A few days ago I
got my eighth annual spring postcard from John Hay Spiegel Jr. John Hay's
handwriting has improved over the years, but his sentiments stay the same. He
inquires as to my health, wishes me well and hopes we will spend another summer
together. John Hay and I spent quite a remarkable summer together some years
ago, and it seems to have stuck with him.
For the summer in
question I was a counselor at a camp in upstate New York. The camp was called
Missumsic which means hills of health in Pawnee or Paiute, I forget which. It
was my first camp job, and the first few days were blurry. I don't remember
much about John Hay during that early confusion, except that I sat next to him
on the bus going up and he vomited just outside of Newburgh.
I had eight
campers, ranging from 7 to 8, collectively called the Blackfeet. Within the
week I grew to know and love Jerry Tippik, the human vegetable, who would not
eat meat and subsisted on soup cadged from other children at the table; Henry
Mills, who the summer before had written his mother that his counselor was
using his sleeping bag and had threatened to put out his eye if he told anyone;
and Stevie Durand, who hid a dead squirrel in his cubby on the first day of
camp. The squirrel stayed there until Uncle Toady, the camp director, found it
some weeks later. For the first few days I did not learn much about John Hay
except that he wouldn't answer to anything less than John Hay.
It rained the
fourth or fifth day we were at camp. I returned to the cabin at rest period to
find seven Black-feet lying docile on their bunks and John Hay squatting on top
of his cubby. Missumsic cubbies were tall, seven or eight feet high; we stowed
our campers' gear on their shelves Navy-style, with the folds outboard. John
Hay was bent over, his fold outboard. As I entered he flapped his arms up and
down and went "Brack!"
Hay," I said. "Off of there. You wanna get hurt?"
paleface," said John Hay. "I am no longer John Hay Spiegel. I am Eagle
Boy. I am roosting."
Boy. Down. Eagle Boy roosts on his bunk like the rest of us Indians."
said John Hay. "One step closer, paleface, and Eagle Boy swoops."
"He means it,
Uncle Paul," said Jerry Tippik, from his bunk. "Last year Uncle Lenny
tried to get him down and he swooped and broke his collarbone."
"How long does
he usually stay up there?"