Prettyfeather placed two buffalo-head nickels on the countertop for her Holy Saturday purchase: smoked ham hocks; two for a nickel. In the descending hierarchy of Holy Saturday foods, ham hocks were at the bottom.
Large hickory-smoked hams held center position in the displays in my father's butcher shop. Colorful cardboard cutouts provided by salesmen from the meat-packing companies of Armour, Hormel, and Silverbow all showed variations on a theme: a father at an Easter Sunday dinner table carving a ham, surrounded by an approving wife and scrubbed, expectant children.
Off to the side of these displays were stacks of the smaller and cheaper picnic hams (though a picnic ham is not, properly speaking, a ham at all, but the shoulder of the pig). There were no company-supplied pictures, nor even brand names on them. On Holy Saturday customers crowded into our store, responding to the sale signs painted on the plate-glass windows fronting Main Street and sorting themselves into upper and lower socio-economic strata: the affluent buying honey-cured, hickory-smoked hams, and the less-than-affluent buying unadjectived picnics.
Prettyfeather was the only person I ever remember buying ham hocks—gristly on the inside and leathery on the outside, but smoked and therefore emanating the aroma of a feast—on Holy Saturday. She was the only Indian I knew by name in the years of my childhood and youth, although I grew up in Indian country. Every Saturday she came into our store to make a small purchase: pickled pig's feet, chitlins, blood sausage, head cheese, pork liver.
She was always by herself. She wore moccasins and was wrapped in a blanket, even in the warmest weather. The coins she used for her purchases were in a leather pouch that hung ...