The wise old man came to my house Thanksgiving eve and asked if “the little building” was available for him to crash in for a while. “Of course, sir, any time,” I told him. I fetched him the key to our converted garage and he unloaded his pack in there and came on back into our house for some strong coffee.
“What are y’all doing for Thanksgiving, Dan?”
“Sir, we are going up to my daughter’s in De Queen. I am sure she would welcome you, too. Our granddaughter is just back from a semester in Zambia, so there will be interesting conversation.”
“No, Dan, I will just stay here. The Tavern Restaurant will be open tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, but let me call her on my cell and let you talk with her.” I called my daughter and made a brief explanation. She had met the wise old man once before when she was just a little girl and she had spoken of him often. His face brightened up when I put him on the line. I don’t know what our daughter said to him, but he was glowing when the call was over and he said, “Looks like I’m going with y’all, Dan. She remembers me!”
It was a great day there in De Queen. We had a veritable feast and great fellowship. The wise old man was fascinated with the talk of Africa. He had traveled extensively in the countries of South America, but had never been to Africa. When everyone was talked out and drowsy, the old fellow told this story:
“I lived among the Yanomamo in the Oronoco jungle for three years. Missionaries had told me how to approach the people, mainly with non-threatening poise. I found my way into Mishi Mishi Mabouiteri and stood dead still in a benign pose and eight fierce warriors surrounded me, feeling of my arms, hair and beard. They pushed me a little bit, but I kept my balance and my poise. At length, the head man, Daddy Haywire (an approximation of what they called him) urged me to recline in a crocheted hammock. I pretended to go to sleep and I could tell that pleased the warriors. After about an hour, Daddy Haywire invited me to squat and enjoy some squashed up plantains with the men, which I did. They offered me a couple of worms to eat and I did so for fear of offending. They tasted like a Studebaker floor mat smells.
“Anyway,” he went on, “that night there was a planned visitation from another village and they came in chanting and dotted with charcoal with feathers stuck all over them. Daddy Haywire enjoyed the show and they all sat down to a trough of plantain soup. A warrior from the visitors was offended at something and one of Daddy Haywire’s chief men faced off with him. They slapped each other’s sides with resounding blows that left red blotches on the skin. But they were still mad, so they started taking turns hitting each other in the chest. Luckily, that episode ended the conflict, for, I learned that the next steps in this ritualized fighting could be fatal.
“I remember thinking, this is designed to preserve life by restraint. It is sort of like a balance of power. Thank y’all for treating me like royalty. May I have that turkey wing?”