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Reflections about Redheads

I like Red Heads. That started out with my beloved and wonderful father, Jim McMakin who was one. Carrot-topped, very light skinned, easily scorched in the summer sun, sprinkled with little brown dots (freckles) and blue-eyed. He was a very likeable guy, and tough, cowboy as you could get. He liked to fist fight just for fun. Irish to the core is what they said about him.

As one of my old cowboy friends remarked “Those Red Heads can be a little dangerous.”

According to statistics, only half of one percent of the world’s population are red headed. The world probably could not stand much more than that.

Me, I am a half and half. Half Irish from him and half Indian from my Cheyenne mother, so I’m a little darker complected than he was. And, only half as dangerous.

When I started producing children, they came out a mottled mix. Most were slightly brown: Rusty, Lance, and Jeri.  But when Zak arrived the gene pool must have gone slightly wild. He was plumb white, red headed and blue-eyed, what you might call a “throw-back.”

Red Heads generally must go through hell. Get tough, be rough and never ever say, “That is enough.”

They learn to take a lot.

It is kind of funny, when a white buffalo calf accidentally shows up, the Natives get very excited, thinking that is a miracle.  Not so, for a white kid.

Thus, those poor throw-back white kids must make a choice. First: lay down, give up and get beat up on a regular basis. Second choice: stand up, get tough and rougher than rough. He chose the second option. They say that Crazy Horse was also a light skinned one.

Once when Zak was young, I overheard a conversation between him and an older browner brother who asked, “I wonder why I am Indian, and you are not.”

Zak retorted: “I am a Cheyenne. You just can’t tell from lookin’ at me.”

At the time, I was also caring for a red-headed Gros Ventre Indian cowboy.  He decided to dub Zak “Red on the Head, like a **** on a dog. (This is a family-oriented publication, so just use your imagination on what that word might have been.)

At that time, we were trying to get rich from rodeo. That did not work out at all. We once ventured to South Dakata, Sioux Country for such a show. Zak had just started his career as a ‘rough stock rider’ which involves sheep riding. Of all things they had a very large sheep riding contest there: 1st place was $100; second was $75 and third $50 bucks.  BIG money for a five-year old. 

They made a big deal out of that, the rodeo announcer even came down to the chutes to interview each sheep riding contestant, asking where they were from and their name.

I was sitting in the grandstands, because rough riders do not like to be embarrassed by a mother who hangs around the arena yelling things like “Go Baby! Go!” That is unacceptable,

When the announcer got shoved right into his nose. “Where are you from, son?”

“Lame Deer, Montana. Northern Cheyenne!”

“What is your name?”

“RED ON THE HEAD, LIKE A **** ON A DOG”, Zak yelled. “I am busy now.”

The crowd broke up.

A lady sitting next to me asked “Aren’t you from Lame Deer too?”

“Aye, No! I am from Canada,” I quickly lied.

Red Heads. No figuring them out.

He did not win first or second place, only third.  That was paid out in ones to make it look like more. He proudly showed that off to me, which prompted a little conversation.

“Do you know how you got here? Do you know who paid your entry fees? Do you know who paid for the three hamburgers you have already inhaled?’

‘Yes, Ma’am”, he acknowledged.

“Time to ante up,” I responded with an open palm.

“How much?”

“Whatever you think is fair.”

“Five bucks?”

“That will work.  Remember to pay your way as you go along in life.”

“I will,” he promised.

I am glad to report he did so.

There is a good Red Headed story for you. They tend to behave like that. Guess that is why I am fatally attracted to them.

(Contact Clara Caufield at a






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