NO PUPPY FOR NOWENA

Everyone should have a dog, and most kids are fortunate enough to get a puppy and learn to love it and take care of it. Sadly, I was not blessed in that way. I was still ten years old and working for my room and board, with my white family in Bandera. I took care of the horses: shoeing them, brushing them down, harnessing them to wagons, and even helping mares with a red bag delivery.

I had no playmates, no friends. As I was Comanche (I still am), the white kids in Bandera had nothing to do with me, other than teasing me or throwing rocks at me. Ed's son James was several years older than me and was about ready to leave home and strike out on his own so he had little to do with me. I wanted to go to school and learn the talking letters that the white man used, but Ed said it wasn't time yet. I stayed busy from dawn to dusk, working in the stable or helping Evelyn cook and clean house, or even hunting small game for dinner. In the evenings, often Evelyn read a passage from one of their books, of which they had a small collection. That was how I first became acquainted with Captain Ahab, George Washington, and even Simon Legree, to name just a few. I wanted to learn more, much more: how to count, the history of the white man and of the Comanche, how to write and how to use the various items that the white people used all the time. Sewing however was a skill I already had and developed further, helping Evelyn sew clothes for the family.

One day Ed, my white father, told me that Mister Nelson, the cabinet maker, had some puppies he wanted to sell. They were Foxhounds, but it didn't really matter: any dog would be precious to me. So, begging leave from the stable, I walked over to Mister Nelson's house. His workshop was at his house so I guessed that he would be at home.

Sometimes, I wore Comanche clothing, sometimes white girl clothing. Since I had been in the stables feeding and brushing horses, I was wearing pants and a heavy shirt. It would have been silly to have changed clothing just for a short walk to someone's house. I had 25 cents in my pocket, wages for the work I had done in the stable; this should be more than enough.

I came to the Nelson house and knocked. Mrs. Nelson answered the door and I told her I wanted to buy a puppy. She told me to go around back where her husband was and talk to him. So, proceeding to turn two corners, I walked up on 3 Foxhound puppies. They were just adorable and they jumped all over me. I got down and picked them up, laughing and hugging them. Now that was pleasure: three loveable puppies all over me.

Suddenly, a man burst out of the workshop and ran towards me with a saw, yelling "GET AWAY FROM MY DOGS!" It was Mr. Nelson, perhaps worried that I was in his back yard. I was holding up one of the pups kissing it and I said to Mr. Nelson: "Oh, hello Mister Nelson. I just love the puppies. I want-" . Here he cut me off and he stood over me, " Get your damn injun hands off my dogs, you little pestilent heathen!" I was a bit shocked but assumed he didn't realize I wanted to buy one of the pups. "Mister Nelson, I just want to buy one of your pups. They are soooo cute." His answer was " I'll be damned if you're going to buy one of 'em so you can take it home and eat it. Damn injun." With that he swung his backhand at me but I ducked. "Mister Nelson, I don't eat dogs. I want a dog I can play with-" Again, he cut me off: "AND I SAID YOU AIN'T GETTING A DOG. Now get the hell off my property!"

Now I felt bad. He totally misunderstood me. Somehow I got the idea that further discourse was useless, so I reluctantly put the puppy down and got up. Then I noticed Mrs. Nelson standing in the back doorway. She addressed her husband with " George, she's just a child. Don't be so abrupt with her." He turned to her and said "She's an injun child. Just like roaches, they should all be killed off." He then turned towards me again and I dashed away, running for home. I heard him yell " Don't ever set foot on my property again!"

Now Comanche girls don't often cry. I was frustrated more than anything. So, when I got to the stable, I told Ed what had happened. He was busy with a customer, but told me to get back to my work and we'd talk about it later. He was always teaching me many valuable lessons about life.

At dinner, we picked up where we left off. I told him about Mr. Nelson swinging at me. He told me to not go on his property any more, and he'd see about anyone else that might have a puppy for sale. That said and done, I cleaned the dinner table and washed the dishes. Then Evelyn read poetry to us from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls." I always thought Evelyn was a very well educated woman, but found out years later that she could read and write but had never gone beyond the Fourth Grade. I still considered her educated.

I never did get a dog. We had cats and I centered my attention on them. I even made a small doll that I , like most girls, would dress up in various clothing. Life was good to me back then, and has been pretty much so ever since. I learned something from Mr. Nelson too : Never expect everyone to like you, no matter what sort of person you are.