My Thanksgiving: Traditional Native American meal at a LR teepee cafe
OUR THANKSGIVING meal was to be at night, so at midday Thursday, daughter Julie and I went out in search of a modest burger to hold us until turkey time.
Nothing was open in Little Rock. Nothing. Not a McD’s or Burger King or Sonic. Nada.
“Let’s look for a Chinese restaurant or some Mexican place,” I wisely suggested to daughter. “They’ll be open because immigrants don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.”
There’s only one ethnic group which still dislikes Thanksgiving, I would come to realize.
That would be Native Americans, because the holiday just reminds them of when the foreign devils came and took away their country and slurred their image by giving college football teams names like Indians, and Warriors and Seminoles and Redmen.
Little Rock has only one Native American restaurant. It’s named “Scalpy’s Squat and Gobble.”
Scalpy’s is located in a large complex of horseskin wigwams downtown near the Presidential Library, and Thank Goodness it was open on Thanksgiving Day.
Scalpy’s wasn’t the perfect answer to our hunger, as it turned out.
Our tummies were growling as we threw back the flap of the teepee and tiptoed into the darkness inside.
“How! Circle your wagons and sit on the floor,” the Maitre d’Brave told us.
The menu was extremely limited. It had no writing, only crude pictures. Prices were listed in Wampum, not Dollars. Or, you were invited to trade trinkets for food. Ten percent more trinkets for groups more than 10.
You could choose from buffalo horn soup. Pemmican burgers. Chipmunk jerky. Hawk eggs. Armadillo. Large and small dog, of course, and some other stuff you don’t want to even hear about.
We were seated on some fragrant bison skins on the floor.
“Hi, I’m Little Feather and I’ll be your waitress today,” a young woman said. She told us that in her tribal language her name meant “Small fluffy thing with quills pulled from bird’s backside.” She was wearing beaded buckskins and had a wicked-looking tomahawk tucked into her belt.
What’s the vegetable of the day? I asked.
“Corn,” she answered. “You call it corn. We call it maize.” (I know some of you out there will recognize this comment)
I asked for the campfire-broiled prairie dog, extra crispy. Julie decided to try a half order of frog with cattails and a side order of tree stump slugs. While we were waiting for my screaming prairie dog to be skinned, we inspected our surroundings.
We were in the restaurant’s Little Bighorn Room. It was decorated with jawbones and scalps and had a large picture of Tonto sitting astride Scout, his trusty pinto pony. There was a very large “Wanted: John Wayne” poster.
Scalpy’s had both peacepipe smoking and non-peacepipe smoking sections, and we were unfortunately in the latter. Smoke hung heavily in the air. It smelled vaguely familiar, like an Italian cooking herb or hay. There were lots of customers, and we were the only ones not wearing warpaint and loincloths.
I’m sorry that practically every eating place feels obligated to offer some form of entertainment these days. Scalpy’s was no different. Right after the woven straw food baskets containing our food were placed on our laps, a six-piece combo began thumping drums and blowing whistles. A man wearing elk antlers danced in front.
“Hey, hey, heya ha ha ha,” he chanted
Outside, it began to thunder and rain.
“Happens practically every time he sings that song,” Little Feather chuckled as she stabbed my ticket to the floor with a war spear.
Since I was fresh out of wampum, I had to use a credit card. “Or we could work out a trade for some firewater and rifles,” Little Feather slyly suggested.
Great White Father in Washington no like me give’um you firewater and rifles, I told her, but I did leave an extra beaver pelt for a tip.
As Julie and I walked single-file toward the wigwam exit, Little Feather yelled “Stick around. Bingo starts in the Happy Hunting Ground Room in just a few minutes. We’re giving away a Chevy Silverado.”
Maybe next Thanksgiving, I answered. “Nah, we’re gonna start closing on holidays,” she said.
PUNS AND adult truths from my piano friend at Fellowship: When you get a bladder infection urine trouble.
HE SAID: “Strange to the world, he wore a bashful look, The fields his study, Nature was his book.”
Robert Bloomfield, poet
SHE SAID: “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” Barbara de Agelis, writer
SWEET DREAMS, Baby