I like pineapple. Pineapple is delicious but I have never craved it. It was never a staple on my shopping list. This is a story about pineapple and how I learned to love that spikey fruit.
I got a call from my friend Nancy asking if I would go up to Wanblee South Dakota for Sundance. I said sure, I had planned to dance a 5th year but went to college instead. Now that I had graduated I no longer had summer classes and I still had all my gear ready for dancing. Sundance is a ceremony where we dance without food or water for 4 days. It is a hard thing to do. So the day before the dance Nancy and I leave for Selo Black Crow’s property on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Unfortunately Jonette could not get time off to join us. It will be the first and only time I have danced without her in camp to support me. Jonette would stay home, about 300 miles away from the dance.
We arrived too late for me to dance the next morning so I said I would dance for 3 days. I had completed my 4 year commitment so I now had “options”. The first day I would dance under the brush arbors to support the other dancers who were in for the full 4 days. The first day started and I noticed that one of the dancers near the front was dancing with a real bouncy step. I watched him bounce around the arbor during the first of many hot, dusty, and thirsty rounds. The person on my right had never been to a Sundance before and I gestured towards the young man and said. “That fellow will not be so bouncy in a couple days.” Nancy who had supported at Selo’s dance for many years spoke up, “Oh that is Tigger!” I guessed at that point he would be just as bouncy on day 4 as he was on day 1.
That night I went into the arbor with the other dancers. I would not be allowed out for 3 days. There would be no food and no water for me. There were only 10 dancers. It was the smallest group of dancers I had ever been with. Most of the time there would be about 50, and one year I danced with around 200. Just a note 200 dancers is way too many. I got to know my fellow dancers. They were a good crew and Tigger, everybody called him Tigger, was a source of joy and happiness all through the dance.
I have danced for 8 years; every single dance has a unique food obsession, buffalo burgers, watermelon, pizza, bacon etc. I am not sure why we torture ourselves so but we do. Tigger provided the sundancer’s source of frustration and longing by mentioning the pineapple milkshakes that are served nearby at a truck stop in Kadoka. All the dancers obsessed over pineapple milkshakes for the remainder of the dance.
The final day of the dance dawned clear. By midday we were told that the temperature was 105 degrees. The ground was cooking our feet, even though I had moccasins, remember those options I mentioned earlier in this post. Yea wearing moccasins is one of those options. The other dancers who were still completing their first 4 year commitments were not so lucky. The dancer shade was covered by a dark brown tarp that radiated heat like an oven. All 10 of us found a couple square feet of shade and piled on top of one another in an effort to cool off. When the dance was finally over and we were set free to go to our families for food and drink, I went up to Tigger and asked if he wanted a ride up to Kadoka for a pineapple milkshake. He then told me no and that he was lactose intolerant. I was mildly annoyed. Ok fine, I will go to Kadoka myself and get me a pineapple milkshake, to hell with Tigger.
I had spent 3 days in the heat and dust, and I looked and smelled like walking death. Nancy and I entered the truck stop and sat down at a booth. The waitress wandered over and I ordered two pitchers of water, a buffalo burger with fries and a pineapple milkshake. The waitress informed me that they stopped selling pineapple milkshakes 3 months ago and they only have vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I settle for a chocolate milkshake. On any other day I would be happy with chocolate, it is my favorite but not that day. I had spent 3 days burned by the sun, choking on dust and drinking… well nothing at all while listening to Tigger go on and on about pineapple milkshakes
On the trip back we stopped in every other one horse town along the road. This is the Midwest and every town has a Tasty Freeze or other soft serve ice cream and kibble joint. But no luck, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, sometimes cherry but no pineapple milkshakes were to be had. My hunger deepened, by the time we hit the Colorado state line I was nearly in a frenzy of unquenched desire, but home was near.
I arrived home and walked into the kitchen with Nancy. I looked on the center island and big as life there is a fresh pineapple. All my gear sliped from my hands and crashed to the floor. “wah wah wah wah where did you get that?” I stammered. Nancy is in the middle of a laughing fit at this point. “Get what?” Jonette replies. “The pineapple, where did it come from?” I asked. Jonette said that she was walking through the grocery store a couple days previous and suddenly thought they looked really good and put on in the cart. Nancy told Jonette that she had better cut it up for me before I lost my mind.
Between succulent bites of pineapple I explained the whole failed pineapple milkshake quest.
It is very common for supporters at a dance to have sudden cravings that can be sourced back to a dancer. Just recently I was supporting a dance in southern Colorado, I was in a grocery store when an overwhelming need to eat a Twinkie entered my head. I hate Twinkies and will not eat them of my own accord. The grocery store only had boxes of them so I found a 7-11 and bolted down a set. After the dance all the dancers were gathered together and I walked up, “who wanted the damn Twinkies?” I shouted. One of the dancers we call Buff raised his hand and meekly said “me”. Jonette will also crave my favorite foods when I am dancing. I never ever figured that the connection would still hold over 300 miles.
Pineapple is now a staple food in my house. We have a fresh pineapple at home right now.
I often wonder about Tigger, is he still dancing? I no longer hope that he is in hell.
Selo held only one more Sundance and passed away shortly after. We are losing too many of our elders.
To all dancers, good luck and pray hard.