Lesson 2 Exercise: Comments Welcome!

TV offered a window to a world far broader and more exciting than what I felt were the limitations of growing up on a Vermont dairy farm.

When I was about 5 years old, I was sitting on the overstuffed chair in our living room, watching a movie on our black and white TV. The plot concerned a wagon train heading out west, and the settlers were attacked by what we then called “Indians.” The battle was fierce and the fighting intense – even the women were firing guns to defend themselves.

Suddenly, above the din of the battle, there was the familiar bugle call of a cavalry charge. I cheered out loud, “Yay!”

My father, who seldom was seen inside the house, happened to walk through the living room on his way to his bedroom on the other side.

He asked, “Why are you cheering?”

“The cavalry are coming!” I shouted excitedly.

“But why are you cheering? They’re just going to kill the Indians.”

“I know!”

“So why would you cheer at that?”

“Because the Indians are the bad guys!” Duh.

“No they’re not; the Indians are the good guys.”

My father was always playing these kinds of games with me, teasing me to make me laugh. “No, the SETTLERS are the good guys!”

My father sat down next to me on the couch. He explained, “Roger, the Indians lived in this country for thousands of years. Then, white men came and forced them off their land. They pushed them into small reservations, or murdered them when they refused to go. So the Indians are only trying to protect themselves from an invasion. So who would you call the bad guys? The invaders stealing their land? Or, the people protecting their homes and families?”

He got up, fetched whatever he had needed from his bedroom, and returned to the barn.

I sat, thunderstruck. All my young life, I had seen the Indians as bad guys, and the cowboys as good guys. Now, I could not. I thought further. I decided that NO ONE thinks of themselves as a bad guy. Everyone thinks of themselves as the good guy. That was true for the Russians, and even my older brother.

From that day forward, my idea of “good” versus “bad” was never clear.

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6 Responses to Lesson 2 Exercise: Comments Welcome!

  1. I enjoyed your story. It kept me interested. It was clear and easy to follow.

    • rogeraford says:

      Thanks, Apryl!

      I appreciate your feedback.

      Keep writing!

      Roger

      • Judith says:

        Loved this! I was immediately curious because of the difference between what it must be to grow up on a Vermont Dairy Farm as opposed to my block in Brooklyn. But kids are probably not really that different, even if their surroundings are.
        What an insightful revelation for you at age 5!
        I still have that problem as an adult. It’s good to be understanding of both sides but it makes it hard to take a stand on something…..

        • Roger says:

          Judith,

          Very true. I’m terrible at taking a stand! Because I’m sure there are always good arguments for both sides.

          Thanks for the comment!

          Roger

  2. Myra Medicine Waters Cheramie says:

    Roger I enjoyed your story. I applaud your father for teaching you the facts about Indians. I am Native American, well 2/3 Native. My mother told us horrible stories of her childhood. I know I am supposed to be giving my comments on your story so I will do that now. It was easy reading, interesting and left me wanting more.

    • rogeraford says:

      Thanks Myra!

      We have a little Native American ancestry, but certainly not as much as you do. Maybe that ancestry made my father more aware of the history.

      I’m glad you found the reading easy, and interesting! As you can probably tell from the post date, I haven’t been working on this for some time!

      Best of luck to you in the course.

      Roger

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