Monday, June 10, 2013

The Tale Of The Pizzle Stick

A pizzle stick is generally treated as a chewing implement for dogs.
The Tale Of The Pizzle Stick
By Dakota Wind
I have a story I’d like to share about the pizzle stick.

One time, back at the greatest park in North Dakota, an old supervisor paid a visit bearing a pizzle stick to put on display in the earth lodge. He told me, in an authorative voice that it was a pizzle stick to display along with the many reproductions within the “living” lodge, an earth lodge outfitted to look as though the Nu’Eta (Mandan) lived there and had only just stepped out.

“What’s a pizzle stick?” he asked, waving it around.

“It’s a horse whip,” I nonchalantly responded, looking down at the edge of Missouri River as though something vaguely interesting were there.

“Ah. A horse whip,” he said with great newfound respect and then laid it on a woven cattail mat next to the hearth.

In those days, interpreters (or tour guides) stood around in the abandoned village, greeted visitors, provided interpretive programming, and answer questions to the best of our ability. Working with the general public is something that I wish everyone could experience. Some days brought educated guests, other days were filled with the challenges that only the general public brings. Some visitors were of the live and let live philosophy. Some had read a book and became an overnight expert. Some wanted to see Indians.

It so happened one day that there came a-visiting, a rather gregarious and rowdy bunch of visitors. I was having a tough go of it trying to engage this group and maintain their interest. I suspected that they may have had ingested a few alcoholic libations with their belligerence, raucious laughter, bawdy jokes and repeated questions.

So how does one engage such a group? Like for like? I decided to press my luck when a woman asked about the pizzle stick. She even had the audacity to lean down and pluck it from its place among the reproductions. I saw her bold behavior and thought to meet her coterie’s inebriated wit with pluck.

“I say, what kind of stick is this?” she inquired, completely uninterested in pottery, beadwork, quillwork or the painted elk hide.

I leaned forward a little, lowered my head, and lowered my voice a smidge and said in a conspiratorial tone, and amazingly, they all quieted, “That, is a pizzle stick.” Then I waited for any sign of recognition from her and her party. When none came, a naughty notion struck me, “The ‘Indians’,’” I used the term “Indians” liberally in a grand show of undetected sarcasm, “used the pizzle stick for luck. Like a rabbit’s foot.”

At this point, if you reader, don’t know what a pizzle stick it, you may want to run a quick internet search about it.

“And like the rabbit’s foot, they would stroke it several times for good luck,” and a few of the women pawed at it, giggling as they stoked it and exchanged sexual overtones with one another. I continued in overwhelming confidence, “The women would rub it on their faces.”

I struggled to keep a straight face at how close the women were in their exchange of sexual gesticulations with the pizzle stick. I shook my head at their minstration of the stick, and they laughed, thinking they were embarrassing me. However, just as one woman was about to caress the stick with her cheek I had to speak, feigning newly remembered knowledge, “I do apologize, but it is in fact a horse whip. And [dramatic pause] It’s made from a buffalo penis.” 

Really, some men did in fact use it for a horse whip.