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How Two Germans Met America

SO this is how this story came about: Over 40 years ago I met in Germany's Swabian city of Esslingen a young man whose family published the local daily newspaper. Shortly Fried-rich became Fritz, and when he married his beautiful Irene from Pforzheim they came to Amerika for their honeymoon. I met their plane and persuaded them to come to Maine and experience the discomforts of a remote farmhouse where the scenery would show them what the Black Forest will be like when it amounts to something. We drove them all over the state while they were with us, and a warm friendship accrued. At our second breakfast, they said they were looking forward to seeing Indians in Arizona.

I was aware of a curious interest the Germans take in our American Indians, so I said we'd pack a picnic and hit the trail for Indian Island - no need to hunt up an Indian in Arizona. Some years earlier I had gotten acquainted with Chief Bruce Poolaw of the Penobscots, and I felt he was just the man to welcome our German friends to the New World. True, Bruce is not himself a Maine Penobscot, but his wife is. Bruce is a Kiowa, a Plains tribe with a different history and one worth a read. I think his romance with his Penobscot princess brought him to Maine from Florida. He and his wife keep a gift shop at the end of the bridge from Old Town to Indian Island that they call the Teepee.

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Our German friends were not quite ready to accept Indians in Maine, but became convinced as we crossed the bridge and there was the teepee. While the others were getting out of the automobile, I sneaked around back and found Chief Poolaw in his main storage room taking inventory on a shipment of Indian artifacts from Hong Kong. The chief was dressed nattily in a sharp Rotary Club suit, his feet in well-polished dress shoes. I told him I had a couple of friends from Germany inside who wanted to see an American Indian. Then I went around front and joined the others.

I regret exceedingly that no picture was made of the expressions on Fritz and Irene when they looked up and saw Chief Bruce Poolaw on his way in from the stockroom wrapped in his most splendid blanket and adorned with the full regalia of a Kiowa chieftan, one of the most warlike tribes, complete to the warclub and hatchet. Shortly the chief found a duplicate costume for Irene, and after Fritz got his movie camera ready, the two of them did a war dance around the teepee and out to the street. This drew some tourists, so Princess Poolaw had to come wait on trade, and Fritz got excellent pictures of Irene making the sign of peace and welcoming a busload from Ohio to the United States.

After they left us, our friends did get to Arizona, but readily admit their reception there didn't compare with the visit to Indian Island. A few years back my wife and I visited them in Esslingen again, and Fritz ran off the reel of Indian Island movies. Irene says she feels like some kind of a freak every time Fritz brings out the projector to show friends what America is really like.

Here in Maine, again, our native tribes, the Passamaquoddies and the Penobscots, are agitating for gambling casinos, which seem to be desired at the moment as the shortcut to prosperity. I gather there is some perplexity over state law and tribal rights. Anyway, last evening who should we see on television but good Chief Poolaw! ``I'll write to Esslingen first thing in the morning,'' I said, and I did. Fritz and Irene will be delighted that their old friend is keeping busy. The chief looked chipper.

The first time we visisted in Esslingen, Irene had the company Mercedes, with chauffeur, for the day, and while Fritz was busy at the publishing house she took us through her beloved Black Forest, lunched us at Zufluct, and took us to see the gaming pavilion at Baden-Baden. Here she suffered a disastrous embarrassment. We, holding United States passports, were welcomed at the casino door, and a guard was willing to take us in to see the wheels and the chandeliers and the elegance of the golden dream. However, Irene had forgotten to bring her German travel pass, and while the guard knew who she was, he couldn't let her pass without credentials! So I stayed outside, and my wife went inside. I've never been inside-inside at Baden-Baden. And if Chief Bruce Poolaw's desires prevail and the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots get their wish for a Down East Baden-Baden, it might comfort poor Irene to know that she could likely get in with no trouble. She has connections.

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