Books 1983 Omaha Harvest Celebration Pow-Wow Fieldnotes by Carl Fleischhauer
Earlier, when we had talked to Dennis Jones, we heard about “Black Bird Bend,” a section of land that had been on the Nebraska shore of the river, but after a change of course, the 2000-odd acre plot was now in Iowa. The tribe had fought for the land in court, and had won. This was one of the plots that Jones said was now leased directly by the tribe. Dorothy and I wanted to look at it, and generally to look at the river. So we left the health center and set out.
We didn't have a good map, so we followed our noses toward the east. Presently it seemed that we were on some bluffs, and we kept looking for an opening in the trees. Finally we saw one, and walked up for a look. We were north of Macy, and suspected that we might be on the neighboring Winnebago Reservation.
From the hilltop, we could see along the wooded bluffs, and get a little sense of the flat Iowa farmland on the other shore. Dorothy noticed that there was a clearing on the hilltop, with a dead tree at one end. The tree had been burned a bit (it had a scorched section), and its shape and color suggested the skull of a cow or buffalo. It occurred to Dorothy that this might be a sacred spot, and we felt a bit uncomfortable being there. I took some shots (including ones of the dead tree formation) and quickly moved on.
Presently we came to a broader flat opening that afforded a better view. There had been some tire tracks up the last hill, but this one had a definite auto turnoff, and a place where people parked—indicated by empty beer cans, discarded socks, and the like. I had taken a picture or two when I noticed a raccoon cross the little road and stop in the weeds a few feet from us. I called Dorothy's attention to it, and when I did, it came toward me, making a little snorting noise.
I immediately thought of our epidemic of rabid raccoons in the Washington area, and decided we'd better head for the car. I sort of dance-walked along the road, luring the coon, who followed me at about a foot or so, snorting, and reached the car and jumped up on the trunk. This distracted the animal enough for Dorothy to circle around and get in the other side. I kept watching and moving around the car, as the coon crawled up on a bumper. Finally, I had a moment when I could leap off and jump into the car, and we drove away. It was hard to not to imagine that the spirit of the sacred place had sent the little animal as a warning to us. (Later, Dorothy said that she asked Dennis about the spot, and that he asserted that it was indeed sacred. I don't know whether to believe him or not—it seemed to us that it was north of the Omaha Reservation and probably on the Winnebago Reservation, and I wonder if he understood exactly where she told him about on the phone. But who knows?)
We returned to the motel by about suppertime. On the road, I took a picture of a “typical hill-Nebraska farm,” on State Highway 94 in Thurston County. When we got back, I felt too ill to eat, and just went to bed with a bottle of grapefruit juice. It was very hot and humid.