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Shirlee Keele

The White Indian Girl

Ruth pulled to a stop in front of the old Trading Post. She sat there for a few minutes to muster up the courage to go in. She could feel the butterflies in her stomach as she slowly stepped out of her jeep and walked up the rickety wooden steps and pushed open the big heavy door. Every thing looked the same; and the wonderful smell, thank goodness it hadn’t changed. But what if they don’t remember me, she worried. She walked around the familiar room, trying to calm herself. There was no other customer there, which was a relief, since she wanted to be alone when she talked to one of them. She walked around and looked at the jewelry. Beautiful Indian jewelry, oh, how she loved it. She still had the turquoise necklace and matching earrings that they had given her. It was her favorite, but she had many other pieces that she had acquired through the years. Then she saw him, he was behind the counter unwrapping items to put on the shelves. Her heart was pounding. I don’t know why I am so nervous, she thought. But it’s been so many years.

His back was to her as she made her way around the counter. He was so involved in what he was doing, he didn’t even hear her. She walked up behind him and tapped him on his shoulder. “Aaaaugh,” He screamed. It scared him so bad he through up his arms and the whole container of jelly beans went flying through the air, and all over the floor.

He turned around really mad. ”What do you think your doing?”

Are you trying to… to……….” Then he really started screaming when he recognized who it was. He grabbed hold of Ruth so tight she could hardly breathe.

Oh Ruthie, is that really you? Oh let me look at you.” He held her at arms length, “You haven’t changed at all, you’re just as beautiful as ever.” Then he hugged her again.

Oh papa Yazzi,” Ruth cried, “I’m so glad to see you. I’ve missed you so much.” By then they were both laughing and crying and talking as fast as they could. Even though they had kept in touch, it had been a long time since she had been back. It seemed like forever since Ruth had seen any of her Indian family. Papa Yazzi was such a jolly ole guy. And he was short and chubby to say the least. He was always joking and laughing, everyone loved him.

Oh Papa Yazzi, the jelly beans.” She covered her mouth with her hand, just realizing what had happened. They both looked down at the floor, jelly beans were all over.

Oh. No!” he moaned.

They looked at each other, smiled and both of them yelled at the same time. “Five second rule.” And they got down on the floor and started picking up the jelly beans as fast as they could and putting them back into the jar. As he was down on his knees picking up the jelly beans, he was laughing so hard then he rose up and blurted out. “I hate this job.” and that started them laughing all the more.

Finally they there finished and he said as he was still laughing. “That was better than 52 pickup.”

We better get to the house,” said Papa Yazzi. “I think most everyone might be there. Boy, are they going to be surprised to see you.”

Ruth was happy she had come back here. When she was four years old, her father and three other families moved to the town of Ten Sleeps, to work on the Navajo Reservation as Indian Agents. They loved living there and made many new friends. No sooner had they moved in, than she met the Yazzi family. Ira, Lanora, and their seven children. Their daughter Virginia was the same age as her, and they were inseparable all through the years.

I can hardly wait to see Virginia.” Ruth said anxiously. “I hope she will be glad to see me” Ira just laughed that laugh.

They went into the house and Ira yelled. “Set another place at the table, we have a special friend visiting from out of town.”

Ruth could smell the Navajo tacos and the cinnamon bread. She loved their food and Lanora had taught her how to make everything. But it wasn’t as good as hers. Lanora came out of the kitchen, all the time talking.

Oh it is so good to have company, we love having friends drop in.” About that time she saw Ruth. Running to her, she threw her arms around her.

Oh my goodness! Your not company, your family. My goodness girl, what took you so long to come back and see us?” All the time hugging her.

Ruth knew they would still remember her. “I bet it’s been 10 years, hasn’t it?”

Every bit of that.” Smiled Lanora. “And you haven’t changed a bit. You’re as pretty as ever.”

Thank you.” Replied Ruth. “And you’re still so beautiful.”

Where is Virginia?” She wanted to know now.

She will be coming; she just went to the cellar for some corn.”

As soon as Virginia stepped into the house, the happy reunion began again.

Oh, Virginia, your hair is so long. It’s looks so pretty.” She had big brown eyes and dark hair. She had let her hair grow long and now it was in braids. She would have been pretty no matter how she wore her hair. And she proceeded to tell her that. Virginia told her about all her family. They were all married except her and her younger sister. They talked about her brother Johnny, who had passed away when he was four years old. He had chocked to Death, while eating a piece of meat. They talked about Ruth’s family, and she got caught up on where everybody was and what they were doing. They giggled and neither one of them could go to sleep. They didn’t have enough time to say all they wanted to. They ended up talking long into the night.

Oh, we have to have a barn dance and have every one in all the counties come. Everyone will want to see you.

I’d like to see everybody.” Ruth had grown up with them all.

Glen married Betsy, they have three children.” Virginia told her.

Oh my gosh, what about Keith? Did he end up marrying Gloria?”

Yes, but they’re not here. They live in Cleveland where he is a History teacher.”

Oh, that’s great. He always did like History. Do you ever hear from them?”

We do.” said Virginia. “But everyone writes or calls Papa and Mom. And they tell everyone about… who or what ever.”

They had their dances, and many get-togethers. They had parties and food and there were so many people for her to visit with and find out about. She had stayed most of the summer, and boy the time was going fast. She laughed how she had only planned on staying for a couple of weeks. Every time she mentioned anything about leaving, there was something more Virginia wanted to do.

In two more weeks, I definitely have to go.” She told them, trying to be firm. “I have to start looking for a job. I can’t just party for ever. So I have to get my act together pretty soon. Besides if I stay much longer I am going to be as round as Papa Yazzi.”

Don’t worry about that.” Laughed Papa. “That means there is just more of me to love.” And love him, she did. He was just like a father to her. But she had lived as much at his house and she did her own.

The time came and she was leaving in two more days. So they had a going away party planned. They would meet down by the lake so they could have a picnic, go swimming, horse back riding. Then a dance and food that night, out under the stars. This would be the last time she would see everyone for quite a while. Once she went to work, it might be many years before she would be able to come back. Besides, by then everyone would be married and raising their families. A few were already married now, but more would be later.

That afternoon everyone had gathered. They ate until they were ready to bust. Everyone laughed and talked and had such a good time. It surprised Ruth how many people had come this afternoon. Not just the young people, but there were other families she had know, and people from all over town, and of course Papa and Lanora. But these people used any excuse to get together and eat and visit. They always had a good time.

Irene and Joe Begay asked her to go swimming; there were quite a few people in the lake already. But Ben was waiting for her to go for a ride on the horse. So she said they would join them when they got back. Then Irene and Joe said they would like to go with them. And off they went. About 45 minutes later, Joe came back on one of the horses. He was excited and in a hurry. He started yelling and men started running over to where he was. “Ben and Ruth have had an accident. Hurry and get the Medicine man. We were going up the slick rock hill, something scared their horse and it started bucking and threw them both off. They are hurt pretty bad. Hurry somebody.”

Papa and Charlie insisted on going back with Joe. When they got there, Irene ran up to them. She was so shook up she couldn’t stop crying. It was hard for her to tell them anything. They ran over to Ben and Ruth. Ben had a broken leg and had some bad cuts and scratches, but Ruth wasn’t moving.

Papa ran over to her and called her name, but she didn’t respond.

Is she dead?” cried Irene.

She still has a pulse.” Said Papa. “It’s pretty weak but she is still alive.”

After what seemed like forever, the Medicine man finally came. First thing he asked was if anyone had moved her. And was relieved when they said no. He checked her over and told the others she had some pretty bad head injuries.

We will have to move her, but it is going to take quite a few of us to do it.”

Charlie said he would go back and get some help. Of course, everyone wanted to know what had happened. He told them what he knew as he was getting volunteers and supplies, and then they headed back up the hill. The men made a stretcher out of the little saplings and stripped some bark off the willows to make a net for her to lie on. Then they carried her as carefully as they could down the hill, which was more than a half mile, with Papa telling them the whole time to be careful, watch where your going, don’t drop her. They reached Papa’s house and gently laid her on the bed.

Lanora was beside herself. Some of the women made her sit down and tried to calm her down.

If something happens to her.” She cried. “I will never forgive myself.”

You can’t blame yourself,” said Irene. “It’s not your fault.”

I know.” Said Lanora. “But she was staying at my home, and I am responsible for her.”

The Medicine man said she had a very bad head injury. The only hospital was more than two hundred mile ways, and he said it was too risky to transport her. But she did need to rest. So every body left leaving Virginia and her mother and father to watch after Ruth. The Medicine man had told them she was probably in a coma and might be for a couple of days, so watch her closely and he would be back tomorrow to see her.


Ruth opened her eyes; she was in a strange place. She didn’t know where she was and it scared her. All she knew was that she hurt. She must have made some groaning noises, because a nice lady came over and leaned over her.

Are you ok dear?”

Where am I?”

Just then a man came to her side and started talking to her.

Now don’t try to talk too much.” He cautioned her. “You’ve been hurt pretty bad; You have been unconscious for several days. Try to get some more rest so you will feel better.”

Later she woke up again. This time she was hungry. The nice lady told her she could have some water, but she didn’t dare give her anything to eat just yet. She held her head up and helped her as she drank from a tin cup. Just doing that made Ruth tired and she went back to sleep. She was in and out for the next couple of days. She could remember people being around her, but mostly she remembered a little boy with big dark eyes sitting on her bed and talking to her. When she finally woke up, there was her little guardian angel, smiling down at her.

I’m glad you’re awake,” He said. “I have been praying for you.”

Thank you so much.” She said.

I have been taking care of you.”

You are so nice.” Then she realized what big brown eyes he had. She remembered seeing those eyes when she would go in and out of her sleep.

I gave you my blankie, it helped you get better.”

You did.” She looked down and sure enough, there was a nice thick buffalo blanket all tucked in around her. “This is your blankie?

Yes.” He said, and he beamed all over. “It kept you nice and warm; I know that is why you’re not sick anymore. “I made sure it was always over you.”

Just then the nice lady came in. “I hope he isn’t bothering you. He’s been by your side almost the whole time you’ve been out. He sure has taken to you.”

That’s so sweet.” She said. “He’s not bothering me at all. I hope he will stay.”

Oh, I’ll stay.” He replied

What’s your name?”


Johnny… I like that name; and thank you for sharing your blankie, it is really nice and warm.”

You can keep it forever. I want you to have it.” His big brown eyes lit up and he was so proud as he told her that.

What happened to me?” said Ruth. “Where am I?”

The lady told Ruth that her and her husband had found her about a half mile from their home. She was lying on the ground and she had hit her head on something, probably a rock. They wondered if she had been on a horse and had fallen off. Her head had been bleeding, so they bought her back to their house and cleaned her up. She had been unconscious, and was in and out for the last couple days. She was sure glad to see her awake and talking.

What’s your name dear?”

Ruth, I think.” She said after thinking about it for a few seconds. “I’m not sure.”

That’s ok.” She said, “You’ll remember.”

What’s your name?” She asked the lady.

My name is Lanora Yazzi. My husband is Ira; you’ve meet him and most of the children. You might not remember though, you’ve been pretty groggy. They have all been worried about you.”

Your going to have a new baby aren’t you?” said Ruth.

Yes.” said Lenora, looking down and touching her stomach. “In less than a month, this will be number six.

That’s so nice.” Said Ruth. “You probably don’t feel good, I shouldn’t be here. You have enough to do without taking care of me. I need to go.”

You’re not going anywhere young lady until you are feeling a whole lot better.” Then added, “Besides, I have a lot of help, with five children sometimes I get to much help.”

Ruth laughed. She really liked this lady; she was so nice and was very pretty. Just looking at her, she thought she might be around 30 or 32. Just then the door opened and in ran some the children and Ira. They had just come from the Trading Post. They gathered around her bed, all talking at once, telling her they were glad she was awake and asking all kinds of questions. Mostly they wanted to know what her name was. The oldest, a girl named Irene, told Ruth she had been helping her mother take care oh her. Her and Johnny, you couldn’t keep him away. She said she was really glad to know she was feeling better now. All the children were very polite and so well mannered.

It wasn’t long before Ruth was feeling stronger and was up most of the day. She would walk out side with Johnny while the other children were doing chores or was over at the Trading Post, then in the evening she would read or play games with them.

One evening Lenora came in from the kitchen to find the children had made a big mess and hadn’t cleaned it up. They were playing checkers and had just left every thing all around.

How come you haven’t cleaned this mess up?” She scolded them.

I’m allergic,” said Dalyn.

I was embarrassed.’ Camren answered

I’m ashamed.” Said Katie.

Ruth just broke out laughing. She laughed so hard. She just couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

Several weeks went by and Ruth was feeling so good. Johnny showed her all around; he kept pretty close to her and was always calling her, “Pretty Blue Eyes.” And she called him, “Big Brown Eyes.” She loved this little four year old boy. She was really going to miss him when she left.

Then one day when she got up, Ira told Ruth Lanora was in labor and he was going to get the Midwife. He asked if she would watch after Johnny. She went into the bedroom and Lanora told her it wouldn’t be long. She took Johnny outside to play when the woman and Ira came back. In a couple of hours Ira came and told them the baby was born, it was a little girl and everything was ok with both of them. Ruth was relieved. When the children came home from school, they went into see the baby. Ira told them, they had decided to name the baby Virginia.

The next few weeks Ruth took care of Lanora. She tried to resist but Ruth reminded her she that this was the least she could, especially since she had taken care of her. Lanora didn’t put up to much of a fuss, actually she was glad to have some one help, and she really enjoyed her company.

One night as the family was eating dinner; Johnny started chocking on something he was eating.

Are you ok?” Asked Camren.

But he just kept chocking. Ira ran around the table and took hold of him. Lanora started getting hysterical.

Do something,” she kept screaming.

I’m trying.” Ira yelled back.

Nothing that Ira did helped, Johnny kept chocking and was having a very hard time breathing. Everyone was so scared. A couple of the smaller children started to cry. Ira was hitting him on the back, something was lodged in his throat, and it wouldn’t come out. Ira kept pounding him on his back, he was hitting him so hard he thought he might break his ribs. But he was still chocking and was now turning blue around his mouth, and he went limp. Ira grabbed his arm and was lifting it up in the air. That didn’t work either. For some reason Ruth came around the table and put her arms around Johnny from the back and caught her hands together in the front of him, in the middle of his stomach, she pushed in and up a couple times really hard. Suddenly a piece of meat came out of his mouth and he started breathing again. Then he started crying.

Are you ok?” Ira asked him. He kept looking at Johnny to make sure.

I think so,” he said. “I had something in my throat and I couldn’t get it out.”

Well thank goodness for Ruth.” Ira said so grateful. “How did you know what to do?” He asked her.

I don’t know.” She answered back, “I just did it.”

Well, what ever you did worked.” Ira said. “He seems to be ok now.”

That evening all of them kept a close eye on Johnny. Especially Ruth, she kept him pretty close to her all night. Ira kept thanking her and having her show him what she had done. He couldn’t believe something like that had worked. Johnny thanked her for saving his life.

I’m going to marry you when I get big.” He told her. “Remember we will be promised to each other.” She just smiled at him, as if agreeing with him.

Several more weeks went by. Johnny was doing just fine. Lanora was getting stronger all the time, and the baby was getting fat and growing like a weed. One day Ruth had a terrible headache or some reason it wouldn’t go away. Ira gave her a piece of Birch bark to chew on.

This is what we use for pain.” He told her. “It works really well.”

So Ruth took the bark and did as Ira had told her. She went to bed a little early that night, hoping once she went to sleep her head would quite hurting.


Ruth opened her eyes and saw the biggest brown eyes looking down at her.

Everybody come quickly. She’s awake.”

The whole family gathered around, trying to see if she really was ok.

Ira and Lanora were especially happy. Everyone was laughing and so happy that she had woke up.

You’re not going on any more horses.” Ira told her. “But if you do, Johnny said he would teach you how to ride a horse, you couldn’t go with Ben anymore.

You’ve been out a pretty long time;” Said the voice, behind the big brown eyes. “It’s good to see you again.”

Johnny, is that you?”

Yes, you had us all worried. It’s so good to see your pretty blue eyes again.” And then he was embarrassed because everyone started hooting and awing.

Do you feel ok?”

I guess.”

You should.” He continued, smiling down at her. “My blankie had been there, it made you nice and warm.” “He added. “It helped you get better.”

Ruth looked down and sure enough there was the big thick Buffalo Indian blanket all tucked in around her.

She wondered to herself. The blanket is nice and warm, but it’s getting raggedy, but then he probably has had it for a long time. Continuing to think, why does a guy this old still have his blankie?

She felt this good warm feeling go through her as she looked up into his big brown eyes.

Oh Johnny,” She said smiling up at him. “I’ve been waiting for you all my life.”

I know, we’ve been promised. Remember”

Remember I get to be the Maid of Honor.” Sang Virginia happily. “My brother and my best friend, can you believe it.”

Mom was right when she said you were family. But then you always have been. But now it will be permanent.”

I guess this means you’re not going to go find work after all.” Ira Smirked. He had seen this coming all along.

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