I am a crick indeean. I am ate yers old...
That is how I started my fourth grade autobiography. Scarcely was the rough draft in teachers hands when I saw her reach for her red pen. From my desk in the third row I watched the violent slashing movements of her hand counter the disappointed swings of her head as she corrected my paper. She stopped at the bottom of the first page and closed her eyes as if the devastation was too great. She looked up over the arches of her red glasses and found me staring at her. Slowly she shook her head and beckoned to me with her finger.
"I want you to take this to the resource-room and rewrite it. Be more specific, use adjectives..." she rolled her eyes as if it was a loosing battle, "and check your spelling."
I took the paper from her and quietly retreated.
"P..." she called after me "Your brother has blond hair and green eyes, how can he be a Creek Indian?"
I shyly chewed on my lower lip while I twisted my ankle around in half circles. "I didn't say he was."
I slunk from the class room and set about rewriting my life, or at least spelling it correctly. As usual I got only three sentances corrected before my mind wandered.
I am a Crick Indian. I am eight years old. I was born on the kitchen table...
More correctly, I am a Gilbert Crick Indian...
....My feet pound an ancient rhythm in the dry powdery field dirt as I gallop my wind stallion down the treacherous paths that run parallel to Gilbert Creek. My pale skin has long since returned to its sun dyed golden hue. The late blooming honey suckles scent the thick hot summer air. The icy water jostles past worn stones as crawdads retreat under clumps of slimy alien plant life. I fly past Clay Mine...beyond the Sticker Fort, over Bottle Mine...I charge past the ruins of a white mans settlement...near the cement pillars I fling myself from the bank and arch over the flowing water. Short of my target, I plunge into the creek. Laughing I toss my uncombed dark mane and prance noisily up stream. Through the holes in my tennis shoes, gritty creek sand invades. I stop only long enough to abandon them on the bank. There soles will dry and contort in the late sun.
My brothers in their blackberry war paint, swing in the trees over head, pelting the neighboring tribe with hard green apples. Around my brier scratched ankles the cohorting water is suddenly tainted with swirling smoke signals of silt. I freeze...tense...sniff the air and snort. I acknowledge my sisters message with a high whinny.
My response filters through the lush green canopy as it casts long shadows across the creek. It is time. I will journey upstream past the fish dam, beyond the Stairwell of No Steps, through Web Alley to join my sister. We will spend till dusk setting up camp in the abandoned sub-station at the base of Manzanita hill as we await the return of the war party....this time, this place...oh how I live for this narrow reservation of flowing water...
I am a Crick Indian. I am eight years old. I was born on the kitchen table in Grants Pass. My family lives on Hawthorne steet. I like to play in the crick behind my house. it is a neat place. The water is cold.
There are no adjectives in my vocabulary grand enough to describe this pocket of delicious magical wonder. At least not yet. This does not daunt the budding author in me.
I like to play in the wet crick behind my house. it is a really neat place.
I chew enthusiastically on my dusty eraser as I wrote passionately about the environment that defined my existence. Certainly the pull of my words would sweep her into the mystical aura of the creek. I could make her understand.
The water is cold. Thay are krawdads. We build forts in the gras. I drink frum the crick...
Two days later, eager to see her reaction, I twist excitedly in my seat as she bobbed up and down the rows of students returning our autobiographies. She stopped and deposited my paper on my desk. I stared in quiet horror at the giant NEEDS IMPROVEMENT scrawled in red ink. Every crick was lined out and crowned with CREEK. She was telling me my life was unsatisfactory.
"P surely you know how to spell creek." was all she said before continuing on.
She did not understand. I am a Crick Indian. English is not my native language.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I am thirty-one years old. I was born on the kitchen table in Grants Pass. My spelling has only improved slightly. I live by Sand Creek now. Last week I brought my children into town and stood with them on the spot where Gilbert Creek flows under Manzanita. I touch the bars that are meant to keep us out, and the creek safe. A young boy skids his bicycle to a stop behind us and tells us that he was told the police would be called if anyone is seen in the creek. He joins our queue and wistfully stares at the water.
It makes my heart ache. To protect the creek we are depriving generations of Crick Indians. I feel this crushing weight in my chest. Tears form, but not for me,. I have my memories, but for the children who have none.
The wind impatiently nudges me and beckons me to play. I freeze...tense...my whinny skips across the stones and vanishes with the creek into the mouth of Web Alley. There is no response. My language is no longer spoken. Suddenly the bicycle boy throws back his head and howls. My children join him. We laugh until we are reduced to a pile on the ground. I put arms around the shoulders of these kids and hold them tight. In silence we sit and watch the water pass.
The rush of the water clears my head. I close my eyes and I am once again ate yers old...I will always be connected to this place. There are no fences and no bars that can stop my spirit from wandering the trails that meander along side Gilbert Creek. There are no rules or police that can stop me from wading through the memories that dwell in my mind.
Teacher was wrong.
My life did not NEED IMPROVEMENT.