Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Boy, A Girl and A First Kiss on Highway 83

We meet again Highway 83. It isn’t very often that I cross paths with you, but when I do I can remember almost each time because it’s a good memory.
The one that stands out to me by far is one from my summer going into high school.
I went to camp, a native youth camp in Oklahoma, the summer of ’89. Saying it that way makes it seem like a lifetime ago, but I suppose it is at that. I don’t remember much of the drive down, other than a bus load of kids, strangers mostly, but for a couple of relatives among the crew.
The native youth event was at an Oklahoma state park. The week went by in a flash. I remember that some local natives had a stomp dance at one of the facilities. There was a girl there (a latent appreciation for the opposite emerged in me that week) named Skye who I thought was a beautiful site. I couldn’t take my eyes off her that evening.
A new friend of mine went over to her on my behalf, because that’s how it’s done. If an Indian boy likes an Indian girl he sends his friend over to ask her name and to speak well of him on his behalf. Painfully, I accepted that I wasn’t on her radar, and I never saw her again.
The camp drew to a close that week ending in a dance. I must have danced with five different girls from different tribes from across the country. I remember thinking that they were all pretty, and one was cute.
One girl asked me out. I said, “No,” because she was from where my grandmother was from and I wondered if we might be related. My grandmother always lectured me about girls that way, “Always find out who she is!” It scared me, and if there was a remote chance of being related in the smallest way, I always declined.
So the camp ended. People parted ways. Once in a great while I’ll come across someone I met from that wonderful week. But it was the return trip back home on Highway 83 I remember most fondly.
There was a girl who wanted me to sit next to her on the drive. She was a fair beauty I thought, and a year older than me. We joked and talked and though I thought she was pretty it was nothing more.
Night came, and the driver plowed though the darkness, wind, and rain. People began to doze off.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and a girl said, “My friend wants to know if you would sit with her.” I responded in the affirmative and made my way to the back of the bus.
She was pretty, and I recognized her as the one who asked me out earlier that week. She had black hair and bangs, only her bangs were worked up in that way that girls did in those days, dark brown eyes flashed mischievously under fine black brows. White teeth shone proudly through a warm smile. She wore a black AC/DC t-shirt and I smiled back.
She pulled her coat up over our heads and the quiet conversations of others dropped away. We were in our own dark world. I saw nothing more of her face. Only her voice as she asked for a kiss.
We removed our glasses. We spoke of little things as our cheeks brushed together. Irresistible instinct closed my eyes. I felt a light brush of her eyelashes upon my cheek as we drew closer. It was dark, and though I couldn’t see her face, I felt her smile as our faces touched, our brows grazed, and noses glanced. I smiled too.
I didn’t feel my heart race in anticipation, but I could feel a steady pounding throughout my body. My hand rested upon hers and a tingle spread up my arm. I felt acutely aware of where she drew her fingers across my arm, as though a ghost of her hand still rested there.
We didn’t hold hands or say endearments that teenagers are wont to do. Her breath on my cheek drew my lips closer to hers like gravity.
The next day, I felt indescribably different inside as though the midnight rain had reached within me and washed something away.
The bus made a series of stops throughout the to gas up and drop a few kids off along the way before coming to a stop at the Episcopal church in Fort Thompson, SD. We made no promises or left favors for one another.
When I think of Highway 83, I remember a night’s passage of late 80’s rock and glam metal, a morning of singing what the Indians call “forty-nine” songs to pass the time. And somewhere along that highway is a quiet memory of a boy and his first kiss. 

Guest blogger Dakota Wind writes about history on the Northern Plains at: http://thefirstscout.blogspot.com/
To join the Fans of U.S. Route 83 group on Facebook, CLICK HERE. And check out the U.S. Route 83 Travel page at www.usroute83.com



Stew Magnuson (stewmag (a) yahoo.com) is the author of Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding: The American Indian Movement, the FBI, and their Fight to Bury the Sins of the Past published by the Now & Then Reader. It is available as an eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes. Buy it in paperback on Amazon or bookstores such as Plains Trading Company Booksellers, in Valentine, Neb., on Highway 83. 

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