But it's not my father I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about the last time I saw my father-in-law, Busimanolotome Osceola, the Father of the New Seminoles. (Spoiler Alert re Book Two. If you haven't read it, stop reading now). It was a moonless night in the deep Everglades which also happened to be on fire. We were under attack by Army Rangers and on the run. I was 18 then, pregnant with Nokosee's baby and wounded, and he was carrying me through the swamp, trying to avoid getting me killed. He managed to get me to a bithlo floating in the water hidden between the sawgrass before the first gator struck. The things he fought to protect had turned on him-- as is their wont. As they pulled him away, I reached out to him and the last thing I'll always remember will be him reaching out to me and saying only one word: Ooshtayke. Daughter.
That was a pretty big deal since it was his way of saying I was... worthy; something I thought I'd never be in his big bad tough guy eyes.
And then I think about Dylan Thomas. I skipped him during high school. I could have cared less back then about the drunken Welsh poet. I was interested in boys and cheerleading. And then after I gave up the Outside and rode my Indian down from New Jersey to Nokosee and the Everglades and everything he and his dad stood for, Busi called up to me one day when I was high up in one of my reading trees on an Everglades hammock. I forget what I was reading but he said, "Try this!" and threw the collected edition of Thomas's poems up to me. I caught it and grimaced. He yelled, "Make sure you read 'Don't Go Gently.'" And then he jokingly added, as was his wont, "There'll be a test on it" before walking away.
He passed that test. I'm still working on it.
If you would like to hear Thomas read that poem-- and learn a little more about how it came to be-- please click here for that rarest of recordings.
Surprisingly, Thomas wasn't Busi's fav poet. It was Canadian poet Edmund Vance Cooke. Here's the poem Busi lived by-- and expected the New Seminole, too.