In the most recent issue of Zoetrope: All-Story, John Hughes, the screenwriter for the Chevy Chase movie “Vacation,” publishes the short story “Vacation ’58,” from which the movie eventually derived. It is one of the funnier short stories I’ve ever read, and it includes a set piece in Indian Country that was radically altered in the film. The entire text can be read here.
The set piece in the film is the scene that takes place in St. Louis, where the Griswold family gets lost in an inner-city area, and where the urban inhabitants (primarily Black) strip the Griswold’s car of valuable parts right under their noses. It’s not the most racially enlightened parts of the movie, nor one of the funnier.
But the version in the short story takes place at the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation. It’s even less racially sensitive, with repeated notes that the Indians there are drunk or drinking. But with a little amendment to exclude the racist descriptions, it could be pretty funny.
Consider this one-liner:
As we passed a driveway, a truck pulled out and followed us. Every driveway had a pick-up truck and every pickup truck pulled out and followed us. The lead truck pulled out and passed us. He slowed to a crawl as the other trucks came alongside.
“Lock your doors!” Mom ordered.
Dad honked the horn and waved for the Indians to let us pass. They responded with a shower of beer cans and liquor bottles.
“Indian attack!” I shouted.
“But they’re Yuma Indians. The guidebook says that they are primarily agrarian people with no tradition of warfare!” Mom said.
It devolves from there, but it has potential.