that was your great-grandfatherâs too,â Dad said. âLook at the picture and youâll see theyâre all wearing one of these. Instead of a trophy, I think they all got one of these.â As I was looking at the photograph, I realized that one of the faces looked very familiar. I looked more closely. What a shock I got! There in the lineup was a man who looked a lot like Albert Isaac, the man whoâd made my ball sticks. Actually, he looked exactly like Albert Isaac. I looked at the list of names. And there it was in black and white: Albert Isaac. âHow is that possible?â I asked myself. I explained to Mom and Dad what Iâd found. And I retold the story of the old man in the community center who had disappeared. Dad read a few lines of the faded newspaper article to himself. âIt says right here that Albert Isaac was their team coach and a ball stick maker,â he said. âHow is that possible?â I asked myself a second time. My mind was reeling. There was one more thing in the cardboard box. Something wrapped in worn leather. I was curious, so I picked it up. Unwrapping the leather, I found a pair of well-used ball sticks inside. Though the wood was scarred and worn from use, the sticks were still in good enough condition to use. I turned them over and over in my hands. They were almost identical to the pair of kapoca Iâd been using. The pair Albert Isaac had made. I looked at the base of the sticks. To my great surprise, there was an A stamped on the bottom of one stick and an I on the other. âHow is that possible?â I asked myself yet a third time. I ran to the living room as fast as I could. In my duffle bag I found my own sticks. I took them back to the kitchen. Sitting side by side, the two sets of sticks were a perfect match. They couldâve been clones. âAmazing,â Mom said. âSupernatural!â Dad said. âGramps used to say the spirits of our Choctaw ancestors are with us still. I really never believed it before. I do now.â We were all quiet for a few minutes. I couldnât think. I was too overwhelmed. And tired. I stood up. As I did, I noticed there was one last thing in the cardboard box. It was a piece of paper. It looked like a page torn out of a book. It was yellowed and jagged on one edge. I picked it up. Printed on the front side of the page was a book title: The Social and Ceremonial Lifeof the Choctaw Indians, by John Swanton, published 1931. I flipped the page over. A handwritten message was on the other side. It read, âToday is the first day of the rest of your life.â I knew somehow Gramps had been with me the whole time. And Albert Isaac. I was grateful to them both. And in awe. âThanks, Gramps,â I said. âThanks, Albert.â The rest of my life could wait until tomorrow, I thought. I was tired and went to bed. As I was falling asleep I had a thought. We might have to start visiting the preacher and the medicine man on a regular basis. Just to cover all bases.
About the Author Gary Robinson, a writer and filmmaker of Cherokee and Choctaw Indian descent, has spent more than twenty-five years working with American Indian communities to tell the historical and contemporary stories of Native people in all forms of media. His television work has aired on PBS, Turner Broadcasting, Ovation Network, and others. His nonfiction books, From Warriors to Soldiers and The Language of Victory, reveal little-known aspects of American Indian service in the U.S. military, from the Revolutionary War to modern times. He has also written two other novels, Thunder on the Plains and Tribal Journey, and two childrenâs books that share aspects of Native American culture through popular holiday themes: Native American Night Before Christmas and Native American Twelve Days of Christmas. He lives in rural central California.