Last Thursday I gave you a story about my youthful travels. You said you wanted more, so here's another. A few years older, but still painfully naive...
As I recall, Frank was a boy with dirty blonde ringlets that fell well past his shoulders. He wore, through our brief acquaintance, what my friend Ellin always referred to as a dirtbag hat; leather or suede with a wide, loose brim. He spoke softly and confidently. I thought he was beautiful. I thought lots of boys were beautiful, so it wasn't a particularly grand compliment.
I met Frank while camping with our family and some friends in South Dakota. South Dakota, as you're probably aware, is home to Mt. Rushmore. Which I thought was kind of overrated. But I was fifteen that summer and pronouncing things overrated, bourgeois or simply dull was sort of my job. And I was good at it.
To my way of thinking, the best thing about Mt. Rushmore was the souvenir T-shirt that pictured the four presidents carved into a mountain and read: Even the Nicest People Get Stoned. Mom didn't think that was as appropriate for a young teen as I thought it was. Back at band camp that August, I would've been a rockstar in that ringer T. Not appropriate. Whatever. Appropriate is overrated.
South Dakota, like many of the more rustic regions of the United States, is also heavily populated by jackalopes. If you're too citified to be aware (or if you've never eaten in a large chain steakhouse), a jackalope is a hybrid between a jackrabbit and an antelope. It looks for all the world like an everyday rabbit, but with a lovely little set of antlers. They were quite ubiquitous, as evidenced by the vast availability of specimens that taxidermists had carefully preserved in various natural poses and were selling in every gift shop. Mounted heads of the unfortunate horned bunnies were pretty readily available as well.
I believed in them utterly.
Why should I not?
I'd seen proof.
Who would go to such vast lengths to perpetrate a hoax? I couldn't grok the motivation behind it.
So it was in this place - this land of stoned presidents and jackalopes - that I met Frank and his golden curls.
Frank was an Indian.
A Native American.
I know this because he told me.
I couldn't think of a reason a slightly older teenaged boy might lie to a slightly younger teenaged girl who was hoping to catch a glimpse of a jackalope in it's natural habitat before heading back to her suburban home.
No reason at all.
Not a one.
I listened to his tales about his life and his people in wide-eyed wonder, fascinated. I asked him questions and he provided quick answers for every one of them.
He was dreamy.
And so exotic.
I believed every word he said like it was the gospel itself.
Naive? Well - um - yeah.
Stupid? I wouldn't be so quick with that call. I got to spend several evenings in the company of a beautiful blonde Native American with bountiful curls and a million stories.
How many people get to say THAT?