The Gleaner
Arts & LifeSharing Our Stories

Eight feet tall

Story told by: Joe McGregor
Edited by: Simona Rosenfield
Translation by: Sahawisó:ko Arquette

I always wanted to be eight feet tall. I wanted to be a strong man. Life doesn’t work that way. When I was a boy, I was small. I was always small. In the schools I went to, I got a beating.

Finally, a miracle. It was a Sunday. I didn’t want to go to school tomorrow.

“Why?” my grandmother said.

“Every day they’re waiting for me. They clap when they’re beating me up. Because I’m a farmer and I’m black,” I said.

“Wait.” She goes in the other room. She comes back, brings a football.

“Here, this was your uncle’s,” she said. “He used to be a boxer.”

“This football, take this and practice.”

You’d never think your grandmother would tell you to fight, but she didn’t mean fighting. I’m supposed to defend myself.

 

Portrait Simona Rosenfield PHOTO Kanienkeháka Onkwawénna Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center

 

“The Creator made you everything. He gave you arms, your fingers, your toes, your legs, everything to defend yourself. And if you don’t defend yourself, you’re going to commit a sin, because he gave you everything and you took the beating,” she said.

“If you allow anybody to beat you on the back, you’re just as guilty if you do the job,” she said.

There I started to practice with this punching bag. It didn’t take me long.

One recess we were going out. This time I had a surprise for them. In those days in Kahnawake, they let horses free, and there’s droppings everywhere. So I saw this, I picked it up, and I put it on the guy’s head. All his friends were laughing the way he used to laugh at me.

Size isn’t everything. You’ve got the heart, the guts, and use what the Creator gave you.

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