Making friends with the natives.

There is a man who lives just a few streets over from me who is an arborist. He’s a quiet man, mostly of Native American lineage and mostly of the stoic variety. I had lived in the area for several years before he even started to acknowledge me, though we pass cross paths at least two or three times a week. Two things changed my status from, “Does not exist, as far as I’m concerned.” to “Deserves a head nod when seen.” and then, all the way to an actual verbal greeting.

The first event was initiated by Action Girl. One evening, the two of us had gone for a walk down some of the paths that snake through the woods around here. As we walked, darkness closed in sooner than we anticipated. I felt pretty good about taking the right trails back as we tripped on the exposed roots and rocks which seemed to suddenly fill the path. As we stumbled along, Action Girl somewhat jokingly told me to “channel my ancestors and get us home”. You see, among all the European blood that flows through my veins, there is also a good dose of Native American Indian.

We made it home with no issues other than stubbed toes and I thought nothing of it. Action Girl happened to have cause to talk with our Indian arborist a week or so later and made some off the cuff remark about me using my Indian blood to find our way out of the woods. That caught his attention.

“He’s part Indian?”
“Oh yah. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him but he has family from two different tribes. His great grandmother lived on a reservation a ways up the coast.”

Well, with out me realizing it, I had graduated to earning a head nod or even a two fingered wave from atop the steering wheel as he passed by. It caught me by surprise and it took effort on my part to not blow it by enthusiastically waving back or grinning like an idiot.

I am anything but stoic. My kids are DOOMED to be embarrassed by their dad.

The next thing that really got me in his “Okay guy” book was my son, Short Stack. My father had a tree that needed attention and hired our silent arborist to come take care of it. He showed up on the appointed day and climbed up the tree to take care of the offending, dead limbs. Short Stack was in the care of my folks that day and was helping Grandpa around the yard. As I’ve said before, Short Stack’s number one recreation is driving his toy trucks. Number two however, is helping. He loves to help. You can get him to do just about anything by framing it as “help”. Be prepared for enthusiastic truck noises that are apparently a necessity, though.

What our friend in the tree had, was a fantastic view of Short Stack running around in the yard, not playing, but really helping. Hauling little buckets of mulch, raking, watering flowers, his shoes and anything else from his knees down… for over two hours. He never stopped, whined, or got bored. For what ever reason, this impressed our stoic tree climber like nothing else could. When the cutting and trimming was done and his descent back to earth accomplished, he commented to my father about Short Stack’s work ethic and told him that if he was still cutting trees in fourteen years, he’d hire him.

So now, I’ve gone from being, “That new guy who smiles too much” to “That part Indian who smiles too much but has the hard working kid.”

Hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Our stoic friend blew me away this weekend by actually crossing the street to come and talk to me about some trees on my parent’s property, so… I guess I’m “in”. I think he even smiled. Though come to think of it, I was holding Short Stack at the time.


To me, it’s another little victory towards being accepted by my adoptive home and a step closer to not being “from away”, as the locals put it. With a little luck, in another 15 to 20 years, they might even start referring to our house with our last name rather than the name of previous occupants.

Hmmm. Well, maybe in 25 to 30, anyway.
We’ll make it. We’re in it for the long haul.

9 Responses

  1. When I moved into my place, the 60 year old nextdoor neighbour was stand-offish, but once I cleaned up the yard, weeded, planted a few flowers, and kept pretty quiet; she liked me.
    The secret: the people who lived here before me had 5 young children and didn’t garden = noisy and eye sore.


  2. That’s sort of cool, yes šŸ˜€

  3. I find having a knock down fight with neighbor down the street who insists on large construction projects at 9pm at night is always the best way to make friends in a new place.

    …I think you know of whom I refer to….

  4. Just wondering… How are Short stack’s lawn mowing abilities? If you send him my way, I’ll make absolutely sure to two finger wave at you anytime I pass you on the street. I’ll even add a third finger if he shows propensity at removing weeds.

  5. Oh! He’s very good with weeds! He names them and will point them out to you as you walk through the garden. He also names the ants he finds.

    Really cute, but not very efficient.

  6. Very cool. Is your silent arborist neighbor the only stand-offish one, or is the whole neighborhood waiting for a “sign” that you might fit in … some day?

    I think you’re doing it right, BTW. Trying to push your way into the community would only result in a lot of push-back. Just live your life, and they’ll eventually come to accept you … probably. If you have a couple of useful but strange habits or hobbies, it might speed things up with some of the locals.

  7. Oh, no. There are others as well. I’m taking it slowly.

    As for strange hobbies… I’ve found that firearms collecting has had a HUGE positive impact on the way the “old locals” look at me. Being spotted carrying a rifle bag almost always gets a smiling old timer to walk up and wanting to know what I’ve got and I’ve been hunting.

    I don’t hunt actually, but collect and go target shooting a lot. I think the old Mainers (or Mainahs, as they would say) are just happy to see a youngish, new resident holding a rifle rather than a nine iron.

    I may not be able to hit a golf ball 100 yards and on to a green, but I can hit a golf ball AT 100 yards, on a green! šŸ™‚

  8. This post has definitely got me thinking…

    I’ve been living in the same extremely rural (i.e. more cows and cornfields than people) town for 15 years, and have never really felt that the locals have known what to make of me since I moved here from NYC.

    Now I’m wondering whether letting the local NASCAR fans know that my ancestors come from the equally rural part of Kentucky famous for Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark (family reunions there are a blur, natch!) might make them more inclined to get to know me.

    I know that being part “redneck” isn’t quite as glamorous as being Native American, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it?

  9. No reason that you can’t be both!

    And yes, I’d give it a try! I’m willing to bet you’d make some friends.

    For me, the type of fun things done at a family reunion depends on which side of the family we’re talking about here. My Mom’s side will be sitting around, chatting about topical news items and watching Wall Street Week when it comes on. My Dad’s side will involve lots of BPR tall boys, horseshoes and possibly, shooting someone’s new handgun out in the pasture.

    To be honest, I’ve watched enough Wall Street Week and gone over the news on my own. Horse shoes and handguns just don’t get boring. šŸ˜‰

    I usually bring my own micro brewed beer though. They think that’s funny .

    Turkish Prawn

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