1244 Empty Chairs in the Middle of the Playing Field

By Jim Northrup
News From Indian Country June 2010

There are two Wisconsin events to write about this time. The first happened in Stevens Point, that gives me a chance to ask again who the heck is Stevens and why does he or she get a Point. How can I get a Point?

Andy Gokee, a teacher at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point invited my wife Pat and I down there to talk about birch bark baskets. We also wanted to attend the pow wow. We ate, talked and were a part of the pow wow. It is always a pleasure to spend time with Andy Gokee. We make each other laugh and laugh.


The second event was a monster. I was invited to recite poetry for the state-wide tribute to Vietnam veterans. The event was such a monster they held it in Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The event was called LZ Lambeau. It was an overdue honoring for the veteran’s service, dedication and sacrifices.

We motored to Green Bay in my wife’s mid-sized Buick. It was a bit crowded for us. It was my wife Pat, her sister Cynthia, my son Aaron, his fiance Tanysia, and our friend Ivy. She was the Official Jim Northrup photographer on this gig.

We found our hotel, set up camp and found Lambeau Field. We saw many bumper stickers, one said All Gave Some, Some Gave All, another said Dysfunctional Veteran, my medication protects you. A lot just said Vietnam Veteran.

I walked around there feeling like someone had my back covered.

Lambeau Field had 1244 empty chairs in the middle of the playing field. They represented the Wisconsin people that died in the Vietanm War. I am glad I took pictures of the things I was seeing.

The production crew treated us like we were honored guests. They had golf carts so they drove us wherever we wanted to go.

On Friday afternoon, May 21st we rehearsed the program. My voice sounded good with those killer microphones.

Ben E. King sang his Stand By Me song. Chris Noel handled the MC duties. I had never met Chris Noel but did know she was a DJ on Armed Forces Vietnam Network, I never heard her but I am sure the sound of her voice entertained the troops. Kimo Williams sang a Jimmy Hendrix song, and stroked his guitar.

We rehearsed again on Friday evening. On Saturday, May 22nd we were ushered to the green room, it was stocked with water, coffee, some snacks. We crackered and cheesed. Also groped the grapes.

When it was my turn to talk I wasn’t nervous because I knew I was going to introduce myself in Ojibwemowin. I carried an eagle feather.

I told the assembled veterans why I wrote the poems, I said it was my brain taking a moo.

The first poem was kind of somber. It was about my dead brother who died in the war but didn’t fall over for 15 tortured years. I then recited Shrinking Away. That one moved the crowd, I could hear them laughing at the end of each line, had to wait until they finished laughing before I could say the next line. I closed with a poem for the Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. That poem is called Wannabee.

I knew I reached the audience. We connected. I felt so good about that I had to pump my feather in the air a few times as I was walking off stage.
My smile could only be removed by a Drill Instructor.

When everyone was done doing what they do we all gathered on stage to sing that song by the Animals, We Got To Get Out Of This Place. I sang along and grooved on the music of the song, the singing. I was on the verge of dancing even. My wife Patricia and Patty Loew later told me I got a standing ovation. I didn’t see it but I believe those two women. 40,000 people in a standing O. Wow. I felt honored.

When I went backstage I began to wait for my golf cart. Governor Doyal, his wife and his State Troopers had first dibs on the golf carts.

While I was waiting I noticed the veterans were streaming by on their way out of the stadium. Flash cameras were going off and I noticed a lot of people looking at me.

I walked towards them and they began reaching to shake my hand Some told me how powerful my words were, I shook more than 100 veteran’s hands, hugged more than 25 women.
One our trip home we stopped for gas in Wausau. A family of four approached and told me how much they enjoyed my words.

My wife told me to turn off my charisma machine.

Mii sa iw


The views expressed in this column belong to the writer alone. They are not meant to represent this newspaper, my Reservation, Cheeseheads or anyone else. Comments and bingo packs can be sent to FdL Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, MN 55780 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. web page: nativewiki.org/jim_northrup