I didn’t allow myself to keep much about that school as a memory. I don’t recall the teachers, school rooms, hallways, lockers, or cafeteria. The only memory I have and it’s vivid was how much the kids didn’t like us.
I quickly learned of the long-held grudge the Native Americans, at least the ones we knew and came in contact with, had against white people. I understood how after being compromised, lied to, betrayed, and beaten one is usually left with deep fear and mistrust. Their grievances were generations old, mine only 12-years old.
After several weeks at our new school Anna and I realized we were going to be relentlessly pursued and beat up by the other kids and not even the teachers were going to intervene on our behalf. There wasn’t anyone or anywhere to go to for help and protection, so, for the time we lived on The Morongo Indian reservation we hid. We didn’t like it, but it was far safer than being at school.
Most mornings, after Anna and I fed the animals, instead of walking out to the main road to catch the school bus, we stayed down at the old shack next to where the animals were kept. Winter in the desert could bring freezing cold temperatures, but we nestled ourselves into a corner and huddled together for warmth.
Our plan was to create as much of a routine as possible. We filled the hours with teaching each other and playing games. I decided what Anna was going to learn and she decided what I was going to learn. I figured all we would do in school anyway was to read and memorize things and that we could do for ourselves.
I loved to read so I was in charge of giving spelling tests, Anna was very good at math, so her job was to teach me how to multiply and divide. For recess we played— Say, Say Oh Playmate, Mary Mack and several other hand clapping games, or guessing games like, I Spy.
I Spy was always a dead end, because we either spied dirt, a dog, a cock, a mountain or a tree and that was the extent of the game. I spy made me feel sad. I didn’t want to do visual searches of the ugly things we were surrounded by. I wanted to daydream and think about the good places we had been and the people that I had met and still loved, like Sarah McCoy and Mary.
Daydreams often became a litany of unanswerable questions. I wondered why we had to deal with people and situations I was convinced other children didn’t have to deal with. Why so much poverty, violence, and pain? What made people do crazy things? I wondered if people could change for the better even if they appeared soulless.
For no good reason, I chose to trust an inexplicable knowingness deep in my heart that life could be cleaner, prettier, calmer and more joyful. Even in the scariest, darkest moments there was a palpable peaceful-presence within and around me that never left. Out of this presence came my hopes and dreams.
The school bus continued to come every morning. From our hiding place, Anna and I could hear it stop, open its decrepit yellow doors, wait a few moments and proceed to drive away empty handed.