Love People

Teepee Gone Wild, part 1

Photo by Andrew Neel on

It feels like if there was ever a warning to be issued with a product, it should be one issued to the parents of young boys. History is taught to them, even at early ages, sometimes with the intent on showing them not to relive the past. Among the curriculum for such history is the tragedy of conflict between Native American Indians and European settlers. Of course, not everything taught is bad. One of the positive sides is learning how the Indians lived, which turns out to be fascinating. In the minds of three young boys, it was not enough to simply learn about what the Indians did. For them, it was deemed necessary to experience this life for themselves.

One afternoon, upon a yellowish field, stood three teepees that reached up into the blue sky. It all started when small areas were cleared of all debris, which left only dirt in the shape of circles. Long branches were then cut off and stripped of all their limbs and tied together with twine at the top where they all intersected. Inside each teepee, at its center, was a pile of stone rocks in the shape of a circle. In their minds, they wondered how the Indians stayed warm unless they had a fire, and deemed it necessary that they, too, would need one. Small branches and twigs were gathered together with dry grass and placed in the stone circle. The small piles were then lit on fire.

In that moment, it was official in their young minds. They now lived in the same way the Indians once did. The trouble with that logic is that it was simply not true for many reasons. Among them, fire was not a requirement at that time of year to stay warm. It was during the heat of the summer, which caused the grass of the fields to turn yellow in the scorching sunlight. Everything around was dry, which created the perfect conditions to turn this little experience into a complete disaster.

Unsatisfied by the size of the fire, more kindling was added to the fires. The flames reached higher and burned hotter. The flames in the middle teepee grew so large, that the teepee had to be evacuated. Flames reached up into the tip of the teepee and began to blacken the branches underneath. It was not long before the whole thing erupted into a blaze of fire. The two youngest of the three boys panicked, and the only thing that crossed their minds was to pee on the fire in a poor attempt to extinguish the flames. When that did not work, the two of them took off running. The oldest boy stayed behind, perhaps to kick dirt on it and anything else that came to mind to put out the fire. However, the fire spread beyond the teepee and the field started to catch on fire as well.

A few hours later, the youngest boy snuck quietly from the dining room into the kitchen, where he saw a room full of adults, standing in a circle around the oldest boy who sat in a chair. Scowls were across the faces of his parents. The firemen that stood in the room also wore stern faces, having just extinguished the blaze in the heat of the day. One man did most of the talking and spoke firmly, lecturing the boy on fire safety. It was a serious atmosphere, filled with a tenseness that can only be described by being in it. He was instructed to take a mandatory class on fire safety. The parents apologized repeatedly for their son’s actions and he did as well.

Luckily, the fire was put out before it did too much damage. It was in an area of the field devoid of crops, but nonetheless it was still a serious violation. The oldest boy sat there and took the blame for the whole thing. Meanwhile, his younger brother stood in the opposite doorway, quietly observing the scolding. What all the adults did not realize, was that the oldest boy did not act alone. In fact, it was not even his teepee that caught on fire. However, he remained silent, and took the blame for the whole event. He was involved for sure, but he went a step further and took responsibility for it all. When others ran from the damage, they themselves had caused, he took a bold risk to stay behind and be held accountable for all their actions. He owned the foolishness and carelessness of their actions that day.

It takes a lot to admit when you are wrong and be willing to accept punishment for your actions. Some people squirm and try all manner of avoidance of the troubles they cause. These days lawyers can get people off due to a technicality. Meanwhile, they live with knowing what they have done, and the guilt likely does a number on them. A positive aspect from the outcome of that event was that the oldest boy earned respect, not only from his younger brother and friend, but from the adults. They admired the fact that he stayed behind and tried to make things right as best as he could. Not even many adults are willing to do that and own up to their wrongful actions.

It’s a wonder if the Indians had similar troubles with fires inside their teepees. This may have even led to the idea of building larger teepees… or maybe not. Maybe we just need to watch our fires before they consume what we hold dear.

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