Longtime friend now with ancestors – Empty Nest, by Curt Swarm


Randy Tebo was my friend. He was an American Indian of the Ho-Chunk Tribe. Like many people, I’d never heard of Ho-Chunk. Patiently, Randy explained that Ho-Chunk were originally from Wisconsin. Like most tribes, they went through several relocations, first to South Dakota (which they hated), and then to Nebraska. They also became known as the Winnebagos, thus Winnebago, Nebraska. Randy preferred the name Ho-Chunk.


Randy Tebo A few years ago, I attended an authentic Pow Wow with Randy and his wife, Ingrid, at Winnebago, Nebraska, and was quite impressed. I learned that the outfits they wore were called “regalia,” not costumes, that I liked fry bread, and that I could leave my belongings (including camera) on the bleachers and no one would bother them. Indians are some of the most honest as well as friendly people you will ever meet.
Like me, Randy was an alcoholic in recovery. He had 29 years of sobriety, I had 28. On my sobriety birthday, Randy would pass along his sobriety medallion to me. I cherished Randy’s medallion because it was time tested and proven. It was like carrying a piece of Randy with me.
When Randy was diagnosed with cancer, the handwriting was on the wall. It was stage IV, in his lungs, bones and liver. But he was at peace. He was 73, had led a full life, and was not afraid of dying. He was going to be with his ancestors. His niece, Sharon, who was like a sister to him, had preceded him in death by six years, and would be there to lead Randy to his ancestors.
I feel so privileged that I was able to be alone with Randy in his final days. I asked him if he would like to confess. No, he’d taken care of all that. Would he like to have last rites? No, his people were there for him. He graciously let me hold his hand and pray for him.
There’s a legend in the Ho-Chunk Nation: four young warriors set out to find food for their tribe. They came to a place they had never seen before. A deer spoke to them and told them many things about “The Other World.” They were told that they were in “The Other World” because they had been without food for quite awhile and were dead. They were told that one day in The Spirit World is one year in Man’s World. They stayed in The Spirit World for four days. When they left, the first thing they saw was a huge buck. They slayed it. By the time they were done, they had four bucks to take back to their starving tribe. When they got to the tribe, there was an old lady. One of the warriors said, “Grandmother, come quickly, we have food so you won’t starve.” She stood up and looked at him and said, “You are my son.” He looked at her harder and said, “Oh, Mother, the spirits were right. One day in their world is one year in ours.”
For the next four years in Winnebago, Nebraska, there will be a memorial for Randy on or near the date of his death. Gifts will be given to tribal members who attend and they will celebrate Randy’s life. At the end of four years, Randy will be completely in the Spirit World with his parents, family and tribal friends.
Randy died sober, a longtime goal. There will be a memorial for Randy Tebo at Saunders Park in Mt. Pleasant, on Sunday, June 3, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook. Curt stories are also read on 106.3 FM in Farmington.

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