When we arrived in the United States in 1964, I was almost twelve years old. Everything was different: the coins and bills, the shape and consistency of bread, the size of refrigerators and cars - they were huge! There were doorknobs instead of handles, red wagons instead of rubber-tired scooters, softballs instead of soccer balls. Women wore curlers to go shopping; men had crew cuts instead of flat parted hair; kids carried their schoolbooks in the crook of their arm, not in satchels.
In my next few posts, I will write about some things that I remember from my first summer in St Paul. Here is the first in the series:
Cowboys and Indians
When we got to Minnesota, my sister and I were still young enough to play kids' games. I was thrilled when our new American friends (who were a couple of years younger) wanted to play Cowboys and Indians (no one used the term Native American back then). Like many German youngsters, I had devoured the novels written by Karl May about the Wild West and Winnetou, the heroic fictional chief of the Apaches. In Karl May’s stories, the Indians were noble, brave, skillful and beautiful. Even though they lost the war they won the battles. When we moved to Minnesota, I half expected to find them on their horses, roaming open prairie land alongside the buffalo herds.
For our game, I eagerly volunteered to be the Indian. Every one else clamored to be a cowboy.
“You wanna be the Indian? one of the boys asked. “You wanna die?”
I didn’t understand his questions. The game hadn’t even started so how could he know the outcome? The role of Indian was assigned to me and the youngest in the group. I quickly realized why: we never had a chance. As Indians, we didn’t having speaking roles. We were moving targets, that was all.