Saturday, July 30, 2016


Mary Scriver  (now 77)

It gets harder to maintain my cloistered status in summer.  Despite all my protests about how I’m not the same as I was in the Sixties and about how I get up to write at dawn, go back to bed until the Baptists’ bonger threatens sleep at 9AM, then write and research the rest of the day until late afternoon, when I watch an old cop show to change the rhythm and try to read or keep house until bedtime.  Recently it has been impossible.  Two slightly younger men than me (retired and on vacation) got through my defenses yesterday.

Earlier, Kathy Shinn, stopped by with her husband, Craig.  Kathy was an East Glacier friend in the Seventies after Bob divorced me and I moved into a decrepit house up there, and later in Portland.  Next was Paul Wheeler who survived cancer this winter.  He lives on the Idaho Panhandle and has family here in Valier, but knew me when I was the receptionist at the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife.  As a child he came regularly to operate the rattlesnake with a noisy tail — constantly showing up at the front desk for more change to feed into it.  Now he’s one of my most faithful blog readers and in early years when I posted more Montana tales, he sent stories that I included.  

Yesterday Paul managed to get past my defenses and take me to lunch.  But then in the afternoon Robey Clark and his wife Beverly showed up to take me to dinner.  Robey is on the rez for a Connelly family reunion.  The Connelly’s, who are not all named Connelly at this point, through the years have been one of the most colorful and achieving families.  I didn’t let my friends talk much.  After a long time with no audience, I tend to get a little manic.  But they remembered much as well.
JR and JoAnn  1963

Today JoAnn Johnson Clark, a vital member of those times, will be buried in Browning.  Robey was in the play, “Molly Morgan”, in which JoAnn and her eventual husband, J.R. Clark, were stars.  There was a platform “thrust” stage at the front and JoAnn was supposed to walk onto it to deliver a soliloquy.  She walked a little too far, fell over the four-foot drop, which broke the heel off her shoe, gritted her teeth while she climbed back up, and delivered her soliloquy.  In later years she accused me of trying to murder her, with some justice.  I should have at least put reflective tape or a small light at the edge.  She became the kind of efficient, glamorous and admirable English teacher I failed to be.  Robey was in that play but his best role was as “Petruchio’s” sidekick in a Western version of “Taming of the Shrew” I paraphrased.

Paul was a forestry major at Missoula and a timber worker most of his life.  He can devise some kind of business out of almost anything.  In recent years he has sold and maintained fire extinguishers and managed properties.  His “thing” is escaping the routine, the mundane, the traps of society by living up a wild valley. 

Robey Clark

Robey has been a lifelong devoted Native American educator and a writer, though there are gaps in the writing.  He plays the guitar and poker, hobnobbing with some of the most vital people in Portland.  He took me to lunch in my Portland days and he’s the culprit who got me onto the Internet, starting with RezNet, which was Indians only.  I didn’t lie.  I just said I was from Browning, as Robey instructed.

So I’m mulling over why it is that I get the same vibe from these two men?  Why do they want to take me to a meal?  I think what it comes down to is that they were raised by strong single mothers and grandmothers. Times were tough when they were little.  They have a strong drive to help younger people, but also older single women.  In fact, I have to fight Paul off to keep him from helping too much, and he reports that others complain about that, too, all ages and genders, which is interesting.  

They are kitchen table people rather than like some men — guys who speak from their Barcalounger thrones over the noise of an immense TV screen.  These two males enjoy their beer, but along with quiet domestic talk about realities.  Lots of jokes and stories.  Paul translates the kitchen to beer in bars with friends.  Both men love colorful characters but fade away if things get violent.

That’s about as wicked as they get.  They are SQUARE and usually in a good way -- practical, grounded and generous.  And not fussy eaters — their theme song might be “Huggin’ and Chalkin’” about having to hug sections at a time, working one’s way around the beltline.

They do not share my interest in the deranged, dispossessed and desperate.  Not the sort of stuff on cop shows, nor the banal wickedness on the rez nor the international atrocities of dead babies washed up on beaches.  Robey began to ask me about some of the political accusations against Bob Scriver and I retaliated by deflating some of the romantic claims of the accusers.  

Scriver Thunder Pipe Bundle on the Scriver hearth

For instance, Bob is accused of buying the Medicine Pipe Bundle in order to open it and display the contents, as though “splaying our grandmother naked for all to see.”   (This Bundle disappeared at his death.)  But the “shamans” these accusers respected were not-very-secret molesters of their daughters (the daughters told me so), beaters of helpless drunks, and probably even themselves unconvicted murderers, putting aside what is or isn’t theft.  Shamans are not sweet cheerful old Methodist pastors. They are mandrakes and wizards.

Both of these “square” guys coped with the anarchy of the rez by shutting much of it out.  They are among the few who do NOT want to talk about Trump.  Neither one colors outside the box.  I’ve always sort of innocently sat on the box and watched the great freeform swamp.  Sometimes I got bit by a gator or a skeeter. 

The older I get, the more I realize that what’s going on can be defined as wicked, but that shields it from change by scaring off the nice people who might interfere except that their mothers told them to stay away, stay out of Ick's.  

Wickedness is mostly cultural, which is a series of boxes that vary a LOT.  People here and now think it is very wicked to use a child for physical gratification, but they pretend not to notice the ones who are starving or the neighbor’s kid who is regularly beaten.  They don't worry about children dressed like Las Vegas show girls.

I suppose I’m kind of a conscience goad, but also a source of information, now that they wonder about things that happened long ago.  They stashed knowledge at the time that was too hard to figure out for a kid.  Now safely in retirement memories creep into consciousness again.  Robey runs with a liberal Portland crowd that is impatient with the people’s retreat from responsibility but he — and he’s not alone — finds so much injustice and stupidity so intractable (remember he’s been working in Native American education all his life) that he despairs.  I told him to think of Napi and have a good laugh.  It's a survival strategy.

The rebuilt Swift Dam

These guys are not suits.  If Paul absolutely has to put clothes on, it’s going to be bib overalls. Last night, if his plan worked out, he took Sid Gustafson's book about Swift Dam to the actual Swift Dam and slept there just like the book.

Robey told me about a young male historian in his family who has become fascinated by WWII.  I sent him these notes I took from the Glacier Reporter.  Eddie Big Beaver posed for the Scriver bronze called "No More Buffalo."  Jackie Heavyrunner was "Tiny Man's" grandfather.
"No More Buffalo"

Browning Newspaper Notes 1945 - 1947

August 31, 1945

When July 4th comes around in the future, Edward Big Beaver, Jr. will go through them with mixed emotions since his war wound was suffered last July 4 when he was shot through the hip by a “die hard” Jap in the Philippines. “Hell!” shouted Big Beaver the other day, “Getting shot on July 4th in a battle is more sensible than having it happen in peacetime!” Big Beaver put in approximately four years in the service of his country, most of which was in the hot spots of the Pacific. He received a medical discharge. 

September 24

Harold Douglas, expert electric welder, worked at Hanford and welded the atomic bomb -- blindfolded! [Don’t ask me how he did it. The article didn’t explain -- just that it was the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.]

October 3, 1945

“It was good. It was the biggest thing to hit this valley since the Japs,” said Pfc. Jackie Heavyrunner Jr. of Browning, MT. in an attempt to describe the Carabao Rodeo staged by the 126th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Battalion near Arctao in the Cagayan Valley, northern Luzon. Heavyrunner, who ended the war on his 538th day of conflict with the 3rd (Red Arrow) Division was one of more than a thousand Red Arrowmen, guerrillas and girls who cheered Carabao #9, “Demobilization,” as he sped across the finish line leading a field of 8, to establish an all-time 500 yards record of 5:25:3. Horse-races, relay races, and other events were climaxed by a battle between the lovely ladies of Deupex and Aritao for the Cayagan Valley Softball Crown while a guerilla band furnished music and ice-cold Coke flowed like water. “The rodeos back in Montana were tame compared to this riot,” said Heavyrunner. “It was the first one I’ve seen since I shipped over here in September, 1943.” He saw action at Sardor and Aitape, New Guinea; Morotai, in the Dutch Indies; and Leyte, Philippine Islands, before going to Luzon. There the Red Arrowmen hammered General Yamashita’s forces for six months, killing 12,000 Japs before the Tiger of Malaya surrendered to the 32nd at Baguio.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gracie explained it to me while we were exploring the dam. That writer lady has lived with so many cats, she can't help herself. Her innate curiosity gets the better of her. She gives very satisfying belly rubs though!