We took off for the Pipestone Nati0nal Monument yesterday for two reasons: first, because it was the only day in American Lit that we do much with the aboriginal history of this country; second, because I hoped that a little trip would help to bring students together, get them to know each other. Okay--a third reason, too, because it was a gorgeous fall day, too abundantly beautiful to sit inside.
I don't know whether my students would say it was a good day. I kept telling them that the Pipestone quarries were hardly the Grand Canyon, as a kind of preparation for a place that might well be, to most kids, rather generically ho-hum. What's there, is a significant vein of soft pipestone beneath a hefty layer of Sioux Quartzite. The great draw is that Native people from all over North America come to these humble quarries to dig out pipestone, just as they have for centuries, in order to make ceremonial pipes.
Pipestone National Monument is holy ground to some Native people, a concept which is almost impossible to convey to Western kids, who, like most of us, simply don't think of anything as being holy. Maybe they ought to read the Old Testament.
I don't know that it was worth it--the trip. But I loved getting away. The fields were crawling with monster bean harvestors, kicking up dust as they munched through the yellowing rows.
But then something happened that colored the afternoon. We stopped for ice cream at a McDonalds, and some guy--maybe 50 years old--got too friendly with my students, my female students. He was dressed in white shirt and tie, some businessman probably, but he didn't know how to act and he offended them, I'm sure. He touched them. I don't know if his fat fingers scared those young women or just made them nauseuos, but in his feeble and barbaric attempts at being nice--I'm sure, if accused, he would say he was just trying to be friendly--he went too far and boerishly violated those young women's personal space.
He didn't touch them in a way that would get him arrested, but he sure as heck touched them inappropriately.
I could feel, in own my aging male soul, at least some of the distaste that coursed through those young women. I don't want to be presumptive: I'm no young woman, so I don't know. But their physical repulsion was clear.
Wherever he is right now, groggily asleep in his bed at home, I'm sure he believes he was being nice, conversational, a friendly kind of Joe.
But he was a jerk and a cad, a slobbering, fat fool, a jackass. He was worse than a jackass; he was a particular oriface of the human anatomy. He was a male--and an aging one--at its worst. I'm sure none of my female students ever, ever care to see him again.
We spent about an hour at a vein of pipestone rock, for centuries thought sacred to many thousands of American Indians; but we had to get down the road to a McDonalds to find a verifiable American savage. There was nothing noble about him.