hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 31 18:54:36 MST 2004
Our good little BWB list has awakened from its usual leisurely
semi-slumber -- galvanized and spurred by Liquor Talk. If this is where the
Revolution is headed, well, we'd better run, catch up with it -- incorporate
it. Socialized Stills. I should add that all of this talk makes me, a
teetotaler for decades, feel uncommonly Puritanical. I'm not that, and I
wasn't always Dry.
The conventional mail yesterday brought a card from an old, old friend, Joe
Janes, now living on the western Washington coast. As always, he promised
to call -- but, this time, aware of my own medical vicissitudes and the
fact that he is ten years my senior, I immediately called him and we had an
I recalled when I had first seen him. He arrived at Knob Hill, the Coconino
forest fire headquarters at Flag, having just assumed duty as a fire lookout
at East Pocket -- on the rim above Oak Creek Canyon. He was driving a
Willys Station Wagon with New York plates, smoking a pipe, cocky as hell. A
friend, standing with me, groaned, "Not another Wise Eastern Bastard." But
everyone immediately liked Joe, impressed with the fact that he was a
veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. More recently, he had been doing grad
work in Anthro at University of Arizona. He never returned to that and he
stayed with the Forest Service for years, eventually shifting to the Park
Service from which he formally retired. He and his wife left New Mexico for
Soon after we met, we had a heated argument about the Battle of
Ticonderoga [French and Indian War], during which he remarked
superciliously that "we whipped your Abenaki butts." But we quickly
became life long friends.
Anyway, yesterday, I told him quickly of my medical challenges. He,
occasionally a high church Episcopalian, was impressed by the fact that I
had, during my third hospital incarceration, received Last Rites/Anointing
of the Sick [viaticum]. He had heard of SLE and knew it was very bad news.
He told me quickly about his myriad of heart problems and a knee
replacement. We didn't, however, dwell on these gloomy travails.
We swapped stories -- old and many-times told.
We recalled, as we have for decades, the Bottle of Hennessy Brandy. During
some time off from Saving the Yellow Pine Forests from the Fire Menace, we
drove in his Willys down through then-tiny Sedona and into the Verde Valley.
Stopping at the Bridgeport saloon of retired labor organizer, Jimmy
MacGowan, we tanked up. I recall reminding Jimmy that I really was a number
of years short of 21 [the theoretical drinking age in Arizona but never
enforced in the hinterland]. I also warned him again -- as I had on
previous occasions -- that I am an Indian and, via Federal law [ finally
repealed in '54], could not legally drink. As he had on other occasions,
Jimmy [who knew my parents] grinned and remarked that I was a "big kid"
and "not on the warpath." "Besides," he went on, "I don't give a good
Goddamn for any state or Federal laws." I learned later that he had been a
Wobbly. As we left Jimmy's, we bought a big bottle of Hennessy Brandy.
We headed then to the Cornville area where my family owned about 15 acres
along lower Oak Creek and had a cabin. The road into that rural setting was
narrow with loose gravel. Suddenly, as we were passing Lindsay Loy's ranch,
the Willys skidded and tipped onto an embankment -- almost over. We made it
out, clumsily, I holding the unopened Hennessy. Joe took it and, in a fit
of contrition, threw the bottle into Mr Loy's irrigation ditch which
the road. This was immediately regretted by both of us but we could not
retrieve it. We did lift up the Willys.
For many decades thereafter [my brothers and I sold our land in 1990], I
never passed by that spot and its downstream without looking for the long
But it was gone, and gone forever -- down the Irrigation Ditch of No Return.
Before, soon thereafter, I went into the U.S. Army, Joe -- who had
introduced me to the Rubaiyat -- also taught me the old Army song, "Captain
Billy's Troopers." Here is a sampling of that flavor:
"We are Captain Billy's troopers
We are riders of the night
We are dirty ___of____ [spelled out, of course]
Who would rather ___ than fight" [again, spelled out.]
Etc. [even more risqué.]
In due course, after a full hitch, I got out of the Army. And, some months
later, Joe and I were at Claude Wright's hunting camp in the Mazatzal
Mountains in the Tonto Basin. That was a lively wild bunch -- which included
two of Claude's oldest friends, two Black men from the Phoenix area.
Claude, an Anglo, was originally from Arkansas. Any prejudices that he may
once have had [and I'm not certain he ever had any], had long since
in the decades he had spent in the equalizing Arizona wilderness settings.
Heading back to Flag -- about three hours away -- in Joe's pickup [the
Willys was long since gone],
we stopped at the historic saloon at the little town of Mayer. Its bar had
the distinction of coming overland to Mayer back in the Apache days via Cape
Horn and the California coast. And, after Mayer, we stopped at the old
metal mining town of Humbolt where we all, pickup and us, refueled.
Before long, we were climbing Mingus Mountain and then dropping down into
the new ghost town of Jerome, the historic and legendary copper camp
recently abandoned by Phelps Dodge. At that point, we got into a quarrel
over something too trivial to even remember. Jerome is literally built on
side of the mountain and the same road switchbacks all the way through town
and down the slopes to the older smelter town of Clarkdale at the upper end
of the Verde Valley.
Once slightly out of and below Jerome, I had to relieve myself and stepped
behind a mesquite tree.
And Joe, who has apologized profusely all through these decades, drove off
and left me stranded. Angrily, I ran and jumped down hill -- down across
the switchbacks -- trying to cut him off. No luck. He made his get-away
and, after falling into more mesquite and scratching my face colorfully, I
made it to a small gas station owned by a Chicano. He was friendly but he
did point out my tattered presence might "keep business away." In the end,
he took me back up to Jerome and deposited me in front of a
crumbling building whose handmade sign said, "Community Hall." Inside, I
sat down in a darkened and lonely room, with a sad, dustcovered wooden sign
in the corner: Jerome Miners Union.
A friendly looking man in Levis and a Stetson entered. Smiling, he informed
me that he was the "marshal of Jerome."
"I should probably put you in jail," he said, "for your own protection."
"That is, if we still had a jail," he added. "It slid across the street
just last year."
He called my father. While we waited for my [philosophical] Dad to
arrive -- about a two hour
jaunt -- the marshal, an old union man, learned that I was much interested
in labor history. He went out, returned with strong black coffee. We shot
the Labor breeze in a fascinating session. And the next day, back in Flag,
Joe showed up at our house. And, of course, everyone was friends again.
As Ever, Hunter Bear
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]
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