Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Injun Summer

I found this sheet of newspaper clipped and saved from the October 20th, 1963 edition of The Chicago Tribune.  Written and illustrated by Pulitzer Prize winner John T. McCutcheon in 1907, it was reprinted annually starting in 1912 until 1992. The story is told by an old man to his grandson of his memories of when Native Americans roamed the very land on which they sit and how on a Fall evening they can still be seen through the hazy smoke of a burning leaf pile.  Full of folksy, old-timey dialect, it's also full of out-dated terms and notions that lead to complaints from the public and its eventual retirement in 1992.  Since then, there have been equal calls for it to be either returned or forgotten.  To me, despite the use of insensitive terms that quite frankly were still commonly used in my childhood (not to mention still used today by certain sports teams), I think the old man in this strip is sympathetic to the "injuns" and even laments their disappearance.

I've copied the text below to save your eyes.

Yep, sonny this is sure enough Injun summer. Don't know what that is, I reckon, do you? Well, that's when all the homesick Injuns come back to play; You know, a long time ago, long afore yer granddaddy was born even, there used to be heaps of Injuns around here—thousands—millions, I reckon, far as that's concerned. Reg'lar sure 'nough Injuns—none o' yer cigar store Injuns, not much. They wuz all around here—right here where you're standin'.
Don't be skeered—hain't none around here now, leastways no live ones. They been gone this many a year.
They all went away and died, so they ain't no more left.
But every year, 'long about now, they all come back, leastways their sperrits do. They're here now. You can see 'em off across the fields. Look real hard. See that kind o' hazy misty look out yonder? Well, them's Injuns—Injun sperrits marchin' along an' dancin' in the sunlight. That's what makes that kind o' haze that's everywhere—it's jest the sperrits of the Injuns all come back. They're all around us now.
See off yonder; see them tepees? They kind o' look like corn shocks from here, but them's Injun tents, sure as you're a foot high. See 'em now? Sure, I knowed you could. Smell that smoky sort o' smell in the air? That's the campfires a-burnin' and their pipes a-goin'.
Lots o' people say it's just leaves burnin', but it ain't. It's the campfires, an' th' Injuns are hoppin' 'round 'em t'beat the old Harry.
You jest come out here tonight when the moon is hangin' over the hill off yonder an' the harvest fields is all swimmin' in the moonlight, an' you can see the Injuns and the tepees jest as plain as kin be. You can, eh? I knowed you would after a little while.
Jever notice how the leaves turn red 'bout this time o' year? That's jest another sign o' redskins. That's when an old Injun sperrit gits tired dancin' an' goes up an' squats on a leaf t'rest. Why I kin hear 'em rustlin' an' whisper in' an' creepin' 'round among the leaves all the time; an' ever' once'n a while a leaf gives way under some fat old Injun ghost and comes floatin' down to the ground. See—here's one now. See how red it is? That's the war paint rubbed off'n an Injun ghost, sure's you're born.
Purty soon all the Injuns'll go marchin' away agin, back to the happy huntin' ground, but next year you'll see 'em troopin' back—th' sky jest hazy with 'em and their campfires smolderin' away jest like they are now. 
John T. McCutcheon photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune


  1. Sigh - love this piece. Takes me way back to the age of 9. I grew up in the Chicago area and we had the Tribune delivered. My mom cut it out of the paper and saved it. I think one of my sisters has it framed on her wall to this day. So politically incorrect but it still gives me goose bumps to read.

    1. Glad I triggered some pleasant memories and a few goose bumps, Lady M.


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