For some reason, that story gnawed at me a little bit. It keyed off some memory, but I couldn’t quite place what it was. Then, finally, after some days of thought, it came to me.
The Battle Of Hayes Pond.
It was one of my late father’s favorite stories. He was from Kansas—specifically, he had family and friends on the border of Oklahoma, which will tell you something, if you know anything about Oklahoma. And he married my mother, who came from North Carolina, and she had family and friends from the Great Smokey Mountain Region, and if you know anything about the Trail of Tears and the Eastern Cherokee, that will tell you more.
Anyway, the story…
*In North Carolina and environs, there is a people known as the Lumbee, who (according to Wikipedia) are one of the eight recognized Native American tribes in the state. They are, mostly, in the Southeastern part of the state, where they make up a thriving and vigorous community which is managing to hold its own, even in this time of globalism and homogenization.
But you have to know something else about the Lumbee. To wit, not everyone is convinced that they are “real” Indians. They show a good deal of admixture, both of many different Indian nations, and also of other groups. They probably have, for instance, some African-American heritage, which would make sense, because Indian tribes tended to shelter and adopt runaway slaves in the bad old days.
Unfortunately for the Lumbee, this has led to conflicts with authorities and activists of various sorts. I have witnessed such conflicts myself. On a discussion board some time back, I saw them referred to as “wannabes,” who don’t genuinely deserve the protections and privileges of a Native American nation. And this comment was made, by the way, by a Native American…a fact that saddened me.
The Lumbee have a long and fascinating history. But the story about them which my father so enjoyed involved the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1958, the South was very close to revolution. The Federal Government was beginning the process of desegregation, and white supremacists were fighting back using terroristic methods. At about the same time, the Lumbee had gained some “limited” recognition as a Native American tribe.
This latter fact, it seems, went down very badly with the Klan, which saw the Lumbee as not Indians at all, but rather a “mongrel” race of …well, insert N-word here. The Grand Dragon of the local Klan was a man named (I’m not making this up) James W. “Catfish” Cole—decided to teach “them,” i.e., the Lumbee, a lesson.
The Klan launched an intimidation campaign—burning crosses on the lawns of Lumbee people, and so on. Then, finally, Cole directed that there be a major Klan rally in a field near Lumbee land on the night of January 18, 1958.
The night duly came, and Cole and about a hundred Klansmen met in the field. They started the preparations, got a cross ready for incineration, and so on…
Out of the dark came 500 Lumbee warriors.
Not to put too fine a point on it, they beat the crap out of the Klansmen, who ran like rabbits. Cole, apparently, escaped through a swamp. The Lumbee took up all the KKK regalia and claimed them as spoils of war.
And that was the end of Cole’s Klan in North Carolina. They simply looked ridiculous. Cole himself ended up going to jail for inciting a riot. The Lumbee celebrated their victory, and enshrined it in memory as “The Battle of Hayes Pond.”
And when my father told me this story, he laughed to the point of being breathless. “Put out their cross and everything…” he told me.
I never knew where my father heard this story. I don’t think he, or my mother, still had connections to North Carolina in 1958. By that time, we were in Albuquerque, where my father worked in “the Labs,” a.k.a. Sandia. So, I’m guessing he must have read about it. I know that Life magazine did a story on the Lumbee’s triumph. Maybe he encountered it there. Maybe he remembered the tale because he was just a man who naturally sided with the oppressed of this life.
Or, maybe not. Maybe he, or they, had some additional connection to North Carolina of which I am ignorant. It is a wise child who knows his own parents, and I am not sage. Since they passed, I have discovered just how little I did know them. I entered their papers, letters, records, and discovered so much I never suspected …
But, whatever, the point remains. The story was one of his favorites, and he loved telling it, sometimes on Thanksgiving.
And I bring it all up today because, as I read with amazement and horror of our President’s dreadful behavior…of his racism and disrespect…
I recall the Lumbee…and their battle at the pond…and I wonder…
Might a similar adventure await other Native Americans, and yet another Grand Dragon?
A man who, in his titanic arrogance and vast crudity, could spew abuse and hatred in all directions…and never once remember that his enemies outnumbered him by hundreds?
Until, that is, it was too late, and his name and his cause had become synonymous with stupidity…