Tepee On The Hill

In 1948, my father was transferred from Iowa to Pierre, South Dakota to manage the Gambles Store and in that day, even though Native Americans, still called Indians back then, were largely on reservations, there were three large white tepees on the east edge of town, not far from the Mighty Mo’ (Missouri River).

One windy, hot summer day, I was at the store and I got to go with my Dad and his helper to the edge of town and up to one of the tepees.  We delivered a ‘freezer’ to the old Indian and his wife, living in one of the tepees.  The Indian gave my Dad 5 geese, which he took home and put in our storm shelter in the backyard.  I can still smell the mess I had to clean up on occasion…..haha  Memories….that’s what lives are made of.

I present this poem as ‘my record’ more than anything.  Feel free to read it.

Tepee On the Hill

On the side of a hill at the edge of town
a stone’s throw away….. from ‘Mighty Mo,’
the tepees sat in grass all around
on the side of a hill at the edge of town.
I remember the dogs running up and down
the hill,  ‘round the tepees….white as snow,
on the side of a hill at the edge of town,
a stone’s throw away….. from ‘Mighty Mo.’

Back in the early fifties, when my father ran that store
in Pierre, South Dakota, back then,
I remember all the places, I use to explore
back in the early fifties, when my father ran that store.
I’d stay with him and do things like sweeping up the floor
and help out with deliveries….. like all the other men…
back in the early fifties, when my father ran that store
in Pierre, South Dakota…… back then.

Between the tepees, where sat the old black car,
and where the wind was blowing a scary high pitched tone,
the grass was laying down, as were the dogs, not far,
between the tepees, where sat the old black car.
Then the tepee opened up and an old Indian with cigar
waved at Dad and suddenly I felt alone
between the tepees, where sat the old black car,
and where the wind was blowing a scary high pitched tone.

The freezer that we brought, that was bought from dad,
we hooked up in his tent
and I still can see him dancing and, in a way, it’s sort of sad,
the freezer that we brought, that was bought from dad.
Cause it makes me miss my dad even though I’m really glad
to have had that moment – with the Indian, now shared ; now spent
the freezer that we brought, that was bought from dad,
we hooked up in his tent.

copyright © 2012 T.J. Gargano

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9 Comments

Filed under poetry

9 responses to “Tepee On The Hill

  1. I was born and lived my first nine years in South Dakota. I have very fond memories of my youth there. Cold and snow in the winter, hot and fun in the summer. Ahh, youth. Enjoy your poem. T

    • thomag1

      How you doing, Tricia? Feeling a little better yet? I truly hope so. I was born in Iowa but moved to Pierre, SD when I was two years old and we left when I was thirteen. I go back a lot but I love the high prairie – northern prairie fauna…I’ll never forget the tepees that mean more to me now, than they did then.

  2. Julie Catherine

    Really like this poem, Tom – it has a very nostalgic, lyrical tone that fits with the imagery of the tepees on the hill. The old black car and freezer with the 3 white tepees seem to be a dichotomy, yet a bridge between old and new – really unique approach, and I like it. ~ Julie 🙂

    • thomag1

      You are so astute in your observations and analysis and to the point of flattery but I love it so don’t quit…..haha.. I always look forward to a true heart’s view…..thanks.

  3. Julie Catherine

    Hi Tom, I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, Congratulations! – please visit my blog for more information ~ Julie 🙂

  4. Nancy

    Really great poem Babe. You are incredible.

  5. There aren’t many people who have a memory like that! Who knew tepees had electricity! What an amazing experience stepping back into the past! I just told 37 about this and he wanted to know if they had a basement too. 🙂

    • thomag1

      I was waiting for someone to ask about that…my thanks to ’37’…I like this guy! haha My father probably got disgusted with me reiterating about this ‘happening’ over the years as I realized how value an experience that was. It was run on a generator, dad said, and each of the tepees had one. My question always was, ‘why weren’t they on the reservation?’ for which I never received a satisfactory answer. Of course, I did have a couple of Indian girls in my classes in school. So evidently, everyone didn’t have to live on the reservation. I was 10 or 12 when I went there with him. I also went to the reservation with him a few times, delivering stuff…..it was like a small town but a ways to drive, I remember. I have pictures somewhere or my sisters do, which I’m trying to find.

      • Oh yes, find those pictures. That’s got to be such a rare first hand experience nowdays. Did they have furniture in the tepees? I remember my Grandmother telling me that when she was a little girl in Plains MT that the Indians came every Saturday to town and set up their tepees behind the cafe that her parents ran. They would come to the back door every week and ask in a really low voice “can I have a cup of coppy. And of course they would always give them coffee. One day my grandmother saw a cute Indian boy about her age (six) and she strutted past him and he slapped her face.

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