The Stories of My Elders


Dan Dodge

Will She Come Back?

Karen Phillips Smith, Contributing Writer

by Karen Phillips Smith, Wilmington, NC


Author: Karen Phillips Smith

In the Native American culture, the oral tradition is important. We learn and we are taught through stories told by our elders. I am blessed because I was given the opportunity to record many of the stories of my people told to me by my great aunt and my grandfather. It is through these stories that I can better understand the great wisdom and humor of these proud, yet humble people. I honestly believe that many of our elders were given the great gift of storytelling.

There was always a twinkle in their eyes and at times a cackling laughter that I still hear decades later.

As the fire roared behind us, my cousins and I lapped up the warm molasses from our corn cakes as we gathered on the floor to hear the vivid stories that have been told from generation to generation of our family. I was always enthralled by the way the light would highlight their faces as their warm voices began to paint brilliant pictures that inspired our imaginations.

As a young boy, my grandfather, crossed the bridge each winter morning making his way to school, he always looked down at the footprints of the other children who had gone before him. He had come to know every detail of each footprint including their owners. The footprints that most interested him were the children fortunate enough to have shoes.

He dreamed of having his own shoes someday. He often watched the older people in the village making shoes, pounding the leather so it would be soft enough and then with small strips of leather or cloth binding the pieces of the shoes together.

On the day of his ninth birthday his parents gave him a package. As young boys will do, he ripped into the package and there they were a pair of shoes just for him. He sat down on the ground and quickly put the shoes on his feet. The bottoms of the shoes were soft leather, and they wrapped around his small feet with sturdy cloth. His father told him this type of shoes was called “walk easy”, but he was much too excited to walk and instead rushed over and hugged his  smiling parents and started running toward the bridge to school.

He felt as though he was running like the wind. Just as he crossed the bridge he quickly turned around and smiled because there in the early morning frost were two brand new footprints of a boy with shoes.