Excerpt from Part IV. Holidays
On Sunday, the whole family piled into the Blazer and drove to the outskirts of Tarkin where the Harvest Festival was being held. This was an attraction that people from all over the country came to see.
It was a very cold day, and the skies were as white as snow. But there was color too. Flannel jackets and bright orange parkas and rosy cheeks dotted the day. Women dressed in thick shawls and warm stockings were taking maple sap and boiling it into sugar. The whole wooded park was filled with the smell of maple and burning fires.
There were other treats as well. Wooden booths were run by Native Americans who were selling homemade crafts, clothes, and food. Dad bought everyone a bowl of venison stew and a mug of warm apple cider. Then he bought a bag of wild rice, which had brown tips, so Mom could make a meal with it sometime soon. For Grandma Brown, Dad bought a five-gallon jug of maple syrup. He bought Chloe a beaded headband and Julie a soft otter-skin pouch to hang in the hut.
There was so much to see and do; some natives were selling sweet-cooked sturgeon, beans, nuts, berries, and squash. Crafters were not only selling but showing how they made wampum beads out of purple and white shells, leather works with beautifully embroidered porcupine quills, and pottery.
Finally Julie found Constance who was helping her mother boil maple sap.
“Constance!” she called.
“Oh hi, Julie!”
The two girls went to sit down on a cold log in front of a native story-teller. Oral tradition was a big thing among the Menominee, and an elderly lady was telling a story about Manabush, whose mother and twin brother died in childbirth and whose grandmother protected him by covering him with a wooden bowl when he was a baby. Manabush grew older as a great spirit, and taught the medicine dance to help free his people of disease.
Finally, after the story hour, Constance grabbed Julie’s hand. “There is something you have to see.”
Together they ran to the edge of the woods where a branch of the Wolf River flowed by wildly. The rapids in this part of the river were so foamy that they formed a big eddy. Julie saw that there was a small waterfall about ten yards up the river. But that was not what Constance wanted to show her.
“There are some French traders,” Constance said, pointing to a group of parka-coated men. They stood in a huddle near the river bank.
“They look like real traders with their bearded faces and red cheeks,” said Julie.
“I wish they were,” cried Constance. “I wish we lived back in the olden days like the Indians and the new settlers did. Now that must have been an exciting time.”
Julie thought so too. She said, “Back then, maybe things seemed tough. There weren’t all the convenient things that there are now. There weren’t microwaves, computers, or stereos. But the people got to face all this beautiful scenery, like the rivers and the trees. When I lived in Chicago, I didn’t ever see places like this.”
“I hope our world always has places like this,” Constance said longingly.
“Me too,” Julie agreed. There was a sadness to her voice that even she did not understand. All she knew was that she felt like she had seen the past, and the past was a beautiful place that she wanted to hold onto and bring back. But there was no way to stop time, and no way to stop the bad things people did to the country and to wonderful, natural places like this. It felt like time was spinning around her, not letting her slow down enough to enjoy anything too long, or at least not forever like she wanted to.