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Page 7

Sam was ready to break away from everything for a one day vacation. He asked Esther. "Are we planning to go to White Eagle this weekend so the girls can get into the shinney game?"

"Sure, do you think we could keep them away?" Esther smiled to herself as she thought about how much fun they always had while playing the game of Shinney. Everyone would be there. It was necessary to start early since it would take a while to travel the twenty or so miles from their place.

"I will pack our lunch and we can join some of the others to eat together." Esther was thinking out loud.

"I'll speak to the girls and I'm sure they will be glad to have the day off from their many chores." Sam agreed with his wife. "For now, let's get to bed. Dawn is early and we won't want to get up if we don't get our rest."

The week was through and Sunday found Esther up early, working about her kitchen. She was making plans for the day as to food.  "Annie, pump up some water. We will need to take plenty along for the trip over. It looks like it will be a hot dry day."

After they had loaded the wagon, they were on their way. The wagon bumped along over the dusty, narrow, ribbon like, roads. These early day roads were laid out in sections and crisscrossed over the land one mile apart. The plodding of the team kept a steady rhythmical beat with their hooves. They kicked up little swirls of dust from the layers of silt like soil covering the road. These early morning hours were most pleasant before the searing heat of the afternoon. The girls were looking forward to the day. There were the shinny games and they were so much fun.  Meeting friends and cousins was a treat. They might  even get to see a boyfriend. The girls were all laughing and talking about the activities to be forth coming. The ever slow moving wagon did finally find its way into the reservation campground with the Arkansas River running along side it.

The thinking and organization of the elders could be seen as each family was assigned a particular place which had been marked off in lots almost as carefully as a town. Sam and Esther's marked off place had the river just behind it and this was where he drove his wagon. The heat of the day was beginning to tower over them like something omnipotent and oppressive. The girls could hear the young people's voices as they swam and played in the river.

"Mother! We girls want to go swimming?" Creth begged.

As was the custom of the Ponca women, she would not give her answer immediately. She turned and gazed at them, holding their attention with her penetrating stare. The mother made a wordless study of their person. With this proper pause and the holding first their eyes, physically, and then on to their minds she answered Creth. "Go on! Just be back here in time to help me with our noon meal. Don't make me have to call you."

She left no possibility as to their not being back on time. Their way of telling time was different but just as accurate. The girls  couldn't beg off from being in on time and they wouldn't even try.

Their understanding of the length of time they were allowed to spent at the river was told by the position of the sun and the movement or,  lack of movement of the animals. All these things were their clocks and they were aware of the expected time to return. Some of these deep understandings of nature's laws sometimes brought a quiet fear to the Anglo people in the area. The white folks didn't know how they  did it. Wrongfully, they might conclude, it must be a kind of witchcraft.  And these are the things to create prejudice which is just another word for fear.

The girls were racing each other toward the river. They were anxious to run across the sandbar and then,  splash into the shallow water. They dived into the depths of the river and happily joined the other young people who were already swimming. It was evident swimming was a favorite sport with the young people. This love of the it made them excellent swimmers. Uncanny was their mastery over the skill. The young people never tired of swimming during the summer months. Their general good health could be attributed  partly to the exercise coming from this sport. How much fun they had.  They twisted and turned in the water. Playing tag and diving deep into the river's holes made them seem to be like human seals.  The children then floated lazily when they tired. This all served to bring the young people to a close, tight, acquaintance with each other. They learned each other's personalities and many lifelong loyal friendships were formed.

"It's time to go." Fannie was first to call to her sisters.

Wordlessly,  with no objection, the girls began to move out of the river. They were reluctant to leave and plodded slowly out of the water.   Their wet clothes were clinging to them. Annie took the skirt  of her long dress and wrung it with her hands so it would not hang so limp around her legs. Their companions yelled a reminder to them as they left. "Don't forget the shinny game this afternoon!"

Upon returning to their homey looking campground, the girls could see Esther had already prepared most of the meal. Sam had included one of the old rustic weathered tables from around the house and a number of makeshift seats, wooden boxes and such. The girls made themselves busy doing the things they knew their mother wanted them to do. Piled on a dark blue enameled metal plate in the middle of the cloth covered old table was a heap of the light fluffy pieces of fry bread Esther had pulled from hot bubbling fat. The fat was held in a large iron kettle resting on an iron grate. The grate was heavy and was setting flat on the ground over the hole Sam had dug to hold the fire and hot coals.

Esther called to her younger children as they played under the very large old trees close to the camp. "Lizzie, you and David come on, you must get washed up. The two children came running up in anticipation for their noon meal. Creth took a pan of water setting on one of the boxes and began to wash their faces. Strands of Lizzie's coal black hair clung to her face. Her hair was wet from her sister's washing it. She smiled affectionately to her older sister.

"You are such a good girl, Lizzie, and Creth turned to David. "Come on." David wasn't as easily dealt with as far as having his face and hands washed. While Creth rubbed his hands in the water, he held his arms stiff while scrunching up his shoulders. His  head was tucked to one side in preparation for the face washing he knew was coming.

"David, come on, let's get this over." Creth sighed in exasperation.

By the time the family finished their meal the girl's dresses were completely dry. Esther busied herself packing their dishes back into the wagon after she had washed them. "I want you girls to lay down with David and Lizzie and take a short nap before the shinney game. You need a little rest."

Annie immediately fell asleep and only awoke when her sister shook her foot to wake her. "Come on sister, everybody is gathering at the arena for the game."

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