REMINISCENCE:   WHEN THE WEST WAS WILD AND SO WERE WE  [HUNTER GRAY  JANUARY 1 2005]  FOLLOWED BY  FILM THOUGHTS: "CONSPIRACY"  [HUNTER GRAY  JANUARY 10 2005]  UPDATED WITH HERMIT MOONSHINE  [HUNTER BEAR  MAY 7 2007]

One of your best pieces, in my opinion.  Maybe the brandy is still there, wedged between some rocks, aged to perfection.  John Salter   1/01/05
 
Treasure of an essay.   Sheila Michaels   1/01/05
 
I feel I know you a little through your wonderful postings.  Thank
you for them.   Edwin Laing   1/01/05
 
This is a very nice story indeed.  You have a real gift here.
It was terrific to talk with you.
Happy New Year
sam [friedman]   1/01/05
 
I do hope someone found that bottle of brandy!
David [McReynolds]   1/01/05
 
What a great post, made stronger because I can picture the switchbacks below Jerome. That's a great line -- the jail sliding across the street. It seemed remarkable to me (and my Dakota/Nebraska flatland conditioning) that the entire town just didn't tip and roll down the hill. Anyway, great writing. Great stories. I'm saving this one.  Peter Gray Salter   1/01/05

Good read. Thanks.:-  Yours, Issodhos    1/02/05
 

When the big bottle of Hennessy hit the water in Lindsay Loy's irrigation ditch, it was immediately transposed into Legend.  In that sense it joins [in its small but qualitatively quite comparable fashion] the Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstitions of central Arizona and the Lost Adams Diggings located somewhere in western New Mexico or eastern Arizona:  gold lost, gold found, gold lost again.  Not one of the countless conversations of any kind that Joe and I have had on any topic since the early '50s has failed to early-on include the Loss -- and no academic class to whom I have given this account has failed to focus immediately and primarily on the Bottle.  As the decades have passed, the Hennessy has grown tremendously in image and glow -- as authentic legends always do.  In my opinion, finding it would simply reduce the Legend to commonplace materials, adding another layer of tragedy and an even greater sense of loss.

Yours, Hunter Bear   1/02/05

________________________________

HUNTER BEAR:

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
extensive visit.

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
Wet Weather.

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
paralleled
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
lost Hennessy.

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
disappeared
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
the
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
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

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]

HERMIT MOONSHINE  [HUNTER BEAR  MAY 7 2007]

Here, for a few select lists, is my Finnish friend, Jyri's, most recent communique. As always, interesting indeed and well and tightly written. We join him, of course, in regretting the outcome of the French election. On this one of his, I add something of my own: my only direct, participatory experience with Moonshine.

I was in my late 'Teens -- the Army loomed -- and my good friend, Joe Janes, and I paid one of our frequent visits to our old hermit buddies who lived in isolated fashion [as hermits do] at the truly archaic Old Packard Ranch. That was located on the far, far upper end of the Verde Valley where Sycamore Creek emerges from the lower vestiges of vast and totally wild Sycamore Canyon, and just before its waters merge with the Verde River. Joe, ten years older than I, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge and an Anthro of sorts, worked with me spotting and fighting forest fires on the Coconino National Forest, out of my home town of Flagstaff, Arizona. [We had some genuinely wild but strenuous times which we still recall most fondly. See this web-page [which I have posted a time or two] for an intro to those epochs,
http://www.hunterbear.org/reminiscence.htm

The hermits, old but ageless, were Joe Dickson, a retired hard-rock miner, and Jerry Greaves, a retired seaman who had somehow made it across the mountain ranges into the high semi-desert. The Old Packard Ranch was rumored to be populated by ghosts [including Old Man Packard] but the hermits got on well with them -- bolstered by a huge collection of Fate Magazine which focused, in popular fashion, on the supernatural. Early on, they came to see Joe Janes and I as kindred souls.

On this particular visit, Joe and Jerry told us proudly that they had just made a big supply of "juniper gin" for themselves and their few friends who occasionally took the somewhat torturous and rocky route to their bastion.

Joe Janes asked, reasonably enough, how they made the brew. They took us out onto the back porch and there, practically an antique of sorts even then, was a venerable Still -- manufactured by, of all things, Montgomery Ward ["Monkey Ward."] Even at that youthful age, I had some considerable knowledge of chemistry -- and had had at one time a large and sophisticated lab at our home furnished by a much older cousin [the one who gave me my first rifle when I was seven.] The Still was essentially a moderately large metal retort with a fairly long "barrel" emanating from its body and accompanied by a longish metal tube which was attached to the narrowed end. A coil was situated along the tube. The hermits carefully explained their Magic: first they gathered and mashed many, many bluish berries from the omni-present Juniper trees, put all of that juicy mass into the Still, poured in a fair amount of ethyl [grain] alcohol -- and carried the whole "package" to the bank of Sycamore Creek. They put in some creek water, and added some twigs from Sycamore Trees "for special flavor" -- and boiled everything down to residue via a small fire-stand they had constructed with appropriate metal pieces. The end of the tube went down into a gallon jug placed in the always very cold waters of the creek where its gases condensed into a grayish liquid.

They offered us some. Dutifully, but with instinctive trepidation, we each took a small glass. We drank.

If I had not then been at that moment dealing with a burning mouth and throat, I probably could have, despite the several feet between us, sensed Joe shuddering. Gamely we finished. In my mind, I recalled spilling sulphuric acid on my hand and wrist during an experiment and the warm-into-burn feeling that pronto-like followed -- before I poured out much neutralizing baking soda.

We stood there, faces red, tears in our eyes.

"Now isn't that damn good stuff?" said Jerry.

"Good," said the always well mannered Joe Janes. But the word came out with structural difficulty.

All I could do was Nod, dumbly.

Decades later, a good Ho-Chunk [aka Winnebago] friend of mine, Elliott Ricehill, who had spent a fairly long stretch in Iowa State Penitentiary before we were able to free him, told me that, when he was in the Inside, he learned how to make "good brew" in a conventional shower hookup.

He offered to show me.

I passed.

Best, Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]

HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'
 
Check out our Hunterbear website Directory http://hunterbear.org/directory.htm
[The site is dedicated to our one-half Bobcat, Cloudy Gray:
http://hunterbear.org/cloudy_gray.htm
 
See our Community Organizing Course [with new material]
http://hunterbear.org/my_combined_community_organizing.htm
 
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] 
http://www.hunterbear.org/GRAY%20LANDS%20AND%20GRAY%20GHOSTS.htm
 

 

FILM THOUGHTS:  "CONSPIRACY"  HUNTER GRAY  1/10/05

Doing the Desert Island thing:  Assuming the magical presence of electric or
related power, what films would a stranded Me want on a desert island?
Traditionally, I've always said Shane and Salt of the Earth.  I now add
another, Conspiracy.

A little more than a year ago, I had fallen asleep -- or somehow lost
consistent consciousness in the context of my Lupus illness -- while I sat
in the very  early morning hours in front of our television.  I've never
been a great television person but, slowly, I realized the presence of a
highly unusual film:  15 men, some well dressed civilians and some high and
equally well dressed military, seated around a table in a meeting presided
over by a thoroughly chilling but charming Nazi SS general.  As I faded in
and out, I did retain chunks of the film -- and its title, Conspiracy.
Months later, we easily secured a VCR copy locally and played it on Josie's
magical machine. I was given it in DVD for this Christmas. Many good people,
I am sure, saw this absolutely fine and bone chilling film long before I --
but I do feel obligated to say some words about it.

Shane [1953], which especially influenced a whole generation of Western
young people, involves a gun fighter well aware of Changing Times who rides
into the Wyoming side of the Teton Basin around 1889 -- great photography of
that range -- and becomes involved on the side of embattled homesteaders
under attack by big cattle interests, themselves essentially unaware that
socio-economic things are never static.  A professional gunman from
Cheyenne, imported by the cattlemen, dressed appropriately in black [and
with a black Stetson] adds a thought of "the devil himself, come riding down
the trail."  Most of the homesteaders falter in the face of cruel violence,
save Shane's hostman, who unrealistically indicates his intention to take on
the villains single-handedly.  Shane, to save his friend who would be surely
killed, knocks him unconscious -- and then takes care of the situation
himself.  He then, wounded, rides over the Tetons toward our part of Idaho.
This whole scenario is probably taken very vaguely from Wyoming's Johnson
County War.  Change to Dakota Territory in the 1870s and 1880s and you have
a maternal great grandfather of mine from Ontario accumulating a very large
land holding indeed for horse ranching purposes -- using force and violence
to keep the homesteaders at bay.  Shane never came and my voracious kinsman
became, to put it mildly, well-to-do. [In the bitterly cold isolation of
Dakota winters, he was known to throw things -- like blacksmith anvils -- at
his eleven children, the oldest of whom was my grandfather.  Fortunately,
the old man always missed.]

If Shane is the gutty gunfighter as "lone wolf organizer,"  [or vice versa],
Salt of the Earth -- the great Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers film of
1953/54 -- is a fine and enduring testimonial to courageous collective
action and solidarity of inter-ethnic and inter-gender strikers in the face
of the brutal hostility from zinc bosses and their sheriff/deputies
sycophants.  Based, with a very few somewhat fictional digressions, on the
historic and predominately Chicano [and ultimately successful] Empire Zinc
strike in Southwestern New Mexico's Grant County in 1950-1952, most of the
workingclass acting in Salt is done by the local people [men and women]
themselves.  Blacklisted Hollywood actors play the "other side." [David
Sarvis, who depicts the Eastern mine high muckety-muck, was the nephew of
Ethel Mae Taylor, a Tougaloo teaching colleague of mine, who sometimes held
and jiggled Baby Maria.]  Salt was systematically blacklisted in the United
States for years, playing only in union halls and church basements and
academic settings as the Sixties emerged.  [We used it in the Jackson
struggle.]  Salt did play successfully over much of the world, won many top
awards, and several years ago was picked by the Library of Congress as one
of the 100 most significant films ever made in this country.

But Conspiracy -- Dark Art of Horror -- is something else again.

In this splendidly acted film, Sex -- hardly to the fore in Shane or Salt --
is totally absent and the only women present are domestics.  The setting is
Wannsee, a large "elegant" rectangular estate on the edges of Berlin. Gentle
snow is falling.  The time is 1942, at a point where the War, especially to
the East, is going unpredictably and even badly for the Nazi forces.
Fifteen mid-level Nazi honchos are convened in an essentially secret meeting
presided over by top SS General Reinhard Heydrich [soon to be known as the
"Butcher of Prague"].  His faithful assistant is the ultimately equally
infamous Colonel Adolf Eichmann.  Conspiracy is not, in any sense, a
fictional treatment -- but is based with essential accuracy on the one
surviving transcript of this fateful meeting kept -- against Heydrich's
instructions -- by a participant named, interestingly, Martin Luther [but
with none of the saving graces of that Great Heretic.]

Heydrich, obviously acting on Hitler's veiled instructions, is mandated to
work out the hideous-beyond-words "Final Solution" to the "Jewish Problem."
The prime motivants are "Racial Purity" coupled with the perceived economic
drain being placed on Germany by the rapidly expanding number of Jewish
people encompassed not only in Germany itself but by its increasingly
widening imperialistic domain.  The genocidal meeting is pleasantly polite,
[with the usual ego ventures and personal hustling of agendas], but with
only a few faint and short-lived reservations from a very few -- and
Heydrich is masterly in his fast moving  maneuvering [of the group and
individuals] toward the goal:  the elimination of all Jews, "from Lapland to
Libya, Vladivostok to Belfast." [The cuisine and drink, served by topflight
waiters, are obviously excellent.]  About six million Jews are targeted
initially, with the broader goal of eleven million.

How to eliminate the Jews?  There is a fascinating little discussion of
defining Jews, and blood quanta [no stranger to Native Americans] is bandied
about  -- but the ultimate definition is extremely broad and encompassing
indeed.  Evacuation and sterilization are discussed as methodologies, but
Heydrich, soon enough pointing out that "death is the most reliable form of
sterilization" next shifts the focus into the realm of "how to."  Shooting,
injections, cyanide gas are quickly considered, but, again, Heydrich's
chosen approach -- bathing and then carbon monoxide -- win out, of course,
and with the "global triumph of German culture"  ostensibly safeguarded.
"Do they [Jews] have a Hell?" wonders one participant and Heydrich, with his
most cynical smile, responds, "We make their Hell."

The meeting is cordially adjourned and the prime movers have a final drink.
[A brief epilogue gives the fate of the participants:  Heydrich is soon
enough assassinated by Czech patriots -- and murderous Nazi retaliation
immediately takes thousands of lives.  Eichmann, a successful runaway for
many years, is ultimately executed by Israel in 1962.  A tiny number of the
others are imprisoned and even fewer executed, but most are discharged "for
lack of evidence."]

Their fate sealed in a few short hours, at least six million Jews ultimately
die.  In addition to those specific victims, no Native person, nor Black,
nor human of any kind can see this film without hideous and freezing
personal fascination.

The deeper question, of course, hangs in the Dark and Bloody Mists.  Are any
of us, whoever we are, really immune -- under "unique and special
circumstances" -- from supping and supporting this kind of Ultimate Horror?
I would like to think so, but after seeing Conspiracy, I cannot help but
wonder.

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR]   Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

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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