Indian Summer

last of the zinnias

Today is Friday in September. Football season. My maroon and gold pom poms are calling.

They beckon me from the trunk of a 1980 maroon Camaro with gold pinstriping. When my dad selected the car, I believe he thought it needed to match my uniform.

The days are warm and sunny. Might think it’s still summer.

Then you catch a chill, the crisp crackle of fall on its way. The changing of the guard approaches. My body remembers it’s time to report to the field.

Hear the drumbeat of the marching band. Spirited cadence, rebel yells. Evening now. Almost time for the game to begin.

The home team bursts out of the locker room and breaks through the paper banner stretched across the end zone. Wild bucks, padded up and set loose. Stampeding leather cleats on sparkling green grass.

The horn section screams and flashes silver. The bleachers applaud. The pom poms dazzle and shake.

At some point in the pre game festivities, we cheerleaders gathered on the field. Maybe the football team too. It’s been years, I’ve been a long time gone, and I can’t remember exactly who joined the circle. But I do remember what we did.

Together we said The Lord’s Prayer before kickoff. A tradition and a covering over our game. Over our youth.

still fits!

So very politically incorrect. Only we didn’t know that then.

Those were the days we could still call our team the Indians. Now it’s called the Storm.

How long, I wonder, until the National Weather Service complains? Good thing the replacement mascot wasn’t an animal or we’d have PETA picketing the commons.

I wonder, as did Bob Fliss in the Carolina Journal Online, if Wake Forest University has been contacted about discarding the demon Deacon? Couldn’t help but notice a neighboring school in Guilford County has yet to give up their Vikings.

And that’s just a wee little pocket in North Carolina.

Dare I question the state university due east of my current home in St. Louis? When will the Fighting Illini become the Fearsome Gully Washers or the Frightening Thunder-Boomers?

We weren’t perfect, but we were good kids. We proudly called ourselves the Indians, believing it meant brave, strong, fierce warriors. We wouldn’t have taken the name if we’d believed it to be oppressive or offensive.

Looking back, I hope no one felt oppressed or was offended. It pains me to think folks would actually take it that way.

cheer detail

In 2004, the Guilford County Board of Education prompted by the North Carolina State Board of Education and the North Carolina Mascot Education & Action Group (yes, there is such a thing) voted to “retire” the mascot that had represented my school since 1926.

The vote came without consulting the citizenry prior to proceeding. The board reasoned the community could comment in the 30 days before the policy would be finalized, as if community input mattered. (Guilford Schools Board Forbids Indian Mascots, Jennifer Fernandez, News & Record, 1.14.04)

So it changed. A lot has changed since I left my pom poms behind.

A couple years ago, the homegirls threw an awesome 20th reunion party for our class. In between all the hugging and laughing and reuniting, we gathered.

Before the dancing and the open bar, we prayed. A tradition. A covering.

maroon & gold

When I think of those friends, those times, my high school—to me, we’ll always be the Indians, brave and strong, on a crisp, early autumn Friday night.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. James 4:14 NLT

This version of Boys of Summer by The Ataris rocks. Sorry, Don Henley. As noted above, things change.

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Filed under America, family & friends, life

18 Responses to Indian Summer

  1. Cyndi

    Can you hear my Indian rebel yell all the way from back home? Loved your post and enjoyed the memory! Definitely feels like football Friday here today. Your homegirls miss you

  2. Wow! How can those memories seem like a different life…but seem like it happened yesterday, all at the same time! I miss the fall chill in the air that brings on the feeling of football weather. We don’t get that here in Los Angeles. No fall season! :( What great memories I have of my time at SGHS. It bums me out that my kids will never know that type of fun, innocent life…even though we didn’t think it was all that innocent! I’m going to get my parents to send me some pictures of me in that jacket…I still have it! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Jenna! It does seem like a different life that was just yesterday. My, how times goes by. Funny looking back how we thought we were SO bad and our dramas were SO important. I was thinking about the very same thing you mentioned with your kids. Wondering if my son will ever know that feeling of excitement, community, fun and innocence… (sigh) Should we be watching for the pictures from your parents to show up online somewhere? :) Take care, sweet lady!

  3. Christel Oliphant

    Maroon & Gold……..those were definately the “good ole days”! I am proud to have been a SGHS Indian! As far as “The Storm” goes…..well it just makes no sense to me. Since our school was built on Indian grounds, I consider “Indians” to be a very respectable mascot of our heritage! Thanks for the memories, I sure do miss those great times!

  4. Maroon and Gold was our school colors too!

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  6. Just caught this post and I loved it. Yes–some may have been offended. But as a Cherokee mixed blood–I loved wearing my “Indians” jacket and wore it with pride simply because that’s what I was. I was proud of my heritage (as I still am) and considered it an honor to call myself such. I miss the old maroon and gold pom pom days but those memories keep me young. Many blessings from home…Southern territory. Lara SGHS ’92

    • Oh, Lara! Thank you for your comment. I was/am concerned because some of my friends are Lumbee Indian and I don’t want them to be hurt or offended! I just really miss the mascot and wore it as you said “with pride.” (My husband is a small part Cherokee too. One thirty-secondth or something like that.)
      Like you, I miss those days… Think I’ll adopt your attitude that the memories keep us young. What a great outlook! Many blessings to you too.
      PS: I think my brother was in your class. Does the name Ray Watson ring a bell?

      • I can understand your concern. My husband who is also Cherokee has a much different opinion than I (and a bigger mouth LOL). But I think it all has to do with your own experiences as you grow up and what shapes you as a person. I have only good memories and never experienced bias based on my mixed heritage. Others are not so lucky and so they may see the topic differently. The racism that follows any group of people is extremely hurtful–something I have only lived with as an adult. I’m one of the lucky ones.

        Yes–I know Ray–we were classmates for many years. I remember you, too. You were a senior when I was a freshman and I loved it when we had the opportunity to cheer together. One of the best memories was the homecoming bon-fire and dancing….

        • Yes, I remember that bonfire! Seems like it wasn’t very dark for a bonfire if I’m remembering correctly (which doesn’t always happen these days!). I think we were dancing to “Do You Love Me Now That I Can Dance” from Dirty Dancing or something. And we had three guy cheerleaders that year, I think. So much fun!

          I appreciate what you wrote about the racism aspect. I do hope people were not hurt by the mascot. If people were hurt, I would want them to know that was never the intention. And I believe the people who were there with us feel the same (at least most of them). I wonder how well that message was communicated when the decision was being made to retire the Indian.

          Best we can do now is to move on with the good memories intact and cheer for the present team. Got word from another classmate homecoming is next weekend against Trinity (BOO!). I would so be there if we didn’t’ live so far away. Go, SG. Win one for the oldies but goodies!

  7. Farmer Fred

    Great post. In high school I was a Fort Yates “Warrior”. (Fort Yates is on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Sitting Bull’s home reservation) In college I was a member of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. By NCAA mandate, soon to be former UND Fighting Sioux…. Have you ever seen the Sports Illustrated sponsored research from a few years ago in which 70% Native Americans said in essence, “Keep these names!” ?
    Check it out if you’d like.
    Whatever it is, we do need to move on with present realities. Keep up your great work.

    Farmer Fred

  8. Marcus

    I was there at Southern the year, we, the students, and some of the faculty fought to keep the mascot! It was hard, very hard. And to be real honest it never seemed right even voting for a new mascot. I thought it was really cool for me to end up at a high school with the same colors as my middle school, so it meant a lot to me, especially after the closed my middle school after we graduate “Go Lincoln Hornets” LMS Maroon and Gold, the colors, and both mascots meant a lot to me. I remember marching through the teepee with marching band, and Ill never forget the last time I marched through it, and entering the field on the first game with out it in the fall of 2004. The lost of the mascot I believe affected the school, and the students, and even the community greatly! So, although I graduated with the new mascot beginning implemented the “Storm”, remembering trying not to call out “Go Indians”, doing the fight song, and hating changing the fight song, or even hearing the changes to all of the cheers, and later that year trying not to yell out “Go Indians’ with the cheer-leading squad of Spring 2005! I enter in Southern Guilford as an “Indian” and to my heart will always be a Southern Guilford “Indian” …….Class of 2005 SGHS

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