Hampshire Students at Standing Rock

Adin Buchanan

Friday, October 18th. Hampshire College, Franklin Patterson Hall, Room 107

“How much suffering are you willing to go through for this?” Alison, the trainer, asks our small groups. Slowly, but without hesitation, Jade says, “Yeah, I’ll pretty much go through anything.” Turtle is next. He pauses before speaking, “My spirit is strong. I’ll definitely take a bullet, or a couple of bullets, if that’s what it comes down to.”

Aila glances at him with a raised eyebrow, “Y’know, this might be impractical, but it would be ideal if I had time to be pepper sprayed before we left.” she says, “I’m really trying to gauge how much these things hurt before I put my body on the line in what’s basically a fricken war zone.”

We talk a few more minutes, then a dull gong comes from behind us. Alison has struck the singing bowl and is drawing us back into the group.

For the next activity, our ten trainees make two lines facing each other. “Ok, this line is gonna be the pipeline employees.”Alison instructs, pointing to my group “It’s your job to get the pipeline through, your paycheck depends on it.”

Some of us shift nervously,making flitting eye contact across the line. We know what this is.

“Now I know it might not be an energy you’re used to embodying, but for the sake of your partner, you should really go for it. Get angry, ok?”

We close in on them fast, getting right in their faces.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE KID?”

“YOU NEED TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW BEFORE I CALL THE POLICE!”

We’ve become a seething mob now, angry words mixing and matching, flecks of saliva flying,

“THE POLICE ARE GONNA BE HERE IN FIVE MINUTES, AND YOU’RE NOT GONNA LIKE THEM NEARLY AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE ME.” I shout in my partners face, his eyes widen and he steps back a little.

“AAAND CUT!” Alison shouts out and rings the bowl. We step back, exchange sheepish grins, hugs of reconciliation, and nervous smiles. We switch roles.

Sunday, October 20th. Standing Rock, North Dakota

The brown plains role out before us, stretching to the horizon. The bus is filled; college students, teachers, professional activists. Mostly white, mostly from Vermont, save our Hampshire contingent. Leigh, who is returning to camp for the second time, has asked that we spend the final approach in silence. The motor hums, most of us gaze out the window. Aila, next to me, reads a book of Irish mythology. We pass a cluster of run down trailers, then an advertisement for Sitting Bull College: “Build your brighter future”. A few more minutes and we see two B.I.A trucks on the side of the road, parked opposite directions, officers in the drivers seats. We’re getting close.

The phones come out as soon as we see it. Heading down hill on 1806, our view opens up; a flat plain half a mile wide covered in teepees, RVs, and all other manner of temporary shelters. It’s surround by low hills. Smoke rises from various spots. The sun is low in the west and beautiful.

The silence hangs thicker as we cross the cannonball river and drive along the camp’s east edge. The fence is hung with banners, the ground that remains visible has been tracked into dirt roads. We climb a short hill, pass a solar array and small wind turbine, and we’re there, the front gate.

A native man in a black hoodie and shades hops on the bus, looks it up and down, and waves us through. The driver picks his way through the twisting dirt arteries of camp. Still we are silent, attention wrapt on the scene unfolding around us. Teepee shaped structures with stovepipes sticking out the top, thick rounds of firewood, piled high and waiting to be split, an old beater pickup with the words “Mothers against Meth” and “Hunkpapa” spray painted on it.

The bus stops, we unload, stretch, breath clear air. Here we are. We setup our tents in a loose sprawl in the northeast corner of the encampment, right on the banks of a dried tributary to the cannonball. The sun set around 4:30, and we’ve started dinner on the coleman when Andy, a student our age from the bus, appears out of the darkness.

“Action at the bridge! Bring your goggles!” he says. We slow him down. We can’t go to the frontline yet, none of us have attended the mandatory training. But already, Jade, Turtle, and myself are standing up.

We work our way to the main gate, hearing that they need apple cider vinegar at the front: to wash pepper spray out of the protector’s eyes, we’re told. We find the main kitchen, a cluster of three green army tents, and rouse up a couple tired looking volunteers.

“We blocked the door in case camp gets raided tonight, but this is more important than protocol.” one of them says, hurriedly pulling small logs, pallets, and sheets of cardboard to the side. We follow the two in, our lights shine on endless stacks of canned good. Turtle spies the gallon jugs of vinegar sitting high on a shelf. We take two a piece, thank the volunteers, and run back to the gate. We pass the jugs off to a car full of goggled protectors headed to the front, but don’t follow them. A native woman’s voice, full of fear, comes on the speaker,

“They’re spraying our protectors. They won’t stop. I don’t know what to do. What will work? What can we do?” We head to the donation pile. They need long underwear and wool jackets at the front, we’re told. We can do that. By eleven, the ten of us at the donation station have worked through a seven foot tall mountain of jackets. We walk back to our tents past a line of ambulances, their lights flashing outside the camp’s medical center.

 

Monday, October 21st

I hold the large bundle of sage for a moment, letting its sweet smoke fill my lungs and clear my head. Passing it to my right, I look out over the crowd. At least two hundred of us, clad in winter gear, have gathered together in the main dome. In our center, a large native woman speaks. She commands the space like someone who’d used to standing in front of crowds.

“So how many of you got in last night?”

Almost everyone’s hand goes up. She welcomes us to camp, then steps back. A Native man, with long white hair and bushy eyebrows, takes her place. All stand and take off their hats. He says a three minutes prayer and I catch about three words. As we leave the dome for our official orientation, someone I’ve never met before passes a me handful of Reese’s pieces with a smile and a wink.

“Please, please, please, find your prayer.” entreats Mara Morseegan, standing before us in two winter jackets and a long skirt. A Phillipina woman, Morseegan too has spent time addressing large gatherings. The tent flaps and creeks as she explains that Oceti Sakowin is a prayerful resistance camp, first and foremost. “The request here is really as much as possible to shift into heart space.” she says, before stepping aside for another facilitator.

Dylan has close cropped hair and a bright blue jacket, and starts crying almost immediately.

“What is happening here is colonization,” she says, tears streaking down her face, her hand on her heart. “They are incredibly close to drilling under the Missouri river.”

 

Tuesday, October 22nd

Jade, Ianka, and myself follow Turtle to southwest camp, named for the regional affiliation of the natives who started it. It’s also Tarpee building headquarters, and Turtle says he can get us a job.

We stand around, long two by fours on one side, tall tarpees on the other. We’ve been at camp long enough to know that asking what’s going on doesn’t usually get you anywhere. A man in a dirty orange jacket and a man with long blonde hair draw building plans on the side of an RV. Eventually they introduce themselves, Chris and Patrick. They’ve only been here a week or so, but they’ll be our build team leaders for the day. We gather up a bucket of tools and head to the build site, Oglala Kitchen. Turns out we don’t have the right screws, or the right bit. Or enough batteries. And so the day begins.

The white truck rumbles to life, the bed loaded with building supplies headed for Grandma’s kitchen, the second build site of the day. Yo-yo (Johan), a dreadlocked German who hasn’t stayed anywhere longer than three weeks in the past three years, is sitting on the tailgate next to me. A native kid, maybe eighteen or nineteen jogs towards us. Yo-yo slides down and the two embrace, laughing. The native kid raises his arms over his head, twisting his torso side to side, miming.

“Y’know, they can break my body man, but they can never break my spirit.They can never break my spirit.” He says, relishing the words. Yo-yo laughs, the two talk for a moment longer before separating, then he hops back on the truck as it begins to drive away.

“God. The spirit of these people man!” He says, shaking his head and looking at me. “You know, Sunday night, he was shot nine times by the police. Two broken ribs and hypothermia. After he warmed up at the medic tent, he went back to the front lines.” We drive to Grandma’s in silence.

“Paul Wagner is my name, but Cheoketen is who I am.” We’ve stopped for a lunch break,and Cheoketen, a Salish man from British Colombia, introduces himself with grace and a warm smile. The crew, fifteen or so in number, is assembled inside the mostly finished Tarpee we’ve just put up. Cheoketen continues; seeing the need for winter shelter at Standing Rock, he prayed, and the design came to him. Now, he says, we are part of making his prayer real. Built out of two by fours and plastic tarps, the materials for one tarpee cost around four hundred dollars, including a wood burning stove made from a metal shipping barrel. They can be constructed with minimal tools and experience, and assembled, the shelter can keep a family of six warm on a winter night. The plan is to build sixty of them before the ground freezes. Already, we’re told, Cheoketen’s gofundme page has raised over forty thousand dollars, and twenty five have been erected across the different camps. Jade and I look at each other; we’ve found a good place.

 

Wednesday, October 23rd

I sling the ladder off my shoulder and cup one hand behind my left ear. “Is that Climbing Poetree?” I ask Adrian, a UVM student from the bus, and now my framing partner. He shrugs, a bucket of tools in his right hand. As we walk closer the melodic words become clearer.

“Our ancestors – are rooting for us. Expect Miracles. We will survive, we will survive.”

“Holy shit! That’s Climbing Poetree.” I exclaim. I set the ladder down and we push ourselves into the back of the crowd gathered at the sacred fire. There they are on stage, Alixa and Niama, the radical female poetry duo, clad in winter gear. Strange to see them in the flesh like this.

“Thank you familia,” intones Niama over the sound system, “that was our newest single, ‘We Survived’.” The crowd cheers, and they step off stage. We pick up our gear. It’s 3:30.

There’s an hour of light left, and we have a frame to assemble.

Standing on the ladder an hour later, I hear another song drifting up from the fire.

“Holy shit, that’s Rising Appalachia,” I exclaim “You guys, i’m sorry, I gotta go. My heart is calling me. I’ll be right back.” I climb down the ladder in a rush and push the driver into Ava’s hands. Jogging, the short distance back to the sacred fire, I push through the crowd, and stop. I close my eyes, and listen: the fast, soft beat of bongos. The sweet rhythmic thrum of the banjo.

“Lets form a great salvation / Through harmony and sound”

The words are sweet, a balm. I look around me, everyone is dancing, so I start to dance as well. In the center of the crowd, the sacred fire burns against the falling darkness, a buffalo skull at the edge of the pit, a bundle of sage on top of it. To it’s right is a staff covered in ribbons, topped by a bald eagle’s head.

“We’ll know the shape of progress / like nature’s always round / like nature’s always round”

The horn descends like a golden thread from on high. To my left, a man is holding his heart, tears leaking out of his closed eyes, a deep smile on his face. The chorus comes.

“We are moving in wider circles,/ we are opening our circles / we are moving in wider circles / we are opening our circles”.

I breathe deep in my chest as the song draws to an end.

Good thing, too. Much more of that and we probably would have all lifted off.

The ground in-between out tents is strewn with peanut butter jars, discarded wrappers and cardboard boxes. Jade crouches before the green camp stove in a filthy white coat. Dinner tonight will be ten different cans of soup, various flavors, mixed together. Cigarettes are lit, the conversation is casual. Turtle is plucking his way through “Redemption song” on the ukulele, Drew is singing along.

“Y’know, I’ve been thinking,” Jared’s voice cuts through the noise, “I mean, this whole camp is a prayer camp. And…” he shifts in his chair, “I’m really wondering how we can conduct ourselves in a more prayerful manner?” The conversation goes from there. More singing? Which songs? Less talking? Humility? Yes, absolutely, we can agree on that. And listening to native leadership. Yes, listening is definitely good. “Hey. How bout we spend the next few minutes in silence?” Jared asks. Nods. Sure, lets just finish up dinner first. We never get around to the silence though.

Later that night, sitting in the porta potties adjacent to the sacred fire, I hear a Native man’s voice on the speaker.

“Some people are treating being here like it’s a vacation. This is not a vacation! This is a war zone.”

October 24th, Thanksgiving Day. Mandan, Suburb of Bismarck.

Adrian and I hear them before we see them. Three hundred or more water protectors standing like a giant bristling porcupine, in the middle of a four way intersection on the town’s main street. Their chants reach our ears in snatches; angry, plaintive, uncoordinated. Police surround them on three sides. Two cars pull in to fill up at the gas stations and they’re not happy to see us. “Dirty Hippies” one woman growls, loud enough for me and her eight year old daughter to hear.

“No, they’re fuckin terrorists. They’re ISIS.” A man in a ball cap and plaid jacket says.

We head towards the crowd.

The tension hits me; stomach churning slowly, jaw tight. On the North side of the throng, a masked protector, standing still and alone, faces off with ten unmoving officers, their squad cars parked behind them. A frozen pig’s head on a stick is in her right hand. In the center of the intersection, a banquet table is set, drenched in fake blood, the portion hanging over the side reads “Fuck Genocide Appreciation Day”.

Someone offers us a spot on the west side holding a banner. The police stand ten yards distant. Behind them, main street stretches into oblivion, studded with fast food signs and billboards. I look down, the banners we’re holding says “Kill the Pilgrim, Save the Water” with a big red arrow underlining the words.

“Why don’t you let the police go home to their families?” shouts a counter-protester from a small group gathered thirty yards distant. One of them holds a sign which says “Back the Blue.” Another one shouts, “Why don’t you just go home!”

The native folks around me laugh. One shouts back,

“We are home. Go back to Europe!” A native woman, dressed in army fatigues, a beaded jacket, and a black face mask, is less amused. Parading back and forth in front of me with a megaphone, she shouts, “You think YOU’RE uncomfortable? This is what it’s been like for us for FIVE HUNDRED YEARS.”

After a minute, the police turn and walk away. Their cars follow, reconfiguring themselves more tightly a hundred yards off. I turn and see that they have done the same to the North and East. A megaphone blasts from behind me, “They backed down! We stood our ground and the police backed down! See what happens when we stand together!”

The people around me murmur, “Something’s up.”

“I don’t like it.” I sling my gas mask around my neck.

A big prayer circle has formed in the middle of the intersection. About a hundred and fifty feet wide, the same number of people have joined hands and are circulating clockwise. Strains of songs rise up from their number. A handful of folks, mostly white, are clustered on the grass behind them, meditating peacefully. I tap Adrian on the shoulder and head over.

The circle is unsure of itself. Songs and chants start and stop. Breaks appear and fix themselves. Everyone is wary, watching the police. Adrian joins me. A small group of Native leaders with megaphones huddle in the center of the circle. We spin slowly, making a few rotations, then, the announcement comes:

“Water protectors! We are going to peacefully disband.” The words distorted by the megaphone, “Native relatives, we are going to leave and walk peacefully back to our cars. White allies, please hold the circle so our Native relatives can leave safely.”

The crowd begins to separate, natives walking in the direction of the adjacent Burger King Parking lot. Then, the police rush in, riot clubs, guns and tear gas canisters ready. A collective cry rises up from the crowd. Our circle responds, once voice at a time.

“Hold the circle!”

“White allies, hold the circle!”

“Turn out! Face the Police!”

“Hold the circle!”

We turn, locking elbows with a cohesiveness we didn’t have until now. The police surround us, about one officer for every three protectors. The few faces I can see through riot hoods are drawn, inscrutable. A few have bean bag guns, orange twelve gauge’s with “less lethal” munitions, others have 40MM launchers with similar munitions, some have cans of mace the size of fire extinguishers, others have black riot sticks the length of an arm. I breathe deep, feeling the fear of the moment, the tension in my knees and twisting in my stomach. I don’t know who starts the movement, but we begin to back away from the police line, towards the parking lot.

“Easy. Easy” Strong voices keep us together.

“Hold the line.”

“Hold!”

And then we’re off the intersection on a side street adjacent to burger king. The elbow links dissolve. The police have cordoned us off and are slowly pushing us down the street, but people are laughing and hugging, no one that I can see is in cuffs. Pow wow music comes from my left. An officer has an assault rifle slung over his front. Two kids in hoodies and high tops, middle school age, have sheepish grins and hold a pro-pipeline banner behind the police. A Native man yells to them, laughter in his voice.

“What are you protecting? Burger King? You’re protecting GMO’s!”

We start looking for a ride. I spy an old single cab pickup spray painted red and black pulling away, a man in camp gear and a black mask is riding the back bumper.

“Holdup!” We begin to run. He slams a hand on the roof and the truck stops. He hops down and opens the back window; two people in dark gear and face masks are crushed in the small space, along with plastic tote bins and cardboard boxes. Two more bodies can fit. We throw our bags in and crawl after them, tucking ourselves into the corners that are left. I introduce myself, saying my full name and where I’m from. One of the women responds with a handshake and a first name, the other just stares. We speed up.

“We gotta get Greg in the truck” one of them says. The other knocks on the cab partition

“Stop! We gotta get Greg in the truck!”

We stop, and I open window. He hands me his pack and half crawls and half falls through.

“Why’d you pull me in?” he ask with an indignant southern accent, eyeing me like a hawk. His long nose is full of blackheads, he’s been away from regular showers for a while. I shrug and gesture at his comrades. He looks out the back window and pulls out a walkie talkie.

“Gryffin, gryffin, come in. This is your B team, over” Silence. “Gryffin, Gryffin. Come in. This is your B team. Over!” Still nothing.

“Shit, they must be outta range.” No-one speaks for a minute.

“Well that went ok. I mean, we had good momentum.” Greg breaks the silence, “All these fuckin vollies need to learn some crowd coordination tactics tough, I mean damn. We had enough momentum to mob up and go to a second spot.” He looks out the back window with frustration.

“Shit!”

No one says anything. He pulls his hat over his eyes and falls asleep.

“I lost my faith in humanity today.” says Ruby, despondent. Darkness has fallen, dinner is on the stove, and cigarettes are lit. Mary sit’s next to her, rubbing her back. They begin to explain. A hundred or so protectors had traveled to the Bismarck mall separately. The plan was to blend in and walk around until they heard the signal: “Water is life!” chanted three times. Then, they were all going to rush to the main atrium and form a flash prayer mob.

“I bought a coffee and everything. We were just walking around.” says Ruby, “But I guess someone tipped them off.”

Mary continues, “They started arresting anyone who had muddy boots.”

“I almost got arrested”, says Ruby, “And I would have been if Mary and this other woman next to her hadn’t pulled me back into the crowd.”

“Fuckin’ pigs.” breathes Ava, in between puffs of cigarette.

 

Friday, October 25th. Rosebud Camp

Several headlamps are aimed upwards, reflecting off the white walls and providing enough light for our meeting. In the days since we first met Cheoketen, the tarpee team has doubled in number. Still, we all fit inside one shelter.

“There are a lot of wandering white people looking to help.” Laughs Andy Clark, a red bearded builder from Seattle. “So if you see anyone looking wide eyed and confused, put em to work!” Everyone laughs. The shelter is overflowing with good cheer tonight.

The next order of business is finding a shop manager. The Tarpee tool shed still ends up disorganized most evenings and the burden of rearranging usually falls to Andy.

“I guess I can do it.” Turtle shrugs and laughs.

“Hey-hey! Turtle! Our new shop manager!” Andy exclaims. The crowd cheers, Patrick claps Turtle on the back. Along with his promotion, Turtle will receive accommodations in a tarpee at Rosebud. He’s decided that finishing the building project is more important than finishing his semester at school. We continue, discussing insulation tips and some recurring stove installation problems. A native woman in a green hoodie pokes her head through the flap, asking if this place will be ready for her family tonight. It will, but she can’t use the stove, Andy explains, it has to be fired for a few hours with nobody inside so the fumes can burn off. It hits me then, in a way it hadn’t before. In the morning, we’ll break down our tents and head back to school. For the mostly Native folks who have picked up their lives and family to come here, these shelters are home.

 

Saturday, October 26th. Oceti Sakowin

Standing outside of the porta-potties, I didn’t expect to meet a presidential candidate. It was early morning, and the bus was packed and almost ready to go. I stood there, waiting for the plastic latch to swing open. When it did, a grey bearded man in a white insulated jumpsuit, painted with a huge red heart stepped out.

“Ahh, Vermin Supreme, good to see you outside of the porta-potties,” I said with a smile.

“Yes yes, very nice real estate here. I hope to move in one day,” He replied in rough, jovial voice. I ask him how he feels about the results of the election.

“Well now that I’ve won, I hope I can serve the needs of the people,” I laugh.

“Well, I for one look forward to your time as our supreme overlord. You always have been a man of the people.”

“Yes yes. Good man. A good man you are.” He extends his hand and we shake, it’s still damp with disinfectant from the porta-potty.

 

Outside Bismarck

The bus stops at a gas station and we all pile out for air and lunch. Cars whoosh along the overpass to our left, gasoline fumes hang in the air, “Marvin’s Family Restaurant”, “The Cheap Shot Sports Grill”, and “Stamart” are all consolidated into the same building in front of us. Most of us head for Stamart. Inside, old women with taut grey hair are positioned behind the circular check out area, a halo-rack of cigarettes around their heads. Our party, unwashed for aweek, still clad in camp clothes, wander the aisles, some dazed, some giddy, grabbing greasy cartons of chicken fingers and crinkly bags of chips.

“It’s my comfort food,” Says Hana, a Middlebury grad and freelancer, in defense of her Red Hot Cheetos, “Ok, maybe it’s not food, but it gives me comfort.” She grins. We wander the aisles, lampooning the odd array of products. The porn rack, with headings like “Anal! Anal! Anal!” peeking out from opaque covers, next to sets of DVD’s arranged in value packs. Faux Leather bikers vests in the next aisle over, with “Proud to be an American” patches already sewn on. They’re Made in China, of course.

Further down the aisle, a rack of ball caps, “Native pride” right next to “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” At the front “Authentic Samurai Swords” for $79.99. A quick look reveals that someone, somewhere, carved the hilt-work by hand.

“I’m pretty sure I can say whatever I want to say! God bless America.” One of the employees remarks loudly as I leave. On the bus, Ianka sits next to me with a grin and a tray full of mozzarella sticks, and I glance through today’s Bismark Tribune, The cover shows two sisters, dressed in Pajama’s, loading their black Friday loot into a car. The headline next to it says:

Corps Evicting Protestors

“I am genuinely concerned for the safety and well being of both the members of your tribe and the general public located at these encampments,” Explains Colonel Henderson of the army corps in an email to Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archimabault. The headline below that:

Activists Arrested at Kirkwood Mall: Large Protest Gathering Violated Property’s Code

This would be the incident Ruby was talking about. Sarah Kotelnicki, the mall’s spokeswoman, was quoted heavily.

“…we wanted to protect our shoppers and make sure the operations of the shopping center are upheld… We have a lot of faith in our law enforcement, and they did exactly what they are here to do.”

Culver’s Butterburgers and Custard, somewhere in Indiana

The smell hits us as soon as we open the door; sizzling fries and grilled meat; intoxicating. The sound and bustle of the place comes next. A staff of young employees buzz behind the counter, dressed in blue uniforms, the menu displayed on a grid of screens above their heads. Behind us is a large seating area of plush vinyl booths. We have forty five minutes before we get back on the bus.

“I’ll have the double butter-burger with Bacon and Cheddar, sweet potato fries, and a chocolate malt.” After placing my order with a friendly server, I pick up the plastic number card and wander towards the back. Hana is engaged with a round-faced, yellow-haired woman in her sixties, explaining the purpose of our trip. I walk past a family, three young boys playing with Lego’s in the corner, mom and dad in pink and green camouflage hoodies, then slide into a booth with Adrian and some of the other college students. The food comes, a greasy catharsis long awaited. We all dig in appreciatively.

Hana slides in after a minute, imitating the older woman,

“It’s all Indians out there, right?” she says in a shrill voice. Then dropping the act, “And also, these folks want us to talk to their boys when we have a chance.” She points at the camouflaged family. I sigh. They look like Republicans. “Do you wanna come talk to them with me?” Hana asks. I grumble and sip my malt,

“No, but I’ll do it anyways.”

I force a smile as we introduce ourselves. The dad, Rob, has a firm handshake and fleeting eye contact. The mom Darcy, has long blonde hair. Gaudy jewelry adorns her wrists.

“Boys, introduce yourselves.” She chides. Kelvin and Christopher are twins, maybe eight years old, and Jake is their friend, possibly a year older. “They’re really interested in history, and we want them to know why this is historic.”

Standing at the head of the table, we tell them about settler colonialism and climate change and the history of native Americans in the simplest language we can, mentioning the parallels between wounded knee and standing rock. The twins stand across the table from us, attentive, wide eyed. Jake sits and doodles. Rob, looking uncomfortable, discreetly googles Wounded Knee on his cell phone. I explain how sometime jumpy cops with guns hurt people, and Kelvin’s eyes go wide.

“It’s a complicated situation.” grants Rob.

Darcy asks if we’ll take a picture with her boys so they can show their teacher. We kneel, and the youngsters gather round us. Kelvin shows me the palm sized cannon he made out of legos and chatters about the civil war. Christopher says he’s studying world war two.

“I’m only up to D-day.” he confesses. When the photo is done, Darcy smiles warmly and thanks us for our work. We smile, and thank the parents.

“Hey, parenting is important work. The world needs smart, strong kids.” I say,

“And respectful, too.” Adds Darcy. We agree, tell the boys to keep studying history, and take our leave.

We hustle to clear the greasy wrappers from our table, the bus is heading out in a few minutes. Someone taps me lightly on the shoulder. I turn, and it’s Kelvin. He hands me two pints of ice cream with a huge grin, Oreo Cheesecake and Chocolate Outrage.

“These are for you,” Darcy smiles, and loads another two pints into Hana’s hands.

Christopher takes out a camouflage wallet from his pocket and extracts three one dollar bills,

“Here, a tip!” he says, trying to give them to Hana.

We smile and thank them profusely, looking to each other with raised eyebrows. I pass Rob on the way out and shake his hand.

“Hey, travel safe. Or ride safe, I guess,” he says.

 

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