Last night I was asked what is the scariest thing that ever happened to me on the Navajo Reservation?
I paused for a long time and thought back through some pretty horrific things that happened to me during my 13 years on the Rez. The prelude to the Ceremony happened the first night I slept in Greasewood, Arizona. I was sleeping in the newly refurbished ranch house in an old bedroom. I had a dream of ancient people who were trapped as if buried alive. It was a woman and her two children and they were terrified trying to escape their dwelling. The fear was palpable and it was as if I were there with them. I woke in a cold sweat and never forgot those native people trapped eons ago below the house – dying.
Fast forward four years and our horses had suffered from witchcraft and were sick. Our good friend and medicine man made the trip to the house with his extended family and I helped dig two pits for two fires, one close to the house and one about 1/4 mile away. The ceremony consisted of some of the family members gathering to rid themselves of the evil of witchcraft and we all sat on the hardwood floor in a circle in our front room. A large metal tray was filled with hot coals from the fire so the medicine man could see into the netherworld and find the evil. We all gave our clans (origins) and talked briefly about the evil that was infecting us. I was quiet because I am non-native and sat respectfully listening.
Hours of prayers, chanting and cedar burned and the smell of fresh cedar washed over all and renewed us. I was pleased the ceremony was going well and love the songs and chants in Navajo. It makes one feel as if they have been transported back to the early days of ceremony and song. My good friend the medicine man asked me to go and tend the second fire with him. He had extracted the evil from the home, horses and relatives and would now burn it in the second fire. I stoked the fire to great height and and the pit roared with fire in the crisp starlit night. The medicine man’s father accompanied us and stood watch with me. I will confess, I was a bit proud to be chosen as the “watcher”. The medicine man told me to watch to the south of us and I diligently complied. He began to chant behind me and the fire roared. In a moment, I saw not 50 feet away as the souls of the dead trapped in the earth – rushed forth. Like wraiths writhing in the starlight I was rooted to the ground, frozen, horrified! The medicine man yelled and told me to turn around – he said lift your feet so I can put ash on them. I was so scared I jumped in the air both feet forward. The medicine man laughed and said one at a time – and he and his father chuckled. They knew what I had seen and knew that they could not bother me.
Skinwalkers came next and watched as he burned the evil and sent it back into the ground. He cast them away with Navajo words and
protected me from their harm. When I re-entered the house everyone looked at me in a strange manner and asked what I saw. I just sat down and waited till the ceremony was over. I had never seen souls released and I still only call them that for lack of a better description. Thousands of souls pouring from the ground – ground I have run cattle over many many times. It still in the cold light of this Montana fall day – scares me to the core of my being.
Wikipedia defines: A penal colony is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general populace by placing them in a remote location, often an island or distant colonial territory.
Felons today are throw away Americans! They did their time and some learned their lesson but like Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter they
might as well be tattooed with “FELON” across the forehead. They really have little hope of getting a job in mainstream society and most if not all return to crime. I do not blame them for returning to crime in fact I applaud it! Think about it – crime is big business. Big business on both sides of the table. The cops, courts, lawyers, and judges all feed off the tit of crime. The more crime the more secure they are in their jobs. The criminal oft times has a family to provide for and is a man or woman that has to support his family, addiction, or maybe even his dog.
I was talking with a neighbor the other day and she was joking about “all the felons head for the reservation”. (We have had two apprehended within the last few months.) I do not know if they think they can disappear or what? The Rez functions as a “Nation within a Nation” but bottom line the Federal authority is hardcore.
Which led my weary brain to Penal Colonies. In our age of enlightenment, where we so easily throw away anyone with a criminal record – why not a penal colony? There has to be someplace where we can send all the felons so that we can be rid of the pesky folks. Why not send them to a Penal Colony in say ? the Yukon and just let God sort em out?
Or maybe in this enlightened age that we live, we let them out after serving their time with clean records – ? Let them integrate back into society as functioning adults that work and live normal lives? In today’s internet search based world, why not a three strike policy without releasing their record? (Yes, I still believe that some crimes need to be recorded and those watched for a lifetime.) But I think the odds of recidivism will surprise many if only given a chance!
Talking to an attorney friend the other day – “after the arrest of any individual it is just damage control” guilty or not guilty – everyone after arrested is guilty in the eyes of the media.
Personally – I do not think anyone is “throw away”…
I am at the local IGA – Lodge Grass has one of the worst school systems in all of the United States and the “white owner” has signs everywhere stating “NO SHOPLIFFTING!” – two “FF’s” – I laughed so hard and took a pen and graded the sign in front of me! Dear store owner – poor spelling is not indicative of race, creed, or socioeconomic status…it just means ya don’t know how to use spell check!
Furthermore – what I love about this sign is that it does not target “some” shoplifters = it targets – ALL!
Kinda sounds like someone has been watching too much Dawg the Bounty Hunter – because who “CAPTURES” a shoplifter?
There are people that come into your life that profoundly impact you! Curns is the single most profound man ever to impact my life!
Curns just turned 70 years old this last month. He is an old fart! He is one of those guys you can call an old fart because he is about as secure a man as I have ever met. Plus if he wanted to kill you he just would. Curns is black and white, love or hate, just a clear thinking old history teacher with a penchant for the Indian Wars. He taught on the Sioux Rez and the Navajo Rez and was dearly loved on both! He has great sayings like “dig deep puppy on bottom” from his days eating with the Sioux and great stories from his childhood. Curns saved my life once…and grabbed a bucket for me to puke in after I drank too much Tequila. He nicknamed me “bucket boy” cause I was puking in the bucket! Curns knows my secrets and I know some of his! It is a friendship that few ever develop! Cigars and good whiskey!
Curns was in Vietnam. The bucket boy night – he told me stories I will never repeat. He explained things that I will never experience – like if a guy in his squad was a screw-up and might get them all killed – they shot him in the leg and sent him home. Of Course, this was told in detail – fascinating detail! He told me how he came home from Vietnam and was pretty strung out. He carried a big 357 mag everywhere he went – even to a barn dance where he was walking across the dance floor drew his 357 spun around and fired into the rafters. The music stopped, the dancing stopped, and a rat dropped from the rafters…not a Vietnamese soldier but ya get the point.
Curns served our country. He never told me about any medals or any awards – although I am sure there are a few! But he did remind me the other day of my favorite Curns story! I wish I could remember it better but it goes something like this –
This fat lady would walk a 1/2 mile to the post office everyday – down a path that cut past Curns childhood home on the prarie. She would waddle her way down the path with her big ole rolls rolling along. Curns and his buddy thought it would be fun to see if she could run! Curns hid in the tall grass one day and began to pepper her with his BB Gun. Well she took off running proving that a fat lady can run! But the best part of the story is classic old skool America – when Curns dad came home from work that night he walked in and took Curns’ BB gun and wrapped it around a tree!
Curns and I have shared many many stories – and a couple odd supernatural occurrences on the Rez. I owe him my life and wonder how many others do too – Curns is a man like they used to make men…and this is my way of saying thanks for standing up for me when my chips were down. I never forget that day!
I was eating out at my favorite restaurant in Sheridan, WY – The Rib and Chop Shop – (awesome food) with an NDN Family and as always I was the only white guy! I just never seem to see color – my bad!
I am following everyone out (they were all well behaved and I kept the firewater away from the table) I waited for a moment as a lady passed me and overheard the next table of diners say ” wow, you never see an NDN family dining out in a nice restaurant!” and ” they were so polite”! I almost choked on a rib bone laughing – yes, the kids say “please and thank you” and we all used our napkins and salad fork…that is the big fork right?
Then today back on the Rez – I stop at the local IGA Supermarket! I am shopping for Texas Toast and an elderly Crow lady comes up to me and asks ” Is that your Jeep outside?” (thinking I might have parked wrong) I said “yes, ma’am” – then she floored me (not with her fist) she said – “that is really really nice – I wish I had a Jeep like that to get to my hunting cabin!” without missing a beat I said ” I would love to take you anytime”. She is probably not much shy of 80 years old and still full of energy and a good eye for 4×4’s!
I have met so many people that are fascinated by Indians – I implore all of you that are – just talk to them! They are just as interested in white folk! and no they will not scalp you! Just please don’t say “My grandmother was a Cherokee Princess” at least substitute another tribe…
(this story contains bad language and racist intent – but is true)
One of my buddies was hauling Amish in his van to make a living and support his family – all good! He called me one evening and was sick and needed a substitute driver to haul two Amish guys over to the west side of Cleveland complete with their trailer full of gutter supplies. I figured cool a quick way to score $200 bucks! Ya drive em over – then you sit and read for eight hours – then you drive em home simple right? I mean they are Amish so they will be saint like and holy!
5am and I pick the first guy up at his home and pick up his trailer and hook it to my 1ton truck. He is about 6′ 4″ and stout – he jumps in and I notice the lack of deodorant and what has this guy been eating whole garlic – it is barely warming up! We pick up his midget brother who has no home or wife because of his being short…but he is cool and talkative (and does not smell as bad!).
Fast forward, sit read surf the net and write all day and wrap it up to head home. We are hauling a 10,000 pound trailer through heavy traffic with AC blasting to mask the smell of Farting Garlic Amish man in the middle lane of a three lane freeway when bam I am slamming on my brakes as a crazy black girl swerves in front of me – bam my truck is climbing her right bumper and smashing the life outa her mini-car all the while she is still gunning it trying to make her exit three lanes over! Bam she pins a Ford F150 to the guard rail and it is all over! We screech to a halt!
Now this is where the fun begins! A black lady in her mid forties switches seats with a girl that had been driving! Then the lady gets out of the car and starts screaming as only a black woman can scream – “you killed my babies” ” you MF- you killed my babies!” Her babies were fine strapped in car seats in the back! She starts beating on the passenger side window of my crew cab. The Amish guy gets out of the truck and towering over this black woman endures her rage for about a minute and then says – “You f$@#ing nigger you are nothing more than a subspecies of ape!” The conversation stopped! I told the Farting Garlic Amish man to get back in the truck and we rolled up the windows! (Yes, the truck was still running fine – it is a Ford!) I could not believe the guy dropped the “F” bomb and said nigger! Wow… Amish are really
different than I thought!
A cute redheaded Irish girl was our responding officer and she asked us to move down the highway about 1/2 mile so she could clear traffic! I move down the road and look in my rearview mirror and guess who is following us on foot! Yep, the black woman! Running after us screaming bloody murder! You racist MF! and on and on. Running after her was the little Irish cop – cute as a button she cuffed her and stuffed her!
I made it home later that evening after finding out the driver was 15 with two children, no driver license, and driving a Hertz Rental Car that was borrowed!
Yep my insurance picked up the tab and my insurance went up despite it not being my fault! I will say that I have since switched insurance because Nationwide was the F150 drivers insurance and they were hardcore on his side! My Progressive was not progressive at all – they needed to be aggressive!
Disclaimer: I in no way condone the use of profanity or calling someone a subspecies of ape! I also eat garlic so I understand the Farting Garlic Amish Man could not control his smell!
My first memories are life on the farm! Classic American upbringing complete with church on Sunday and a great theologian for a minister: Ted Smetters. I remember being baptized in April with his son my best friend Steve Smetters their was still ice on Kenney Pond that was forty years ago! My grandfather wrapped me in an old blanket after I was fully
immersed. Back in town at his house, I sat on the steps and listened as he played the mandolin with his impromptu band sounding like Country Gentleman mixed with polka. I sipped Faygo red pop and all was good with the world.
Life on the Davis Farm was great and I often search back through the catalog of my memory for highlights. Just this morning feeding West, my six month old colt, I remembered my first ride! I guess our family did not have much imagination or creativity when it came to names because we named my first horse Paint! Yes, it was a Paint! Original, I know!
We were sitting at the kitchen table and I was four years old, I remember asking my dad how to ride Paint. My dad laughed and said climb up on the fence with some sugar cubes and feed her then grab her mane and swing on and ride! He thought that was funny till the next afternoon. He was at Lubrizol working as an electrician and I was the horse whisperer and Clinton Anderson combined with sugar cubes! I remember grabbing her mane and swinging on her back. Paint was about five years old and definitely not broke. Paint took off across the field and it was like flying, well it was flying because she jumped the creek and I hung on to that horse’s mane for all I was worth.
No, I did not fall off! I slid to the ground “Indian style” just like all my TV heros. I heard my mother yelling and I knew I was gonna get whipped but it was worth it. I took the whipping and I was more careful where I jumped on Paint the next time – not in view of the farmhouse. My dad came home that evening and got a good tongue lashing from my mom. He was used to it just like I was used to whippings.
Now I have Tater Gun and West an appendix mare and a quarter horse. Combined with Mojo, my black lab, I have been blessed with animals. When I am waking up in the morning, Mojo is excited to see me. When I walk out the ranch house door, West is waiting to greet me. When I head down to the arena, Tater is waiting to be fed and loved on – and it never ceases to amaze me how life is a circle and I was baptized into horses at an early age.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Pastor Ted Smetters a man who profoundly influenced my life at a young age!