Sunday, April 25, 2010

HARVEY LITTLE DOG (1946 - 2010)

“Harve’ Little Dog, 64, the East Glacier Park Postmaster, passed away Tuesday, April 20, 2010, at a Kalispell hospital due to cancer.

Survivors include his brothers, Forest Little Dog and Floyd Middle Rider, both of Browning, Donald Little Dog of East Glacier, Howard Little Dog of Heart Butte, and Wheeler Little Dog of Kalispell; Germaine Little Dog and Lee Ann Hoyt as well as numerous other nieces and nephews.

Harve’ is preceded in death by his parents, Richard and Louise Little Dog; sisters, Germaine Little Dog, Lorraine Little Dog and Hazel Anderson; and brother, George Little Dog.

He was born in Browning, March 12, 1946, to Richard and Louise (Spotted Bear) Little Dog where he grew up and graduated from high school.

He had worked with the US Postal Service for the past 20 years and served as the East Glacier Park Postmaster for the past many years.

Harve’ was an avid art and antique collector.

Yesterday was the funeral mass of Harvey Little Dog, my former student, my postmaster for several years and my friend. There’s another dimension: because Richard Little Dog’s father was a Bundle Keeper and transferred that Bundle to Bob Scriver and me in the Sixties, I am in the Old Way a member of that family. Bob was given the Blackfeet name of Middle Rider (Sik-pokes-si-mah which translates to “He Who Likes His Backfat Burnt Black.”) In the old way, of course, I would have picked up the obligation of helping to support and serve that family. I didn’t. Partly because I moved away and partly because the other members of the family went in very different directions. Harve’, for instance, was a faithful member of the Church of the Little Flower in Browning with a special devotion to the Virgin Mary. However, Forest Little Dog gave an eloquent prayer in Blackfeet and Father Ed emphasized that there was no contradiction between the two Ways.

This was the first time I’d attended a funeral mass after a cremation, which rather derailed the conventional mass in subtle ways. Since there was no coffin, a simple shrine included the cremains, photographical portraits, and flowers, which are not usually present as the same way as secular and protestant memorial services. Immediately after the service the cremains were taken to the Little Dog ranch and scattered, which is also unconventional. (I approve. Too many people have cremains in their closets, unable to part with the last traces of a loved one.) Father Ed confronted the ashes straight on: “This is what happens to the human body after death,” he told us. “We must see that fact and grieve for it, but Harve’ was a good Christian and lives on.”

Then he said something else. He said, “Some people think of heaven in which we eternally indulge in our favorite practice for the rest of eternity. Consider what it would be like if you loved fishing and continued to fish forever. You’d get tired of it.” But I know people who would not! Lofty mountains and rushing streams beat pearly gates and golden streets! I understand what Father Ed was trying to get across: the terms of Heaven and Eternity are not human terms, but utterly transformed into something we cannot conceive of on this side of the barrier death erects between this world and the other.

The Church of the Little Flower is in Browning, but Harve’ was part of the East Glacier community. I don’t know how to get an accent mark on the second syllable of his name and neither did the funeral chapel, so we’re both using an apostrophe instead. Harve’ was out of the closet. When someone teased him about his name by Frenchifying it, the same way that some pronounce “Tarjaa” to convey that Target is a high class big box store, Harve’ embraced the practice and put it on his official postmaster ID tag.

He was an EXCELLENT postmaster, in somewhat the same style as the beauty parlor operator in “The Ladies Number 1 Detective Agency” or the nurse/friend in “Angels in America.” That is, compassionate fact-facing and practical help. East Glacier is a resort town with a lot of young people living away from home, a lot of drifters, and -- esp. over the winter -- a tendency to get embroiled in small but hot feuds. A postmaster, like a hairdresser or bartender, does a lot of counseling and advising as well as a bit of detective work (to find out where to forward mail) and a certain amount of bending the rules. He received awards for excellence in service.

The congregation that gathered was far more eclectic than usual with no big shots or politicians. The three resort towns of the rez (East Glacier, St. Mary and Babb) have more year-round white people, so park rangers, shop-keepers, retirees, cooks, and teachers were there. Other gay people were not necessarily public. I caught up with several friends I hadn’t seen for a while. Dr. Dorothy Still Smoking, one of the founders of the Piegan Institute, drove all the way from Coeur d’Alene where she’d been attending a workshop on racism and tribal sovereignty and arrived just in time. Harve’s companion, guardian, and chauffeur (Harve’s feet had suffered amputations.) proudly offered his love and appreciation.

Because Highway 89 is being drastically rebuilt where it crosses Two Medicine, I went up the “inside road,” which pretty much stays close to the mountains and overlays the Old North Trail. Springtime in the Rockies means intense sunlight between and through massive clouds moving swiftly towards the east. Clouds on the ground crept through every high pass and cleft and gap in the mountains, coming like nebulous cats out onto the prairie where they sprang up into the sky, vaporizing. I’d allowed lots of extra time, just in case, so I got to Browning early and went on up to East Glacier for lunch and to look around. I lived there after Bob divorced me, trying to decide what to do next. For those who are bound to ask, I had a grilled cheese sandwich in the Little Diner at a table next to Joyce Clarke Turvey and her granddaughter, Chantell, who is a park ranger on the west side of the mountains, a botanist who moved a year ago. Joyce was also at the funeral mass. She has a Blackfeet name, since she was adopted by John Clarke, the famous woodcarver, but the grand-daughter has none. I would call her “Sweetgrass Woman.”

This sort of weather, this depth of history (many photos of the original Little Dog in Washington to discuss treaties -- the Clarke family deeply embedded in events) weave on the loom of time a transcendent tale of cross-purposes and deep friendships. Harve’ was one who understood that, even as he contributed his rich, proud strand. I think Heaven will look familiar to him.


Anonymous said...

How tender and gentle and wise are your reflections on all this. Thank you for elucidating the rituals we would otherwise not fully grasp.

Anonymous said...

I met you as Susie and I entered the church, Mary. I was deeply touched by your comments about my dear friend, Harve. BTW, contact me and I'll show you how to add the apostrophe to his name, at least if you use Word. Just a small clarification - both feet were not amputated. His left LEG was amputated above the knee. Brian Gallup, the friend who delivered the second part of the eulogy, was so much more than a friend. He changed Harve's dressings three times a day. He got him up every morning, put him to bed many nights, and came every few hours to get him up into his wheelchair or put him back on the sofa. Brian's wife and daughter would probably like clarification of companion. Brian was a very good friend and yes, companion,all his life, but in a nonsexual way. Without his help, Harve not only would not have been able to stay in his own home, but he would not have lived as long or as well. The other person who also eulogized him, Jo Flick, was equally instrumental in allowing him to cope at home. Jo also drove him to many doctor appts and was a companion in the same way Brian was. She put Harve to bed many nights and did countless things to keep his spirits up.

Anonymous said...

it is odd that you really did not know harve'that well the medicene bundle is its own truth and that harve'always knew and had visions he must my true best friend for almost 50 years your knowledge of him is weak and not reflective but misinformed and selfish-his chosen path was his and most of the people who thought they knew him really did not-his beliefs his life his love for myself and a few others was pure-if you only knew the real truth you would have never wirtten what you did in his honor he would be ashamed of your generalities and assumptions he was and will be forever as he was himself and not anyone can change that your are clueless

prairie mary said...

I humbly acknowledge the truth of what you say, Anonymous, and I thank you for saying it. I just wanted to make sure he wasn't forgotten, but I admit it's insufficient and faulty.

Prairie Mary