The Ultimate Powwow Pony

By Ruth Swaney on September 19, 2013
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Remember the movie “Powwow Highway?”  My favorite part was the beginning when Philbert got his new pony.  We can all relate to those ponies because we grew up with them and they are still chugging around today, all rust and mismatched tires.

I’m a car enthusiast.  That’s a polite way of saying that I really, really, really like cars.  My late dad said I’d inherited my mother’s side of “car crazy”.  My grandparents and my uncles bought new cars every year because, as my dad jokingly remarked, the ashtrays had gotten full.  If it was 200 or 300 years ago, I’d probably always be on the hunt for a better pony and hopefully, my spouse would be an excellent horse capturer/trader.

Naturally I would have the most elaborate saddle and trappings, tastefully matched.

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when seat belts were optional and the most efficient way of traveling was to cram as many people and objects as possible into one vehicle, especially for powwow traveling.  I recall many trips in my late friends’ GMC Suburban where my spot was usually wedged with three or four others in the second row seat.  The pull-behind camp trailer held all the luggage and dance regalia.  It was pretty heavenly to a 16-year-old since I wasn’t old enough to drive and I could sleep or daydream for the entire trip.  And fortunately for us, the late Doug Allard tolerated our music and one trip to the annual Rocky Boy Powwow was filled with “The Best of Rod Stewart” on the cassette player.

In the 1970’s the ultimate powwow pony was the conversion van by either Ford or Chevy, and the occasional Dodge.  If loaded right, it could hold at least six people and all the other necessary gear.  Some of the fancier models might sport a 13-inch color TV or multi-speaker stereo for the

8-track player.   The 10 miles per gallon was no problem with gas at 50 cents a gallon.  It was a dream of mine to someday own a conversion van for my powwow travels.

In 1979 in my senior year of high school I got to buy my first brand new pony:  a 1979 Subaru 2-door coupe.  It was a far cry from my dream car—a Chevy Z-28 or Pontiac Transam—but the soaring price of gas at 80 cents a gallon convinced me to get into something that would be easy on gas for all the traveling I expected to do.  With its 5-speed manual transmission and barely room for four, the Subaru managed an impressive 40 mpg on the highway.  In the first three years it traveled 120,000 miles–including Wapato, Washington; Morley, Alberta; and dozens of trips to Crow Agency– without breakdown with only tire replacements and oil changes.  A Subaru is a very pricey ride today, but well worth the money.  I’d recommend the Subaru Forester for a small family and the more elaborate Subaru Tribeca if you need the extra room.

By the 1980’s the van was giving way to the minivan and the SUV.  The SUV appealed to the younger, more sport-minded set who didn’t want to give in to the boring minivan.  I had a 1995 Isuzu Rodeo, then a 1996 Mercury Villager van and then a 1998 Toyota Sienna van.  While the Rodeo could go anywhere, the vans were more comfortable, had much better gas mileage, more cargo room, and were cheaper to insure.  The Sienna’s longest haul was to the Mother’s Day Weekend Powwow at Stanford University with five passengers and packed to the limit.  If I were to buy a new powwow pony today, the Toyota Sienna would be my first choice.

Along with the SUV’s came the extended cab small trucks which were a compromise for those who didn’t need or want a full-size pickup.  These were made more versatile by the addition of canopies for holding all the necessities.  My 1991 Toyota extended cab with topper brought me to many a powwow including two trips to the Gathering of Nations, but I’m still in awe how my two young daughters managed to ride in the jump seats all the way from Montana to New Mexico without too much complaint.  They’re growing up necessitated a return to a regular car and after the Rodeo, the Villager and the Sienna, I got back into passenger vehicles.

By 2005, gas prices were sky high due to Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf War.  I’ve been driving small sedans ever since.  I drove a 2003 Honda Accord 2-door, a 2007 Honda Accord 4-door, a 2010 Toyota Corolla, and now a 2011 Toyota Camry.  I’ve always loved my Hondas, but my personal top pick is the Camry by a small margin.

My 2011 Camry was broke in on a 1200-mile round trip to Kamloops, BC, in July 2011.  It averaged 33 mpg, drove like a dream, and its massive trunk handled all the gear I could possibly need.  It’s logged miles to Washington, Idaho, all over Montana, South Dakota, and British Columbia and recently trekked 2400 miles round trip to Whiteriver, Arizona, during Labor Day weekend for a thrifty $275 in gas.  At 55,000 miles I’ve only had a low tire repaired (one of the original tires, recently replaced) and regular oil changes.  It has handled up to three powwow dancers (2 women and 1 man, who packs enough for 3 women I swear) and all their gear with comfort and style.  It’s also great for hauling four grandkids, all of whom are in booster seats.

If I ever won the lottery or some big casino jackpot like a million or so, the most ultimate powwow pony I could buy would be a Class A motor home.  I was watching Celebrity Motor Homes on CMT and I swear those RV’s are nicer—and maybe bigger—than some people’s homes.  Marble floors, granite counter tops, multiple flat screen TV’s, king-size beds, you name it.  One RV had dual slides and when opened up, could hold the entire Young Spirit drum group, backup singers, and the usual assortment of recorders and spectators.  Yeah, that RV could host the whole darn 49, that’s how big it was.

Happy motoring to your next powwow, may your pony always carry you safely, please remember to buckle up, never text and drive, and never drink and drive.


TOPICS: Blog, Featured, Pow Wow, Pow Wow Mom's

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One Response to “The Ultimate Powwow Pony”

  1. Drew Waepew-Awaehsaeh says:

    GREAT Story Ruth!!! I enjoyed reading that very much and Definitely agreed with the majority of it’s content!!! Packing for a Powwow,DEFINITELY takes “planning” any way ya look at it,and one ALWAYS TRIES to stick in as MUCH things as possible,without sacrificing ride-comfort!!! Nice Story!!!

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