26 Pickup—The Half Ton
“Why did Henry live with his grandmother in high school?”
I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Revolution is the industry of young men.” I think it’s safe to say that Henry Standing Bear was a revolutionary at any age. I think the Cheyenne Nation had some rough edges in his youth, which probably led to him being in a number of scrapes. The first time we even hear of him interacting with Walt was an altercation over the water fountain, which led to a full-blown fist fight.
A youthful life can be tough anywhere when you’re something of an idealist, and I think the basis of the Bear’s revolutionary bent is founded in some pretty outrageous ideas such as a universal equality. All kidding aside, the Rez can teach kids some hard lessons, and I think that’s what happened with the Cheyenne Nation. He was big, smart, and tough, and I think rather than taking him on headfirst, his mother and father decided to pass him off for a period to the only person they knew who was tougher—his grandmother.
We never learn how Henry’s grandmother came to live on the outskirts of Durant, but I’d imagine it had to do with a man. Walt refers to her as a witch, but Henry corrects him in saying she was more of a medicine woman, the kind that used to embarrass him by pulling over and picking parts off roadkill.
There may have been another, alternative reason in that the school system in the white towns was usually better than thoseon the Rez. Henry’s parents probably knew that he needed to be challenged if he was going to rise to the level to which they thought him capable and figured a more advantageous schooling might serve him better.
They were right. With his academic record and being one of the best high school running backs in the Rocky Mountain West, he got a scholarship to the University of California/Berkeley. Well, that school was a hot bed of social unrest though the sixties and turned out to be the perfect spot for him at the time, reinforcing his revolutionary tendencies. When asked by a young man why he chose UC Berkeley, not particularly a football powerhouse, to go to school, the Bear responds that he wasn’t particularly interested in football by that time and had decided to major in revolution.
So, it would appear that his grandmother didn’t exorcise all those rough edges after all.
See you on the trail,