Last Wagon Wheel

Published in Folio, 1994 & Fireweed, 1994.

Near Macksburg, Oregon

Last Christmas Aunt Gid gave me an heirloom, [break] gray calico dress worn by a boy child buried in sod in l852, [break] on a knoll by a stream somewhere along [break]the Oregon Trail. On Day Twelve the Mack[break]log book entry reads: “Cholera. Age 2.”

Aunt Gid tells me, “Poor little Landry! He[break]was crushed in Kansas, but no one could bear[break]to record it. Great-grandma Mack told me[break]Landry would play on the buckboard; one day[break]he fell into the dusty track; wheels smashed[break]his head before they could stay the oxen.”

Near Oglala, Nebraska

Once Aunt Shala told me while driving dirt[break]roads past a cattle ranch with U. S. flags[break]waving, its yard fence spoked with a hundred [break]wagon wheels each painted red, white and blue:[break]”All those wheels were once my dad’s, Sam Blackcrow.[break]One year they fed our whole tiyospaye.

“Back in the 30’s when we were starving, [break]this guy paid a dollar each, so my dad [break]gathered all those broken wheels lying deep[break]in trail ruts for years, fixed the spokes and rims, [break]loaded them on the last wagon we had, [break]harnessed the team, took the whole lot up here.”

At Camp Lakota, South Dakota

Back home we find a wagon wheel hidden [break]in mud by the creek, rusty and warped but [break]whole, waterlogged tight to rims. We paint it [break]white, hang it between sun-bleached buffalo [break]skulls above the Sundance gate with flags of[break]sacred colors, red, streaming in the wind.

tiyospaye = extended family, clan (Lakota)

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