The prairie grasses were stiff with frost. The road ran straight as an arrow toward our 'country point' - where my father led Sunday afternoon services for folks in a remote area.
I was six years old - in the backseat of our Model A. Beside me, Joe Anderson, a parishoner and a 'half-breed' Indian held his shotgun loosely -- at the ready. Mother, in her electric seal coat and velvet tam, drove determindly over the rutted dirt road - Daddy, in the passenger seat, held a hand up to the roof to stabilize the jumping, rattling car. Born in Scotland in 1885, Daddy remained a Victorian. He never trusted the automobile!
Suddenly Joe asked Mother to stop the car. Within seconds he steadied his shotgun on the car window ledge and pulled the trigger. Far away a herd of antelope sped across the plains like liquid ... one of them fell to the ground - a perfect bullet in his heart. Quickly Joe ran to the fallen animal, threw him onto his shoulders, came back to the car, tied the antelope to the roof, and settled back to drive on to church with us.
The following week, Joe and his wife brought us beautifully butchered antelope roasts and steaks -- enough to keep us eating like kings all winter.
Joe Anderson shared our family name 'Anderson' and shared our faith . . . that was enough to forge a bond between our families. Daddy enjoyed all the diverse folks who settled wild Western Canada in the 1930's and he especially respected its First People.
A few years later, when I was 12, my father and I walked to his city bookstore on a Sunday afternoon. The building was closed but Daddy heard a noise in the lobby and saw, with disgust, that Shorty, a syphletic barber, had a 'native' woman pinned to the floor. Daddy told me to stay outside. I heard him ask the lady if Shorty had paid her. She said No. How much? $2.00 she said. "Pay her" he commanded Shorty. With dignity Daddy helped her up, introduced himself as Mr. Anderson and shook her hand. "I'm Mrs. Anderson" she said, "I just need milk for my children!"
I felt the sorrow in her voice -- and the humiliation.
Although the Wild West is long gone by now, things haven't changed all that much in some respects. But many years later at UCLA one of my friends and colleages was a Native American scholar, and more prominent people of color are leading the way to change.
I now realize how those early experiences have shaped my values and my deep beliefs
over nearly 80 years!