bye bye Native American pie
Although Hollywood would have you believe that the “pie in the face” gag began in the 1909 film Mr. Flip and from there escalated into the enormous pie fights witnessed in such gems as the 1927 Laurel and Hardy film The Battle of the Century (which used 3,000 pies) and the 1965 comedy The Great Race (4,000 pies thrown) the truth is much stranger.
Turns out that pieing dates back to the Plains Indians of North America. There was a tribe of Sioux that shunned edged weapons and turned instead to pie throwing. Early settlers reported that a Sioux pie thrower could unseat a rider from 20 feet away. Not exactly with ‘deadly’ accuracy, but definitely uncanny. Despite the fact that even their greatest hunters found it impossible to kill a bison with pies, they tried none the less and the other tribes respected and feared them for their tenacity. Whenever another tribe would complain about the sticky filling and crumbs ruining the pelt of a bison the Sioux women would stay up many nights in a row baking, the scent of meringue would waft over the plains and then the retribution would come fast and gooey. The other tribes learned the hard way to keep their comments to themselves, lest they be on the receiving end of a Sioux pieing.
The plains pie throwers initially had no quarrel with the white men who arrived and in fact were grateful for the wonderful new custard recipes they were given but eventually, like all of the indigenous people of North America, conflict and death awaited them. As more and more settlers made their way west the U.S. military was given orders to squeeze the Sioux out of their native lands, something that the Corporal in charge of the endeavor said would be “easy as pie.”
Words that would come back to haunt him. Not because it was difficult to defeat the Indians mind you but because of his unfortunate use of the word pie. Perhaps he should have gone with “piece of cake,” instead.
The Sioux leader at the time, Chief Squirting Flower, was a brilliant tactician and led his band of piers to many moral victories before they were all shot dead with guns. His use of the newly acquired banana cream technology was particularly humiliating to the numerous soldiers that were on the receiving end. What started as small skirmishes to settle small disputes, ended in full blown pie fights that claimed hundreds of victims and dozens of casualties (all Sioux, of course) to say nothing of the countless stains that were very difficult to remove given the stain-removing products of the time. Eventually the pie throwers had to collect their pans and set up shop elsewhere. A decade later they disappeared into baking lore forever.
Truly, one of the more tragic and lesser known stories of the birth of this great nation.
Don’t let Hollywood and their piespiracy fool you. It’s no coincidence that what started as a bit by Ben Turpin has now turned into a political statement. The next time you see some influential figure receive a pie in the kisser, listen close and I bet you can hear the soft battle cry of a Sioux pier.
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and Rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die