Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Kaw Mission Intertribal Powwow

It turned out to be a good thing that the cats didn’t exhaust themselves during David’s fishing trip, because he had plans for the late afternoon and evening on Saturday.  After cleaning the catfish and cleaning himself he announced, “We’re going to a powwow down in Council Grove later today.  It should be fun, and hopefully I can meet up with the local who’ll be conducting the sweat lodge ceremonies at Fort Riley.”

This was the first Rudy and LT had heard of these plans.  Rudy really wished he’d discuss things with them ahead of time.  If she’d known she was going to a powwow, she would have made sure her fur was brushed thoroughly.  David had been brushing her a little bit every day, but she was not completely her beautiful self.  She sighed.  These were the drawbacks of travel – you never were completely ready for anything and there was too much or too little to do. 

There were a few hours before they needed to leave, and David figured that since he’d been up since dawn and wanted to be out late he’d better take a nap.  He announced his intentions to the cats, and recommended they do the same.  Neither LT nor Rudy were ever averse to sleeping, so they found comfy spots and drifted off to sleep.

David woke them late in the afternoon.  The sun must have been hotter than they’d realized, because they’d slept for hours.  They all piled into the little car and headed south.  “Now, some tribal folks bring their dogs to these events, but they’re supposed to be on leashes.  If it looks like there are too many dogs, I’ll find a shady place to park and leave the windows open for you.  I’ve got water and food too, just in case.  This is a Kaw Powwow, which means it’s the Kaw Tribe.  Not many of them live around here anymore and the event is actually held at the Kaw Mission, which was run by Methodists and then Quakers back in the 1800s.  They have dances, music and fancy dress competitions.  I like to go to tribal gatherings when I’m traveling if I can, to talk to folks from other tribes.  It’s always interesting to share our stories.” 

David whistled as he drove.  This was a great day.  He’d caught a mess of catfish (why did they call a bunch of catfish a mess, he wondered) and now he was going to a powwow.  Chores could wait until tomorrow, when there was nothing special going on.  It wasn’t even as hot as it had been earlier in the week, and by the time they got to Council Bluff, it should be down into the mid-80s. 

They arrived in Council Bluff, and David decided to get them all something to eat at one of the concessions before going over to the Kaw Mission.  The flea market was pretty much closed down by now, as it was about 4:30 pm, so he headed over to Riverwalk Park, where he found someone selling cheesesteaks.  He doubted they’d be Philly quality, but what the heck.  He got one with the works, and one without onions for the cats and got back in the car to drive the few blocks to Kaw Mission.  He was early enough to get a decent parking place, and it even had shade.  He left the rear windows open and filled the water bowl, in case the cats needed to head back to the car.  He headed out, burdened with a folding chair, water jug, bag of food and another water bowl for the cats.  Rudy and LT trotted along beside him, earning grins from some passersby. 

They settled down at the edge of the lawn in the shade of a tree.  He’d hoped to catch part of TerryLee Whetstone’s native fluting concert, and he saw he was in luck.  He didn’t have a good view, but he could hear it quite well.  He poured water for the cats, set up his chair and opened the bag of food.  Before opening his own sandwich he split open the one for Rudy and LT and divided the meat and cheese into two helpings, each heaped on one half of the roll.  They probably wouldn’t want the bread, but it made for a convenient low table for their supper.  He placed the split rolls on pieces of the waxed butcher paper in which the sandwich had been wrapped.  When he saw the cats were happy with their food he unwrapped his own.  It wasn’t a bad cheesesteak.  Not quite Philly quality, as it was just grilled thin steaks that had been whacked a few times with the metal spatula.  Still, beef was beef, cheese was cheese and onions were onions. 

After satisfying their hunger the three were able to pay attention to the preparations going on around them.  There were folks already in fancy dress, including a few dancers doing some last minute practice.  He had hoped there would be a dance competition, and it appeared there would be.  He almost wished he had brought along his fancy-dress clothing, but this wasn’t his Nation, so he didn’t want to appear to be showing off.  He’d won a few competitions in the past with his quill work, and so far he hadn’t seen anything as nice as his latest outfit.  The cats were quite impressed with the clothing, but wondered if there would be any Kaw cats at this celebration, and if there was a category for cat fancy dress.  LT laughed when Rudy said this – what cat puts up with being dressed?  Rudy joined him, remembering when years ago the Mommy had dressed Peep in absurd clothing and how upset she’d been. 

As it drew closer to the time for the powwow to begin, more folks in fancy dress arrived, along with lots of spectators.  A few had dogs, but they were all on leashes.  One barked from across the field that he’d bite their heads off, but was dragged away by the human who was attached to him.  The cats snickered to themselves.  They saw who was in charge of *that* relationship.  Finally a man appeared, dressed for all the world like an Indian Chief out of a children’s book.  Long headdress with lots of feathers, soft leather pants and top (man he must be hot) and a tall staff with a disk on top of it.  And, wonder of wonders, he was followed by a cat just as outrageous as he was.  The cat wasn’t dressed up, he was painted, just as the man’s face was painted.  Except, the cat was painted from the tip of his ears to the middle of his back and belly.  It looked kind of pretty, but what cat would put up with sitting still long enough to get painted like that? 

The cat followed the man regally, knowing that he was causing more comments than his human partner.  They walked to a centrally located bench and sat down.  Rudy and LT were right across the field from the pair, and they could easily see each other.  David poked Rudy and asked if she’d seen the getups of those two.  She rubbed her head against his hand as he pointed out the historical inaccuracies of the man’s regalia and the absurdity of painting a cat.  He even went so far as to say that the guy had probably chosen a cat so he could be a chick magnet, whatever that was.  Rudy and LT didn’t see any chickens around here, so he probably wouldn’t be too effective.

The cat stared at Rudy and LT with somewhat of an embarrassed look on his face, as though to say, ‘this wasn’t my idea’.  Well, maybe the painted cat would come over and visit them later.  They sure weren’t going to leave David’s side, unless it was to go back to the car.  It was getting so crowded that if they got separated the two cats might not find David again. 

The powwow started right on time with an MC who talked a bit about the Kaw nation and their history here at Council Grove.  He introduced the dance leaders, male and female and the man began the first dance.  Rudy and LT had never seen anything like this.  A line of men all danced kind of the same way, circling around the field.  Some of them carried long feathers or other things, and were accompanied by drumming and singing.  It wasn’t the kind of music the Daddy or Mommy listened to though.  It ended kind of all at once and the men yielded the field to the female dance leader who led a smaller number of women in a dance.   The music was hypnotic and Rudy found herself dozing off, only to be awoken by the MC announcing the first fancy dress competition.  Young children, all dressed to the nines in leather, beading and some feathers lined up and were given ribbons or prizes, followed by older children.  Then it was back to more dancing, including some competitions.  They could see that the wildly dressed man across the field had attracted his own crowd, and the cat was getting annoyed by the attention.  He slunk away, and the man laughed and waved the cat away. 

It took the cat a few minutes to make his way around the edge of the field, dodging and hissing at hands attached to people who said, ‘oh look at that DARLING cat!’  The cat eyed David as he came nearer, worried that this one too would try to stroke him or pick him up.  David looked at the cat and said to him, “I apologize for my people that this has been done to you.  The People do not have a history of painting their cats.  It looks like it’s quite uncomfortable.” 

The cat shot him a grateful but surprised look and plopped down between Rudy and LT.  Rudy politely offered him some water, since she had seen he didn’t have any where he’d been sitting.  The cat gratefully accepted and drank a quarter bowl of water.  “That fool didn’t think of anything for me.  He crated me this morning, and I figured I was going to Tibet.  Well, we got to some house where I got jabbed with a needle and the next thing I knew I was painted like a blasted peacock tail.  I was stuffed back in the crate and we came here.  I haven’t had water or food since this morning.  Would you care to share your cheesesteak?  My name is Rory, by the way.” 

LT graciously offered to share what they hadn’t eaten.  The cat finished off the meat and cheese and even ate the part of the bread that was soaked in meat juices.  He sighed and laid down.  “That is so much better.  I thought I’d pass out from the heat and dehydration before we got home.”  David watched this with interest, and then got up and made his way around the field.

“I bet he’s going to tell off your human.  David doesn’t take kindly to anyone not being a responsible human to his or her animal companions.  We travelled here from New Jersey with him, but he’s not our usual human.  We’re just travel companions.  I’m Rudy and this is LT.”  The two cats watched as David crouched next to the man in the overdone regalia.  David gestured across the field, and they could tell the conversation was heated, although at least they weren’t yelling and interrupting the dances. 

“Does your human dance?  I’m not sure he could in that getup, though.”  LT was curious.  Rory explained that the fool did not dance, and in fact didn’t even know how to do the dances.  “He’s barely 1/8 Kaw, and he didn’t even know that until a couple years ago.  Since then he’s applied for tribal membership and wants to see what he can get out of it.  He’s made up all sorts of stories about his ancestors, although the real Kaw mostly blow him off.  He does get some attention from the tourists.  This is the first time he had me painted.  I’m going to make sure it’s the last, if I have to run away.  I don’t think I’ll have to, though.  He was complaining all the way over that it cost more than he expected.”  Rory laughed.  He didn’t respect his human very much, that was obvious. 

The three cats shared their life stories in brief, and were talking about the variety of fish available in the area when David returned.  He sat and when Rory didn’t object David gently stroked his head.  “I think you’re safe, Rory.  I told that fool that you could stay with us until we left, and that I’d leave a water bowl here for you if we left before you do.  By the way, he’s not going to paint you again.  He said that several of the Kaw have already told him off for treating a fellow being like that.  The Kaw don’t force anyone to dress up or dance, and the animals who share their lives shouldn’t be drugged and painted just to show off.”  Rory sighed and put his head down on his paws.  This was good.  He really didn’t want to run away.  The fool’s sister took good care of him, and he really liked her. 

The cats enjoyed a running commentary from David about the dances and types of regalia of the dancers and folks in the fancy dress competition.  Around about 9 pm, David gave up waiting for the local who he’d hoped to hook up with about the sweat lodge.   He announced to the cats that he’d seen enough, and would they like to go back to the RV?  All three said yes, although Rory then said he didn’t think it would be a good idea.  Before they left, Rudy and Rory exchanged email addresses, and Rory promised to let them know about how hard it was to get the paint out of his fur.  The cats all said good-night and Rudy and LT followed David to the car.

As they drove carefully out of town, avoiding small children and people still heading to the powwow David talked to the cats about the fool who’d painted his cat.  He’d paid hundreds of dollars to have it done, and more to have someone sedate the cat.  He shook his head.  Some people just either didn’t have the sense that God gave earthworms, or maybe they’d sold it.  Rudy and LT agreed, and were very grateful that none of the humans they associated with were like that.  No one they knew would do that to their cat, although the yarn lady did have a history of dying her own hair in odd colors….

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