Friday, April 10, 2009

Cashing In At Last

After years of contesting with opponents, the March-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians has the green light to move ahead with development of a major casino not many miles up the highway from our home.

The Native Americans plan to make a bundle. The State of Michigan apparently believes they will, judging by an agreement approved by both parties. The State will get 8 percent of slot machine profits up to $150 million a year. Above that the profit share rises to 10 percent. Geez--a hundred million here and a hundred million there could add up to some real money.

Some may be jealous of our soon-to-be-rich Indian brethren. But those of us who recall the poverty experienced by many Pottawatomis 60 years ago are not among them. They were few in number near my hometown, but those who lived in mysterious places like the tiny town of McCord west of Tomahawk were far from wealthy.

One day near the onset of a Northern Wisconsin winter, my Dad finished his workday and he and I started for home. Outside, we were greeted by a chaotic scene in the middle of “Main Street.” A crowd had gathered, two of Tomahawk’s finest were on the scene, and Joe Waubiness and an Indian woman assumed to be Mrs. Waubiness were holding a shouting match with each other and the local gendarmes.

It seems that Mr. Waubiness was accustomed to being locked up for large parts of each winter in the Lincoln County Jail in Merrill. There he enjoyed a warm bed and food until spring brought his release and return to Tomahawk. Unfortunately, a new Sheriff had refused to house him when the local police radioed to arrange his incarceration that fall. Waubiness pondered the injustice of that decision over several drinks in “The Mug and Jug” at the end of our block, and finally careened out of the tavern to state his case in the middle of the street. His wife was angry because (1) Waubiness apparently had no intention of taking her along to jail, and (2) he and the Tomahawk policemen were ignoring her complaints altogether.

Waubiness finally hit upon a solution to his cold-weather lodging problem. He hurled a rock squarely into one of the large plate-glass windows at the front of Nick’s Casket Factory, completely shattering the pane and scattering glass in all directions. He turned to one of the cops with a smile and said, “Now you have to take me.”

With head held high, Waubiness assumed a position in the rear seat of the city’s squad car and was driven away on the first leg of what he hoped would be a trip to his winter lodgings in Merrill. Mrs. Waubiness was left in the middle of the street. Nick and Sons was left with a substantial repair bill.

It is good to know that the Pottawatomis in Southwestern Michigan will not have to resort to crime to stay warm next winter.

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