Old Pointing Iron’s Renewal


The summer wind rustled the long grass as it gusted across the vast, rolling plains of northern Montana, whistling by the gray, unpainted, weather-worn boards of the small house. The house sat almost alone out there in that great expanse of land with the mighty Missouri River gliding by in the middle of its journey to its rendezvous with the Mississippi River. Occasionally one of the loose boards on the house would rattle a bit as a particularly strong gust would hit it, and the flapping could be heard inside.

It was Sunday, but except for a few rather puny creations of man, the great, sweeping plains and grass looked much as they had for many hundreds of Sundays, and other days of the week as well. There was a certain feeling of changelessness to this immense land.

Inside the lone, sparsely furnished house, propped up on the old chipped and rusted hospital bed to which he was confined, was old Pointing Iron, once a great warrior of the proud and magnificent Sioux nation. Now he was confined by age and frailty to this small, one-room wooden shack.

His eyes wandered around the walls of the room, not noticing the pasteboard that served not only as a covering for the walls but as the wallpaper as well. It was the same in most of the Indian homes on the reservation. Instead, he would let his gaze roam around the walls, stopping to gaze upon some old, faded picture or memento out of his past, and memories of long ago events would flood back into his alert mind. Pointing Iron didn’t know how old he was, nor did anyone else who knew him, but his memory went back to many of the happy times of his people. He had seen many snows in his lifetime.

Brother Pointing Iron hadn’t forgotten what day it was, and he looked forward with anticipation to the time when the sun would approach midday. As midday drew near, he reached out his once powerful arms and attempted to straighten the blanket and the worn quilt that covered his weakened body. Then his gnarled hands went up to the two straight braids of beautiful gray hair that hung well below his shoulders. It was important that they fall neatly in place and that his head be held proud and erect, however hard it might be to hold it there.

He waited now for what he knew was to come. Shortly there was a sharp knocking, and as the door creaked open, two young men in dark suits entered, glad to be sheltered from the wind.

Brother Pointing Iron anxiously reached out his hand and warmly shook the hands of the two missionaries who had come on a special errand to his humble home. Not many words were exchanged, as Pointing Iron could speak very little English and the elders knew almost nothing of the Sioux tongue, but there was a communion of the spirit that all of them felt.

The elders did, however, have a hymn book in the Sioux language, so while one of them selected some music, the other moved an old, rough, wooden chair, held together mostly by wire, into the center of the room. He then very carefully unfolded two clean, freshly pressed handkerchiefs and laid them on the seat of the chair. A small, clean plate was produced and placed on the handkerchiefs. On the plate he put a small morsel of bread and beside it a small glass of clear well water. Now all was in readiness for the meeting to begin.

The elder had opened the hymn book to page 25, and the three of them sang, as best they could, “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” after which one of the missionaries offered the invocation. Then the senior companion knelt and repeated the blessing on the bread. As the plate was handed to Brother Pointing Iron, his trembling hand reached out and picked up the small piece of bread, which represented to him the sacrificed body of his beloved Savior, and the tears flowed slowly down his wrinkled, weather-beaten cheeks.

After the water had been blessed and given to Pointing Iron, the elders once again opened the hymn book, and they all joined in singing, “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling.” Then the junior companion offered the benediction. The chair was cleared off and put back in its place by the wall, and the meeting was over. Once again Pointing Iron’s covenants had been renewed. The elders lingered, reluctant to leave that special spirit they felt so strongly in that old wooden shack on the Montana plains.

Finally they shook the hand of their loved brother and said their good-byes. They stepped once again out into the brisk prairie wind, but somehow the wind didn’t seem to be so much of a bother to them anymore.

This was a cherished weekly Sabbath day assignment and they gladly carried it out until the brave old warrior, Pointing Iron, left this mortal life and was placed to rest in the great old Indian cemetery at Chicken Hill.