Around these parts we have Native American casinos. A lot of once big-time musical acts show up there. And every few miles there’s a smaller gaming center, so you’re never too far away from slot machines or less expensive cigarettes.
Some people think that organized gambling is immoral and just ends up bringing bad behavior into the community. I don’t really have an opinion either way. There’s plenty of other things, it seems to me, encouraging bad deeds that folks never complain about. And while some folks are losing their money, other folks are getting community centers and medical clinics built. The Great Circle of Life. I recall a wise man once saying that life is a crapshoot. So there’s already gambling involved anyway.
The other day I thought I was having a really bad day. I took off from work extra early. The air was very clear. It was my intention to drive to the nearest mountaintop and stare far into the distance until the wisdom came gushing in.
Not five miles down the road my cell phone rang. It was my wife. How did she know, already? I answered, and she said, “Do you still prefer to hear bad news sooner rather than later?” So it turns out we were both having a bad day.
I drove home and picked her up. Two folks can’t sit on top of a mountaintop waiting for wisdom. It’s just wrong. It violates some mythic code. So instead we went to the nearest national park. The plan was to walk this trail that goes around this lake. We both had fond memories of that trail and that lake.
Pulling into the parking area, there was the smell of a wood grill burning, and the whole place looked completely different. It was like the lake had gone bald. Hardly any trees stood around it any more. The trail no longer had any shade. While you walk, the sun irradiates you the whole time like a leaky microwave oven set on high. Bring a hat.
Why would they do this to a once beautiful lake?
On closer inspection there was a sign. “Your recovery dollars at work.” The area was being returned to native prairie. The non-native Eastern red cedar had to go. So they chopped them all down. Then they burnt the logs. The few native trees appear to have died in the fire.
What a metaphor for what we both were feeling.
Later on, when we’d returned home, I told the story to this guy I know. He’s part Chickasaw, I think. “What were they thinking?!” I said. “Most of the people here aren’t native, and you don’t see them being hacked down and set on fire!”
Without humor or joy, this fellow said, “Isn’t that what the gaming centers are for?”