Category: Storytelling

I’ve referred to Cowbird stories before. Sometimes they really strike me. This one did. The odd thing is that it struck me in a way that wasn’t about me necessarily, but about memories. And sheltering those memories in yourself because you want them to be the way you remember them to be, without corruption from someone elses version of that time. Because you need that memory to be a certain way to make that part of you that holds that memory feel ok. You need to hold onto that way of remembering because it has become part of you, a physical part of you and without it existing in exactly that way that part of you is false..or less..or maybe even without it..it leaves a great big hole that caves in in it’s darkness. But the truth is…your truth and my truth are different camera angles on the same thing, neither one is wrong, neither one is exclusively right. The truth is everyone wants to fly, and sometimes we need to believe that we can, or we did. The truth is everyone sometimes needs someone else to catch them when they are falling and wheither its clear or not that they were actually flying or they were just hanging over the edge with their foot in someone elses hand who was trying to prevent them from certain death, everyones truth is exactly what they need it to be. And sometimes that’s really, really, heartbreaking and tragic.

(use the arrows in that box above to actually read the story..it’s not that intuitive..I’m sorry..I didn’t do it.)

Holding Hands

Dad rocked this one out. I think the Coen Bros should do this as a scene in one of their movies. Pretty awesome.

     I was staring at the mole in the middle of her forehead.  Pauline Whitesinger , Navajo elder and leader of the Big Mountain Defense League  stood  in front of me holding a rifle.  It was a .227 varmint gun, I believed, and maybe I was the varmint.

For months now , this summer of 77 I had been driving a rented red Ford F100 pickup.  Rented long term from Flagstaff’s own Babbitt Ford.  Rented by the NHIRC; Navajo Hopi Indian Relocation Commission.  Our job was to move Indians impacted by the Federal Court ruling in San Francisco of Judge Walsh.  A huge area,  hundreds of thousands of acres of high country desert in the north quarter of Arizona had been cut in half by a zig zaggy border line, an area that previously had been available to both tribes to use; to graze, grow crops and settle.  Thousands of Navajos, some having lived on this land for 5 or more generations were being pressed to move out.

My job was to inventory buildings and improvements of each family required to move; those that found themselves on the wrong side of the line.  I was an appraiser’s aid.  I walked off cornfields and noted  steel or juniper fence poles and how many strands of wire.  I measured sheep and cow and horse corrals to figure their worth , by the size and quality of construction.  I counted basketball poles and sweat houses, toilets and storage sheds.  I wrapped my long tape around many hogans and stone houses, noting their roof designs , windows and flooring.

I had been around old weather beaten WWII vets who understood but would not speak English.  I’d been offered coffee and kool  aid.  I’d ridden in their vehicles and mine as we reached remote summer cabins or abandoned corn fields-reverted- I called them; 5 acres of fenced rabbit bush and grasses.  But this was different.

My boss had taken me on a small plane flight above the Former Joint Use Area..FJUA.  There had been demonstrations outside our offices in downtown Flagstaff.  Threats had been made.  Field workers, Navajos themselves, had been cursed and driven out of the Big Mountain area.  Teesto—no problem.  White Cone, Pinyon—no problem.  Low Mt. and Coalmine chapters—no problem.  Hard Rock… that was the Place.  Germans had come to herd sheep to show their support,.  Reporters wrote of the 2nd Long Walk.  Public opinion was against us..’Genocide’ they called it.  We were going to scout this ‘hot area’ by Cessna.  Only after returning to Pulliam Field airport did I notice that Dave, my boss had placed a bullet proof vest under his butt on the seat.  “Protect the family jewels from rifle fire,” he said apologizing that he only had one vest.

Near a big deep sandy canyon was Pauline’s place.  We saw it, down below, with many trucks parked nearby.

I was being sent into her camp to ask to inventory her ‘ improvements.’  If I could appraise her stuff, many other families would fall in line.  I was a point man, expendable.

Fortuitously, I had gotten the flu the day before.  I left the motel in Tsaile that July morning sweating even with the air con on.  I was feverish and light headed as I drove the dirt roads to northern Hard Rock chapter on an empty stomach with water bottle in hand.  I drove up toward the parked trucks surrounding the dirt covered hogan and peaked roof stone house.  “Nice stuff,”  I thought as I waited in my vehicle for a minute or two to show respect.  A woman in strong brown leather shoes walked out of the house.  She was dressed in dark blue velveteen blouse and dress with several petticoats underneath.  She was not sweating as she stood near my truck .  I walked over almost swaying in my fever and noticed she carried a gun.  It was cradled in her arms and pointed away from me.

“A good sign,” I thought.  “ Boy am I hot.  Boy Howdy, look at that mole on her face.  She’s a good looking traditional woman”.  I was running on inside my head when she stopped it with..

“How would your family feel if you were dead?”

“Well,”  I began.  “My brother who is an Army Ranger would be fire hot angry.”  Going on I continued “My sister?  Well, maybe she wouldn’t care so much.”  Deciding to roll out the whole family, since Pauline asked, “My mother would cry and cry again, swearing at whoever ended my life.”
Finishing I concluded, “My father, a military man, retired but still straight up and down- he would close his lips and hold my mother.  My wife would shake her head, looking down thinking of the 2 fatherless children, bite her lips and perhaps say ‘ Karma’.  The children would have no idea.”

I looked at her and smiled, so sick now I couldn’t prevent the weaving back and forth of my body standing so close to this woman whose anger had dissipated and had a perplexed look on her face.  She turned around abruptly and walked away.  Stopping she turned-

“No appraisal!  Go away!”

“OK, “ I responded sliding into my red Babbitt Ford and drove on to the trading post where I really needed a cold cold bottle of coke.

 

Wayne in front of the NHIRC headquarters.

Another story written by my dad about his younger years working in the forest service as a look out tower ranger…

     Red Butte rises above the juniper plains 20 miles south of the Grand Canyon like an aroused woman’s nipple.  It sits alone hundreds of feet above an old uranium mine, an airstrip once used by Charles Lindberg and miles from any other prominence.  It’s a volcanic plug , the only remains of a basalt area that covered everywhere millions of years before.  Red sandstone cliffs adorn it’s south side with a few aspens surviving in this lower elevation rooted in rocks. Babbitt ranches graze cattle for thousands of acres to the east and toward the San Francisco Peaks and Hualapai Indians hold the black stone promentory sacred, leaving offerings at the base on the west side and hold ceremonies there.

I was a Forest Service lookout this season relieving Rob, a tall 20ish single man sharing the alternative cultural lifestyle with my wife, Jane and I.  In other words there were herbal  mind altering substances used by us all during and after work.

This April morning though, I was not alone on the mountain.  Chuck and I sat inside the tiny 8×5 box—the lookout.  It had a bend-down-to-enter doorway. Beneath  A long 4 foot  window that flipped open on the east side sat an Osbourne Firefinder.  A small bare bed with an old mattress was along the back wall.  Snow was blowing about and on the ground and visibility was very limited; like about 400 meters.  A cute little cast iron stove nestled inside the door roasting the place warm with the aged grey pinyon pine firewood chopped to 8 inch lengths, sizzling with released aromatic pitch.

The window was closed, the inside smoky from a grass joint we shared in the earliest fire season of the 1970’s.  Chuck, was a chubby baby faced seasonal employee who when things got hot, ran the slurry command center at the airport.  A skilled exciting job-when needed; otherwise he hung out with this crew or that, snacking constantly and farting way way too much.  He had brought his 44 cal. Magnum Smith and Wesson pistol with a black 7 inch barrel and a brown carved wooden handle.  It sat in front of us under the window as we passed the dope back and forth.

Figures passed in front of and around the little cabin in the snowy mists—sheriffs.  A helicopter had flown above but had to land due to dangerous swirling winds and blowing snow.  People walked the rim of the top of the butte and under the ridge 200 feet below.  The radio was full of..”I’m on the cliffs on the southwest side and I can’t see anything.”  Or “I’m coming up the trail on the west side from the parking area—I got nothing.”  Or “These pinyons are too thick down here on the north side  to even see the top.”

The day before I had walked up the narrow 25 minute steep trail to open up the lookout and take  over for the weekend for Rob.  He had split the lonely mountain to visit family in Scottsdale.  Must be his bad luck or—good.  He missed the whole thing.  The door was broke open.  The mattress was stained red .sticky blood.  There were splatters of dried dark red blood spots on the binocular case (I checked to see if the heavy WW11 Navy glasses were still within.  The inside of the window was flecked heavily.  I looked , heart still beating heavily from the climb, stared not believing.  Looking  rapidly over my observer’s area of responsibility and seeing it clear I walked away carrying the radio back down to my truck.

“There’s blood all over the place.”  I told the assistant ranger, Mike.  As I descended as fast as I could and drove back to Tusayan Ranger Station.

The next day with Chuck we heard the chatter on the radio as we sat ,armed , warm and high in Red Butte Lookout.

“We’ve found it!  Bring the stretcher.”

Inside a matted dirty sleeping bag was a woman-dead- thrown over the side of the top of the butte and down, smashing 100 feet lower into a juniper tree that deputies had walked under , all day, not looking up.  The woman had been shot” in all her orifices multiple times.”  Chuck and I stayed inside.

A week later, the killer had not been found but they were looking for a station wagon with Mississippi plates.  I was on relief again.  The weather had cleared , heated up  and I lay naked outside the little non elevated tower on the still stained mattress.  The red areas held heat and I’d burnt my butt when I rolled over on them.  The binocular case still was decorated with bloody spots you could scrap off with a fingernail.  Rob had left me a present from southern Arizona; one 2” button of a peyote cactus; enough for a good buzz  but not as to incapacitate one.  I sun bathed- checked the woods occasionally with the glasses.  Things were quiet, normal, forgotten; no Chuck, no gun, no lawmen.

At 5’oclock  I decided to head on down back to the Station, but used a bushwacking route and cut out the trail switchbacks.  It was steep but not too loose and not heavily treed.  Part way down toward my truck I noticed a glint, a shining  something down over there in  the thick juniper forest north of the parking area.  I hopped and weaved thru the trees and suddenly there it was, right in front of me; a 1968 Rambler station wagon with license plates showing registration in…Mississippi!

“Holy Shit, he’s come back.  Maybe for me!”  I ran now along the level  ground off Red Butte to my Ford truck and drove away fast.  “ “The car is there, at the base of the Butte on the west slope 150 yards north of the trailhead.”  I was sure all those policeman and deputy sheriffs and helicopters looking around all that wintry April couldn’t have missed it.  He must have left and come back..but no.  The knucklehead lawmen hadn’t seen the tracks or the windshield reflection and on going back found…the killer.  He was a week old dead and swollen near his car, shot.

It’s a sexy place ..Red Butte.  Always had a lot of juicy fantasies there, laying nude In the sun.  Rattlers were thick.  I even had to stone to death two of them…Hmmmm death and sex…..

My dad is busy writing stories. Some have been a tough read. Some a tough realization. Some, great. This one happens to be about me, and great. It’s about two days on our trek through the Himalayas.  So here it is. He’s still a bit tech challenged..so it’s a screen cap of a pdf of a scanned type written story, actual PDF follows. I hope you enjoy. The only thing he left out was us creeping along the side of a slate rock slew mountain nearing midnight with only one flashlight between us..me shining the light onto his present and future footsteps ahead of me. The guide way ahead of us..desperately searching for water and shelter. Anyway..it was something. But I survived, we survived, and we now have stories to tell.

 

 

 

Jesus Mother

I absolutely adore this movie. I’ve watched it twice now in the last year. I was so surprised when I watched this film from the 60′s that spoke of love and relationships in a way that wasn’t idealistic, or always romantic, but surely real.  It’s the story of a couples 12 year journey through life and love with all the pitfalls that happen.

I love the story, I love Audrey Hepburn, I love the scenery, the cars, the wardrobes. Everything is so wonderful. What this trailer doesn’t show, that I love so much, is the dynamic of their love and the method of telling the story..constantly cutting from the beginning of their relationship, to current, to somewhere in the middle, to back to the beginning, to another point in the middle, to the current again..and so it goes. Using repeating locations and people as common ties. The story itself is a rocky love story of an unlikely match between a sarcastic, seemingly self centered architect, and a sweet, almost naive, gorgeous woman who can volley back anything that crank can throw her way.

While intricately woven together, the story is of a relationships sweet fresh beginnings that turn to tougher times with infidelity, and a baby, and crushing ties to a demanding employer, and the strained..almost lost connection, and more infidelity, and anger and resentment and then…acknowledgement of each others importance and then..surrender to their cagey, banter filled, sarcastic volley filled existence of deep love for one another expressed through their unique dynamic of a constant push pull.

So good.

 

This is one of those times…

http://cowbird.com/story/7911/story/

 

The older I get, the more I understand how tragic life can be, how little it takes to shift from one road to the next and how irrelevant it is to judge others on their blundering path through life. We all blunder at some point. I just finished watching Stories We Tell, a documentary about a girl, the director, who is in search of understanding her deceased mother and her living father, and her newly realized biological father, a result of an affair with a man who 30 years later still loved her to the depths of his core. You can tell. The story slowly unwinds through the articulate interviews with brothers and sisters and also, the written story as spoken by her father. This movie has a lot to say about love, life, and the search for truth of relationship or existence.

Much of the film is composed of interviews and vintage home movie footage, but some of the scenes are reinacted, with actors, which comes as a disappointment to me and what I thought was the directors search for truth. They seem misplaced in their attempts to recreate reality, going a step further than the spoken “truths” of those vocalizing their memories of the mother and the events that transpired. There is a scene in the film that is one of the more beautiful moments I’ve ever seen in a film though, and it’s really pure perfection of story, edit and sound track working in perfect harmony creating something that speaks so much louder than any one of it’s parts could ever reach.

It’s worth watching the film just for that minute..but if you don’t..it’s this song below, Demon Host by Timber Timbre, playing and one by one each person who has been in the film up to this point is shown sitting in silence/thought with their faces bearing the weight of their memories. If ever there is truth, it is in that moment, on each of their faces.

The film is definitely worth a watch. You can get to it here. Stories We Tell.

This movie looks worthy of keeping on the radar. There are not many movies that are based on the Navajo Reservation and it’s culture, especially not feature films. This one looks pretty interesting. Having grown up in the middle, but always feeling alien’like and in many ways embraced and repelled by Navajos I always want to know more. See more. Feel more. Understand more.

Read more about this movie here..

Cool Hunting – Sundance 2014 Drunktowns Finest

Drunktowns Finest

India. Motorcycles. Indian music. Beautiful shots.

From Colorblind Productions via Silodrome.