My Inner Indian

Before there was such a thing as political correctness, there was YMCA summer camp. Once a year, between the ending and beginning of school, I and 100 of my city’s rowdiest ragamuffins were bussed out to the South Carolina pine woods and divided into tribes to become wild Indians.

Billy Cherry, a full-blooded Cherokee and a USC athelete, was my counselor and Chief of all YMCA Cherokee, including me. We were standing on a dock on the waterfront one morning when Skinny Andy hollered “Snake in the water!” and pointed to a slithering swimmer some 90 yards out on the pond.

Chief, who taught archery, had his recurve bow with him. He drew back and let fly a razorhead arrow from his quiver. It flew high and true, skewering that snake just below the head.

He gave me the belt he made from the hide of that almost 7 foot long water moccasin, but not before saying a prayer thanking the creature for giving up its life.

Chief taught me by example to respect all life, a valuable lesson my inner Indian still holds dear.

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