That Special Tuscarora
By: Loren (Lolly) Greene
1928 - 1999
(The Webmaster's Dad)
Growing up so close to nature on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation was a happy experience, in spite of its hardships. Christmas was the happiest time of year, as the family exchanged presents in the home on Christmas morning, with the sweet smells of freshly cut pine and the pleasant aroma of apple pie baking in the big old cast-iron wood stove.
On Christmas evening at 6 p.m., all the Indians on the Reservation would take presents for friends and distant relatives to the church for distribution after a longwinded speech and a Christmas program. The stage would be filled and piled to the ceiling with what seemed to me to be thousands of brightly wrapped presents.
That very special Christmas in 1937, my father and mother, my six-year-old brother and I arrived early to be sure of a seat. We gave our bags of decoratively wrapped gifts to the ushers for distribution after the program, then took our seats to watch as the other people arrived and the pile of presents grew higher and higher.
I caught sight of two ushers, one holding high overhead so he wouldn't hit anyone, a brightly shining six-foot-long toboggan and the other usher carrying a shiny red, white and blue sled as he fought his way through the crowd of people standing near the stage. The ushers finally made it to the stage and placed the two much desired items on the top of the pile. WOW, some lucky kids were going to get those. Who was I going to have to make friends with to get a ride on that beautiful new toboggan?
Finally, after what seemed like years with my eyes glued to the toboggan and thinking of my old beat-up sled, or that heavy piece of cardboard that was worn thin from many a trip down the sledding hill, the distribution of presents began. Following a very old tradition on our Reservation, the ushers would hold up a present, shout the name of the happy person and then proceed to find him or her while the next usher did the same. At long last came the toboggan. An usher picked it up, looked at the tag and held the toboggan high over his head. A hush fell over the audience...I was not the only one concerned about that beautiful toboggan.
What happened next was the one thing I never considered. He shouted my name! ME!, it was for me. WOW! IMPOSSIBLE! The clamor and noise resumed as the usher fought his way in my direction.
"Over here, over here," I shouted. He walked on by a few paces, then turned back, laughing as he handed me the shining tobbogan. The red, white and blue sled was for my brother Gene. My parents couldn't have planned it any better.
As I look back, I wonder how many hours mother hand-sewed beadwork in the dim light of the kerosene lamp, how many floors were scrubbed, how many things my parents had to deny themselves to save enough money to give me the happiest and most unforgettable Christmas of my life.
Reprint of an article in the Stauffer News, 1983.
Click on "Next" to read what happened with the shiny toboggan in the days following Christmas.
The following was not part of the original Stauffer Newsletter. This is an excerpt from a book Lolly wrote about his life growing up on the Tuscarora Indian reservation called Growing an Indian. The original article from the Stauffer Newsletter is in the book and this is the continuation of the story about the toboggan. The book remains unpublished.
I was the one who seemed to be gaining new friends, who were hoping to get a ride on my new toboggan. It seated five of us with a little room to spare. The heavier the load, the farther down the hill we would go. So, ‘the more the merrier’, was the rapidly developing motto.
The winter snows were a lot heavier in my childhood days, or so it seemed. I figure because a kid is built lower to the ground so from a lower vantage point, the snow seems deeper.
A small incline a few hundred yards west of our house was the favored sledding hill. It was not very steep nor long, but it was close to home. When my clothes and mittens became soaked, the bone chilling trek home to the warmth of the pot bellied stove was only five minutes away.
Back then, the sledding hill we frequented was called Belan’s Hill. It was at the end of Belan’s Road, where it dead ends into Dog Street. Belan’s Road was always drifted over with three foot drifts of snow packed so solid a man could walk on top. The toboggan would glide easily and speedily for a considerable distance.
One cold morning, a few of us kids had gathered at the sledding hill for a fun filled, enjoyable day. The gusty north wind blew freezing cold snow in our face each time we went down the hill. The chilling wind seemed to blow right through the layers of clothing and it wasn’t long before I was considering going home, but we were having too much fun.
I saw what I thought was a glove sticking out of a snow drift a short distance away. After a few more trips down the hill, my gloves were so wet they began to freeze. I thought to myself, ‘maybe that glove I saw is drier than the gloves I am wearing’ so I went over to check it out. Reaching over the deep drift, I tried to pick up the glove, it would not free itself, I thought it was frozen into the drift. I dug the snow from around the glove and let out a yell when I saw there was a hand inside the glove. When I yelled, the other kids came running over to see what I had found.
We dug the snow from around what we all thought was a cold, creepy corpse. While we were checking the face, trying to determine who it was, the unconscious man let out a loud moan. He was alive, out like a light and smelled strongly of booze. After studying the somewhat askew face, we agreed that it was ‘Beaner’ who lived with his father Belan a short way down the hill.
If we left him there in the snow, his fate was surely in jeopardy. Not knowing how long he had already been lying there before we found him, there was never a doubt as to what must be done. Rolling him onto the toboggan, we headed for ‘Belan’s house’. With the stiff cold wind stinging my face, I was glad it wasn't a long trip. As we turned onto the path to the kitchen door I could see smoke rolling out of the chimney. I immediately felt warm knowing Belan had a fire going, this meant he was home.
I pounded on the kitchen door so hard it swung open. Pulling the toboggan into the kitchen, I hollered ‘hello.’ Belan answered from the front room. On over the sunken floor of the kitchen and into the front room, we pulled the toboggan with Beaner now snoring loudly.
Belan was seated, reading his Bible in front of the pot-bellied stove, its sides glowing red from the roaring fire inside. Looking up he asked, ‘what cha got?’ ‘Beaner’, I answered. ‘We found him sleeping in a snow bank, where do you want him?’ Belan told us to unload him behind the stove. ‘He will thaw out’ he said with a chuckle and went back to reading his Bible.
We stood around for a while soaking in the much appreciated warmth of the wood fire. As we prepared to leave, Belan thanked us and followed slowly into the kitchen. As I pulled the door shut, I could hear him rattling the pans and mumbling something about making hot bean soup for Beaner.
Heading home, I wondered what we would have done if it wasn’t for my new shiny toboggan. Not being able to come up with an answer, I was resolved that God does work in mysterious ways.