Whenever summer rears its heated head, I always recall an ancient ritual of a vernal equinox variety called Indian Maidens, invented in the same era as bagged manure, potted plants, dandelions, and Ben Gay.
You’ve never heard of Indian Maidens? I’m not surprised. I’ll bet you also didn’t know fathers could sit cross legged on the floor for an hour as their knees melted into mush and their teeth ground to nubbins, whichever came first.
It all began one spring day when my daughter Tracy came home from the third grade and made this announcement: “We’re going to be Indian Maidens this summer, Daddy.”
“Well, that’s nice, honey,” I said, “but I don’t think they’ll let me be an Indian Maiden.”
“Heh, heh, heh,” said my wife Marilyn. Little did I realize she was a card-carrying member of the Indian Maiden loop, a covert organization aimed at getting children out from underfoot.
“It’s a summer program,” Tracy went on. “We meet once a week.”
“Heh, heh, heh.”
“It’s a bonding thing for daughters and fathers,” Tracy said, “What’s a bonding thing, Daddy?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “I once knew a bondsman, but I won’t tell you about him until you’re older and have need of that information.”
Anyway, to make a long story even longer, I had to fork over five clams for genuine made-in-Hong Kong Indian headbands, complete with feathers, so a bunch of little girls could sit on the floor with their fathers, our bald heads glistening above our headbands and our atrophied muscles popping like twisted steel cables. I thought, “This is bonding?”
Behind such medieval torment was the fact that some caring person with little to do had decided that fathers all too often put their daughters out in left field when it came to family relationships. Of course that wasn’t the case around our house. I knew by instinct that my daughters weren’t interested in baseball, and even if they were, I wouldn’t have allowed them to play a position as dangerous as left field.
So we sat cross-legged once a week, resplendent in our headbands and feathers, and submerged ourselves in legends of Native American life. If a real Indian had visited our get together, he would have told his wife that night, “You’re not going to believe what I saw today.”
Each meeting a father presented a program of so-called Indian lore. In other words, Dad ran to the library a half hour before the powwow, checked out “Hiawatha,” then mumbled through some of those rhymes in front of everyone so he could bond with his daughter.
All this sounds OK except some fathers couldn’t make it to the library on B-day — B for bonding — and instead grabbed a book off a shelf at home. I chose “Great River” by Paul Horgan, a history of the Rio Grande that won a Pulitzer Prize because it was in two volumes. I remembered reading something about Indians in Volume I before I fell asleep.
So with everyone rubbing their knees and gawking at me, I flipped open the book and began reading at random:
“When a man lay dying, they (the rest of the Indians) sent for the doctors of the curing society that combated witches. Then doctors came and undressed the dying man to examine him carefully. If he was already dead, they put a cotton blanket over him.”
As I read on, the book went into fascinating detail about the burial ritual. Well, I was the hit of Indian Maidens. Those girls’ eyes bugged out to the point where some of them clutched their fathers and screamed, One even threw up on her father. Talk about your bonding.
My scholarly reading broke up the Indian Maidens circle — I missed my feathered headband for a while — but Marilyn said it was abundantly clear I could never top my presentation. She said I might better bond with Tracy by playing catch in the back yard so she could be the first girl to break the gender barrier in Little League Baseball.
I thought it best never to mention the notes of thanks I received from several fathers following their knee surgeries.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist.