The Improved Order of the Red Man


Grandma’s house sat vacant for nearly two winters after her death.  It had been a house that her husband and father had built many years ago and everyone in the family felt it was a shame to see that house sitting empty and quiet.

Soon it was decided that the house should be repaired and rented out.  To that end the two of us showed up and started hammering and sawing where needed.

The wet weather had caused a leak in the roof which had run down the interior wall.  The wall was made of a dried plaster and had started to flake away, so that’s where my step-dad Delmar and I decided we should begin working.

First we tapped out the beams.  Then we took our hammers and began knocking holes in the white, powdery plaster.

Crash — Delmar’s hammer had struck a glass object.  It had shattered and he immediately stopped working.

I did too.

Both of us attempted to look inside the hole to see what Del had struck.  We couldn’t see anything as it was too dark. 

So Delmar pulled another chunk of plaster out from the wall.  With it came small pieces of broken glass and a large leather pouch.

“Oh my,” exclaimed Delmar as he bent over and picked up the leather pouch.

I was stunned —my brain turned the leather pouch over and over and was thinking of hidden treasure as Del unrolled it.

The pouch was very old and had started to turn to deteriorate in several places as it was unrolled.  But with each unrolling, it revealed more and more.

It held a cache of arrowheads and spear tips as well as old coins.  Delmar immediately recognized these as belonging to a local tribe, as he had spent many days off and vacations hunting for arrowheads in Northern California and Southern Oregon. 

I could tell he was exited by the find.

The coins were old ones; late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The collection included a few silver dollars and a couple of buffalo nickels as well.  We agreed they were probably minted about the time the house was built.

However the most unusual object to my eye in that leather pouch was the handbook.  It was worn yellow-brown with age, had mold growing on its back cover, however its red printing was clearly visible.

The wording inscribed on it read, “Constitution and By-laws, Hupa Tribe, Number 146, of the Improved Order of Red Men of the Hunting Grounds of Eureka, California, 1903.” 

I held the booklet in my hand and read it out loud. 

Delmar was on his knees looking at the arrowheads and spear points, when he looked up and asked, “What did you say?” 

I repeated what I had read.

Del stood up and shook his head and said, “Hupa 1903.” 

He held out his hand and I laid the booklet in it.

“That’s what it says,” I grinned.

Dell thumbed through the small book, “I can’t believe it,” he started, “this was hidden for a reason.”

“Why?” I asked.

Delmar paused, stroking his bearded chin, “Back when your Grandma was youngster it would have been illegal for an Indian to own a business or a home near town.” 

He stopped and looked thoughtfully at the book then quickly leafed through it once more, “I figure she hid the fact that she was Indian,” Delmar concluded. 

Then he handed the book back to me.

Del walked outside to his truck and brought back a cardboard box.  I assisted him in loading all the hidden treasure into it, and then we got back to completing the task at hand.

Later that evening I sat at the dinner table with Mom and my step-dad looking over the items.  Each object was laid out on the white table-cloth. 

The arrowheads and the spear point numbered a dozen as did the coins.  The booklet and pouch sat by themselves.

Mom cleared her throat, “I had always heard that your Great-Grandpa George had married an Indian.”  She paused, “I think he did and then set about covering it up as it probably hurt business.” 

She smiled at me. 

“These seem pretty important,” she continued after a moment as she held up one of the pieces of obsidian.

Delmar was busy looking in one of his many books on the subject of arrowheads and spear points.

“I can’t seem to find anything like them,” he finally said as he raised his head and snapped the book shut.  “Whatever they mean is probably lost to us,” he sighed.

I picked up the little paperback book as this was the true treasure to me.

“To think Grandma went to her grave guarding this family secret,” I said as I slipped the booklet into a plastic freezer bag.

“I’ll bet you that’s been tucked away in that wall since 1913; the year that house was built,” Del said as he nodded at the items on the table.

Then I chuckled, “Mom, do you remember how Grandma always called me her little cowboy?”

 She smiled again and nodded her head at the memory.

“Well, it turns out Grandma’s little cowboy may have really been a little Indian,” I finished.

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