March 20. On that morning I woke up, walked outside my chickee hut, sat down in a rocking chair on my porch and greeted the day. I thought my mind was playing with me when I looked out in my yard: There were hundreds of butterflies flying all over the place.
They were everywhere, even flying over my chickee hut. I thought this must be a special blessing for me – butterflies flying around on my birthday.
Then I realized that they were coming from the orange grove beside my chickee. The orange trees were in bloom and the familiar smell of orange blossoms filled the air. I suppose the butterflies were attracted to the flowers, but, yet for a brief moment, I thought the butterflies were there for me. LOL.
I have turned 72 years old. When I thought about that, I knew there were only 28 years until I hit 100 years old. If everything goes well, if there are no more strokes, no more gall bladder surgeries, no more back surgeries, I may be able to make it.
I started my birthday with a good ole friend of mine I met in 1965. His name is Johnny Walker. Took a sip and then I washed it down with another friend of mine, Muscadine wine. Not Muscatel!
Later that day, during the evening, my family lit a cigarette lighter and sang the birthday song, with my dogs howling in the background. It was one of the funniest moments of my life. But I enjoyed it.
I know there are a few other people born on the same day I was and I would like to say, “Happy Belated Birthday” to you all. With all the physical problems I’ve gone through, I am limited to what I can do. No more wrestling alligators, no more flying helicopters and airplanes, no more walking the swamps like I used to. But the Seminole Tribe and life itself has treated me well.
For that, I thank you. And I hope you enjoy your birthday.
James E. Billie is Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.