Friday, August 31, 2018


My father was convinced that WWIII would begin any day now.  There was a space under the stairs down to the basement where he hid his preparations:  peanut butter, Wheaties and primitive gas masks.  This is what comes of reading too many Police Gazettes"The National Police Gazette, commonly referred to as simply the Police Gazette, was an American magazine founded in 1845. Under publisher Richard K. Fox, it became the forerunner of the men's lifestyle magazine, the illustrated sports weekly, the girlie/pin-up magazine, the celebrity gossip column, Guinness World Records-style competitions, and modern tabloid/sensational journalism."  (Wikipedia)  He hid them behind the clothes hamper in the bathroom where they weren't hard to find.  

It was fascist, though he would have been horrified to realize that.  He thought he was being realistic, I guess.  His brother had flown B29's in WWII and told vivid stories about those days.  It was my father's way of keeping up.  No one in the family ever talked to him about it, so far as I know.  Neither of my brothers was as interested as I was.  I didn't think about the obligation of women to serve men that the mag took as reality -- which led to irate Incels.  I didn't think that such people would ever form an organization or even admit who they were. 

I didn't think that they would be an igniter and exploiter of a Fascist movement today, but it seems they are.  "The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living."  (FDR)

"Fascism is capitalism in decay."  (Rajani Palme Dutt)

Two more things I note: first is that people who are excluded for personality faults have considered that an unjust stigma imposed on them.  Second, they can join each other as a group through the internet without exposing themselves.  Yet there is a good deal of local talk about how there are so many jobs going without qualified or even willing applicants.  Cooks, cops, helpers of all kinds from maintenance to elder care, and so on, are jobs these indignant people (mostly male and young) will not accept because they have been taught to "value" themselves, to leave those jobs to low status people like immigrants (without allowing them into the country), and to slip into lives of non-achievement lubricated by drugs and alcohol -- then into criminal dependence where they are used by the achievers until they are troublesome.  They are so easily discarded.  Their intolerance turns on blindness to others; their remnants of self-preservation become cowardice.  They aren't as likely to be locked up as they are to become rats and live through betrayal until someone shoots them or lets them starve to death.

Forming groups is good.  Apprenticeships are good.  Decent pay and fair entrance to jobs is good.  Where did they go?

Then comes this week's Glacier Reporter with two obituaries of people I know only marginally.  Our service station/C-store/state liquor store has a dependable and intelligent clerk who lives by a formal doctrine of why it is not a demeaning or undeserving job.  I like him very much.  He's Blackfeet, from out Heart Butte way, and was grief-struck by one of these deaths, that of Jay Hardman, a rancher who fit himself into a Blackfeet family by being dependable, kind and constantly in touch.  (I'll post the two obituaries as a separate post later.)  

When I finally registered that Jay was the husband of Frannie Hardman, I made the connection.  Frannie was a teacher's assistant in Heart Butte when I taught there (1989-1990).  She was patient, understanding, and sane when the levels of frustration and confusion rose too high, usually because of white administration.  I remember her most vividly when describing how a cougar was plaguing their ranch and had killed a colt, dragging its remains up in a tree, which a grizzly wouldn't do.  The family was part of the community that was hit hardest by the collapse of Swift Dam, people who lived close to the land according to age-old standards of hard work, support of each other, and patient amusement at the frantic alarms of some people.  (Like me!)  Jay was born in Utah, but I don't know whether he was formally Mormon.  He had that one wife for 57 years.

The other obit was for James LeRoy Skunkcap Sr., who was married to his wife for 58 years.  As I knew him and his nuclear family in the Sixties, he was a remnant of the old days.  His grandfather, Alonzo, was said to be the only Blackfeet brave enough to hunt a grizzly, but I wonder about that, since it was not just killing a predator but also breaking a spiritual taboo.  On the other hand, he was not part of the Old People's circle of revenants who kept the Thunder Pipe Medicine Bundle alive.  

Tourists used to ask us what "Indians" were like.  We'd point to the side of the block that fronted the highway.  Next to the Scriver Museum was Anderson's, two Blackfeet families assimilated to "white" in nice ranch-style homes, then a perfectly adequate but minimal house where Kiplings lived.  Next was the log cabin of the Skunkcaps, which was a town pied-a-terre when they were away from their ranch on highway 89 closer to the mountains, across from the Scriver ranch on the Flatiron stream.  It was mostly an ancient beaver pond full of brush and narrow water channels where lurked lots of trout.

The Skunkcaps of those days were our most dependable trappers.  (Bob was a fur buyer as adjunct to his taxidermy.)  They were ground-level economically, resourceful because of endurance.  When Alonzo, blinded by trachoma in the early days, wanted to get out to his ranch, he came to sit on the porch of the museum the business day ended and we drove him out to home.  There are a lot of stories about the Skunkcaps which the white people like to hear because they consider them funny.  I remember the tracks of their hunting ponies going up the highway and then through snow right into Glacier Park, where the hunting was good.  I don't think they were ever caught and, anyway, it may have been a treaty right to hunt there.

But the real point is that now they have good jobs with real influence in the town (or what used to be the town, since it has been disincorporated) and around the reservation.  Despite all the jokes about their name, they have not dropped "Skunkcap".  They persist.  They endure.  They defeat all fascisms by simply ignoring bullies, the same as Jay and Frannie Hardman did, daily earning their way.  The two families are very different, but they have left many sturdy descendants without needing a magazine or a website.

(If you want to read the obits without waiting, the Glacier Reporter is online at

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