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Son of Tall Man

An American Indian shares his strength, hope and experience*

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., February 1976

I proud to be son of Tall Man, American Indian, and member of AA for many moons. We all one as Great Spirit walks through AA like sun walks through day. This first story I ever write. Sorry for mistakes. Love has no words to spell or lines to start and stop. Our language has few words to say many things.

I was born a Maliseet Indian on reservation in Canada, oldest of thirteen children. Was alter boy at church reservation. Had first drink in young teens, but was scared of my father, so didn't drink much then. Now think I was alcoholic from first drink. Never forgot magic in firewater.

When I was twenty-one, my cousin come home from U.S. Army on leave, just before Pearl Harbor. I stay with him at aunt's house in Maine. That night, we drink beer at taverns. He had bottle of hard stuff. He gave me many drinks from bottle. Next thing I know, it was day. First time I have blackout, but not last. My aunt had sharp words for me about drinking. I not listen to old woman.

I hear about Pearl Harbor and join Canadian Army, December 13, 1941. Could not run away from problem. Soon found wet canteens serve drinks to Indians in uniform. Went overseas on beer. Soon change to hard stuff. Then many blackouts for next two years. God must watch over me. Got into no trouble. Came home just before D Day. Met father (Tall Man) at fork in road -- one way to reservation, other way to State of Maine. We went to booze joint in Maine. Remember only first two drinks. Then I black out and get home four days later. Now I slide down mountain fast. Take many pledges but break them.

I get arrested on VE Day, again on VJ Day. Judge say I go to jail next time. So I change counties in Maine. When counties run out, I move to Connecticut. Climb on water wagon for few months. Build houses for some cops -- ha-ha. Soon I drink beer. Then hard stuff. Then I find jails in Connecticut, too. Cops say for me to call them, they get me out. I think they sorry they tell me this. Next two years, I call them many times. Last time in jail, I have two black eyes. Cops now sick of me, so they buy me one-way ticket to Canada. Pack my clothes and put me on train.

My brother and me find work on turnpike in Maine. I stay on wagon for while, but miserable. Then drink again, but more miserable. I want to stop this bad life, but where to turn? Last time I drink, I go to room. Think about kill myself. Then went on bridge to jump. By grace of God I stop, think two things: This would kill good father and mother; then remember boys talk about Indian fellow who been sober three years. I hear about AA, but think it religion. I have a religion. But now I change if it bring good life.

I find Indian fellow. We talk long time. Tell him I want to get away from bottle and misery. How he do it? He say he take me to AA meeting. I go with him to first meeting, in small town in Maine. My sponsor say men who talk speak truth. Then I know we walk same trail. This was July 15, 1954. Have not take drink since.

I hear men say, "One day not drink. Not try no drinks for Lent or for life. Just one day." This sound easy, so will try. They say call friend before I buy drink. Tank and meetings make me feel good. So I jump quick from First Step to Twelfth Step to help my brother, living with me. Two weeks later, he come to AA meeting. Came to believe. Have not drink since. We both happy. After six months, we move to Bridgeport Conn. Find same AA, same Spirit. Year later, I go to Canada to carry message to Tall Man, but he not listen to son. He old, sick, want to be alone with bottle.

Miracles happen all time in AA. Two years later, brother take Tall Man to first AA meeting, September 1957. Tall Man was blind, but soon he see. He stay sober. Start group on reservation, and carry message, help start other groups all over Maritimes and New England. He was old, but now he grow young with new life in AA, and travel all time. When he speak from heart, big men cry. Words of truth and love are strong medicine. Tall Man die September 1970, a sober, peaceful, happy man. Maine newsletter (Boomerang) say : "With tireless devotion and humility, this venerable Indian gentleman traveled thousands of miles humbly pleading for sobriety. He planted many seeds, and it will be many moons before another rises to walk in his shoes." Tall Man now see Great Spirit in Big Group in sky. *

To find work, I have travel much. At every place, I find AA group first. I keep it simple, go to many meetings, carry message to those who listen. To me, program is spiritual. I feel Great Spirit at all meetings and when talk to AA friends. I know peace. "How?" they ask me.

I say, "Just let it happen." This sober Indian say to sick, red-eyed alcoholic who want good medicine: "Put cook in bottle. No drunk hopeless if he want to follow sober guide along right trail. Go to AA meetings. Listen, not just hear noise. Call friend in AA when bad thoughts come. Let group spirit of love and understanding protect you. Take my hand. Walk with me up Twelve Steps of AA to peace."

To Indians, I say: "Don't be afraid to join AA. I once hear people say only Indians crazy when drunk. If so, AA full of Indians. Join the tribe!"

Maynard B, Fairfield, Conn.

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* the story of Tall Man was told in the November 1962 Grapevine.

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., February 1976

In practicing our Traditions, The AA Grapevine, Inc. has neither endorsed nor are they affiliated with Silkworth.net.
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