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photo by Benjamin Powell

It is comfortable M

y favorite backyard memories begin when, shortly after my first grade year, my parents decided to build a teepee. It was made of thick cotton canvas on an electric sewing machine. Dad painted Native American designs on it, waterproofed it, and we moved into it in late August.

A family friend let us live on some land he owned in the mountains outside Potlatch, Idaho, and we stayed into the winter—Mom, Dad, and five children. My Indian name was Little Bear. It was hard to get me out of my warm hibernation in the mornings, but I don’t remember ever being cold. Mom’s name was Hummingbird. Dad carried logs home on his shoulders for fire wood, and once he carried a deer. Jeremy and I dug

tunnels in the high cliffy bank of the stream and drove our trucks through them. Corey taught Brandi and me how to tease the range cattle until they’d chase us through the trees, and he taught us to climb those trees to get away. We went to school most days–when we didn’t miss the bus. It was a long walk to the bus stop, and sometimes we missed on purpose. I always wished I could stay home. Marci was a baby then, and learned to crawl wearing a cast on her leg. I never realized what Mom did there, though I know now and wonder how she made it.

We brought a stray cat with us, and our friends gave us two puppies when we moved onto their land. They were all given Indian names Dad had learned from the Rosebud Sioux woman who had been our neighbor in Provo. Heyokah, for

the cat, meant little clown. Sapah, Black, for the male puppy, and, Namakikah, for the female. I don’t recall what her name meant. She was blind and mostly deaf, and we didn’t have her long.

At night we heard, and felt, elk pass through camp; the earth shook with their weight. We listened to Sapah bark at the coyotes that came too close, and at the bear that stripped the tree just up the hill. Sometimes he would chase Heyokah for fun, and the cat would run up the outside of the teepee, his feet slapping loudly against the canvas. When it rained, Heyokah came in, and the rain slapped the canvas in his place. Once he flicked his tail into the cook fire and Mom put him out with a large bowl of dish water. Sapah’s dinner was always dog

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