Friday, August 31, 2018


James LeRoy Skunkcap Sr


James LeRoy Skunkcap Sr., 82, passed away on Sunday, Aug. 12, at 9:17 a.m. at the Blackfeet Hospital in Browning. He was the husband of Marlene Edmo Skunkcap, and they shared 58 years of marriage together. 
A viewing/wake was held at the Skunkcap family home west of Browning beginning Tuesday, Aug. 14. On Wednesday, LeRoy was taken to the Glacier Homes Community Center for a continued wake. Services were held Wednesday evening. Rosary was held Thursday evening. The Funeral Mass was Friday, Aug. 17, at the Little Flower Parrish with burial following at the Willow Creek Cemetery. Military rights were rendered in honor of Leroy’s honorable service in the United States Navy.

He was born in Browning on March 23, 1936, to the late James “Jim” Skunkcap and Victoria Mad Plume Rattler Skunkcap. 
He is survived by his wife Marlene; sons Steven and Hardee (Darcy) of Browning, son James and daughters Luwana and Jamess of Fort Hall, Idaho. He is also survived by brothers Gayle (Leona) Skunkcap and Everett (Maxine) Skunkcap of Browning; sisters Darlene Wall of Georgetown, Texas, and Barbara After Buffalo of Browning; brother-in-law Milo (Annette) Edmo; sisters-in-law Bonnie E. Ish, Colleen Edmo and Rita Lora of Fort Hall. 

He is preceded in death by his parents; a son David Lee Skunkcap; brother Dewey Skunkcap Sr.; grandparents Alonzo and Rose (Big Beaver) Skunkcap; maternal grandparents Elmer (Lucy) and Minnie Kaluse Mad Plume-Rattler; and his mother-in-law Jane Pongah Edmo.

Jay Hardman


Jay Hardman, 87, passed away Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, in his sleep after a struggle with a long illness. 
A gathering to celebrate Jay’s life will be Thursday, Aug. 30, at 2 p.m. at the Dupuyer Community Hall.

Jay was born on March 20, 1931 in Myton, Utah. He was a kind and caring man who was always quick to smile and unafraid of hard work. He had many jobs in his youth and settled with wife, Frances, on Birch Creek. They ranched independently, and helped Frances’ family ranch too. 
Jay loved his family, friends, dogs, livestock and playing music. There was not a day that Jay did not visit friends and family either at coffee or on the phone. When times were hard, Jay was a rock for those around him, encouraging them to be their best selves.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Frances Hardman; brothers, Ned, Fred, Alton and Raymond; sisters, Nora, Nola and Eva; and numerous family and friends.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Hy and Bessie Hardman; brothers, Ray, Lester, Cecil, Royal and Melvin.
Condolences can be made to Jay’s memorial page at


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

Thursday, August 30, 2018


News sources tell us that teens are committing suicide in rising numbers.  As if we didn't know that.  Particularly indigenous people or anyone else who is atypical or stigmatized and young enough not to be able to withstand it.  Also, there is a narrow stream of information on "helpers," those who are supposed to be near-magical therapists and shrinks.  Therapy was an "Enlightenment" idea, medicalized, and now made irrelevant by the shift of the world past Enlightenment usefulness.

The idea was that people could be reasoned to sanity, because the extremes of depression, paranoia, and incoherence were by definition insanity is a context now discredited.  It was based on the ideas of an entitled secure world that only ever existed in part and now doesn't exist at all.  There is today plenty to be depressed about -- as a tart member of my congregation said to me once, "depression is simply intelligence."  They ARE after you -- did you see the story about Texas people legal, working even in law enforcement, in their proper place, and blameless, who are now being deported?  Incoherence is the trademark of our current government.

But turn to the person who may or may not be in a "helping profession" but certainly is in contact with people who are in enough distress to want suicide: therapists, sex workers, religion workers, emergency phone line answerers, all emergency responders, jailors, teachers.  Human beings who are up against, possibly skin-to-skin, with deeply distressed people, maybe even with their gloved hands drenched in the person's blood. 

Give up the idea that suicide is always wrong.  Euthanasia, good death, is a fancy word but a concept endorsed by many cultures, including those dependent on life-risking combat or those suffering and/or already close to death.  But even reasonable Enlightened honorable and obedient servants of the mainstream may not have that luxury.

Second, it is wrong to give up for no good reason.  What is a good reason and how does one find it?  There are really two questions.  One is the question of the person who wants to die and the other is the question of the helper, who may or may not want the suicide to happen.  Both are actually clusters of questions, maybe about how to make it happen and maybe how to keep it secret and maybe considering the impact on all the other people, close or far.

An old answer to the nature of sin is that it is separation from God, the source of all good things.  (Some say a version of one's original caregiver.)  A new and abiding answer to the caregiver is to provide the intimacy that the person didn't have or simply didn't feel or rejected out of rage which is a way to keep one's identity together and at least marginally functioning.  Sex workers, even immature sex workers (both subadolescents and older adolescents, both het and same-sex or a variation) know that and the best ones are those best at creating the illusion of intimacy.  This can postpone suicide.  The best therapists are no different.  The worst ones try to argue a person to sanity.

The natural world itself is always ready for intimacy if a person can get to it.  The therapist may take advantage of this, using hikes or symphonies or pets to renew the sensory matrix that the brain (which is largely emotional) needs to link to reasoning.  I once read that after an intense encounter with someone, the therapist should go outside and lie spread on the ground, feeling it or imagining it seeping up into them, letting the pain filter down into the soil.

True intimacy with a second person (not sex, though that can be involved) means things like trust, bonding, a holding environment, "using" the stronger person's interior structure temporarily.  Extending or receiving that is very hard and messes up any pre-existing life.  It's not a matter of words, though books and phone calls, vids and emails, can convey intimacy -- even false intimacy -- and for some that's enough.

A most powerful factor in the post-Enlightenment understanding is not just person-to-person, living entity to living entity, but the feeling of participation, that one is not meaningless, existence-less, random and beneath notice.  There are others with unendurable pain, others who are facing beheading, others whose families don't even approach what they are supposed to be, others whose marriages went smash, others who are trannies.  They are not meaningless.  They all deserve acknowledgement without having to compromise who they are.  

When a person is a helper, they feel it, too.  That's what they do -- get close enough to feel it.  It's not a legal issue, it can't be done with rules.  Sometimes it can be expressed in words: stories, poems, song lyrics.  Maybe a person can best understand someone else by dancing with them.

I don't trust therapists much.  The ones I know, maybe professionally, or who have tried to help me as a distressed person were mostly armored to protect themselves or too much a part of the culture to see outside of it.  Some of the most useful moments were accidental, like the day my therapist forgot about our appointment and locked me out.  Groups are often helpful, but I've never been close to a fellow groupie.  

But that was all a half-century ago.  When I was pretty serious about suicide, no one recognized or acknowledged it.  Later, when I was out of danger. a few concerned people decided I needed to be helped, but only made contact.  That was very nice -- not quite relevant.  When I was really over-the-top and out-of-control, no one stopped me.  It was impressed upon me that a suicidal person can always kill themselves.  The key is giving them a reason to live.  If you can't do that, step back.  But consider the burden on the people who answered the desperate calls during floods when there was no one who could help and no one wanted suicide.

Today's world is as bad as the one that prompted Archibald Macleish to write "J.B."  As bad as the world that prompted the original writer of the Book of Job in the Bible.  The story is an argument between Enlightenment reason and post-modern physiological sensory bonding with the world, which presents itself in the form of a forsythia at the end of a bridge.  In the end there is no argument or theory, just feeling and reaching out.

Here's a worthy discussion of enlightenment-based euthanasia.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Maybe it was an essay that got me to thinking about this, but I don't remember where or who wrote it.  The point was that there are some things one does that expose a person to change agents, whether it's writing advice columns and realizing how much and what kind of trouble people are really struggling through, or whether it is a member of the Supreme Court that had an entirely unjustified idea of who is entitled to what.  Once they are in the role, they gradually see the world quite differently.

Because my life has been marked by long periods grappling with people who have different goals and standards than mine, I think about this quite a bit.  The main lesson is that judging and predicting are very iffy.  Nor can one resist being changed, though trying to stay the same will change you in ways you might not like.  Or maybe the hordes of people who have never been-there/done-that will not understand and not want to, either.

Slow realization that something that's not at all what you thought can become replaced in a flash by the big insight: nothing is what you thought.  As a little child, I was very proper and believed that everything had its place, its function, its proper name.  Two little brothers challenged that.  They were not at all who I thought they were.  One is dead and his picture in my head still changes and changes.  I hardly know the living one.  Why should I?

Teachers always say that they learn more from their students than they manage to teach them and I don't challenge that.  But I'm not talking about learning stuff.  I'm talking about deep realignment in one's premises about existence.  Few people will see it because it moves a person to a new set of people, but old friends may be shocked and horrified.  Some will try to punish, to try to whip a new identity back to being like the old one they knew and thought they controlled.  A few will realize.

That original proper little girl (b. 1939) was quite aware that the world was in an agonizing and costly war.  It was also obvious that girls were not like boys for some reason that could not be explained but that guided my mother's treatment of us.  Bottom line?  Life is hard and females must survive it while protecting the tender little males.

I was never afraid of rape.  Why would anyone want to do that?  But I feared pregnancy because I saw and heard what it meant:  hurting, being told what you have to do, not being able to travel, never again having enough money or enough room in the house, possibly dying.

I was religious as an interesting thing to do: sit in church, provide bouquets, sing together, shake hands with people but never hug them.  No one else in our extended family, extended or not, ever went to church.  Because our father announced he was an atheist, which was part of his Progressive Platform, we didn't take dogma very seriously and when the boys were old enough, they didn't go to church.  But we all went to Boy Scouts, including me.  I took a book.  But the part that Ernest Thompson Seton invented from his scraps about Indians seemed into me anyway.  

When my father was home and we went to the movies together (it wasn't all hardship) we drove around Portland, sometimes at dusk.  We visited the many heroic bronze statues, the ones like the ones everyone is trashing now.  They were there because Portland was settled by people from Boston who loved big statues.  Check out the Boston Commons.   

So I was over 21, never dated anyone, been reading "Marjorie Morningstar," which is not about an Indian princess but the same fantasy in terms of theatre and I attached to a sculptor/father but we thought of it as more of a knight/squire relationship.  He gave me access to a lot of scary difficult things I couldn't really do, so I felt tough and competent.  Each of my brothers came to see what it was all about, ran into Bob's idea of how to treat help, and quickly left never to return.  They had both been Marines.  

Then, without naming it, abuse was too much.  I could rationalize, I could tough it out, but depression -- I didn't know what that was either -- gripped me physically.  I was definitely changed -- the elements were the same, but if I were to go on living, the priorities would have to be realigned.

As kindness, my wealthy gifted privileged friends extended hospitality.  I saw that it was empty.  No one wanted to talk.  In plays the main characters are described as three-dimensional.  The others are "flat."  I was "flat."  They came to see me and to them the mountains and Indians were "flat."  The same thing happened with religion.  Everything was two-dimensional.

Computers are two-dimensional, flat.  But they have keyboards.  My life is secret except on the keyboards.  The past comes leaping and crawling through.  It's all alive and maybe in flames but not flat.  The present doesn't exist, which is why the housework and grass-cutting is so neglected.  People who knew me in other incarnations, esp. as adjuncts to what they considered powerful men, are shocked that I brush them off.  I'm not an adjunct to anyone now.  Nor am I dependent on keyboards -- legal pads and the right kind of ball point will do very well.

It's the words, but it's not the words, its the concepts behind and under the words.  They could be behind and under images or music, but I do words.  Sod propriety.  Sod expectations.  Sod publishing.  Sod control by others.  

This side of me rising may be the influence of Cinematheque/Smash Street Boys and all their other names.  A little Paris, a little Appalachia, and a lot of Scheherazade.  For me, more of Moccasin Flats.  A change of circumstances can change a person, but mostly they reveal something that was already there, just not seen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

BLOOD QUANTUM: Fiction. A reblog from 2013

"BLOOD QUANTUM": fiction

The wind was blowing the day the list was made -- but the wind was always blowing in those high grasslands.  The cavalry tent flapped hard and the private hoped the pegs and ropes had been installed properly.  A fly sheet in front gave some shade, but naturally that was claimed by the officers.  The private, who had been assigned to his task because he had been a schoolteacher in his previous life, had carried a rickety little table out in front of the short row of seated and uniformed old men under whom he served.  On the top of his too small table, he arranged a ledger, his ink pot, and a couple of stones for paperweights.  He kept his quills in his hat band so they would not “take wing.”

Straggling out from his table was a long line of jostling Indians who understood themselves to be signing up for the issue of commodities.  It was important.  The people remained on the remnant of their own lands but were like refugees because they could not follow the nomadic round that provided their food.  The buffalo that were the keystone of their life and their very metabolisms were gone.  The officers were concerned that Indians that should be fed by Canada might be pushing into the American list, but there wasn’t much of a way to sort them out.  The 49th parallel was an arbitrary boundary that cut across both natural and historical uses of the land.  The whites could hardly tell one dusky face from another.

The first customer was a giant of a man in a tent of a shirt, but no “nethers” except a loincloth.  His legs were like two trees and his face was a thundercloud that he thrust down into the pale countenance of the trapped soldier who squeaked,  “Name please?”

A sound like thunder, unintelligible.  “Again, please?”  Same result.  An interpreter had not been provided.  The second person in line, a round woman with a bold attitude, said, “Beaver Who Prepares For Winter.”  

“I’m not ready for you yet, Ma’am.”

“Not MY name --  HIS name!”  The clerk looked into the thundercloud for confirmation and it nodded.  Then the man stepped over to the side of the table where he clearly intended to remain as some kind of adjunct.  He stayed for the duration, but -- thankfully -- didn’t interfere.  In fact, he gestured people to come forward, hurrying them up.  The round bold woman was named “Her Children Are Strong.”  Sighing, the clerk wrote “Strong Mother.”

The line wasn’t all that long since so many people had died in the preceding years, but somehow it kept growing.  Also, dogs began to join the people.  A few quarreled, making a lot of noise and commotion.  No one moved to do anything about it.  An officer came out of the tent and shouted,  “Who owns these dogs?  Get them out of here!”  The People looked at each other.  What could he mean?  No one owns dogs.  They are a tribe of their own.

Glancing up while he dipped his pen in the ink, he looked down the line and saw someone he recognized.  It was Joe Oiseau.  He knew the man was French Canadian -- in fact, a trapper from Eastern Canada, not an Indian -- but he liked the man.  Joe had his arm around a very pretty girl, quite a bit younger, wrapped in a blanket and certainly full-blood.  When they got to the table, Joe looked at the clerk and said nothing.   The officers had gotten bored and withdrawn deeper into the tent where the clerk could hear them talking and laughing.  No doubt someone had brought a flask.  

The clerk wrote down “Joe Oiseau” and asked, “Your daughter?”  Joe, tight-lipped, said, “Wife.”  Then he grinned.  The girl peeked over the edge of her blanket with huge dark grateful eyes.  Her name was “The One Who Wakes in the Night.”   The clerk wrote “Mrs. Oiseau.”

As the day went on, warming up as well as windy, people grew tired and dehydrated but there was nothing to drink.  Finally Mrs. Strong Mother brought a bucket from the creek and the People scooped it up with their hands.  Lunch meant that the officers ate in the tent and someone brought the clerk a chunk of bread and some cheese, but there was nothing for the Indians.  It wasn't meanness.  No one had thought of it.  They didn't complain.

A man who had been standing in line with three women, stoically enduring, now became the focus of a quarrel more serious than the dogfights: his wives began to scream and hit each other.  Someone had just told them that only one wife could be put on the list and each was determined to be that wife.  The stoic man ignored them and removed himself to the end of the line.  This did not stop the fighting and screaming until the big man the clerk thought of as “Thundercloud” went back and beat them hard with his hands.  They did not leave, just turned their backs on “Thundercloud” and linked arms.  But they became quiet.  And kept their place.

And so it went. 

Her bright blood sprang into the syringe when the phlebotomist took it for genetic testing.  The label on the test tube said “Josie Oiseau.”  

“You know, of course,” the woman said, “There is no blood test that will tell what tribe you belong to and anyway, blood quantum is a misnomer.  The records are by descent, provenance, who your ancestors were or at least who they were thought to be at the time the first records of the tribe were made.  In those days no one even knew there were blood types, much less anything like a genome.”

“Yeah.  I’ve been reading up.  There wasn’t even any such thing as a tribe until the whites came along and lumped people together according to language and customs.  It’s an outsider concept.  We were just whoever was there when they made the first list.”

The technician smiled.  “You college kids are so smart!  But then why do you want your blood tested?”  

“I need to prove I’m my father’s daughter.  There’s no documentation: no wedding license or baptismal record.  My mother married other men along the way and the third husband is the stepfather who raised me.  He’s Indian but not this tribe.  My mother is a quarter.  It was her genetic grandparents who were on the original roll as full-blood.  I’ve taken their name and now I need to prove I’m their descendant.  Otherwise I won’t be able to inherit my mother’s ranch or get any help from the government for grad school.”

The technician looked at the beautiful slim young woman with big eyes and black satin hair, and thought, “There’s something stylish about her.  Almost French.”  She asked, “So when is your father coming in for his blood draw.”

“He’s dead.”  Silence.  Then the girl offered a small wooden box with brass decorations, the kind one might buy at an Asian import store.  The technician opened it.  Inside were two thick glossy braids.  “My grandmother saved these when they forced my father to cut them in order to play basketball.  They were considered a hazard: whips.”  More silence as the phlebotomist looked at the braids.

Finally the technician had thought it through.  “Yes,” she said, accepting the box.  “We will use as little hair as we can to get a good genome match.”

Monday, August 27, 2018


Gerrymandering is about changing the boundaries of jurisdictions:  juri--law; diction--spoken.  We think of the changing of boundaries as being about voting, but it also part of law, a variation on definitions which is another way to tunnel under the meanings of written law.  Changing the boundaries and definitions are ways to defy the will of the people, while claiming to follow it.  

In theory, the law makes a line between what is permitted and what is not.  In fact, this is true, but public sentiment can subvert written law, as when a beloved figure is tried in a court of law, but the jury refuses to convict.  The REAL boundary is arbitrary and culturally controlled: that is, if people don't agree with the explicit law, they'll just ignore it. 

The great danger of this is that it means an opportunity for profit at that law/boundary.  First of all, one can sell what now goes for a higher price because it is forbidden and therefore has cachet and exciting risk.  Second, once someone has bought something illegal, blackmail is on the table, an additional source of profit.  Prohibition is the paradigmatic example.

Over the last few years the laws have become tighter and more idealistic.  This has meant that there are many laws and regulations that are ignored because people have looked left and right at the neighbors they know, and decided the law is irrelevant.  "Everybody does it" erases the idea of not cheating on taxes.  Drugs were a precursor.  An attempt was made to stigmatize certain practices as a backup to law (or maybe a trigger for the law) and strengthening of law, but a wave of anti-stigmatizing complicates that.  If everybody takes drugs bought on the street, they must be redeemed by antidotes and programs, instead of just letting them die, or -- worse -- pilling their corpses somewhere in plain sight, a variation of heads on spikes.  But the people who love them in spite of everything will not allow it.

I grew up with suppertime conversation centered on cooperatives versus corporations.  My father worked for a cooperative, but as soon as it was bought out by a corporation, he was fired as incompetent and redundant.  As far as I know, the accusations were true.  He was not good for the profit line.  So that's a bias, but I expected my father NOT to be those things, to do something about it.  He didn't.  I blamed him.

Incorporation -- pretending that an organizational body is a REAL body -- is a great way to avoid taking personal responsibility.  One is simply a small part of a big group.  The co-op was sold, the same as the local co-ops in Valier, as a way of exiting responsibility as in member voters researching and deciding management practices.  They don't have time, it's too hard, it's not efficient, we hate having to go out in the evening after working all day . . .  Before you realize, like Missoula, the town water system has been sold to people willing to hold you hostage because you don't even know where they are, much less who they are.

The great social conflation of our time is the folding of corporations into mafia -- first they become like one themselves, then they join another more global one.  As my mother used to say,  "For every bug there's a bigger bug."  Once you have no real reason to object -- partly because you don't know and partly because it's easier at first -- you've become biofilm.  When bacteria in your sinuses reach a point where they can form biofilm, it's just about impossible to get rid of sinusitis.  Creating a mafia is quite parallel.

Just as the great gift of humans is the ability to change the environment to suit themselves, it is the strength of mafia-style corporations to change the environment of doing business so that it responds to gaming.  The best game is normalizing criminal behavior so as to declare that it is no longer criminal, but simply the normal way of doing business:  laundering money, ignoring bank regulations, bribing governments, triggering famine.  In his railing against what happened to Pacific Supply Farmer's Wholesale Co-operative, my father immunized me against corporations, even churches.

On Twitter "Lincoln's Bible" is systematically and historically proving that the Republicans have become a mafia, with Trump only a figurehead supplied by someone or someones who sound like "Star Wars" characters controlling both Trump and Putin.  If Repubs begin to diverge, they are grabbed by the throat.  Part of the case is that many of these opportunists (because of the cover of government they can evade the charge of being criminals) put down roots around here.  

In the nineteenth century the area was home to gangsters on horses, maybe stealers of horses, purveyors of alcohol, users of force.  When I came in 1961, Mrs. Tellefero, who lived where Piegan Institute is now, had been the daughter of a store keep in St. Marys who occasionally let renegades takes shelter in the store, sleeping on the counters to avoid the draft across the floor.  When Mrs. Tellefero, then a girl, went to her own bed, she leaned a shotgun against the head.  I don't know whether she ever had to use it.  

But maybe I'm remembering wrong.  Maybe it was Mr. Tellefero who was a store keep and Mrs. Tellefero's father was a doctor who was never harmed because he was so needed.  The shotgun is what I remember.  Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat on the Canada side of a then very permeable border, were populated by Texans.  That means Confederates.  It also means Sein Fein and the KKK.

The Conservative Party of Canada just voted to end birthright citizenship in Canada.  That means one cannot be a citizen simply by being born there.  You'll have to meet protocols and standards and be dangled.  That is, the qualification for citizenship is at the mercy of the authorities.

At present the boundary with Canada is not moved, but it is enforced from the US side with hardened vigor.  Now that ICE is in the picture, that hardness extends to death.  But mafias know that getting too harsh too soon can be a mistake.  Manafort has two good reasons not to flip:  the hope of a pardon from a mafia don and the threat of death -- if not him, someone he cares about.  If I were his wife, I would sleep with a shotgun leaned against the head of the bed.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


The papers left from animal control are the hardest to discard.  Tons of clippings from when I was there forever after, all of them joking and punning until we get to the genomic revolution and French philosophy. 

I wasn't much moved by the idea of gender equality though I was the first woman hired in Portland.  There had been one other in Washington County, adjacent to Multnomah, much younger.   She left when she sprained her back.  At first I was just trying to survive and some hoped I wouldn't, including competing women.  My closest competitor turned out to be a felon.  The window into law enforcement (we were part of the sheriff's department) was a preoccupation.  Always black people were on my mind.

They told me Civil Service was for me, because otherwise I get fired.  The panel that interviewed me had a black man on it and it was clear he was on my side as a fellow minority.  Also, he had a black man's romantic notions about "Indians" and I'd spent more than a decade with the Blackfeet.  He loved it when they asked (thinking of my back) whether I could lift a heavy dog and I said because I'd been married to a taxidermist that I could lift a deer, couldn't lift a cougar because if I picked up one end the other was still on the floor, and I had to skid bears.  

"Could I shoot?" they asked, thinking of picking off coyotes out at the airport where they got on the runway.  I told them honestly that in summer I shot a ground squirrel every morning to feed the pet eagle and fox.  When the serving officers went to a shooting range to qualify, I did better than the others except for a guy who had been a Vietnam sniper.  

This was the beginning of wrestling with projections.  I never was the competent cowgirl they thought of, who were the creation of scriptwriters and organizations meant to establish a mystique of technique that would make people have to qualify for inclusion.  There was a whole dogma about how to ride a horse -- actually competing dogmas, most of them intended to overcome muscle instincts so as to impose intellectual rules.  I never was able to do that.  When I rode a horse, I just sat there and tried not to fall off -- not to understand which foot was the horse's lead.

The boss at first was a scandal, very Trumpy in a Latin/Hawaiian way.  #metoo would faint.  Then came Burgwin, an old cop who thought all the time and pulled me into his ideas.  He'd yell, "Scriver, get yer butt in here!" and talk about the pesky obsessed women who thought they were helping animals as "getting their tits in the wringer."  I learned to ignore all that stuff and listen deeper.

He's the one who thought of education for the officers, who at that point were the stereotype of dog-catchers.  He pressed me to write a handbook and I did.  I thought "animal" and brought in the Portland zoo veterinarian and the primate center honcho.  They sneered at us, but we got smarter.

Texas A&M is the only place I know of that grants a degree in animal control as a branch of police work.  The difference from humane society work is not that the focus is on community law rather than the justice of compassion, which is true, but rather that humane work is usually focused on a shelter where the animals are brought, with a few investigators who work specific cases.  Animal control goes into the neighborhoods and homes to keep order and to see what's really happening.

We did run a shelter and we did kill excess animals.  One of the shelter attendants loved animals very much.  He adopted as many dogs as he could but Burgwin found him one day in tears, cradling a Samoyed pup he was supposed to kill (they are adorable little fluff balls who lick your face) and gently steered him into another job somewhere else.

A man came in and demanded to see what animals we had killed that day.  Instead of preventing him, I escorted him.  He looked at the knee-high pile (some kittens on top) with a stone face, took it in, turned and left.  Never came back.  

Another day it was a trucker, big tough guy, who had to put his little ride-along buddy to sleep because of suffering old age.  He wept the whole time and one of us put our arms around him and held him for a while.  Then there was the woman who called for us to come get the family cat because her husband would only have sex with the cat, not her.  I didn't figure it out until I heard about Howard Stern's tiny penis contest and learned about micro-penises.

It was clear that humans are animals, packed with emotions that animals have and lots more besides.  Sorting and guiding all that prevented murder and mayhem.  An escaped camel from a cigarette ad that got tangled in a swing set at the elementary school, an escaped half-grown pet lion that was the pet of the son of the King of the Gypsies, a steady stream of giant constrictor snakes that never matched the occasional big snake impounded in some surprising place.  Dogs, barking, barking, barking.  Cats yowling as they gave birth for the third time in a year.  An extended family from a Mediterranean country who killed a goat and roasted it over a pit fire in plain sight.  A crazed escaped elephant.

I wangled a way to visit animal control in Los Angeles to learn from them.  A handsome ex-marine explained that they averaged five loose lions a year, usually tame old beasts used in movies, but they feared most of all the occasional rogue ostrich that would tear your guts out with their big claw feet, really just contemporary velociraptors.  One guy made himself an expert with a bolo (heavy balls on a short piece of rope) specifically to capture ostriches.  In the old days, they explained, there were always ropers around in the off-season for rodeos, but the lost popularity of Westerns had ended the type.

The main insight was that humans are an interacting version of other animals and that everything was situational.  This has remained true.  It is foundational.