28 September 2008

the eagles touch down

The saturday morning football game is a big deal for two schools bristling with generations of rivalry and racial suspicion: Here we have the Eagles from the rez vs. the Pirates from the farm town.

Our junior high boys filed out of a beat-up bluebird schoolbus opposite to the grandstand.
Their shoulder pads were reconditioned. No one had pants that were the right size, and several of the yellow Eagle jersies looked to have sustained moderate to serious dog attacks. Behind them their uncles and aunties were loud and laughing and smoking cigarettes in the early morning mist.

Across the field the rival fathers stood quiet in front of their parked pickup trucks, staring with styrofoam cups of acrid black coffee. Behind them, a John Deere tractor rumbled green behind the fence on down the highway back to all this land that is theirs now with all that fat corn yellowing in the haze.

By the time the sun burned through and the field started to heat up, the team was beading sweat and wild as colts: two touchdowns before them white boys could even blink. The Eagles bumped chests and galloped back to the starting line; the Pirates regrouped and shook their heads in disbelief.

Behind me, an uncle jumped to his feet. "hoka hey, what, you never seen colored boys, huh?"

To that, the blue-eyed sons of settlers didnt say nothing but a mutter about how them indians was probably 2 years older but couldnt pass 8th grade. The Pirate mothers in sweatshirts and sensible shoes standing behind the concession counter just averted their eyes to check the boiling hot dogs.

The boys lined back up eye to eye on the starting line. Behind me, the loud voice hollared, "hit em boys, hoo-EE, HIT EM TILL YOU SEE SNOT BUBBLES!"
And the polite silence of the other parents was punctuated with the wet smack of helmets against nylon and flesh.

Finally, with some three minutes to go, a skinny brown quarterback parted the sea of anglo-germans trying to hold him back. He was balancing the football like a delicate egg and twisting and spinning as they tried to grab him. The crowd errupted, "Look at him move!
Like the grass dancers!
you MOVE, boy!"
He paced his pursuers like he had feathers in his cleats and flew untouchable into the endzone. It was now a decisive 42-6.
Even his granny was on her feet now. He looked up at us, all grinning and grass stains,
and loped back to his team who stood shining and victorious in the center of the field for the photographs.

Without another word, the farmers turned and started to leave. Besides, there was work to be done: their hard-earned crops were ready for harvest.

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