Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cowboys and Indians: Four


Sarah

Sarah R. showed up in grade nine with bright eyes, a sense of humor, and more piss and vinegar than a mongoose. She’d been raised by her grandparents, traditional native people who'd somehow managed to completely avoid the alcohol induced cultural degeneration of many of their contemporaries. Sarah though, for some reason, had not one shred of the quiet, eyes downcast, demeanor associated with traditional families. From the day I met Sarah, I couldn’t help but admire her.

Sarah usually got average grades, not because she was of average intelligence, but because she was too busy socially to care much about schooling. And, she had her moments. I’ll never forget the time that an incredible hullabaloo erupted across the hallway from my room. It was home time, and most of the students had already left the school. I ran to the classroom door just in time to catch sight of two Indian girls fall in a heap onto the floor of the room opposite. Sarah and Maureen were locked in mortal combat. Students cheered while the two wraiths ripped clumps of long black hair from each other and bit and clawed like crazed cats. Soon we had them separated and on the way to the office. Our principal at the time was a mouse, and instead of dealing with the issue he sent both girls out to the buses. I returned to my classroom and looked out to where the buses were lined up collecting kids for the trip home. Sure enough, the fight was back on. Two teachers were already running over to apprehend the culprits, so I just watched through the window. Sarah caught Maureen with a roundhouse square on the nose. The fight was over before the teachers could do their duty, with Maureen crying and bleeding from her nose and Sarah glaring, nostrils flared, daring Maureen to try again. Later on I found out that Maureen had made the unfortunate mistake of phoning up Sarah’s boyfriend. All the girls knew from that day on; don’t fuck with Sarah’s boyfriend.

Sarah grew up, flunked grade twelve, and went on the typical party spree that is the beginning of the end for so many aboriginal young people. Many end up as neglectful parents, with addictions to either gambling or alcohol; or both. I seldom saw Sarah after she left school, except for the few times I’d see her with a pack of young people tearing around in an overcrowded car, up to no good.

Then one spring day while I was fueling up my motorcycle, a well dressed young woman approached me. I recognized Sarah immediately. She was all smiles and looking radiant. “Hello Mr. M… you still teaching?” she began. “Sure am… what are you up to these days?”

It turned out that Sarah was just completing an education degree at the University of Saskatchewan. She had gone back and finished high school then entered into college and successfully fulfilled all requirements to become a teacher. As she told me her story, I could literally see the pride beaming from her face. I left feeling completely taken aback; of all the people, I had never figured Sarah would shake off her vises and make good.

Several months later I was traveling home from Saskatoon in the dark. As I neared home, I entered a fog bank so thick I had to creep along for the last several kilometers home. Even later that night, Sarah and her fiancé, a law student, were driving home as well, down the same highway. Sarah had just been hired by a local band as a classroom teacher. About the spot where I’d first entered the fog bank, Sarah’s car stalled, dead, on the highway. That same night, a bunch of knuckle dragg'n hard drinking pot smoking white boys were having a party. They headed home into the fog as well, down the same road, and driving like hell through the fog in a pair of pickup trucks.

Sarah died instantly when the lead pickup, traveling at great speed careened into her car. Her fiancé and the killers all walked away from the crash. For some reason, which has never been explained, the driver who killed Sarah was never charged, even though several people who’d been partying with him said that he was “waisted” when he headed home. Rumor; and let me stress “rumor”, had it afterwards that the attending police officer told the driver of the pickup to go home immediately if he wanted to avoid trouble. I don’t know if this is what actually happened, but the rumor persists, and from my experience, rings true.

For most non-natives living in the area the accident was seen as just another car crash with another Indian killed; no big deal. It happened often, and in most cases those involved were drunk anyway. What most people didn't know, was that a wonderful young woman who’d conquered her demons had just been snatched away before she could even begin to fulfill her potential. It's as if the gods had said, "You're too good... can't have people like you ruining the devil's work!"
Philosophical Statement: People die in vain all the time. It's particularily galling when a native person digs themselves out of a bad situation, only to see someone else bring them down. Those who live on reserves which are particularily violence or addiction prone will know exactly what I speak of.
Cowboys and Indians: Introduction

Cowboys and Indians: One

Cowboys and Indians: Two

Cowboys and Indians: Three

17 comments:

Aizlynne said...

Wow ... not even a dangerous driving charge?? I can't believe they never charged anyone for at least that charge. I take it they didn't charge on vehicular manslaughter on the assumption that the car had stalled on a foggy filled night which would have made it hard for a driver to see the car.

I know something similar happened just outside of Calgary although they weren't wasted ... no charges were laid in that one either.

Sometimes you can't question what God does... only hope that her death is not in vane.

Debris Trail said...

Well Aizlynne, I'm a cynical old bugger by now. Her death was in vain, just like all such deaths. And you wouldn't believe the part that I left out... her brother, a reformed thug who was also making good was murdered by other native thugs about 5 years later. I knew her brother as well, and the culprits who killed him had passed through my classroom as well. Just gotta shake your head sometimes. For some families it's like getting out of one mud puddle just to fall immediately into another one.

Doug said...

That is a heartbraking story. I've been fortunate enough thus far to not know what it's like to have the life of a loved one or a friend taken away.

The fact that this girl had overcome so much and had made changes that certainly most had deemed were impossible, is what makes the story sad. What you say might be correct, people do die in vain all the time. But my question to you is what defines a death that is not in vain?

Debris Trail said...

Doug: Great Question... in fact brutally honest question. I suppose that in the purest sense it could be argued that any life that has not accomplished its potential, is in vain; but even that definition just leaves too much open and refutable. For example, had Sarah been a drunk child-neglecting degenerate, would her life still not be in vain? Maybe a better way to look at it is in terms of unfullfilled or fullfilled lives; and even then its a subjective issue. In the end, I wonder what Sarah would have to say. I suppose only she could say whether or not she died in vain. Or, perhaps is up to each of us to decide, from our own perspective, who dies in vain and who doesn't. Take the Coalition casualties in Iraq; I think they're not dying in vain, others disagree.

How's that for an abstract slippery answer.

W.L. Mackenzie Redux said...

Things like this make me qiestion the existance of a "fatherly" God. If he exists he has total indifference to good people leading productive lives.

Sarha was a loss to her people and to all of us. We need all the Sarhas in this world we can get.

For those of us who do not engage in metaphysical justifications of a larger scheme, must funtion on ground level....and from that mortal perspective this was a sinful waste of a worthy life.

Touching tale DT, Ya got a couple of sniffs out this rough old cob of a biker.

W.L. Mackenzie Redux said...

Aizlynne said...
"Wow ... not even a dangerous driving charge?? I can't believe they never charged anyone for at least that charge. I take it they didn't charge on vehicular manslaughter"

Aizlynne: vehicular manslaughetr is an American federal felony charge. I wish we has such a thing in the criminal code. All the same it seems beyond odd that a driver causing a death would not be checked for intoxication or charged with at least criminal negligence for driving like an asshole in a zero visibility situation.

There's a story there I'm sure.

In many instances I'm aware of where a jerk got likkered up and in a jam and floated out of it, it was because he was related to the cops or the prosecutor. I don't know if there is as much racism at play here as nepotism.

Debris Trail said...

At the risk of getting myself into hot water over something I just have second hand info over; but do know the characters involved, including the cop, it was a matter of the driver and cop being related.... they were both white.

Junker said...

Even when they do get charged, its usually too lenient. A class mate of mine lost his mother on those same highways, killed by a drunk driver. I believe the culprit got a one year sentence.

Candace said...

This is an incredible series you've got going here, Debris. As for Sarah, I don't know that she died in vain - while she was just getting started in her career, we don't know whether her success in pulling herself from a self-destructive path didn't inspire others in her community to follow suit (on the flip side, her being killed may have had the reverse affect).

DazzlinDino said...

Yet another good post DT, keep 'em comin'

Dr. Dawg said...

Come on, DT--where's the next installment? I've been impressed with this so far, but I'd like to know where it's leading. Denouement, please.

PS: any progress on the Firearms Act front? :)

Dr. Dawg said...

Sorry about my first question. I'll learn to read the red print in future. :)

Debris Trail said...

At the risk of getting myself into hot water over something I just have second hand info over; but do know the characters involved, including the cop, it was a matter of the driver and cop being related.... they were both white.

Debris Trail said...

Well Aizlynne, I'm a cynical old bugger by now. Her death was in vain, just like all such deaths. And you wouldn't believe the part that I left out... her brother, a reformed thug who was also making good was murdered by other native thugs about 5 years later. I knew her brother as well, and the culprits who killed him had passed through my classroom as well. Just gotta shake your head sometimes. For some families it's like getting out of one mud puddle just to fall immediately into another one.

DazzlinDino said...

Yet another good post DT, keep 'em comin'

Dr. Dawg said...

Come on, DT--where's the next installment? I've been impressed with this so far, but I'd like to know where it's leading. Denouement, please.

PS: any progress on the Firearms Act front? :)

Aizlynne said...

Wow ... not even a dangerous driving charge?? I can't believe they never charged anyone for at least that charge. I take it they didn't charge on vehicular manslaughter on the assumption that the car had stalled on a foggy filled night which would have made it hard for a driver to see the car.

I know something similar happened just outside of Calgary although they weren't wasted ... no charges were laid in that one either.

Sometimes you can't question what God does... only hope that her death is not in vane.