Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The first part of three: Getting to the Alcan Highway via thumb

I stuck out my thumb on West Colorado Boulevard and after a while someone snagged me and got me to I-25. He was heading south and I was heading north so I got out and walked over to the northbound exit and stuck out my thumb. I got a ride there part way to Denver and from there, I got another 25 miles north of Denver to the Loveland area.

There some woman picked my up and decided that I was cute or some such thing and offered me a couch to crap out on for the evening. It was around noon and already I was side tracked, but I wasn't really in a hurry and if some chick wanted to dally around, who was I to refuse?

I got more than a couch and a great breakfast the following morning and she was kind enough to drop me back at I-25. Go figure. Then again, there was a lot of that kind of stuff going on in the 70s.

From there I snagged a ride into Cheyenne , another to Casper and if I recall, I sacked out in a ditch somewhere around Sheridan. I arrived in the Crow Agency area around noon, having had a hard time getting an early ride.

I got dropped off somewhere in Crow country and found a few hippies milling around trying to kiss up to the locals hoping for an opportunity to learn some kind of Native American true enlightment or some such crap.

It was there I got invited by one of the locals to take place in the Genuine Crow Dog head stew ceremony. It wasn't a personal invite, but an invite extended to the group hanging around. At first I wasn't interested, but my curiosity got the best of me and I accepted the offer.

The ceremony actually took place in some kind of a pole building and most of the details are fuzzy, as a lot of my trip to Alaska was a blur and you do have to recall this was about 35 years ago.

The Dogs Head Stew part I remember pretty well, though.

They had this propane burner and a huge pot with a dog's head in it and fired it up. I later heard the dog was a stray that had been hit by a car. Anyway, the group of Crows, most of them bored and in their 20s started adding ceremonial spices and carrying on and dancing while the hippies looked thrilled to be seeing something they thought they could only see in National Geographic.

Personally, I thought it was a crock but I kept my mouth shut as the pot with the poor dog's head started in on a really rolling boil.

They started adding some kind of so-called spices and ceremonial herbs and the whole thing started to stink really bad.

A couple of the hippies got up and left.

Then, when things were slowing up a bit, one of the Crows took a pair of arrows and announced that the stew was ready. He stabbed the head with the arrows and held it up and announced it would be served in the traditional manner. (Whatever that was supposed to mean)The rest of the hippies started making up excuses and bailed out.

The grinning Crow held the dog's head in my face, as I was now the only one left and I looked up at him and told hm that if he could eat that damned thing, so could I and he started laughing so hard he dropped it. He then picked it up again and put it back in the pot.

"Grab a handle,' he ordered.

I did and we went outside the pole building and dumped the entire contents of the pot into a nearby ditch.

The rest of the guys were laughing at me with left-handed admiration. I had stood the gaff. The next thing I knew, I was sitting at the dinner table of one of them eating a pretty good meal of venison.

Over dinner, they told me, they had played the Dog's Head stew trick a few times before and although I wasn't the first, I was one of a very, very few that stuck around after they showed the hippie audience the dog's head and said that it was ready to be served.

I had done a lot of reading during my time living in the tipi and had read that the Crows were the jokers of the plains and that their sense of humor was pretty good. The reason I had hung around was out of curiosity. I wanted to know it the dog's head stew ceremony was another one of their legendary practical jokes.

That night I sacked out in the pole building and when I arose wandered over to the highway where in the ditch, of all things, I found a somewhat ratty "Custer had it coming' bumper sticker that hadn't been on a bumper yet so I stuck it to the side of my rifle case.

I think the bumper sticker was responsible for the ride I got to Great Falls.

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