Eating lunch last week with my family on the patio of a fabulous burger joint downtown when we heard shouting.  A slightly intoxicated man of the First People with long, straight black hair was yelling at the customers.  Figuring he was probably hungry, I invited him to join us.  After all, it was Thanksgiving.

He introduced himself as Red Feather, chief of the Apaches.  He first taught us how to say hello.

“Da’anzho ya’ateh.”  We repeated the sounds several times, each time adjusting our tones until he was pleased with our childish attempts.

I wanted to ask him why he was teaching us both Apache greetings, one for the Arizona tribes and the other for the New Mexico tribes, but maybe he wanted us to be understood in both places.  I offered him food but he refused, more interested in our company.  He had recently been released from prison after 34 years and simply wanted to talk and be heard.

“I’ve been stabbed 86 times and shot twice,” Red Feather informed us.

“I hear you,” I said, never breaking eye contact.

He told us about the terrible food of federal penitentiaries and how he had met Tupac in jail and stomped on one of the Bones from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony during a fight in the shower room. 

“I still wear my boots when I take a shower.”

He talked through most of the meal, never asking for anything except our undivided attention.  He praised the Creator for sending us his way, for being able to sit in the sun and chat with the pale-faces.  I asked him again about his numerous altercations.

“76 times I was stabbed and shot 5 times.”  It didn’t matter if he was exaggerating his story, or if he was actually a chief of the Apaches.  He could have been Navajo for all I know.  However, he did give us a nice present for Thanksgiving, a lesson more family members should embrace when seated together over a fine meal:

Talk less, listen more.