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By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
Last week we introduced lady barber Kim, who is a full-blooded Chickasaw Indian, and who owns land in Caddo Gap, Arkansas. I met her for a last-minute haircut, way away from Briar Circle, and the first thing I noticed about Kim was, every visible part of her was covered with wild, colorful tattoos!
I could not help wondering where they ended up under the clothed portions of her body, but this knowledge is not available to the general public, and this is probably a good thing.
Kim did not seem friendly at first; but when my turn came to get clipped, she was curious about my surname. Right away, she asked if it was “Indian.”
No, my surname is Norwegian, or Amsterdamiam, or Netherlandish, or something. When the ancestors departed from Ireland, they signed onto the transporting ships as Jungbluds; but when they got to New York and were registered as immigrants, the name was phonetically spelled as Youngblood. Then most of them went south so they could fight in the Civil War on the Confederate side, still a century away. I have Indian blood in my veins, but I do not know at what ancestral stage it was acquired.
This muddled ancestral history was enough for Kim. That was the point where she proudly told me of her Chickasaw heritage. She had me beat, being full-blooded, though.
I had to brag some about the Indian heritage in southeastern Oklahoma, and a few humble artifacts I’ve found on the family’s 20 acres at Briar Circle. Kim told me about land she owned at Caddo Gap in Arkansas. She affirmed, “I’m moving there when I retire.”
“Kim, I’ve been to Caddo Gap dozens of times!” I said. From there, we were friends.
Caddo Gap is an unincorporated community between Norman and Glenwood in Montgomery County, Arkansas, and is less than 90 miles away from LeFlore County. Generally, it is a place discovered by tourists who drive from the Murfreesboro diamond mine to the quartz mines in the vicinity of Mount Ida. There is a store, there, where fuel and refreshments can be purchased. The only other thing there is the Indian statue.
And the Indian statue is worth seeing. It’s tall and imposing, a tribal warrior representative of the allied Indian Nations of the territory who were the first to see white European interlopers. A plaque commemorates these encounters, and states that Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto met defenders from the Tula tribe, there. The Tula were apparently affiliated loosely with the Caddoes, and after a particularly violent and bloody encounter with them, I imagine the explorers’ next dinner conversation around the campfire went something like this, loosely translated from the Spanish:
First mate Eddie (wearing an eyepatch): “Boss, you a-bleedin’ all over th’ place, thar.”
Hernando de Soto: “Yep, I reckon I am. Them Tula boys is the meanest, toughest, fightin’est Injuns we met yet! An’ we ain’t found no gold, we ain’t found no ‘fountain of youth’—but them baths at Hot Springs was pretty nice.” (Agreement from Crew.)
Fry cook Wong Tsu (Don’t ask me, his parents named him); “Aye, fellers, an’ it’s good land. But if I was the gov’ment, I’d call home th’ Explorers an’ send over th’ Conkeisterdors, if they want it.” (Agreement from Crew.)
Hernando (enthusiastically): “That’s it, boys! Let’s pack up at first light an’ head for home! Wong Tsu, pass the chow mien!”
The historical footnote is, Hernando never saw Spain again. He died from his wounds and was interred in the Mississippi River. Five centuries later, Kim will be moving to Caddo Gap when she retires, with acreage and a century-old farm house she inherited. It’s a minor thing, but it amazes me how big historical events resulted in little, anonymous historical events that put you and me where we are.
We will all be dead, and residing in the hereafter, so we won’t care; but I wonder what LeFlore County, Briar Circle and the Heavener Ledger will be doing five centuries from now?