyone had volunteered to be dry scratched for her. Mekko, in his wisdom, and seeing a teaching moment decided it was too tough a decision to select out just one to be so scratched in her stead. She has suffered and repented a 1000 times in her heart that Spring and had become a much stronger woman. So, Mekko had all men dry scratched for Grandmother! There was much hugging and a few tears shed that day.
* A valuable lesson about being your sister and brother's keeper was learned by all. The occasion didn't end there. That night, around the Fire, Grandmother was presented with a big bag of popcorn and a spectacular corn popper. Laughter rang out all through the nearby fields all evening as we enjoyed hot buttered popcorn between the rounds of stomp dancing and story telling. So you see, living traditions continually give birth to new stories for the modern lessons at hand. Such is the Muskogee Way. Aela! Now you know why we sometimes made popcorn on the night of the New Fire and laughed a lot as we danced and told stories until sunrise. Okisce! (I have spoken)
* Did we ever tell you why we quit making that big washtub of pop corn the night of the New Fire each year? Well, that's another story for another time. It's about How the Scorpion Killed the Pop Corn Night! If you are wondering about that Pink 'Possum--well, that's another tale, too!