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Champion Fancy Dancer
The 1991 Chevrolet truck coughed as it pulled into the parking space. The truck had been through many miles, as many as Joseph could remember. At one time, it was his grandfather’s truck, one in which he and Joseph traveled to many powwows.
As he got out of the truck, he heard voices in the distance calling his name. He had many friends, mostly those with whom he grew up. He waved as he made his way to the back of the truck to get out his suitcase. He pulled the tailgate down, unzipped the bag, and opened it up to find his fancy dance regalia. It had been through its share of wear and tear, but it had not been so long ago since the first time Joseph knew he wanted to be a fancy dancer.
It was at the Lightening River annual. His grandfather had loaded him in the truck early that morning to make the four-hour journey. Joseph remembered the jokes his grandfather told and him singing along to the Temptations’ “My Girl.” Joseph was no more than seven years-old.
These journeys were not uncommon for the two; there always seemed to be some powwow they would travel to on the weekends. However, this day seemed different; Joseph could sense something was about to happen.
Indeed something had happened. This particular powwow was having an Iron Man contest, and only the best fancy dancers dared enter. He sat with his grandfather in the bleachers, snacking on the fluffy cowboy bread that his grandmother had made for the two. He watched as several dancers entered the arena to start the contest. It lasted for over a half an hour. Joseph and his grandfather watched as men walked out in songs six, seven and eight. He watched as there were only four left after song fourteen. One by one, dancers were eliminated.
Just when the audience didn’t know which of the remaining two would be the winner, one of the dancers did a back flip just as the song ended. He had been watching this particular dancer throughout the contest. Joseph loved how his ribbon work painted a rainbow of colors. Joseph was hoping that this dancer would win as he was his favorite. The crowd cheered, and it was obvious he was the winner. The MC announced his name—Alexander Littlechief—and Joseph thought how he wanted to dance like him.
Later that evening, as the two were driving home, Joseph told his grandfather that he wanted to be a fancy dancer. “You do?” his grandfather responded, “Well you know you will have to work hard and practice every day.” Joseph wasn’t worried about all the practice he was going to have to do—he just knew this was something that he wanted to do. “I can see it already,” said his grandfather, “you’re going to be a champion fancy dancer! My grandson, a champion fancy dancer! Remember grandson, if you do this it has to be for the right reason—never take the dance for granted.” Joseph promised his grandfather that he would not.
As Joseph sat on the tailgate, he unwound a handkerchief from around his moccasins. He thought back to when he sat with his grandmother at the dinner table, as she made the moccasins for his regalia. Joseph had always been so fascinated with his grandmother’s craftwork. Half of the kitchen had been taken over with her beads, patterns, designs and sewing machine. She spent countless hours sewing dresses and shirts for many people. Joseph loved the designs she beaded; they came to her in her dreams. Her designs were famous and pictures of them could be seen in magazines. People would call from all around to get their hands on a little piece of her work. As she got older, her health began to weaken and her hands began to bother her. He always worried about her and the work she was doing. Joseph feared that it might be too much for her to handle, but she always assured him that she was doing what she loved.
He sat as she made him his last pair of moccasins. She had told him she was very proud of him and his accomplishments not only in the arena, but in his education as well. Her advice was that powwows will always be there, but the most important thing was for him to get his education. No one could take that away from him. He told her about how all the dancers admired her beadwork. “I always save my best beadwork for you Grandson,” she would say. “I have dreams that one day you will do many great things. I’m not worried about you; you always know what to do.”
Joseph finished up at his truck and soon met up with his friends. They too were dancers. The boys warmed up during intertribals and stretched in between songs. Joseph had a feeling. However, it wasn’t his nerves getting to him. It was almost like the feeling he had when he was seven years old, watching Alexander Littlechief. It was a good feeling, an indescribable one, but he knew that tonight something was going to happen.
The M.C. announced for all of the dancers competing in the Iron Man contest to step inside the arena. “The contest will begin in five minutes,” he said. He told the audience to cheer on their favorite dancer. As he continued to talk, his voice began to fade. Joseph could only hear his grandparents talking.
“Grandson, you can do this. You’ve been preparing for this since you were a little boy. Remember what I said my grandson—a champion fancy dancer!”
Joseph closed his eyes and smiled as the first song of eighteen began.
Writing has always been an interest for Jennifer R. Whitewolf, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing at Comanche Nation College. Whitewolf cites her English composition instructor, Mr. Brian Daffron, as her mentor. She also recognizes her parents, who have played an important motivating role in her life.