“There’s also a roadside historical marker/noting the massacre of the Lee family/by ‘an Indian war party’ in 1782.”
In this photograph, I’m six years old.
I’m standing by my father’s church,
St. John’s Evangelical Reformed.
On the back, my mother’s written:
“Billy’s costume, May Day—1955.”
I think I’m supposed to be an Indian.
I’m wearing what appears to be
a paper feathered headdress,
and a shift or robe that could be
made of burlap bags; it’s hard to tell.
What this has to do with May Day
I have no idea sixty-nine years later,
but it must have been for school,
me in Mrs. Weaver’s 1st grade class
at Third Street Elementary.
Native peoples lived in Union County;
so did buffalo, American bison,
though both were gone for centuries
before I dressed up in my homemade
May Day Indian burlap costume.
The Susquehanna River is the only
local landmark with an Indian name,
but there’s Little Buffalo Creek nearby
and the Buffalo Valley Riding Club,
and of course, the Bucknell Bisons.
There’s also a roadside historical marker
noting the massacre of the Lee family
by “an Indian war party” in 1782.
No explanation why they were at war.
No context. Just those savages.
I don’t look very savage in this photo.
I’m even smiling. It’s a sunny day.
I’m probably anticipating having fun.
It was a long time ago, but I remember
Mrs. Weaver. She was nice.
W. D. Ehrhart has authored or edited a number of collections of poetry and prose, most recently Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems and What We Can and Can’t Afford: Essays on Vietnam, Patriotism, and American Life, both from McFarland & Company, Inc. He holds a Ph.D. from University of Wales at Swansea and taught at The Haverford School in Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2019.