I went to the university to see my classroom for the first time, visit with my boss in the law department and check on some important protocols, i.e., would a self educated Honky raised Indian in the Rocky Mountains, be thrown out of a university in Europe for basically being himself. A matter of personality.
As I entered the law department and traversed the halls to the department chair’s office, this new Professor Witch-Doctor garnered stunned looks of disbelief from the rather straight looking lawyer academic males and friendly laughs from the women, I wondered what that said about my new life in academia.
I have known my boss for years, relating to past human rights and international law work, as an investigator in Indian country, and in his office I have questions relevant to current affairs. This is in regards to my stand-up comedian nature and my new professorship; will I be able to make the point to my students the name of the law professor who composed the Bush administration memos authorizing torture had inspired a change in the spelling of the English language expression ‘Fuck Yoo’
Also, I established I do not own a tie and was not about to acquire one. I believe the tactful language I had used in negotiating this important parameter was “I don’t believe I could manage a tie.” I was duly assured casual clothes would be fine, after-all, I am Professor Witch-Doctor Ron, having never subjected myself to PhD imprisonment in any ivory tower.
In the Native world, life’s little surprises are ascribed to The Trickster, and when we encounter these events, we are supposed to pay attention because life is trying to tell us something. Such as the time I had been wandering about the Arizona desert, and picked up a Horned Toad for a pet to give to a child. I slipped the creature into my jacket pocket and it had already slipped my mind by the time the day warmed up and I tossed the jacket into the back of my car and forgot about it for a week.
Subsequently, I was driving down a desert road and my heart nearly blew its way out the top of my head when some flat, cold scaly alien about the size of a tea saucer suddenly was attached to the right side of my neck. With the missed photo opportunity of a lifetime, the look on my face I am sure, I grasped the horned toad and pulled it free of my neck and into my line of vision and started to laugh somewhat insanely.
I stopped, walked the creature back into the desert apologizing profusely and set it free. Life had just told me in a moment of unfounded terror, to leave Horned Toads alone. In the Native view, even such a small and harmless creature has real power.
These many years later, I’d gotten to be the Horned Toad.
On my way to university appointment, I spryly hopped onto an escalator at the train station, and was quickly sandwiched in by people front and back and noticed the little woman in a nun habit standing next to me. She was staring at the new Professor Witch-Doctor with an expression indicating if she could leap off a twenty story building to escape me, there would be no hesitation… my camoflage bandanna and shades can do that? I had forgot… I looked down at my t-shirt with a cameo portrait of the devil and the name “Mephisto”
I did not wink at her (Oh, the temptation was great) but merely wondered at people who are prisoners of fear… with my life dedicated to peace and non-violence (not to mention free expression)
In student emails to me after the course was completed; “you showed me there is more than one way to learn at university”, “I’d take your class again just for fun!” and my favorite “your class was so refreshing after all of the suited and stiffed up law professors.”
These students are the truly bright minds
I suppose when I have survived life’s present international intrigue and achieve fame, perhaps the university could consider awarding me a honorary witch-doctorate of satire in letters and law, and I will enjoy teaching again-
A true story based on my summer semester (2008) adjunct professorship at Johannes Gutenberg School of Law (Mainz, Germany)