Poor Ol’ Wooden Head

“Kaw-Liga”
KAW-LIGA, was a wooden Indian standing by the door
He fell in love with an Indian maid over in the antique store
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

He always wore his Sunday feathers and held a tomahawk
The maiden wore her beads and braids and hoped someday he’d talk
KAW-LIGA – A, too stubborn to ever show a sign
Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

[Chorus:]
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he never got a kiss
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he don’t know what he missed
Is it any wonder that his face is red
KAW-LIGA, that poor ol’ wooden head.

KAW-LIGA, was a lonely Indian never went nowhere
His heart was set on the Indian maiden with the coal black hair
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

Then one day a wealthy customer bought the Indian maid
And took her, oh, so far away, but ol’ KAW-LIGA stayed
KAW-LIGA – A, just stands there as lonely as can be
And wishes he was still an old pine tree.

“The Complete Hank Williams” (1998)

Magicman 3

The quirky movie I reviewed, Moonrise Kingdom, reconnected me with a song I loved as a child.  It was on an old 45 record that belonged to my mother’s best friend from high school.  When the Retleffs sold their farm and tore down their house and barn, they had a huge estate sale.  My mother bought the old record player and all the collected records that Aunt Jenny still had.  They were the same ones my mother and her friend Edna had listened to over and over.  There were two records of singles about Indian love.  Running Bear was about an Indian boy who fell in love with little White Dove.  They lived on opposite sides of a river.  Overcome with love, they both jump into the river, swim to the middle, lock lips, and both drown.  Together forever.  That song, it turns out, was written by the Big Bopper, and given to Johnny Preston to sing, and released the year after the Big Bopper died in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.

Kaw-liga, by Hank Williams, was a wooden Indian sitting in front of a cigar store.  His love story is even worse.  As you can see from the lyrics above, he never even gets the girl.  Dang, Indian love must be heck!

But I have come to realize that these aren’t merely racist songs from a bygone era.  They hold withing them a plea for something essential.  They are a reminder that we need love to be alive.

When I was young and deeply depressed… though also insufferably creative and unable to control the powers of my danged big brain, I knew that I wanted love.  There was one girl who went to school with me, lovely Alicia Stewart (I am not brave enough to use her real name), that filled my dreams.  We were classmates, and alphabetical seating charts routinely put us near each other.  She had a hypnotic sparkle in her eyes whenever she laughed at my jokes.  She was so sweet to me… sweet to everyone… that she probably caused my diabetes.  I longed to carry her books or hold her hand.  I cherished every time she spoke to me, and collected the memories like stamps in a stamp album.  But like the stupid cigar store Indian, I never spoke up for myself.  I never told her how I felt.  I was endlessly like Charlie Brown with the Little Red-Haired Girl.  Sometimes you have to screw up your courage and leap into the river, even if it means your undoing.  Because love is worth it.  Love is necessary.  And it comes to everybody in one way or another over time.  I look at pictures of her grandchildren posted on Facebook now, and wonder what might have been, if only… if only I had jumped in that stupid river.  I did find love.  And I probably would’ve drowned had I done it back then.  Life has a way of working things out eventually.  But there has to be some reason that in the 50’s, when I was born, they just kept singing about Indian love.

2 Comments

Filed under autobiography, finding love, humor, Paffooney

2 responses to “Poor Ol’ Wooden Head

  1. I love Running Bear. And, Hank Williams died too soon. One of my favorite movies is George Hamilton playing Hank. What a talent.

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