Monday, April 06, 2009
Painted Red Man and Nuclear War
A pivotal event in my life: we were stationed at Kincheloe AFB in upper peninsula Michigan (near Sault Ste. Marie). This was a cold war SAC base (B52s and KC135s - the big refueling tankers) that had been plunked down on old native american land as part of the potential defense against soviet nuclear attack. Most of the missions my dad flew at that time were over Canada and the Arctic, practice runs to bomb the daylights out of the soviets (ala Dr. Strangelove). (As an aside, it would sometimes happen that my school bus ended up following a bomb tow; needless to say, I was rather intimate with the hardware and culture of nuclear war, such was my life in those days). When I was 10 or 11, I got very sick. My dad was on an alert mission, so my mom was alone with me and my sibs. At one point I became so feverish I started to hallucinate. I saw this (according to my mom I was "wide awake" and talked about it out loud): I was walking along a narrow worn path in a forested area near our house (an actual place where I often played). It was dark (night) and I could not see very far ahead, so the next thing I new, I ran smack into a native american man with a bare chest covered with either blood or red paint - whatever the substance was, it was bright and still wet. I can see it still in my mind and it is my belief that it was paint. He spoke to me in another language but I understood him. He gave me two little bundles placing one in each hand. Each had 10 sticks wrapped in something (leaves?). I was told to "keep them balanced", and "stay on the deer path". I turned around and started to walk home, but one hand became very heavy; the sticks were moving from one hand to the other on their own and I fell off the path into the dark woods from the imbalance. I "woke up" after this, sweating and upset. Looking back, this sounds ridiculously corny, but this happened in 1966, before new age or romanticized native american fads (at least as far as I was aware at that time). Later in life, I found this encounter to be (personally) profoundly important. There is more to the story that unfolded many years later, including a discovery of what the bundles meant (goes way back, related to the original native people in that area).