PART TWO – SEQUOYAH
Buff Speaking June 7, 1978
After two days hitching across deserts and mountains to La Plata, I walked up the steep hill to Mountain State University where I had been Buffington Journeycake PhD, Introduction to Anthropology. I had hoped for an advanced class as soon as I could get enough students to sign up.
I had dropped out of teaching after I got just too busy with the business of the Circle. Something very important had come out of the Circle and I wanted to be part of it. So I quit teaching after 1973.
The spring before the Circle I had gone to Santo Toribio Pueblo like my old professor Taze had done before me. I took Uncle Denny fishing at a nearby lake and we talked corn crop until the stars came up. I told him about the kinds of corn the Cherokees raised in their slash-and-burn fields on the hillsides on my state Sequoyah. He showed me the blue corn of his people. We caught no fish.
Corn talk turned into talk of the strangeness of everyday doings in the little rural Indian communities of Sequoyah – places like Gourd Holler and Chicken Town. Uncle Denny told me the very similar and equally strange gossip of Santo Toribio. Heck, how could any of this stuff go into a scholarly paper for the American Anthropological Association?
In the end I had mentioned the Circle. Uncle Denny’s eyes lit up for a second in the campfire glow. He told his vision of a great assembly. Then we talked corn a little more and we went to sleep under the sky in our blankets.
Manny Zamora was the first one who had told me about the circle as we sat around in his office in the drama building at Mountain State University.
As soon as I got back from Santo Toribio, I told Manny, “Uncle Denny really wants to go to the Circle. Let’s make sure that Louie sends him a formal invite.”
Manny knows something about Pueblo culture, so he was amazed that Uncle Denny took us into the kiva. I wasn’t so surprised by that. I knew it was the only way that Uncle Denny could show all his people how seriously he took us – and the Circle. But that he let the women in – that made it extra-special.
I was the one who went to Santo Toribio in the summer of 1972 to take Uncle Denny to the Circle in Colorado. We had an endless, bumpy ride in Rural Bus service vehicles to a crossroad near Fred Zeller’s farm. Then I stuck out a thumb to get a ride for me and this nearly blind old man who smiled like this journey was the most ordinary thing in the world for him.
We ended up in the back of a pickup with five young people. I unrolled my sleeping bag and wrapped it around me and Uncle Denny to protect us from the bitter wind as the pickup drove along.
When we got to Fred’s log cabin, Fred seemed to know right away that Uncle Denny was an important person. Fred found sleeping space for Uncle Denny in the warmest room and heated up some venison hash on his wood stove for the old man. And he provided the pony for Uncle Denny to ride the day we went in our thousands with Louie in front and the National Guard backed down. Then we walked and Uncle Denny rode his pony twelve miles to Flat Mountain Valley.
Now in 1978 I went to Manny Zamora’s office to see my oldest friend at the college.
In this year of 1978 we were getting ready to make the Circle the seventh time.
Manny had kept on teaching at the college when I had quit. His office door was open, but he was standing in a large studio telling a group of students how to perform a particular scene. As usual, his hands, his voice and his hair were all waving in the air, wildly excited. When he saw me, he made a leap that would have looked good in the Olympics and I had his long, skinny
arms around me. Then just as rapidly, he said, “Excuse me a second,” leaped back to his students, finished explaining the scene and said goodbye to them. As they left, he strode towards me and said, “OK, now let’s talk.”
We went into his office. While quickly drawing two paper cupfuls of coffee from his percolator and handing one to me, Manny said, “Say, have you seen Louie’s new book? Here’s my copy.”
He put the small book into one of my hands. My other hand put my coffee cup down on Manny’s desk and I sat down to look over Tales of the Circle by Louie McGowan.
The book was full of the same kind of stories that Louie told so well around a campfire. But without his voice and his gestures and the light of his eyes, the stories didn’t go over in print. Louie wrote of many strange and funny incidents – but Louie himself, the genius who had led us all, was there only in name. He left himself just as much of a mystery as before. There were so many things that he would know best about how the movement of the Circle developed that he did not tell. Louie mentioned me once in his book, but he never mentioned his ex-wife Rivka. I shook my head.
“Hey Manny,” I said, looking up from the book at him, “I know I’ve been out of anthropology for a while. But I thought I’d use some of my old training to write a book about the Circle – to explain why everything happened. At first I thought I’d just go to Zarahemla and interview Louie. Then I met up with Nephi and Taze and Rivka and recorded them. And now Louie’s book – after seeing it, I don’t know what he’ll ever tell of the things he really knows. So I was wondering if you…”
“Excellent!” Manny said, slamming his hand on his desk top. “We can get started now!” and he drank down the last of his paper cup of coffee and drew another cupful. I reached down on the floor and undid my bedroll and pulled out my tape recorder. Manny started his story. He kept going until the office grew shadowy. Then we walked down the hill for supper at the
café with the good goat cheese enchiladas and there was more talk and more talk. I scribbled Manny’s words there as fast as I could into a battered notebook.
It’s great to have a Spanish last name like Zamora now that I live among all these Chicano people here in La Plata. Of course my grandparents came to America from Poland but I have distant ancestors who were Sefardis – Jews from Spain. They were forced to leave Spain in 1492 on the same day that Columbus set sail across the Atlantic.
When they left Spain, my ancestors first settled in Greece and then they came up through Bulgaria and Romania to Poland. They brought Klezmer music with them – that’s a bunch of clarinets and a couple of fiddles, maybe an accordion or a hammered dulcimer, just going out of their minds. It has this real Balkan-style Greek and Romanian sound. For generations my family traveled from town to town playing Klezmer music at weddings and all other kinds of parties. We intermarried with the local Jews, and most of us are short. But my dad and I are throwbacks – slender and elongated like Spanish Jews.
In the last few generations a lot of us branched out from being musicians to acting. We would go around the week of Purim – that’ a Jewish holiday about the time of Mardi Gras, late February and early March. At that time a lot of Jews dress up in crazy Mardi Gras-type costumes. My grandparents and my aunts and uncles would be standing in a wagon, dressed in crazier costumes than anybody else, putting on a play, passing the hat to raise enough money to get to the next town.
When my grandparents came to New York, they would act in the regular Yiddish theater – ordinary stages inside a building, the whole bit. But my parents got back into the nomad theater thing again, doing shows for crowds on street corners and passing the hat. Only they were doing it for the People’s Party and labor unions and any other good causes they could find.
I was born in 1946 and I did my first street theater shtick with my parents when I was four years old. Then in 1952, the Democrats under President Douglas went out of office and the Republicans came in under Taft and Nixon. The New York cops started going after street musicians and street theater. I can remember my mother whispering to me, “Say goodbye to the audience.” I would wave and say “Goodbye, folks!”
That was because my parents could see the cops a few blocks off. We would fake a couple of final lines to close the show up with and then we would run. In a situation like this, you can’t have fancy scenery. We would have folding chairs with signs on them that said TREE, MOUNTAIN, HOUSE, etc. and when we saw the cops, my parents and the other grownups in the cast would fold up the chairs under their arms and we would skedaddle.
My parents got arrested a couple of times.
Once they were performing next to a big garment workshop where strike was going on. Their show was to support the strikers and try to get the strike breakers to come out and join the strike.
My parents didn’t allow me to go to that show. They said the cops would be swinging clubs at the strikers and a lot of the strike breakers had baseball bats and Mom and Dad didn’t want my noggin in the way.
It was on my eighth birthday. My parents went to jail. I was with my father’s mom. She went to the police station, then to the court to see my parent’s trial, then to see them in jail – they got 30 days. So she didn’t have time to fix me a cake. All she had time to do was fix me a cupcake with a candle on it and say “Mazal Tov. Happy birthday.”
My grandmother decided it was more wholesome for a growing boy like me to go to summer camp than to risk this whole cop and jail scene. The People’s Party and the unions have some beautiful summer camps in the Adirondacks – ultra, ultra cheap. That’s where a lot of New York kids find out there’s such things as lakes and forests and MOUNTAIN is more than a label on a folding chair in a street performance.
I learned in camp how to make a fire by rubbing sticks and I got a prize for canoeing skills. When I was 17 I became a camp counselor. So I have two things in my blood – the theater and youth work for social movements.
I also grew up able to get into different cultures. By the time I got out of high school I could speak Italian as well as English and Yiddish. We put on most of our street plays in English, but some in Italian or Yiddish. Sometimes some of our theatrical company would put on plays in Polish if we were playing in a Polish neighborhood and my parents and I learned enough Polish to chime in a few lines.
There are so many millions of poor Jews and other poor folks still in Europe who are always coming to New York from the old country. So in the working class neighborhoods they still speak a lot of the old country languages – especially Yiddish and Italian – although all the young people born in this country know English.
Even white-collar people like Rivka’s family…Say that surprised me when I was listening to your tape of Rivka and she said she couldn’t speak Yiddish well. I’ve conversed with her in Yiddish and I thought she rattled along in it pretty good.
When TV got big around 1968, our street shows and our shows in the halls we hired continued being popular, even though New York has English TV, Italian TV, Yiddish TV. Everybody knows TV was possible in the Thirties. The only reason there were suddenly lots of TV channels in the late Sixties was that big business wanted to sell product and propagandize against the People’s Party.
By then I was in Willard, a private college in Vermont that had a good drama school. My grandmother scraped up every nickel she could to send me and I got a small scholarship. Willard is run by Unitarians. They started having boys and girls co-ed in the 1850’s which was very radical for those days. They had to be cautious back then to avoid a scandal so there are big wooden beams under the dining hall tables connecting the legs so that the boys and girls can’t reach out their ankles and play footsie with one another.
Willard College was where I first met Kathy McNaughton. She was tall and fine-boned with a long braid of orange-gold hair down her back. She was a Unitarian minister’s daughter and the first lover I ever had. I had just turned 18 when I got together with Kathy. By the time I was going to Willard, there was sill no footsie in the dining hall, but couples often went to the woods with blankets over our shoulders. There was always something about it that seemed pure and modest to me. I may be the most talkative person one earth, but I’m still shy. I could see the pink of Kathy blushing and feel the warmth of the blush in my own face.
Some weekends Kathy and I toured small towns and rural areas of northern New England with People’s Party cultural teams. We put on lots of plays – some of them we wrote ourselves. We would write left-wing songs for the whole team to sing – we tried to come up with the funniest words possible. In all our political and cultural work, Kathy and I always collaborated together.
Finally in our senior year after four years together, Kathy told me, “I’m tired of all the travel and hubbub of the theatrical stuff. I want to learn to express my own inner world by painting.”
And I said, “fine. Next time there’s a tour by the cultural team, I’ll go and you stay back at college and paint pictures.”
But then after I was gone on a couple of tours, I found that Kathy was seeing this other guy while I was away. It was all over between us. I never have gotten over the shock. I have been with other women since Kathy, but it never has lasted as long and I have never had such an intense love in my life. I love her still.
After I graduated, I wanted to get as far away from the Northeast as possible so I wouldn’t have to see Kathy again. I went to the University of New Mexico and did a couple of years of graduate work. I got good recommendations.
That’s how I cam to this isolated out-of-the-way college at La Plata as a drama instructor.
I found myself being an advisor to People’s Party Youth Alliance cultural teams all over this region. The team in La Plata was mostly Chicano miners’ kids – good folks. When they saw my last name was Zamora, they would talk to me in Spanish. At first Spanish to me was like hearing pebbles clatter around in a tin can, but now I’ve learned to speak it and I’ve found myself becoming more and more a part of the culture of this region.
I got to know Rivka before I ever met Louie. I first met Louie in April, 1971, at the Spring Festival here at Mountain State University. Our drama class put on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and I was really concerned that the play should be every bit as funny as old Will intended it. So it did me good to see this weather-beaten guy in a cowboy hat, obviously a real local formed from the soil of this Rocky Mountain country. He had his head flung back, laughing harder than anybody else. hen I went down into the audience to talk to him after the show, I found out he was Rivka’s husband Louie.
Louie came backstage with me. I pulled out my guitar to practice some of the Mexican ranchera songs I was learning, singing along with some of the Chicanos in the cast of the play. Then Louie said, “I know a few songs.” A few! He sang through all these old cowboy songs about herding cattle in the rain and heat and cold and ballads about outlaws from over 100 years ago, and other songs of more recent events that had happened in our lifetime – true folk creations of modern times. And Louie sang epic songs of the migration of the Mormon people across the prairies to escape from persecution.
The tunes were simple, easy for me to accompany on my guitar. Louie’s voice wasn’t all that great, but he was singing all this incredibly real folklore material. “Where did you get all this stuff?” I asked him.
“From my ma, my dad and my uncles,” he said. I could have kicked myself. Here was all this first-hand folk material from the laboring people of our mountains and our college didn’t have a professor of folklore to record it. I knew as soon as I could, I wanted to get up to Louie’s community in Zarahemla Valley to put on a show and record Louie’s songs. After all, the importance of a cultural team is not only what it brings to the people from the outside, but what it learns from them.
As I began to learn what was going on in the mountains north of La Plata, I wanted to go to Zarahemla and see Louie more than ever. Something very dangerous was starting to take shape up there.
My main source of information for this was a 17 year old boy in the People’s Party Youth Alliance. His name is Roberto Molinas and everybody called him Turco.
When I first went to a Youth Alliance meeting in La Plata, I was introduced to the kids as the new drama coach for the cultural team. I said, “Hey, it’s great being here. It’s gonna be a lot of fun learning this whole new culture around here – a little different from what I’m used to, since I’m from New York and Jewish and all that.”
Just then a girl in the back of the room stuck up her hand. I pointed to her and said, “Go ahead.”
She stood up and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve always wondered. I’ve heard people talk about Jews a lot and I’d like to know –what is a Jew anyway?”
Before I could answer, a stocky, dark-skinned boy stood up. “A Jew is like what everybody calls me,” he said, tapping his chest with his forefinger, “Turco!”
The girl said “OH, OK, I understand,” and sat down. I didn’t understand, but apparently Turco’s answer satisfied her and I went on discussing plans for drama activities.
After the meeting, Turco came up to me and said, “Would you like to come have dinner with me and my parents Friday night?”
And I said, “Sure.”
When I got to Turco’s house, his mother was standing at the head of the table. Turco’s dad and his six brothers and sisters were standing along the sides. Turco’s mom had the kind of black lace cloth on her head that Catholic women wear to Mass. A candle was standing on the table in front of her. She lit it and then she and all the others held their hands in front of their eyes. I took my place at the table and held my hands in front of my eyes too. This is the same gesture my family made when we ate at my mom’s parents’ home on Friday nights when they celebrated the beginning of the Sabbath.
Turco’s mom spoke some words in Spanish and I could catch a few of them. “Señor Dios bendito, nuestro Rey del mundo…”
Of course! Now I realized. These words were a Spanish version of what my mom’s mom said in Hebrew – “Blessed are thou, oh Lord our God, King of the universe…” when she lit her seven-branched candlestick and ushered in the Sabbath on Friday night.
But no Orthodox Jew would ever eat the meal we had in Turco’s house that night – chicken tacos with cheese sprinkled on top. In the kitchen at my mother’s parents place, they kept all the dishes that were to hold cheese and other dairy products in a separate cabinet from the dishes that held meat.
Turco and his family were very dark-skinned with the Oriental-looking eyes of Mexican Indians. They had only a trace in their features of any ancestors from Spain. Yet long ago some of their ancestors were Spanish Jews who had been forbidden to practice their religion openly and left their descendants only the traditions of Friday night candle lighting to preserve their identity as Jews.
Turco’s family went to Mass at the Catholic church every Sunday. His father told me, “Whenever I go in the church and see the images, I say the words my father taught me:
“Lo que está aquí es madera y piedra.
Yo rezo soloa Dios Altísimo.”
These words mean
‘What is here is wood and stone.
I pray only to God above.’”
Turco got his nickname because in La Plata and the other towns in the area there are small stores owned by Sefardis – Spanish-speaking Jews who had immigrated from Greece and Turkey,, the same countries where my own ancestors had lived when they were kicked out of Spain. Everyone called them turcos – Turks.
Turco’s family had never lived in Turkey. Most of his ancestors had probably always lived in Mexico and the Southwest USA. Turco’s mom made tamales and tacos which she sold at the bus station and other places around town. But everyone knew there was some connection between them and the people from Turkey who owned a second-hand clothing store in downtown La Plata. So Roberto Molinas, the oldest boy in the family, had the nickname Turco.
In the summer Turco worked on farms and ranches around the area. One night after a cultural team meeting, Turco nudged me with his shoulder and said, “Say man, come over in the corner. I want to talk with you a moment.” I followed him there and he said, “Last week I was up north of town hoeing chile peppers. Twice I seen trucks with tarps over the back turn off the main road onto a dirt road by the field where I was.”
“So what?” I asked.
“Both of these trucks had rifles sticking out from under the tarps. Someone is storing a lot of rifles around here. I listen to the Anglo farmers I work for talking about how bad the Jews are. Of course they can’t tell I’m a Jew,” he said with a chuckle. “Anyhow,” he went on, “They say they don’t want the Jews and the Communists to get elected again. They say the Mexicans are crazy to vote People’s Party because that’s all Jews and niggers and Communists. They say they’ll put a stop to it in 1972 before the elections next year. I listen and I keep hoeing weeds – act like I don’t speak much English.”
Next week Turco told me he had seen another truck with guns sticking out from under the tarp. I began to connect this with other stuff I had seen like Rivka’s former professor Taze who said he had come to La Plata to study Chicano folk religion and then spent his time with the Anglo guys who ran the security services for the mining companies. There had been some real battles at strikes in the mines around La Plata in the recent past. The mining companies had little private armies and ran their own spy system to keep up with what the union was doing. All the workers in town knew who the local security guys were and they wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole.
I called up a friend of mine at the University of New Mexico and asked, “Say, what’s with this Professor Taze guy, anyway?”
“Oh, he’s the professor with all the connections to the Pristine Foundation,” my friend answered.
“He is?” I said. “Thanks! You’ve answered my question.”
You see anybody as active in the People’s Party Youth Alliance as I have been has heard of the Pristine Foundation as one of the real bad guys. Pristine is said to be a conduit for funds from the Corporate Security Agency – a super-duper secret outfit which big businesses use for spying on the People’s Party and labor unions and small farmers’ co-ops. Basically the Agency is out to screw up and sabotage anything progressive in this country. The Pristine Foundation is one of their fronts.
That summer I heard Rivka had left Louie and then later I heard how Louie’s community got shot at and his church got burned down. With all that Turco had told me and my suspicions about Taze, I knew I wanted to get up to Zarahemla as soon as possible to talk with Louie about what was happening. At first I intended to save money and have the cultural team go up to Zarahemla by Rural Bus service. We would bring absolutely minimal stage props. But when I went to put the props in the bus storage area, the gray haired Chicana woman who ran the bus station said, “I’m sorry but we don’t have connections to Zarahemla any more.”
“What’s the matter?” I said. “You had connections there this spring – “and I have a season ticket.”
“Oh yes,” she said with an uneasy smile, “But you know about all the shootings and the church getting burned down.”
“Look,” I said, “the people doing the shooting are way up the valley from the highway. They won’t shoot at busses on the road, will they?”
“Don’t you understand?” she asked, spreading her hands helplessly. “I guess you don’t,” she went on and there was an undertone of anger in her voice. “Around here they call you El Fuereño, which means the Outsider. Don’t you realize, somebody came here to the station and told us they would shoot at the buses if they stop there, shoot at them anywhere along the route. You see it’s not just the people up the valley who burned the church – its others. Also…” and she looked ready to cry, “the others said they would burn down this station if we stopped there.”
“Why don’t you go to the police?” I asked.
“You really are an outsider,” she said with a note of pity. “We just don’t know which side the police will be on, if you know what I mean. Now just don’t talk to me anymore. I’m busy.”
So we waited another week and went in the cultural team truck, which costs us a lot in gas money. I made sure that Turco went with us. We did a socko performance for the people of Zarahemla and then I whispered to Louie that I was ready to talk with him about certain urgent problems. Louie motioned to Aries John, who I had never met before. When John came over to us, Louie muttered, “Go find Clark and tell him to come by my house.”
Louie and Turco and I walked to the small adobe house and went in. Louie let a kerosene lamp and soon Aries John showed up with Clark, who was only about 17 then but very big and strong.
Aries John unfolded onto the table several large maps of the Rocky Mountain area covering in detail from New Mexico to Montana. There were X’s in ink on the maps in various places.
“Louie says you know something about where they’re storing guns,” John said to me.
“I don’t, but he does,” I said, pointing to Turco.
“OK, son, tell us about it,” Aries John said.
Turco told him about the trucks with weapons turning onto the dirt road going past the chile pepper field where he worked and gave the exact location.
“Looks like they have a new arms dump,” Clark said. “I’d say its in this canyon up here where that dirt road leads,” and he stuck his forefinger at a place on the New Mexico map. Aries John reached down with a ball point pen and made an X on the map next to Clark’s forefinger.
Then Aries John and Clark started asking Turco about the activities of various people in the La Plata area, people I didn’t know or had barely noticed. All I had to add to the discussion was what the woman in the bus station told me. They nodded and went on talking with Turco.
Finally I asked, “What is going on anyway?”
“They’re storing up weapons all up and down the Rocky Mountains,” Aries John said. “Me and Clark have checked out all their arms caches. I think they might have a big uprising before the elections next year.”
“Who?” I asked.
“The Nationalists!” Clark said, “I used to work for them. They’re like back in Germany in the Thirties. They want to get rid of your damn People’s Party.”
“So you don’t like us either?” I responded.
“I don’t know what I think about your Party any more,” Clark said, twisting his face into an expression of hard, uncomfortable thought. “All I know now is I don’t want the Nationalists to win.”
“There’s something else I know that may be of value,” I said. “There’s a college professor, Tazewell or Taze, who’s been visiting Louie and hanging out down in La Plata. I found out from a reliable friend that Taze has connections with the Pristine Foundation, which is a front for the Corporate Security Agency. Now I think that…”
“Don’t worry about that!” Louie interrupted suddenly, speaking for the first time in quite a while. Behind his glasses his eyes seemed to be focusing on something millions of miles from us. He lifted his right hand and held it in front of his face in the lamp lit dimness. He waved his hand like he was trying to clear away something to see better. He began to breathe slowly and deeply and seemed to be going into a trance.
“But Louie, we got more stuff to talk about!” Clark said in a voice that was disconcertingly loud in the stillness that was settling in the room.
“Come on, let’s go,” Aries John said in his quiet voice. “We can talk about it tomorrow.”
Aries John, Clark, Turco and I got up and walked out of the house. Aries John closed the door softly. As we walked away into the night, I could see the weak light of the kerosene lamp through Louie’s window. The light flickered a few times and went out. Then I walked under the stars back to the cultural team’s truck to get my sleeping bag and rest for the night on the ground.
Next morning I was standing in the crowd in front of the ruins of the church. I was hoping Louie would get through his Sunday sermon quickly so we could get an early start back to La Plata. Then Louie raised his hands over his head and announced his revelation of a great prayer circle to take place that next year in the mountains.
My parents were scientific and agnostic. All that I had of traditional religion came from my mom’s folks. But I felt a thrill go all through me when I first heard Louie talk about the Circle. I looked up at the sun shining sliver on the leaves of the tall cottonwood trees and the huge clouds like masses of pure white fibers drifting in the deep blue sky – and I felt how amazing this world really is. “Wow,” I whispered.
Louie may have found the only way to stop this uprising by all these anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-everybody forces. If we could bring together all the unemployed young folks who were wandering the roads and inspire them with a movement for peace, not war, then these right-wing nationalist gangs couldn’t use them as a ready-made army. It was such a simple plan and so strange to a skeptic like myself – but somehow, it made sense. I ran out of the crowd to Louie and shook his hand. He grinned and gave me a hug.
After Louie finished telling about the Circle, he asked for six of us to come to his house – Clark, Aries John, and three women who I found out were Aries John’s wives. Aries John laid out his maps and pointed to a spot in the Colorado Rockies. I’ve hiked into that valley,” he said. “I think it would be the best place to make the Circle.”
Our cultural team loaded up our props and our string of Japanese lanterns that we used for lighting our shows and we drove back to La Plata.
Shortly after we got back I wrote out an invitation for the big Circle next year. I had been good at calligraphy since I was a teenager when I used to prepare handbills for the performances my parents’ theatrical company put on. We went to a local offset printer and got 2,000 invitations run off.
That was just the first batch. By the time we finished, we must have had at least 10,000 copies of the invitation printed in all. We handed them out around town and gave them to friends to hand out in other towns. And we mailed and mailed and mailed. I remember when I sent an invitation to my parents. They sent me back a letter. The first paragraph in so many words said “Huh?” And the rest of the letter had strong implications like – “Why don’t you give up this Circle nonsense and come back to New York and help us put on our shows?”
But my grandmother wrote me, “Good for you! Good luck to the Circle. And at the bottom she scrawled in her hard-to-read Yiddish handwriting like leaping spaghetti – “A leben oyf dain keppla!” Which means, “Long life to your head!”
The very first copy of the invitation that I wrote out by hand was rolled up and tied in a multi-colored macramé cord and our delegation that was called the Twelve Disciples took it to Uncle Denny at Santo Toribio Pueblo.
All through the winter and spring it seems to me that most weekends I went up to Zarahemla to confer with Louie. I was amazed at how fast he jumped from the highest peak of prophecy to the most exact calculation of the practical details – how much money we would need for food and medical supplies, big tents that could shelter lots of people who didn’t bring theirs (you never know when there might be a summer snowstorm), extra blankets and sleeping bags – down to the cost of the last few bottles of spray for lice. The one thing that bothered me was how much Louie relied on Taze to pay for all this.
“But Louie,” I said again and again, “Taze is all wrapped up with the Pristine Foundation. Don’t you realize? Pristine may be making some kind of deal with the very same people who are storing those arms caches in the mountains.”
“You just gotta trust the Spirit,” Louie kept replying to me time after time. “Taze has money and we need it. I believe with all my heart the Father and Mother are covering for us in this movie. Besides, Taze ain’t the one who decides how we spend the money. We are. Every time I ask him for money, he sends it. He never asks me what we do with it.”
“But Louie,” I would go on, “the Pristine Foundation is connected to the Corporate Security Agency which…”
“Shaddup!” Louie would bellow and slam his fist on the table. That would be the end of that particular discussion for a while, but Pristine kept coming up.
However most of the time we were swamped with handling immediate, practical problems. Every invitation we sent out seemed to bring back half a dozen letters. Everybody wrote us, from county organizations of the People’s Party to bird watching clubs. We would sit in my office or Zephyr’s kitchen until after midnight with letters piled high on the table. I admired how Zephyr and Rivka knew how to answer all this mail so appropriately. And Buff, I remember how you handled correspondence with people in Indian tribes that I had never heard of. I would just take my typewriter or pen, whichever was closest, and try to plow through answering as much mail as I could.
One thing I will pat myself on the back for. In the middle of all this chaos about preparing for the Circle, I got Rose, a woman from the cultural team, to go with me up to Zarahemla and tape record as many of Louie’s old folk songs as he could remember on one beautiful cold Saturday night.
Louie was going to take off the next day with Aries John to see Governor Hass of Colorado about possible co-operation of his office with our Circle. I was pretty doubtful about whether the Governor would give us any help. How much sympathy might he have with the Nationalists who were storing weapons in his state? Probably more than he did with us. But Louie’s rough, grainy voice, that was the perfect goodbye for a while. For once we didn’t argue about the Pristine Foundation – or Taze.
Not long before the spring semester ended, Louie phoned me the directions of Fred Zeller’s cabin on the west slope of the Rockies, which would be our headquarters for getting people to the Circle. “The governor was pretty negative, Louie told me. But I had no idea how negative until I actually got to Colorado. The Highway Patrol and National Guard were putting up road blocks, taking them down and putting them up again on a completely unpredictable schedule. The Colorado National Guard’s only helicopter was patrolling the sky above the trails that led into Flat Mountain Valley, where were going to make the Circle.
Just imagine that! The cost of gasoline for a hovering helicopter makes it one of the most expensive kinds of aircraft. Governor Hass was gouging the taxpayers for a fortune to stop us.
When I got my truckload of people from New Mexico to Fred’s cabin I found Fred with his head in his hands, sitting at his kitchen table.
“All my old buddies,” he groaned, “I used to go hunting and fishing with them. Now they’re riding in their pickups up and down the road in front of my cabin hollering at me, aiming rifles out their pickup windows at the people in my yard. So far they haven’t shot into the crowd, but…”
That was the first time in my life I ever had to take over a situation.
“Let’s get as many people as possible out of here and into the valley,” I said. “If we can just create an accomplished fact that the Governor has to put up with…”
Fred went over to his cabinet and got out his Forest Service map of the area and started pointing out trails to me and a bunch of people who gathered around his table.
Getting the feel of unfamiliar country and the trails through it is like learning a new language or how to swim or anything else you’ve never done before. My first time leading people to the valley took me a three day trip through the dark forest. After a while I was doing it in a day and a half. And every time I stopped in the valley, I learned to love more something that has haunted me ever since then – the flavor a wood fire burning in the open gives to food.
The more people I led from Fred’s pasture across the mountains. The more there were to lead. Several others started taking groups to the valley. Still more and more people were piling up around the cabin more and more noisy and restless. There was the wailing of children who had lost things, the whine of people begging for cigarettes, occasional fights breaking out and the hassle of us having to separate a pair of flushed, sweating, angry young men – or sometimes women.
Finally Aries John and Louie drove up one late June Friday in John’s old red pickup. “I talked with a lawyer in Denver,” Louie said. “We can’t get a federal court order until maybe next Tuesday.”
Louie looked around at the crowds and their shabby muddy tents and shelters. There was a smell of decayed food and human waste. “This is bad,” Louie said, shaking his head. “We don’t have until Tuesday before this place might blow up.”
At sundown next day Uncle Denny showed up. It had been a cloudy day, but his smile showed everyone of his three teeth, like the whole world was sunshine.
Louie ran into the middle of the pasture. “Everybody listen up!” he shouted in his harsh voice that cut across a thousand conversations.
“A great Indian spiritual leader has just showed up to lead us into the valley to make the circle!” Louie yelled at the tip of his lungs where all those thousands could hear. “Tomorrow we will get up before day light and walk to the road block. Our Native American brother will speak words of wisdom to the National Guard and his spiritual power will get us through. Everybody go to bed now, so we will be awake and ready at five AM tomorrow!”
I caught my breath. Louie had not exchanged one word with Uncle Denny since he arrived. If sheer nerve could move mountains, Louie could flatten the Rockies.
But the whole camp got silent. Next day before light, there we were heading down the road under the smoky glare of pine torches. I was in front with Louie and you, Buff, and Uncle Denny on the little pony with Fred.
There were three National Guardsmen awake. They were young working class men who couldn’t find a job any place else. I could see the basic good will on their ruddy, healthy faces. They stared at our multitude of youth, many of them also unable to find a job anywhere. In the glow of the torches they could see mothers carrying babies. The National Guardsmen pulled back the barriers.
An officer came running out of a tent. “Hey, what the hell’s going on?” he shouted. But it was too late. We marched on past him.
It was the Exodus. I started roaring out a song:
“Ilu hotzi, hotzi-anu, hotzi-anu mi Mitzrayim – the song at my mom’s parents’ Passover supper.
“If he had only led us; led us out of Egypt.” I knew someone in a crowd this big had to know that song. Sure enough a few voices shouted the last word of the verse with me “Dayenu!” meaning “It’s enough!” And we walked up the road until we got to the main trail which we followed over the ridge and into the valley. The walk took a little over six hours and we headed down into the valley a little after noon. There was a pale green gold of aspen leaves shivering against the dark pines. The day was cool and bright.
That’s my memory of the first circle from then on – everything just getting brighter and brighter. The nights seemed brief, like passing under the shadow of a branch. Some of the campfires were huge. I remember eager voices around them, talking of plans for the future. Even at this altitude, many people were taking their clothes off – sometimes even at night.
But of that great Circle on the Fourth of July on top of the mountain – what I remember is I had to leave it too soon. The silence was just over and the whooping had started when Aries John came up to me and Louie. “See that guy over there?” he said, pointing to a naked young man who was making a joyful noise with all his body and soul.
“Yeah,” I said.
“That’s a National Guardsman,” Aries John said. “He warned me they’re gonna serve warrants on you guys as soon as enough of the crowd is gone. You all better leave with the thickest crowds.
That afternoon, those people who did have jobs started leaving as soon as the Circle was over to get back to work on time. Louie and I tried to stay in the very middle of the crowd all the way down the trail and the road to Fred’s cabin. Thanks to Aries John’s words, several of the others who had worked with us from the beginning were down at the cabin.
I trusted Clark to wait with my truck for all the people who had come with me – then he drove them to New Mexico. Louie and I got in Aries John’s pickup. We drove off in the midst of the huge traffic jam. I don’t think I drew a breath until we got out of Colorado.
That fall I was living for a while with Rose, the woman who had recorded Louie’s songs for the cultural team. She was called Coyotita – Little Female Coyote – because Coyote is the word in New Mexico for an Anglo-Chicano mixture. Her last name was Anderson, but her mother’s last name was Martinez. Rose had very dark black hair and very pale blue eyes.
We were still getting floods of letters. What was going to happen now that we had held the Circle? People wanted to know. But none of us – not even Louie – had thought out what our new movement was to do. None of us had any plans beyond the Circle. “Boy, I sure thought that was gonna be the end of the world, “Aries John said with a chuckle, “and we all could go happy.”
Sometime in December our questions were answered. Zephyr, Rivka, Rose and I and many others got envelopes from the Maria Russell Mission in Santa Fe. They contained crimson and gold on the gold handbills with a picture of Taze wearing a pyramid-shaped headdress. He was surrounded by a circle of glitter to look like the sun with rays of glitter streaming out.
“From this solstice on, the light grows more brilliant!” the hand bills said under the picture of Taze. “We wish to proclaim that the Spirit of the Prophetess Marie Russell has revealed that Brother TAZE is the True White Friend in the prophecies of the Santo Toribio Indians! The Great Circle in Colorado was called to prepare the way for this True Friend. Now Brother Taze is calling a new and Greater Circle on Ancient Indian land in Sequoyah to begin a new Era of Peace and Spirituality on July 4, 1973!”
At the bottom of the handbill was a map of the state of Sequoyah showing a spot marked with a heart. “Brother TAZE calls the circle here.” Words under the map said, “Next to a Native American holy place.”
The only words I could breathe to express what I felt were “What the fuck?”
I confess – in Colorado I had doubts that the Circle would take place, the same kind of doubts Christ had in the garden of Gethsemane. When I heard that hundreds of people were slipping across the mountains into the valley, I said to myself, “it’s a matter of time until Governor Hass stages a mass arrest.”
Louie had gone to Denver to get a federal court order to stop the roadblock. He found a left-wing lawyer, but the Federal Court was moving slowly, as usual. The lawyer worked for free, of course, but Louie was burning up a fortune in gasoline and he was ringing my phone off the wall asking for more money so he could drive around Denver.
Then all of a sudden, Louie and all those thousands of people just walked into the site, led by Uncle Denny! I would have gone up there to Colorado at once. But some people who are really big in the Pristine Foundation called up and made a dinner date with me for July 2. They said, “We want to ask you everything you know about the Circle.”
I was tempted to say, “Why don’t you go to Colorado and find out for yourself?” But I didn’t say it. The Pristine Foundation people have their commitments and they can only fit so much into their schedules. Their word to me was – “Be there.”
So I had dinner with them and talked about the significance of the Circle. The next day, I got in my car and burned rubber all the way up to that log cabin where everybody was parked. The National Guard would permit me to walk beyond that point, but not to drive.
For the first time since I was in the ashram in Berkeley, I had to get up before daybreak. I tried to hurry up the steep road which led into a trail. I was out of shape. I couldn’t do a full lotus any more. In fact I couldn’t even walk so good.
It was close to noon when I started wheezing up Flat Top Mountain. Just as I reached the top, I could hear the whoops and cheers. The Circle was over. I wanted to cry.
I looked all around and couldn’t find Louie. I could see Rivka off at a distance, but I was unwilling to go over and talk to her after the way she left me. I just turned around and walked down the mountain back down the trail. I reached the log cabin about sunset and got in my car and drove back to Santa Fe. I was pretty despondent.
But then the Pristine Foundation turned out to be more interested in the after-effects of the Circle than they had been in the Circle itself. They were calling me up at the Maria Russell Mission all the time asking, “Hey, what’s Louie’s movement doing now that the Circle has already happened?”
Pristine got really excited after the Presidential election. You see, some friends at the Foundation had let me in on a hot secret tip: anti-Jewish and anti-Negro groups were storing weapons all through the Rocky Mountains to stage an uprising before the election. Most likely Sidney Lens, who is Jewish would be re-elected President and Ella Little, who is black would be vice-president – if nothing happened. These groups planned to declare portions of the mountain and desert west to be an independent country.
They would declare as much as they could seize to be independent sometime in late October. The area is so wild and remote it would be difficult to suppress the uprising, especially when you consider that the United States has an army of only 250,000. That’s smaller than the army of Romania. And Pristine Foundation people assured me that many officers in the Army and many state and local police were sympathetic with the uprising.
One of the potential strength of this would-be uprising was obvious to me at the Maria Russell Mission. Every day hungry, unemployed young people of prime military age come to my door and I feed them. As I’ve said a million times, this bumbling left-wing People’s Party government has never really pulled us out of the Depression. Sure, they build shelters for the homeless kids on the road. They provide temporary public works, jobs building schools and highways and planting trees in the national forests. But none of this is a permanent solution. At any time at least ten per cent of the population are unemployed, most of them young. They’ve a ready-made army for any attempted uprising that promises to make conditions better.
Yeah, yeah, I know I told you that Pristine is mostly interested in spiritual phenomena. But there are a bunch of psychic groups in the Rocky Mountains who had a lot of connections with the plans for an uprising.
In the summer, 1971, before Louie ever announced his revelation about the Circle, the Pristine Foundation had me go to Denver and check out the Rocky Mountain League of the Spirit which had been set up by Dad McPherson, a disciple of the well-known psychic – and fascist – William Dudley Pelley.
When I saw the League of the Spirit, I found they were a bunch of big bozos who looked like lumberjacks. They talked a lot about traveling in the astral body and channeling the spirits of the departed. I did a little careful questioning around and found that the League of the Spirit were up to their thick red necks in storing weapons for the uprising.
The League’s representatives met with me at the home of a millionaire in Denver and asked me, “Can you get us money from Pristine?”
The Pristine Foundation doesn’t take formal political positions but they do like to have an investment in people who might be politically as well as spiritually important in the future. Pristine never asks to control you. All they want is to invest in whatever you’re doing. I called Pristine and they did authorize me to promise these guys a little money – provided that Pristine’s name wasn’t openly connected with it.
Then Louie came along. He was gathering the unemployed youth in a Circle for peace in the mountains – the very same young people that the League wanted as troops for their uprising. Pristine gave me a blank check for Louie. It was always, “Just write out what Louie says he needs.”
Louie got at least ten times what the League of the Spirit got from the Pristine Foundation. It was a signal from the people behind the Foundation – some of the most powerful people in the national economy – that they would not support the uprising.
So the uprising never happened. There was complete peace across the west on election day. Sidney Lens and Ella Little were re-elected. And the week after the election, Dr. Aloysius O’Connor showed up in Santa Fe to visit me.
Dr. O’Connor – everyone called him Al – was about 60 with a head of shining white hair, the body of a champion tennis player and the grin of a teenage boy who just got laid for the first time. His lectures on Psychology and the Spirit drew crowds of hundreds of students to his classrooms at Harvard. They say with the dramatics the old boy put into it, he could have been a movie star.
When Al got to town he called me up and said, “Meet me at La Frontera. The Maria Russell Mission sounds like too pious a place for me to be caught in.”
La Frontera is a bar on the plaza which boasts that it fixes tequila in 50 different ways. It’s not the kind of place I wanted my followers from the Maria Russell Mission to see me entering. But if Aloysius O’Connor PhD had come from Harvard to see me, it must be on Pristine Foundation business. So I went.
We had barely sat down at our sable in La Frontera and said “Hello!” when Al started in, “Tell me,” he said, sipping his chocolate and jalapeno and wild honey tequila cocktail, “What’s Bishop Louie up to now?”
“Louie’s not much on writing letters,” I answered, drinking at my pink lemonade, “but I hear from a friend of mine who works in the security department of a mining company in La Plata. He writes that more young people than ever are pouring into Louie’s community in Zarahemla, but Louie doesn’t have anything for them to do, so a lot of them leave.”
“But this is potentially such a valuable movement,” Al said, flashing his big white teeth. “Very valuable if it has the right kind of guidance. I know the Pristine Foundation would be willing to help out. But first a movement must move. It must take some action.”
“What can I do?” I asked.
“What can you do?” he said. “Man, you can do anything! No one has a copyright on making a circle in the outdoors. Young people need an alternative to both extremes – the extreme right who wanted an uprising or the extreme left of the People’s Party. Either you make sure Louie provides the alternative – or you provide it.”
“You make it sound so easy,” I said, hanging my head a little.
“You make the moves. I know the Pristine Foundation will make it easy,” Al said, giving a vigorous nod, a firm smile on his tanned face. “By the way,” he went on, “Do you know of any place where we could go in the wilderness outside of Santa Fe when we leave here?”
“It’s getting toward dark,” I said. “Remember this is November at 7,000 feet above sea level. I just started buying a ranch outside of town to raise horses and support the mission – and receive important guests like yourself with only a few trusted elders present who won’t mind if you drink distilled alcohol.”
“Sounds like a great place to go,” Al said.
“But we haven’t finished fixing up the old ranch house yet,” I said. “We haven’t installed gas or electricity or…”
Al interrupted – “If you’ve just got an old-fashioned fire place and you put a little wood in it, your voyage to the unknown will be a thousand times more real than if you are in an electric-lighted room with bland gas heating.”
“What voyage to the unknown?” I asked, so surprised I knocked my pink lemonade into my lap.
“You know,” Al said, “the Pristine Foundation has been paying for investigations of hallucinogenic plants that shamans use.” Al was grinning harder than ever. “Did you ever want to try one?” he asked.
“Yes, but…” I started.
“There are a lot of buts,” Al said, waving his hand to dismiss all those buts. “A lot of the vines and roots and leaves we’ve tested make you nauseous. And you never know whether a batch will be stronger or weaker. But now we’ve found the perfect modern standardized chemical substitute for all those plants – lysergic acid diethylamide – LSD for short. A Swiss chemist discovered it back in 1945. If we go out to the ranch, I will give you 800 micrograms of LSD and I guarantee you will take the voyage.”
Within five minutes, we were out of La Frontera and I was driving Al to the ranch house. He found some pieces of wood where once there had been a large wood pile. We went inside, and with considerable skill he arranged a cone of these small pieces of piñon wood in the fireplace, making a much warmer and brighter fire than I would believe possible. I felt the clean, sweet smell of piñon purifying my nostrils.
“Now,” he said, and I could hear his grin in the dark, “here’s the magic carpet.” He held out his hand to me. I opened my palm and he dropped a small white pill into it. “Have a good voyage,” he said.
I held the pill for a few seconds, not sure of what to do. “Taze,” Al said. “Don’t be afraid. Actually you’ve inspired me in my research on LSD. I’ve read your book, Commentary on Studies in the Scriptures. You write in it how the dimensions of the Great Pyramid are the key to predicting the course of history. I used your stuff on the Pyramid to guide my voyage on the course of the inner world. If you don’t mind, your book will be the main source for my own book about how to go through the LSD experience. I’ll call my book The Pyramid and the Voyage.”
“I’m flattered,” I said, and before I knew it, just to have my own hand free, I put the LSD in my mouth.
Then, a few seconds or a million years later, I saw her in the shadows near the fireplace, wrapped from her head down to her ankles in a dark striped sarape.
“Rivka?” I whispered.
She drew back the sarape from half her face and gave a smile. Then she flapped the sarape back over her face.
“Is that you, Rivka?” I said a little louder.
Then she let the sarape fall to her shoulders. Her head was bare. It was the face of an older woman.
“Maria Russell!” I murmured in amazement.
Usually I make contact with the spirit of Maria Russell after I have been in deep meditation for half an hour while wearing my pyramidal head dress and the contact is only her thoughts entering my mind. But now on this LSD voyage, she was there visually.
Her mouth never opened. But I know the message I received from her visible presence, as clearly as if she had said it aloud, “Call a Circle and tell the world you are the True White Friend of the Indian prophecy.
Then she was gone.
“I’m gonna call a Circle,” I said in a low voice to Al, “I’ll announce that I’m the True Friend who wasn’t revealed at the first Circle.” I found myself talking more and more excited. “And why don’t I call for a Circle in Sequoyah? That’s a state that was set up by Indians and I’m in Indian prophecy. Oh God, I can’t wait to see a map of Sequoyah! I hear there are some ancient Indian mounds there. Let’s make the Circle as near as we can to the mounds! I don’t have to wait for Louie! If he wants to, he can follow me! But I’m the one who will keep the movement of the Circle going!”
“Perfect,” Al said with his ever-present smile.
By now for the first time since childhood, I was jumping up and down with enthusiasm. When I calmed down, I looked at Al and said, “Do you have any paper with you?”
“I always carry a note pad,” he said.
He handed me a pad and I began to write down plans and scratch them out and re-write them for centuries until the first light of the morning entered the windows of the old ranch house.
Not long after Taze sent us the announcement of his new Circle, Louie came down to La Plata to see me. He had sharp lines of worry on his face. Louie handed me a letter he had just received from Uncle Denny.
“In my village, many people in the other factions are angry at me because I went to the Circle,” Uncle Denny wrote in a clear, steady hand without the shakiness of old age. “People are telling me, ‘Denny, you talked to that man Taze first. Now he is using your name and our people’s name and he is going to bother Indians of other tribes. You have to stoop him.’
“Louie, my friend,” Uncle Denny continued. “I am asking you for help because you started the Circle. I will do anything I can if you will help me with this.
Dennis Garcia of the Gourd Clan
“Uncle Denny’s people don’t like to give bad news,” Louie said. “He wouldn’t write this unless it was awful serious.”
I stood there and twirled a stringy little beard I had started on the tip of my chin.
“Louie,” I said at last, “write Uncle Denny that we’ve got plenty of time to make plans. It’s January and Taze won’t be trying to set up camp there until June. He’s not the kind who would like to spend too many weeks having to shit in the woods.”
By the beginning of February, my friends in Albuquerque had sent me newspaper clippings telling that the councils of every Indian tribe in Sequoyah had condemned Taze’s proposed Circle in the strongest possible terms. Several of them announced that if Taze was found on their lands, they would arrest him at once. A couple of the tribal councils thought that Louie and I were involved with Taze and included our names in their warnings of arrest.
“If our True White Friend shows up, he’ll get a rear end full of buckshot,” one council member said. “His buddies will get the same thing!” the council member added, referring to Louie and me.
Comment by Taze
When I heard how the tribal government officials in Sequoyah had condemned my plans for a Circle, I called the Pristine Foundation and said, “Why don’t you finance election campaigns for tribal council candidates who will approve of me?”
One of the big shots at Pristine said, “Taze, you know that most council elections aren’t till next year and the ones that take place this year aren’t until November. We can’t move November back before the Fourth of July. We’re not God.”
I hung up and said to myself, “But as True White Friend, I’m sort of a divinity. I should be able to…”
Well, I guess even divinity has its rough spots.
Soon I was in as much trouble with Rose, the woman I was living with as I was with the tribal councils. Rose had loved the Circle in Colorado, but as far as she was concerned, it was strictly a one-time thing. Now her whole life revolved around the Youth Alliance cultural team. When she heard I would be into still more Circle business to come that summer, she wanted out if it, completely out!
“Look,” I told her at breakfast, “All I have to do is go to Sequoyah for a few weeks next summer and…”
“And get shot!” she yelled.
“No, no!” I said, clanking at my breakfast plate with my fork. “What I must do is assure the Indians in Sequoyah that Louie and Uncle Denny have no connection with whatever Taze is trying to do. We also have to do something to protect the safety of several thousand people who might show up in Sequoyah for Taze’s Circle.”
“Manny, please listen to me,” Rose said. She was crying a little. She picked up her napkin and sniffed into it and said. “I thought the first circle was beautiful and important. It was worth risking your safety for. This whole business is just ridiculous.”
By now I was sticking my chin out with the spikes of my little growth of beard quivering defiantly. “I don’t care if it is ridiculous,” I said. “I helped start something and I’m responsible for the results.”
“OK, Manny,” she said, tossing her napkin down on her plate. “I’m not your mother. I love you, but I don’t have to be responsible for you. As it is, you’re always so damn busy. I never see you till three o’clock in the morning anyway!” And she started to cry again.
That was our last breakfast together.
Rivka is the one who really understood all this. I have never had sexual relations with Rivka, but she is one of the closest people to me in the whole world. She felt just as responsible as I did for the future of the Circle. Now that I had broken up with Rose, I stayed away from the cultural team. I was at Zephyr’s kitchen table a lot with Rivka and Zephyr, talking about what to do next. I remember that you were there a lot, Buff, a big help to me at the time.
“I want to do something about what’s going on in Sequoyah.” Rivka said once as we were drinking Zephyr’s hot sassafras tea, “but I have to be real careful what I do. It involves the two people I want to see the least – Louie and Taze.”
Al was on the phone with me a lot that spring. “Well hello, living Buddha,” he used to say laughing. “Maybe with a little more LSD you can go to Jerusalem and stage the second coming of Christ.”
“I don’t see why you’re laughing,” I said when Al first made his living Buddha remark.
“Aw, just let me have some fun about the whole thing,” Al said.
“Actually,” he went on, “Actually I’m phoning you for the Pristine Foundation. Some of their experts on Native American spiritual traditions are awfully upset about what you’ve done – and about its possible negative implications for oil leases.”
“Does that mean they’ll cut off my finances?” I asked.
“Oh no, no,” Al said. “I actually got the Holy of Holies – the Pristine Foundation board meeting – and I out-talked the Indian experts. I said that what’s important is the potential leadership of the youth of the country as a whole, not just what happens to oil leases in Sequoyah.”
“And what did the board meeting say?” I asked.
“Most of them are still favorable,” Al said. “People from Pristine are on the phone all the time to some of the top state officials in Sequoyah. A lot of these officials are oil company executives – very big behind the scenes in some of the Indian tribal governments. They’re busting a gut to make sure you and the others who show up don’t get arrested.”
“So what does Pristine want me to do?” I asked.
“Get endorsements,” Al replied. “Get ‘em from all sorts of prominent people – spiritual leaders, politicians, scholars – you know them all.” He laughed and hung up.
It’s true that one of the advantages of being a leader of a national religious organization like the Maria Russell Missions is that you have a lot of faithful followers who are willing to do free labor that raises money. We have devoted people all over the country selling our literature, turning over at least one tenth of what they make at their jobs to us – and our really devoted full-time workers turn over everything. This means we have a lot more money than we can use up just feeding oatmeal to hungry transients. We can invest that money in businesses which will bring in even more money – like that horse-breeding ranch where I went with Al to take the LSD. And all of it is tax-free.
So first politicians show up to be photographed when we send in relief teams after a flood or a tornado. Then these same politicians ask us in private for a little campaign contribution. After a while they want to be in on the really big money.
At that point these politicians want me to put them in touch with Pristine. A lot of them say they’re not in the Republicans or the People’s Party. They say they run as independents. I could laugh.
There are politicians, religious figures, researchers in psychology and the physical sciences, anthropologists and sociologists – all paid for by Pristine. And why should the Pristine Foundation do all the work when I can line these people up?
So I started getting lots of endorsements. Sure the New York Times wrote a feature story about me implying that I was a crank and that some of my famous sponsors endorsed me because they didn’t know what was going on outside their own specialties. But remember – the New York Times is written for people who think that the most important part of reality is the quarrels of government figures in Washington DC. And these people apparently believe that the world drops off in a gigantic cliff 15 miles west of the Hudson River.
I started walking around every day with my pyramid-shaped head dress on – the one I wear when I am teaching doctrine or trying to make contact with the spirit of Maria Russell. I wore my pyramid on my head with a proud little tilt. After all, hundreds of intelligent educated people, leaders in their fields, had made some kind of endorsement for me. I was getting money from a foundation funded by some of the biggest corporations in the country. Why should anybody call me a crank?
I went up to Zarahemla in May to discuss with Louie our basic plans for dealing with Taze’s circle in Sequoyah. Of course Rivka wouldn’t come and Buff, I remember you were too busy preparing a final exam for your anthropology students. You didn’t quit teaching till that fall semester.
I didn’t try going in the Cultural Team truck after my break-up with Rose. One result of our Circle in Colorado that amazed me was the Rural Bus service was running to Zarahemla again. So there I was in the bus painted with flowers and designs in all the colors of the rainbow heading northwest from La Plata.
La Plata is a small town surrounded by mountains so you are always in sight of the out of doors, but as I drew near Zarahemla, I realized how much of my life since that Colorado Circle I had been confined in offices and apartments and classrooms. Now I could see herds of pronghorn antelope chasing along the roadsides. As the bus started to go up the steep slope to where the two-lane highway met the gravel road that descended into Zarahemla Valley, I saw a bald eagle flying near a peak.
The bus let me off at the gravel road. I was safe. No one would shoot at me. I walked a couple of miles down into the valley, listening to the rustle of the Pobre Clara river over its stony bed. I came to Aries John’s tipi. His wife Zerena was in front of it nursing her girl Sariah, who was about a year and a half old. When Zerena saw me, she stood up, holding the baby tighter and called out, “Hey, folks, come out and see who’s here!”
Aries John came out with Emma and Cassie, his two other wives and a short, plump woman with dark brown hair in many long thin braids. Emma and Cassie were hugging me when John walked up with the short, many-braided woman and said, “I’d like you to meet my new wife Teresa.”
Teresa and I did our please-to-meet-yous. So the world was still turning around and new things were happening besides the Taze crisis. I noticed that Emma was pregnant.
“Hey, congratulations!” I said.
“Thanks,” Emma answered. “Back when I was with Bishop Louie I had a little girl my first year with him – but stillborn, God rest the poor thing.”
“I wish you joy with this one,” I said.
“Oh. I trust this one will be all right,” Aries John said. “And say, did you know? Louie’s got a chance to have him another one.”
“Another what?” I asked.
“Kid, of course!” Aries John said. “Louie will be here in a little while for lunch. You’ll see what I mean.”
We went into the tipi. Aries John squatted by the pot on the fire where beans and green chile and little bits of hamburger meat were bubbling. He stuck a wooden spoon into the pot now and then to taste and see if it was right yet. “A little more time,” he kept saying.
My stomach kept squeezing empty air and under my breath I was saying, “Hurry, John, hurry.” Also I was wondering – what did he mean about Louie having a chance for another kid?
After nearly an hour, Louie stepped into the tipi and gripped my right hand in both of his. Behind him came a young woman with a big Roman nose, high cheekbones and large ears. She had dark hair with a reddish tint that reached to her shoulder blades. She wore a long skirt, almost to the ground, and a black leather cowboy vest. Her long, wiry arms were bare. This woman was short and not at all heavy, but something about her gave a feeling of great strength. Except for her freckles, she looked rather Indian, but I found out later that she had no Indian ancestors at all.
“Manny, this is Liz,” Louie said in the tone of someone who is not overjoyed by a new fact in his life, but is acknowledging the fact as overwhelmingly important.
Liz looked me over with her blue-green eyes - an honest, searching look of someone who is trying to size up another person, but who also has basic goodwill for newcomers in her life. Finally she gave a big smile and reached out and took my hand in a firm grip. Something about her look said, “I think you’ll do.”
We all sat down and Aries John started pouring chile and beans into bowls for us. We ate with the sound of the river behind the tipi and the wind in the cottonwoods over us.
We talked about Taze, but we weren’t talking about a desperate problem any more, but simply of steps that we knew we had to take. We would pick up Uncle Denny and go to Sequoyah and meet with the traditional Indian spiritual leaders. We would find a place where these spiritual leaders thought it would be good for people to come make the Circle – preferably on National Forest lands, not Indian lands.
The main problem was an adequate vehicle to carry us. We needed one that would have room for a mattress for Uncle Denny to stretch out on. The best possible one would be the cultural team’s covered truck – which meant I would have to swallow my anxiety and go face Rose and the other cultural team people and ask them for the loan of the truck. And this time we would have to be very careful about not wasting gasoline. We wouldn’t be able to call the Pristine Foundation and ask them for money.
This part of the story is my own life. There I was, Buffington Journeycake, who was born and raised in Sequoyah. My doctoral dissertation in anthropology was, “Ethnic and Class Conflict in Sequoyah Politics.”
The title may look a little strange, but the practical implications of the subject have left more than one person face-down with a bullet in their back. A lot of my knowledge came from uncles of mine who would never go out without a pistol under their coats.
That’s why I didn’t do my dissertation at the State University of Sequoyah in Tulsa or at Oklahoma University in Norman in the next-door state. I wrote my doctoral study of Sequoian political culture at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, which I figured was a safe enough distance.
Sequoyah has less than a million people. There are more blacks than whites and more Indians than either. There are about 25 Indian tribes.
Each tribe in Sequoyah is divided into two basic groups. The mix-bloods live in the towns or in the fertile river valleys. They speak English and dress like most Americans, but with a touch of cowboy.
Full-bloods live in the hills or in the areas of poor soil. They speak Indian languages and wear costumes with lots of embroidery and colorful patchwork. Many full-bloods have some white or black ancestry. The mix-blood/full blood distinction is more cultural than racial. Sequoyah is like an Anglo Guatemala. And I have not even begun to tell half the complications.
I am named for T. M. Buffington, a former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation who was the grandson of a British missionary. Buffington founded the state of Sequoyah. You see, the US government had designated a large area as Indian territory and forced a lot of tribes to move there – at great cost of lives to the Indians.
After the Indians finally got settled down, the government allowed huge numbers of whites to move into the lands in Indian Territory that had not yet been assigned to any tribe. The whites declared their area to be Oklahoma Territory in 1889 and applied for statehood.
So Buffington and the other Indian leaders were afraid that the whites would try to glom the rest of the lands for themselves. Buffington persuaded President Benjamin Harrison to set up the remaining Indian Territory as the State of Sequoyah in 1891.
President Harrison was a Republican, so Buffington said that he could guarantee that Sequoyah would be solid Republican state. Buffington and the other mix-blood leaders kept some of the best river valley land for themselves. Then they allowed blacks and whites from outside the state to settle in the remaining river valley area – more blacks than whites. Buffington and his friends thought that blacks would be more likely to vote Republican.
Most of the land away from the river valleys – hilly country with sandy or rocky soil – was made into reservations for the full-bloods.
The wealthy old mix-blood families like I come from have had some shooting feuds among themselves about political office. Then the full-bloods and the blacks and the whites started demanding more political power. (Of course, the rich whites wanted power for themselves and the poor whites wanted anything more than what they already had.)
I showed my bias in my doctoral dissertation. I wrote that I hoped some day the poor whites and the blacks and the full-bloods – and even the poor mix-bloods (there are a lot of them) could all forget their racial hatreds and get together in one big movement for a better life.
I didn’t think my ideas would make the rich whites or the rich mix-bloods very happy. That’s why I stayed teaching in a small college in La Plata, New Mexico, for several years instead of living in Sequoyah.
Then I went with Louie and Manny and Uncle Denny to the hills of northeastern Sequoyah. I knew Isaac Gourd there, an old Cherokee medicine man who was a full-blood leader in the ceremonies at the stomp grounds. When I introduced Uncle Denny to Isaac, they hit it off right away. After all, Uncle Denny was chief of the Gourd Clan at Santo Toribio. Old Isaac Gourd scratched the scanty hair at the back of his head. (He had enough white ancestry so that he was mostly bald.) He told Uncle Denny, “Man, you and me are gourds off the same vine!”
And we all sat down to a meal of squirrel soup with kanachi (That’s a flour made of hickory nuts that thickens the soup). We had grape dumplings and sugared tomatoes as well.
Isaac Gourd’s wife cooked the meal. She was nearly 70, but still slender and beautiful with long white hair flowing over her shoulders.
Isaac Gourd’s wife spoke only Cherokee, which I don’t know very well. The rising and falling pitches of her Cherokee speech made elaborate patterns like the embroidery on her floor-length skirt.
After a lot of second and third helpings and joking around and talking about corn crops, we got into where to send all the people who would come for Taze’s circle.
“From what you-all show me on the map,” Isaac said, “That fellow Taze wants his circle to be near to where the old Indians built their mounds. We don’t know anything about them old Indians. They was all gone away before we got here. But we don’t want to bother their things. You promise me you’ll keep your people away from them mounds and I’ll talk around to the Tribal Council and I’ll try to keep them from bothering y’all.”
Next day we drove to the Federal building in Tulsa, the state capital, to talk to the Forest Service about National Forest land where we might camp for the Circle. Then we went back to Isaac’s house.
“Tell you what,” Isaac said. “I know a spot where the road forks to go to them old mounds – but it’s about 15 miles away from the mounds. Now that spots on Indian land, but I’ll ask the other folks that help keep up the fire at our stomp dance ground. I’ll tell ‘em y’all should stay at the fork to turn away the people that’s coming and send to that other place in the National Forest. If y’all will do that, I think we can keep the Tribal Council from meddling with y’all.”
In the next few nights a bunch of old full-blood men wearing turbans started coming by Isaac’s place. Uncle Denny was sitting among them having the time of his life. Most of these old full-bloods couldn’t speak English. Uncle Denny would speak to them in English and Isaac would interpret.
But sometimes Isaac would forget to interpret or Uncle Denny would forget to speak English and he’d speak in his own language. But they all understood one another anyway. So by the second weekend in June, Louie and Manny and Uncle Denny and I were camped where the road forks off towards the mounds – ready to warn everybody to turn around and ell them how to get to the place in the National Forest where we wanted to make the Circle.
And then the very first people who showed up at our camp were Aries John and Nephi. I hadn’t seen Nephi since the Colorado Circle.
I’ll always remember in Colorado sitting at the campfire with Brother Maceo and Rivka looking up and seeing all them people flooding down into the valley for the first Circle. Most amazing sight I ever seen.
When they got to our campfire and poured all around it, I would get dizzy from seeing that many legs walking pat me. I looked for my wife Twyla in the crowd. I thought I seen her and headed towards her – but then it wasn’t her. Then I looked around and seen somebody else I knew in the other direction. I headed towards the,, but they wasn’t there either. I was just lost. Then a big hand grabbed my upper arm and a voice said “Ha-ha!” I looked around and it was Clark.
“Come with me,” Clark says. “I want you to meet some people I know.”
He led me over to where a bunch of teenagers not much older than me had just about finished setting up a camp of shelters made from sheets and blankets and ropes and branches. In the middle of the camp was a short heavy-set guy with black curls like corkscrews sticking out of his head in every direction. He had a shaggy black beard all over the lower part of his face. I’d guess he was about 18.
At tall skinny girl about 16 with long black hair was leaning against the guy with her arm around his neck. She held out an open bottle of whiskey and she had a grin like, “Wouldn’t you like to know what’s going on?”
This couple had raggedy clothes with patches on them made of leather. The guy’s blue jeans had more leather patches to them than they did cloth. Now I have had on dirty clothes that might smell bad, but this couple – it seems like their sweat had turned to grease all over their clothes. It smelled like old meat turning sweet.
There was about ten other people in the camp. All of them dressed about the same way – and smelled about the same.
“This is Mike Palocca,” Clark said, “and Ginny and the Coyote Family.”
“The Stinky Coyote Family!” the girl named Ginny yelled and everybody laughed. Ginny handed Clark the whiskey and he sat down around their campfire with her and Mike. Clark started to drink the whiskey. “Not yet!” Mike hollered. “The first drink is for the brothers and sisters that’s passed on!”
Clark held the bottle out over the fire and poured a few drops of whiskey into it. The fire sputtered for a second. Then he took a big swallow of whiskey.
After that he handed the whiskey to Mike. Mike poured a couple of drops on the ground and tossed down a swallow bigger than Clark’s. They passed the bottle back and forth a few times. Then Mike leaned over and spit straight into Clark’s face.
So what does Clark do? He leaned over and spit right into Mike’s face. They traded spits a couple more times. Then they grabbed each other by the back of their necks and hugged.
When they let go of each other, Mike said, “Excuse me, I gotta go piss,” and he walked off into the woods.
I leaned over to Clark’s ear and whispered, “Say, who are these people anyway?”
Clark whispered back to me, “They tried to stay in People’s Party Youth shelters, but they got drunk and smashed up the places so the People’s Party couldn’t let ‘em stay. Then when I was with the Nationalist Youth Corps they stayed at our headquarters and stole stuff. Our leader Jim had to tell them to leave. But I like ‘em. Mike’s just like a brother to me.”
Then Ginny called out, “Say, kid, do you want some whiskey?”
“Me?” I says.
Who do you think?” And she handed me the bottle.
“I guess I’ll try anything,” I says and spilled out a little whiskey for the spirits of the ones that was gone. Then I took a drink. It was sweet and sour and it burned. Mostly it burned.
“Aw, take a bigger drink than that!” one of the other Coyote Family girls said. So I took another and another and another. Pretty soon I was feeling sick and everybody was laughing at me.
Finally Clark stood up and said, “I’m going back to our camp to see if Bishop Louie is there. He might need me to help out in some way.”
I says, “Man, I’m feeling too bad to stand up. I just want to lay here a while.”
“OK,” Clark says, and he went off.
I felt like the ground was spinning around me. I just wanted to curl up and close my eyes. After a while I heard the voice of Ginny’s boyfriend Mike, “Here, take this, man!” And he tossed a blanket to me. The blanket was thin and the night was cold, but I was too far gone to care. I passed out.
When I woke up the next morning I was dizzy and pretty unsteady on my legs. I made it back to our camp. When I got there I seen Brother Maceo, the black man. He had just finished cooking up a small pot of vegetable soup,. And he was dishing some out to my wife Twyla!
I forgot I was dizzy and run over to Twyla as fast as I could. “Hey, Twyla!” I called out. “Clark told me you wasn’t feeling so good or you would have come up here earlier.”
“He’s right,” Twyla said in this real flat voice. “I don’t feel so good.”
“What’s the matter?” I asked her.
“I’m pregnant,” she says. “You got me pregnant in March before you left Zarahemla.”
I hung my head. I didn’t know what to say. Here I had been feeling like such a man, being married and all. And now it hit me. I wasn’t 15 yet. Twyla had just turned 16.
I sat down feeling more and more scared. Twyla just ate her soup and didn’t say nothing.
Somebody in Zarahemla had gave Twyla a little used tent, all patched up. That night we both got into it. Twyla went to sleep right away. I couldn’t sleep. I got up and left her there and went over to the Coyote Family camp. Ginny was sitting by the campfire and the others was in one of the shelters playing cards by the light of a kerosene lantern.
“What’s the matter with you?” Ginny said, looking up at me. “You didn’t drink enough whiskey to be that hung over.”
I says, “I just found out my wife is pregnant and she’s only 16.”
“Well la-de-dah!” Ginny says. “I was pregnant when I was 15. I had the little boy. He died when we was tramping across Arizona in the summer in all that heat and couldn’t hitch a ride.”
I sat down and stared at the campfire. I must have looked sad because I felt real sad.
“It’s a hard world all over,” Ginny said. “Best cure for a whiskey hangover is to drink more whiskey.”
She handed me the bottle. I poured out a little in memory of the spirits of all those who had disappeared out on the road, like Ginny’s baby. Then I poured as much of the rest into me as I could.
Chapter Twenty One
I ain’t saying all this stuff here to be proud of it. I stayed away from Twyla’s tent and kept hanging out with the Coyote Family – the Stinky Coyote Family – the rest of the time we was in that valley in Colorado. I was scared of staying with Twyla to raise that kid – the same way my dad was scared of staying with my mom to raise me. “Besides,” I told myself, “she’ll be there at Zarahemla with Aries John’s wives and they’ll sure know how to take care of a baby. I want to see the rest of the world.”
The Coyotes didn’t go up the mountain with the rest of the people to make the Circle on the Fourth of July. Mike just made of the people who went up. I stayed with the Coyotes and drunk whiskey and felt strange.
People went up the mountain expecting the world to end and then they yelled and screamed when it didn’t. I seen this big crowd coming down the mountain and followed a bunch of them back to where we had camped from the beginning. Brother Maceo was there looking over a long stick he wanted to carve for a walking stick for himself. Twyla’s tent wasn’t there.
“Where’s Twyla?” I asked.
“Oh, she went with Clark and a bunch of others,” he says. “They went in Manny’s truck back to New Mexico.” He traced out designs with his long black fingers that he was going to cut with his knife into the soft white wood.
“Where are Bishop Louie and Manny?” I asked.
“Louie and Manny left when all them people was still a-whoopin’,” Brother Maceo said. “They got a warrant out for their arrest and they gone.”
“Why didn’t you leave?” I says.
“I’m organizing a cleanup crew,” he says. “We still got people here and we can’t leave trash on the ground. When you make a mess, you gotta stay and do something about it.”
I went back to the Coyote Family camp. I told them about Brother Maceo’s cleanup crew. Mike got everybody together and they collected all their trash in one small place where it would be easy for the cleanup crew to take it away. “Just one thing,” Mike said, “Don’t ask us to stay and be a part of no crew. My feet are here but my mind is some place else and my feet gotta be where my mind is.”
I hiked down to the highway with the Coyote Family. We split up into pairs to hitch hike. I was with a guy named Woozy, about 17, tall and real skinny and pale, almost white with big staring green eyes. He was a nice, friendly good-hearted fellow. There wasn’t no harm in him.
It was easy to get a ride with all the traffic leaving the Circle and pretty soon me and Woozy got to Denver and met the rest of the coyote Family at a mission. There was always kids and old winos hanging on the mission steps.
We ate dinner at the mission and then the girls went to ask the preacher for money. If the boys went, the preacher would figure out what he wanted it for. As it was, the preacher gave the girls enough to buy a fifth of pretty cheap wine.
That night we was sitting under a bridge drinking the wine, Mike said, “We want to initiate you into the Coyote Family.” He handed me a big Bowie Knife and said, “Cut between your right forefinger and your middle finger.”
I barely stuck the knife point in.
“Go on, Nephi, cut it!”
I stuck it in a little further.
I stuck it in till I felt a little flash of pain. A lot of blood come out and they all laughed. They grabbed my jacket off of me and stomped it into the dirt and all the guys peed on it.
I still have the jacket back home in Zarahemla. And I have a scar between my fingers to this day.
We would go get day old food from dumpsters behind the grocery stores. We would go into stores and swipe stuff. But then the Coyote Family would give away most of what they had stole to folks that was even poorer than they was.
Other times when we had all panhandled enough money to buy a few quarts of beer or a gallon of wine and we was getting loaded, some guy would come by and we wanted to help him. We’d take him under a bridge and build a fire and cook some of our food for him. But so much alcohol had built up in our system that one of us – usually Mike – would get mad him and punch him out.
It wasn’t just the guys. Sometimes we’d be trying to help a girl out and then some of our girls would spit at her and scream “Bitch!”
The one I was really worried about was Woozy. He’d get all weak and sick and sweaty and beg us for more beer or wine or whiskey – whatever alcohol we had. Finally one day he just fell to the sidewalk and said, “I can’t go on no more.”
Mike put one of Woozy’s arms around his shoulder and I put the other one around mine and we took him to the hospital. The whole Coyote Family waited in the lobby to see what would happen. Finally about three in the morning a doctor come to us and said, “He’s dead.”
A cop and a man in a suit come with some papers for us to sign. The cop said, “What’s his name?”
“Woozy,” Mike said.
“Well, what was his last name?” the man in the suit says.
“I don’t know,” Mike says, “just Woozy.”
They took him to a place where they bury poor people for free. We panhandled enough money to get a bottle of good wine and we poured it all out on Woozy’s grave.
People I meet on the road tell me that at least once a month some of the road folks show up at the graveyard to say hello to Woozy.
I know that now every time I open a bottle – even just Coca-Cola, I pour a little on the ground for Woozy and all the others.
But I knew if I kept traveling with the Coyote Family, some day I’d be missing on the road for good myself. It was September and getting cool at night in Colorado and I hitched back down to Zarahemla.
I found Twyla in front of her little tent and I couldn’t believe it, she actually looked glad to see me. I was real shy, but I finally got up enough courage to give her a little kiss.
It was the week before October, the time the day and night are equal length when Twyla started screaming and thrashing around and moaning just at sundown.
Cassie, one of Aries John’s wives come over and looked at her, “Twyla’s just too narrow to have a baby,” Cassie told me. “She’s gonna have a miscarriage.”
Cassie and Aries John stayed with me and Twyla until it was over. I was clenching my fists when Twyla screamed. I was feeling pain every time she hollered.
Two days later when Twyla was able to walk, I got a shovel from Aries John and we wrapped up our little unborn son in a pretty piece of flowered silk cloth that Aries John’s wives gave us. We walked about a mile away from where every body was camping and I dug a little hole and Twyla laid the child down in it. Then I piled some rocks over it and Twyla stuck a little bunch of purple wild flowers among the rocks.
When we got back to the tent, Aries John was there. He handed her some money and whispered something in her ear.
“What was that about?” I asked after he left.
Twyla answered –“He told me to take this money and go to La Plata and get some birth control pills.”
All that winter I tried hard to be a good husband. As skinny as I am, I was bringing in huge loads of firewood on my backpack frame for us and the other camps.
At first I didn’t hardly think of all this business about Taze. The thing I noticed the most was that this nice young lady named Teresa moved in with Bishop Louie. Then all of a sudden, Teresa was one of Aries John’s wives. And Liz, who I hadn’t never met before was living with Bishop Louie.
“What’s going on?” I asked Aries John.
“It’s just something that happens,” he told me.
In early June, Bishop Louie went off to Sequoyah with Manny and Uncle Denny and you, Buff, to handle all this trouble that Taze had caused. Louie told Aries John, “Come on with us.”
But Aries John said, “I want to stay behind and work on my pickup. It’s a complete mess from all that traveling we done in Colorado last year.”
One day I was walking past where Aries John was on his back under his pickup. He had been down there working on it for hours. All of a sudden he stuck his head out from under there. “Know what?” he says.
I stopped walking and turned towards him.
“I ain’t never gonna get this pickup ready in time to go meet Louie in Sequoyah before July Fourth,” he says. “It’s good for traveling in just around here but it’ll break down if I try to drive it that far. So you and me are gonna have to do something.”
“What?” I says.
“Hitch down to Deming and hop freight trains,” he says.
He got out from under the pickup and stood up and looked at me. “I need you to come with me,” he says. “I don’t like hopping freights alone.”
“I’ll have to go ask Twyla,” I says.
The first thing Twyla said when I told her Aries John’s idea was, “Are you gonna be away from here for months risking your life again? Remember, you’re not even 16 yet.”
“Twyla, listen,” I says. “It ain’t more than a few weeks. You’ll be going to Sequoyah with the other people from Zarahemla when Bishop Louie finds a place for us to make the Circle instead of Taze.”
“Oh, all right,” she says, shaking her head. “Nephi, I swear I have to worry about you like you was a little kid.”
So me and Aries John hitched down to Deming – not very far across the desert, but a hot journey. Then we rode freights – that’s real hot and dusty and hard to breathe. A couple of times we had other people in the freight with us. Me and Aries John tried to be friendly with them, but once Aries John stuck out his hand and they wouldn’t take it. At a time like that, you never know what they will do. I was glad I had Aries John with me. Finally we got off in Tulsa, which is the state capital of Sequoyah and I was gladdest of all to be on solid ground without all that noise and bouncing around.
Seems like we hitched all over Sequoyah, doubling back on our trail, looking for Bishop Louie and the others. We asked everybody we met, “Have you seen any strange-looking people camped out near here?”
And they would say, “Huh? Stranger-looking than what y’all are?”
Finally we found Bishop Louie’s camp at a place where the road forked. And it wasn’t long after that, Taze showed up with his whole army.
Dr. Al O’Connor returned to Santa Fe and we had several very good LSD sessions with some of my leading elders from our missions around the country. We had beautiful shining spring weather for our sessions out at the ranch we were buying. Al has a wonderful understanding of how to guide LSD voyages. Most of the elders told me all kinds of personal stuff about themselves during the sessions, thanks to Al’s prompting. I understood how to keep them in line so much better.
Al brought the woman he was living with at the time, Princess Laughing Flower – I understand her original name was Lula Mae Overton. Laughing Flower gave ancient American Indian psychic advice to some of the most prominent business people in the country. The wives of some of the board members of the Pristine Foundation wouldn’t make a step without consulting her for 150 dollars at each meeting.
I understand that Princess Laughing Flower really was definitely three sixteenths Indian. The first time Al came to Santa Fe with her, she had rather reddish hair, but then she dyed it a very bark blue. She wore a spectacular feather headdress three feet high. She was a short woman, but she had to duck every time she went through one of those low doorways at our ranch house near Santa Fe.
At that time I was wearing a pyramid on my head every day, so I can’t criticize Laughing Flower for her headdress. Still, I flinched a little when Al said, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea to make the Circle around those ancient Indian mounds? We could have Laughing Flower at the head of the procession to the mounds on July Fourth, claiming her right to visit the mounds as an American Indian!”
“Come on now, Al!” I said, wagging my finger at him. I was trying to keep it light, but I was a little nervous at the idea. “I’ve been an anthropologist. I’ve goat a reputation for knowing what’s authentic. Now if I sponsor Laughing Flower…”
“Who cares what’s authentic?” Al shouted in a cheerful, whiskey-filled voice.
“What do we want,” Al said, “museum pieces? We want the Legend of the American Indian to inspire the youth of this country…” and he flung back his arms so hard that he tipped his chair backwards onto the floor with a crash. Then he picked himself up, still grinning like always.
“Don’t you realize?” he said, propping himself against a table and laughing, “The Princess and I have done LSD sessions with Ansel Buck himself!”
“Ansel Buck?” I said. “I don’t believe you! Ansel Buck was the publisher of Photo News, Athlete and Wealth, magazines that appeared in millions of copies.
“But Buck has been a friend of Nixon and Billy Graham!” I said.
“Taze, Taze!” Al laughed. “You’ve spent your life too long in universities and this Holy Roller mission. You think that all Republicans are stuffy clods. Why even Nixon – back when he was campaigning in the Republican primaries in 1956, he appeared as a guest of honor at the opening of a new casino in the Bahamas. I was one of the other invited guests, along with some other people who were also exploring the spirit with hallucinogens. Of course then, we didn’t have LSD, only mescaline. But it was these same Republicans in the Fifties who made sure we got LSD from the government labs!”
“Well, I guess…” and I gave a little whistle.
“Taze, just remember,” and Al’s face got serious for the first time I had seen, “If you leave the rich free to play their little profit-making games and don’t try to play neurotic left-wing games against them, they will leave us free to make a real inner revolution of the spirit – and we will have a whole new hip spiritual society before they know it!”
“My thoughts exactly,” I mumbled.
Then I stood up straight and set my pyramid on my head at a jaunty angle. After all, I was the True White Brother, revealed by the spirit of Maria Russell Herself. I didn’t expect Ansel Buck to cheer for me in his magazines. But I knew that if Al and Laughing Flower could guide Buck’s thoughts on LSD as well as they guided my elders, his publications wouldn’t denounce me.
Then one day all the elders from Maria Russell Missions around the country had gathered in Santa Fe. We would have a caravan of buses for the Indian mounds in Sequoyah. I was in the bedroom, supervising some of the new disciples who were packing my clothes when the phone rang. One of the disciples handed the phone to me. It was one of the Sequoyah state officials who had been working behind the scenes to keep us from getting arrested.
“I don’t know what this may mean to you,” he said in his nasal drawl, “but this is for your information. These other people showed up from New Mexico. They met with the Forest Service and got a place in the National Forest to have the Circle. They’ve been camped out where the road turns off to the Indian mounds, giving people directions to the place in the National Forest.”
“Thanks,” was all I could say. Then I yelled at the disciples packing my clothes, “Work at it a little harder! We’ve got to get there earlier!”
For a second I thought of calling the Pristine Foundation and asking them to get some of their friends in the Forest Service to quarantine the National Forest in Sequoyah for bubonic plague to keep the Circle out of there, but that would take too much time.
The best idea would be to go to Sequoyah at once with Al and Laughing Flower and the elders, get as many of the people as we could to come over form the National Forest. Then we could have a procession to the mounds and make the Circle about a week early. I phoned Ansel Buck, the big publisher and explained that I would be in the procession with Al and Laughing Flower and there was a chance we might be arrested.
“Sure,” Buck said, “I had to bail Al out once when he got arrested for marijuana. This isn’t as serious a charge, so I think I can get you and the others out.”
You’d think it would be hard to get through to a multi-millionaire like Buck, but we had a number of mutual friends in the Pristine Foundation. I even felt a kind of kinship with him, now that I knew we had both taken LSD.
We set out for Sequoyah the next day, two days earlier than we had planned. We had 70 people and five buses, which came from Maria Russell Missions in the Rocky Mountain area. One of the buses was loaded up with something that we knew Louie would have only in limited supply – food.
Once we got arrested and released, we could offer the food to those who might come for Louie’s Circle. I knew enough from taking care of poor and unemployed youth at the Maria Russell Missions to know that they would choose the Circle with the most food in it. The Message of the True White Friend would go out to the world.
Chapter Twenty Two
Zephyr and Manny and I were sitting around Zephyr’s kitchen table the night before Manny was to take the others to Sequoyah in the cultural team truck.
“Whew!” Manny said, drawing his hand across his brow to wipe off imaginary sweat. “At the cultural team meeting, I really was sweating. I didn’t think they would ever loan that truck to us. I thought Rose would block it completely. I had to talk and talk about how the Circle is really a movement of the working class and we can’t let Taze betray it.”
“So Rose agreed?” I asked.
“We negotiated a deal, “ Manny said. “We’re not lovers any more but we’re partners as advisors to the cultural team. I just better get that truck back to Rose in decent shape or she’ll hang me from the highest tree!”
“What about supplies?” Zephyr asked.
“Raise as much money and supplies as you can,” Manny said. “We’ll need every bit. Liz will be down here from Zarahemla to help out. Maybe you can work with her.”
I got a lump in my throat. I was still legally married to Louie, but Liz was living with him. I had met her during clean-up after the Circle in Colorado, long before Louie met her. Liz and I had become good friends. I had gone to Albuquerque to visit her at Christmas. She was faking nursing courses in a vocational school there.
She told me about the adventures she had once had with the Coyote Family. I thought I led a pretty wild life, but in some ways I was a prim, sheltered young lady compared to Liz. We wandered around Albuquerque and met up with two of Taze’s young people, a man and a woman, who had come down from Santa Fe to give out leaflets about Taze’s circle in Sequoyah. They had the tense, goggle-eyed quality that so many Maria Russell Mission people have. Liz took a leaflet and saw the picture of Taze in his pyramid crown surrounded by a halo of glitter.
“Ain’t that the shits?” she said. “How could anyone call that the Circle? If I could, I’d do something about it!”
“Well, I’m always down there in La Plata,” I said. “I’m around Manny and Zephyr and Buff and a lot of the other people who worked on the Circle in Colorado. I’ll stay in touch with you and let you know what plans we have about Sequoyah.”
“Great!” Liz said, crumpling up Taze’s leaflet and throwing it in a trash can. “I’ll work with you on it.”
She spoke with such depth of honest feelings – like she always does.
After I returned to La Plata, we exchanged letters and I let her know the first tentative plans we were coming up with. Then I stopped hearing from her. In May, Manny came back from Zarahemla all amazed about the new woman Louie was with. Liz had dropped out of nursing school and moved in with Louie.
Sure enough, when I was going around to the stores in La Plata to see if they had any extra food they might donate for our Circle in Sequoyah, I ran into Liz, who was also scouting for food supplies.
When I walked in to talk to a store owner and saw Liz, she just stood there with no trace of nervousness. When she looked at me, her mouth was a straight line, but it was a friendly line. She was waiting for me to say something.
“Hello,” I finally managed. “I’m here to see if they have extra food for…”
“Yeah, me too,” Liz said.
Just then, Ivy, my old friend from Zarahemla, showed up. Liz had come down with her in Ivy’s old black pickup, which was in petty bad shape. We fell in together and went to a lot of stores in La Plata, loading up what food they would give me. I didn’t talk with Liz about what was going on with Louie, just the necessary words for picking up the food and loading it. Liz did her share of the work rapidly and well.
When we finished, she turned to me with a smile that made creases in her cheeks and friendly wrinkles at the corners of her eyes.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get in touch with you sooner,” she said. “But I think you know why I didn’t. I’ll come back down tomorrow and see if we can scare up some more food from the churches and the People’s Party. The problem is how to get this food to Sequoyah. I don’t know if this truck can get there and our money is real low for gas.”
“What about the other vehicles in Zarahemla?” I asked.
“Oh, they’re all in terrible shape,” she said with a scornful gesture as if flinging the unsatisfactory cars and trucks over her shoulder.
“But it’ll work out,” Liz said, sticking her arm straight out and shaking my hand. Ivy hugged me and the two of them drove off in the rattling pickup.
That night Zephyr said, “I want to give you something.” She walked over to a cupboard and reached into it and came back with her hands cupped together to the kitchen table where I was sitting.
“I’m not going to the Circle this year,” she said. “I’m from Missouri and I came here to La Plata to escape all that summer heat and humidity – and Sequoyah’s even worse. But I want you to go. Hold out your hands.”
I held out my hands and she dropped a wad of crumpled paper money into them. I counted out $200.
“Weren’t you always talking about getting a used TV set?” I asked.
“Oh, they’re just so much noise,” Zephyr said. “Besides, I’m a registered nurse. I got this money sitting up with old ladies. I can always find more old ladies to sit up with.”
The next day, Ivy and Liz were back in La Plata getting food, looking all excited – especially Liz.
“Six of my old buddies on the road showed up at Zarahemla,” Liz said. “Coyote Family folks! Not the same bunch of Coyotes I told you about that I used to travel around with. But there are several different Coyote clans and they’re all connected. I know two people in this crowd, Mike and Ginny. They came to Zarahemla looking for some kid I hardly know named Nephi. And guess what! They brought a flat-bed truck!”
“Is it any good?” I asked.
“It’s a reject,” Liz said. “Farm Boy, one of the Coyote kids, went to visit his parents at a rural co-op in eastern Colorado. The co-op was getting a new truck and this old ark was in such bad shape they said, “Take it!”
I showed Ivy and Liz the money Zephyr had given me. “Just maybe,” Ivy said, “with this and what we can get together along the way we may get my pickup and the Coyote flat bed and Brother Maceo’s car to Sequoyah. If anybody else wants to go, maybe they can take a bus or train – or hitch.”
I went back to Zarahemla with Ivy and Liz. I had not been in Zarahemla Valley in almost two years. When I had left, there were about 200 people, most of them camped in tents around the adobe houses where the people from Louie’s old Mormon United Order Community lived. Manny was at Zarahemla at its height, right before everybody left for Colorado in 1972. He told me that at that time there were over 300 people at Zarahemla, with people constantly coming and going. Now there were less than 100 – with still a few tents and shelters scattered around.
“People are still coming in a lot,” Ivy said. “And they stay a few days and then leave. See over there?” Ivy pointed to the ruins of the church. I had left before the rival Mormon community burned it down. I felt a sudden blow of sadness.
“If we could just get the people together,” Ivy said. “Even if we aren’t Mormons any more, if we could rebuild the church, it would make a good community center.”
“Yeah,” Liz said. “I’d like to do that, but right now we have to get to Sequoyah.”
Next to the ruins of the church was a truck nearly in as bad a ruin, like the remains of a dinosaur. Clark and Brother Maceo were working on the truck with three of the most spectacularly shabby young people I had ever seen.
“This is Mike – and this is Ginny and this is Farm Boy,” Liz introduced me and they gave me some grimy handshakes.
“We got three more people here with us from our Coyote Family,” Mike said. “They’re goin’ around to everybody in Zarahemla right now to see if anyone has extra parts they can give us for this truck.”
In a little while the three Coyotes – two women and a man – came back with very little in the way of spare parts. Mike and Clark got all of them together working on the truck, barking at them like drill sergeants until brother Maceo said, “Easy! Calm down!”
Liz and Ivy and I did whatever Mike told us to do and got black gunk all over ourselves. By the end of the day with Mike and Clark yelling and Brother Maceo trying to get them to lower their voices, the truck would drive sounding somewhat less like it was about to collapse.
Next day we loaded the coyote Family truck with sacks of corn and beans from the Zarahemla store house.
“We was gonna pick u Nephi and his wife Twyla if she wanted to go,” Mike said. “We wanted to take them with us to Florida. Now we think helping Louie out in Sequoyah is more important.”
We set out, Ivy and her three kids with their pickup full of donated groceries from La Plata, the six Coyotes and their truck – three of them in back with the load of corn and beans, black Brother Maceo in his car with his white wife Brenda and Clark, Twyla, Liz and me.
Every 20 miles it seemed one of the vehicles broke down and had to be worked on. The Coyotes stopped in every town and got food that had been thrown out behind stores. They begged at all the People’s Party Youth shelters and missions from more food and money.
“We’re trying to be more polite about it,” Mike said. “At one time if they tried to be an asshole and not give us stuff, I’d say ‘You better give us something, mother fucker or I’ll put lice on you!’”
After three days, Zephyr’s money and what the Coyotes begged got us to Sequoyah. We followed the map on Taze’s leaflet. When we came to the turnoff to the Native American holy place where Taze wanted to make the circle, we found a couple of tents and a sort of desk made of orange crates with a big sign on it which in crudely formed letters said CIRCLE INFORMATION. Behind the desk, Nephi was sitting. And behind Nephi there was a group of vehicles in nearly as bad a shape as ours and a campfire with some people making coffee. I glanced around quickly – Louie wasn’t there.
Twyla got out of the car I was in and ran over and embraced Nephi. Then Ivy and her kids got out of their pickup and the Coyote Family people hopped down from their truck. We were all taking a few steps around just to get used to not traveling.
Nephi came over and hugged Mike. Then he said, “Bishop Louie and them are all over at the National Forest looking at a new site. I got a map of how to get there and you can draw a copy.
“Man, just let us rest for a bit!” Liz called out.
“Sure,” Nephi said. “But they’re gonna need your food over in the National Forest when all the people get there.”
“OK, OK!” Liz said, “Just don’t worry about it for right now!” She reached down and rubbed her knees, which were stiff from riding in a car for so long. I wiped the sweat off my brow and drew a deep breath. After the clean desert air of New Mexico, Sequoyah was like a steam bath.
We went to the campfire where a group of people were drinking coffee and letting their exhausted vehicles rest. I had forgotten the basic rule of the Circle – bring your own cup or bowl, but Ivy filled her big bowl full of strong coffee and dumped in a lot of sugar and handed it to me. I took a deep drink and felt the caffeine and sugar rush. Then I handed the bowl to Ivy. She drank a little and handed the bowl around to the others in our weary group.
We were sitting around the campfire getting to know the new people when five shiny new buses drove up and parked in front of the orange crate information desk.
Taze got out of the lead bus with his pyramid on his head. Beside him was a woman with indigo blue hair and a very tall crown of feathers – white, pink and pale yellow. After them came a smiling white-haired but youthful looking man and a group of elders. Some of them I recognized, but they gave no sign of knowing me. They just stared straight ahead and clutched their volumes of Taze’s Commentary on Studies in the Scripture.
The doors of the other buses opened and elders poured out and headed to the campfire.
“Oh-where are you from?” a woman pouring herself some coffee asked the new arrivals.
“The Light!” an elder answered.
All of a sudden I could hear Taze shouting from the orange crate desk in front of the campfire.
“I want to thank the brother who prepared this information center,” Taze bellowed, “because now we can give information on the great historical and spiritual significance of the nearby Native American shrine where we will make the Circle in three days!”
Just then his pyramid slipped off his sweaty bald head. He caught it before it hit the ground and waved it in the air. “Follow me!” he blared. “Follow me into the new age of peace and truth!”
I heard Nephi’s voice ring out, “Man, I wouldn’t follow you to find out where the men’s john was!”
There was laughter – especially from the Coyote Family.
Taze motioned with his hand to some elders who went to the last bus in the row and came back with two ice chests which they opened and pulled out watermelons and cantaloupes. They carved them up and handed the slices around to the people at the campfire. An elder thrust a cantaloupe slice into my hands.
“We will feast here today and tomorrow,” Taze said, slapping his pyramid back on his head. “We have huge amounts of food.”
“On the third day,” Taze continued, “we will have a procession to the ancient burial mounds. We will make our Circle around the mounds.
“And get arrested!” Nephi yelled. “They got tribal police in the woods around the mounds. The Indians don’t want us there!”
“But we have a Native American spiritual leader with us, Princess Laughing Flower,” Taze said, pointing at the blue-haired woman with the towering feather crown. “She will make it clear to our Native brothers and sisters that we have a right to be here.” The Princess showed her teeth in a beaming smile.
“Shit!” Nephi answered back. “My mom was a stripper. The Princess looks just like the women who used to work the places where my mom stripped!”
“You little asshole!” Princes Laughing Flower Screeched, striding in Nephi’s direction. “If you don’t shut the fuck up I’ll knock your teeth down your throat!
I noticed the handsome white-haired man was bent over double laughing. The Princess reached Nephi and started pulling his hair. The white-haired man ran after her and grabbed her by the waist. He pulled her away from Nephi – along with a hand of Nephi’s hair in her hand.
“Let go, Al, you donkey dick!” the Princess said, shoving her elbow into the white-haired man’s nose.
Liz came over and whispered to me, “I’d really like to have the Princess on my side in a barroom brawl!” The Coyote Family started hollering, “Yah, Princess!” One of them threw a piece of watermelon at Taze’s pyramid and knocked it off his head. When Taze bent down to pick it up, another Coyote got him right on his bald spot with a piece of cantaloupe. It was Mike.
Brother Power, the elder who was Taze’s main body guard ran over and started a bash-and-stomp fight with Mike. In the process he got his clothes almost as dirty as Mike’s.
In the middle of this, Taze held up his hands and shouted with all his might, “Let’s go! These people don’t understand sacred things. We’ll take the buses to within a mile of the mounds, make a procession there and make an early Circle around the mounds – RIGHT NOW!”
In a minute, Taze, Princess, elders, ice chests – and the white-haired man (who was wiping blood from where Princess Laughing Flower’s elbow hit his nose) all raced aboard the buses, which started up and headed down the road to the Indian mounds.
Chapter Twenty Three
There is no good in raking up old quarrels. Let’s just say when we got to Sequoyah, we met up with people who supported Louie’s plan for having a Circle in the National Forest. There was a misunderstanding on both sides, which led to a physical confrontation. Both sides were at fault. That’s why I didn’t want Nephi with us while I record my memories. I don’t want to go through all these controversies.
I blame the whole thing on the continuing poverty in our country. Those young people such as Nephi who supported Louie, had to grow up in poverty. They were ready to attack anything that looked like a symbol of wealth.
We are lucky that none of the tall plumes of Princess Laughing Flower’s head dress were snapped. Still, it took quite a while to get her feathers smoothed out.
When we got to within a mile of the mounds, we parked the buses by the side of the road. We left some elders aboard each bus. Dr. Al O’Connor stayed back on the bus. He had been injured in the confrontation.
About 50 of us started a procession down the path through the trees to the mounds. Princess Laughing Flower and I led the way. She started up a chant that even sounded authentic. She told me later that it was a slowed-down version of some scat singing she heard on a jazz record from the Thirties.
We had gone about a hundred yards when the tribal police special deputies stepped out of the woods and surrounded us. They were tall, lanky young full blood men, wearing turbans and long loose patchwork shirts that reached about halfway between their waists and their knees. Around their waists they wore bright-colored strips of yarn to belt in their long shirts. But what we noticed most was that they had leather belts with pistols hanging from them right below the yarn cords. And they all wore badges on their chests.
The leader said, “You all are under arrest for trespassing,” and they took us in five paddy wagons to a small settlement called Gadayosdi (The second and the fourth syllable are accented.)
The jail had one cell where a couple of elderly full blood men were sleeping off a drunk. So all of us - deputies and prisoners – stood round the desk feeling foolish.
We had committed a crime on Indian land, not a state crime. Although in this part of Sequoyah, most of the people off the reservation are also Indians, questions of jurisdiction are very sticky. The Indian tribal police had borrowed the paddy wagons from three county sheriff’s, but they were having endless arguments with the drivers about why we couldn’t be taken to a county jail until the tribal government had been fully informed of the situation.
They were trying to reach the tribal offices by phone, but no one was in at the moment. So we were booked and stood there as the jail seemed to get hotter and hotter.
Finally they contacted the tribal offices and got the paddy wagon drivers to come over and talk to the tribal offices on the phone. Then the drivers had to fill out an endless series of forms to transfer us to the county jail.
The paddy wagons took us to the county seat, a predominately mix-blood town called Salungeya (once again, the accent is on the second and fourth syllables.) We were no longer on Indian land, but in a world that at least on the surface accepted the dominant white culture.
The jail was large enough to hold all of us, but the cells were pretty crowded. It seemed that all of us needed to use the toilet and none of the toilets would flush. So we spent a long night in the heat and the odor.
Next morning I was able to call the big publisher Ansel Buck to bail us out. The TV news came. The Tulsa lawyer Buck got for us stood in front of the news cameras. “This is not just an issue of the rights of whites to be on Indian land,” I said. “We have a Native American spiritual leader who is having her rights denied.”
Unfortunately Princess Laughing Flower looked badly under the weather when they were filming her for the news. Her headdress was on askew. She just said, “I support this cause a hundred per cent,” and hurried away from the reporters.
After our lawyer bailed us out he and others in his firm drove us to the camp at the turnoff to the mounds.
The elders we had left with the buses had brought them to the turnoff, but they had parked across the road from the camp and they were not fraternizing with Bishop Louie’s people.
However Dr. Al O’Connor was fraternizing. He had been over in camp in the tent of an attractive young lady who had just arrived the night before. (People talk about my behavior in this department. They would not believe how fast Al works. He’s nearly as fast as Bishop Louie.)
Anyway, when Al emerged from the tent with the young lady. Princess Laughing Flower let out some very authentic-sounding war whoops and charged at him. It took four of my elders to hold her back. The more disreputable among Louie’s supporters started shouting, “Go Princess!”
I got my elders together. We put Al in one bus and Laughing Flower in another one and we headed to the hilly place in the National Forest where Louie was sending people to make the Circle.
It was a pale-green, leafy area of tall hickory and sycamore trees. In spite of the heat of the pyramid on my head, I was enjoying the calls of the songbirds in the thickets. We got out of the buses and started up the ridge to Louie’s camp. At the ridge top, there was a cool breeze, unlike the still, hot air of the valleys.
Louie was camped near a spring that poured out of a shelf of limestone, jutting out near the tip of the ridge. I walked up to him and put my hands on his shoulders, but I got the feeling he was backing off from me.
“Don’t worry, Louie,” I said. “The difficult part is all over. I’ve been to jail already and now I’ve got a religious freedom case in court.”
“Well, what do you want from me?” Louie asked.
“I’ve got something to offer you, Louie,” I said.
“One of our buses is over half full of food. A lot of people will be here soon and you’ll have to feed them somehow.” I continued.
“So what do I do?” Louie asked.
“Just two things,” I answered. “First, I want you to let me set up a camp called the Camp of the True Friend where I can explain to anyone who visits what my role and the role of the Maria Russell Mission is in prophecy.”
“That’s easy,” Louie said. “You can set up a camp anywhere you want to around here and tell people you’re Little Red Riding Hood. I’m not stopping you.”
“The other thing is this,” I said. “I would like a share in the sponsorship of the Circle. You can be the main sponsor, of course, but I would be co-sponsor.”
“I can’t do that,” Louie said, shaking his head. “I ain’t even the main sponsor. I can’t take responsibility on myself like that. Every person that comes to the Circle is the sponsor as much as every other person.”
These were the words Louie said, but even then his actions were very different from his worlds.
“We know what’s really going on, Louie,” I said. “Both of us. If you want the food, you’re going to have to act as if you have some responsibility to the people who are helping you.”
“OK, Taze,” Louie said, jutting his jaw out and with the trace of a growl. “You can take your food and I think you know where you can put it.”
I took three steps backward from Louie, then turned around and walked down the path to the buses. I wouldn’t allow myself to get angry. If I am the True White Friend, then I must be ready to negotiate. Louie was still young and he would learn. I told my elders, “We can use some of the fresh fruits and vegetables for the kitchen we set up here, but most of the bulk stuff goes back to the mission.”
Our elders strung a big banner between the trees:
CAMP OF THE TRUE FRIEND
HEAR INDIAN PROPHECY!!
We did cook up some pretty good meals with our fresh fruits and vegetables (and some of the elders had worked in restaurants so they knew how to use spices well.) A lot of people who had just arrived for the Circle stopped at our camp to eat. Princess Laughing Flower had her feathers on straight again and she gave some good Indian prophecy raps. When she finished she introduced me as the fulfillment. Everything stayed calm because Dr. Al O’Connor was off wandering around the other camps looking for a new female companion – he wasn’t in Laughing Flower’s way.
However, most of the people who came to our camp were the usual mission crowd – sing a chorus of “Jesus Loves Me,” eat our food and go on.
Less than half as many people came to this Circle than came to the first one in Colorado. Louie’s food supply wasn’t as badly strained as I expected. Still his kitchen was pretty short. For two days they served only one meal – oatmeal with chunks of carrots boiled in it. Yet Louie would not come over and negotiate the sponsorship question with me.
The night before the circle in Sequoyah it rained hard. We crowded under tarps and laughed – though we knew a lot of us, including me, had possessions out there in the dark getting soaked by sheets of rain. The food had been so scarce and of such low quality for two days that it was a relief to be fasting the morning of the Fourth.
Isaac Gourd, the old full blood Cherokee medicine man, showed up for the big Circle, tall and handsome in a blue and gold stripped turban. A number of other Indian spiritual leaders of several different tribes around the state came with him.
These elderly Indian men and women seemed to enjoy the thunder shower like children at a birthday party.
Finally it cleared up and the moon came out of the clouds after midnight. We slept late the next day and then walked to a large meadow to make the Circle. Thanks to the thunderstorm, the hot sticky air that had filled the valleys was gone. The day was cloudy and windy – spring like.
This time I was able to take part in the whole Circle – the silence, the humming and the shouting. I felt a fulfillment that I didn’t feel in Colorado, where I had to leave the Circle too soon. I have found that the sheer job of putting the Circle together can often keep me and the others who started it from taking part in it fully.
After the Circle all the traditional Indian spiritual people from around Sequoyah met and formed a circle of their own with Uncle Denny and Isaac Gourd. There had to be a lot of interpreting because many of these people didn’t speak English or the languages of other tribes. This was the first get together of medicine people from all the different tribes in the state. They were realizing how they had been used against one another by rival factions of mix-blood politicians.
Uncle Denny walked slowly and unsteadily around their council circle holding a big twist of burning sage incense. The medicine people fanned themselves with the smoke and fanned their neighbors in the council with it. These neighbors were often from other tribes. So they were purifying themselves and those who sat next to them from the old feuds.
When their council was over, a lot of the local Sequoyah people who had come to the Circle walked up to shake hands and talk to the old full blood medicine people. Most of the locals who came to the Circle were mix-bloods. Everyone was saying, “Did you know this or that person who is your cousin is my cousin too?”
Or – “What was your mother’s last name before she married? Because I bet she’s kin to me.”
When you get down to it the full bloods and the mix-bloods are all related if they’ll just claim kin to one another. I started shedding tears of gladness because our Circle could be a place for all these different Indian nations to come together in unity.
Me and Twyla took part in the Circle together in Sequoyah. When it was over she told me, “It hurt me last year in Colorado when you didn’t show up for the Circle. I prayed for there to be another Circle where we could hold hands together in it – and here we are.
The Coyote Family held hands in the Circle. When it was over, Mike of the Coyote Family started crying. He tried to wipe away his tears. He said, “Oh this whole thing is just a bunch of bullshit!” But then he started crying again and put his head on Aries John’s shoulder.
The scenery in Sequoyah was not dramatic like the mountains where we had the Circle in Colorado. But I could appreciate more that the real spiritual power comes from getting together in the Circle with the other people – no matter where you do it.
Liz was standing next to Louie in the Circle. But when it was over she came running to me where I was holding hands with Manny and Aries John. She hugged me and then all four of us were wrapped up in each other’s arms.
I knew we would go on making the Circle again and again and again.
Chapter Twenty Four
In Colorado people started the Circle before daybreak. In Sequoyah, the sun was well up into the overcast sky before people started straggling to the edge of the large meadow and held hands out to each other. I was in the Circle for half an hour that morning, but unlike Colorado, I didn’t see a reason to take part. If I was not going to share a real movement with Louie, what was the use of standing four hours in silence? I whispered to Brother power and he walked down the line of our people at the Circle and whispered to all the other elders, “Hey! It’s time to go.” We all walked back to the buses with Princess Laughing Flower and Al (kept at a safe distance from one another, of course).
We drove the buses back to Santa Fe and a couple of weeks later I called the Pristine Foundation. I emphasized the positive aspects of our mission to Sequoyah: I had a major freedom of religion case that would go through the federal courts and maybe reach the Supreme Court. I had endorsements from many religious, political, scientific and entertainment figures.
But I did not have a happy Pristine Foundation. Apparently the full blood Indians who met at the Circle had started a coordinated campaign around Sequoyah to block new oil leases on tribal lands until the oil companies did more for the impoverished Indians. The full bloods wanted to keep the oil companies permanently out of certain Indian sacred areas. They were sponsoring whole new slates of candidates for tribal council that fall who would not work as easily with the oil companies.
In return, we did not have a functioning youth organization. We had scattered people around the country who would meet and form a circle where Louie and his friends told them to. Some Pristine people were mad at me because I hadn’t even stayed long enough to find that the next Circle would be in Wyoming. And I had not done enough to get myself listed as a sponsor. It didn’t matter to Pristine that nobody was listed as a sponsor – not even Louie.
An then there was one of those little problems that always seem to come up: Dr. Al O’Connor and Princess Laughing Flower were now mortal enemies. Too bad – Pristine likes to see peace in its family.
It is painful to realize that in spite of all the money I had invested, outside of the Maria Russell Missions, I did not have any significant group of people who believed that I was the True White Friend of Indian prophecy. I might as well have claimed to be the Easter Bunny. And a lot of money I had but into being the True Friend was Pristine’s money.
In a round about way, the person at the Pristine Foundation end of the line (who prefers to remain anonymous) let me know that if I didn’t produce more results, Pristine might not pay the expenses for my court case. Which meant I might have to spend a couple of months in that jail in Sequoyah.
At least I had left an open door for Louie to come negotiate.
Buff, I remember you stayed in Sequoyah to see your family. Louie and I were driving back from the Circle and we found ourselves discussing the Circle we would put on next year in Wyoming. One of the first things Louie said was, “Let’s see if we can hit Taze up for more money.”
My jaw dropped a foot. “After all the stuff Taze has pulled?” My voice cracked and went high. “You still want to have him try to use you?”
“We can handle Taze,” Louie said with a grin. “Either take his money and do what we want to with it like we did in Colorado, or if he asks for too much, we turn him down like we did in Sequoyah.”
“But Louie…” I started.
“Is there any other way,” Louie replied, “that we can guarantee the money we’re gonna need for the Circle? You worry too much, Manny. Taze is always ready to give us something.”
“He’s always ready to take!” I snapped back.
But Louie wouldn’t answer me. His hands gripped the steering wheel and his eyes behind their glasses focused on the road.
All this time Uncle Denny was sound asleep on the mattress in the roofed-over back of the truck. Louie got off in Zarahemla. I drove Uncle Denny to Santo Toribio. Then I returned to La Plata, my spirit still exalted by the Circle, but with worries still wiggling around in my gut.
I returned the truck to the People’s Party Youth Alliance Cultural Team. A few days later I was walking with Rivka around La Plata, trying to verbalize my worries.
“You know Louie and Taze better than I do,” I said. “Why is it that after Taze tries to pull the stunt he just tried in Sequoyah, Louie is still ready to get right back in with him?”
Rivka slowed down and knitted her brow a second. “I think they’re both power people,” she said at last. “Louie appreciates that in Taze. If Louie had to make some policy decision when we’re making the Circle, he’d have to call a council of all the people camped there – a forum for chaos. But with Taze, Louie gets on the telephone, it’s all in secret. He doesn’t have to consult anyone else. And I think Louie likes that feeling of secrecy and intrigue.”
“You know what?” I said. “No matter what you or I might say to Louie about Taze, I don’t think he’ll listen to us.”
“I don’t think he will either,” she said sadly. Her head bent down and she looked at the sidewalk as we walked along, and she pursed her lips in thought.
Right before school started up in early September, Rivka came to my office.
“I’m not enrolling in school here this fall,” she said. There was a gentle tremulous quality in her voice. I have heard that quality often in the voices of young Jewish women before it has a chance to grow into a fuller, richer voice with motherhood. “I won’t see you for a while,” she said. “But I promise you’ll hear form me. Take care of the Circle.” Then she clasped my left hand strongly in her right hand – and she walked out of my office.
I kissed Zephyr goodbye and loaded up my suitcases and myself on the bus to Santa Fe – to the Maria Russell Mission. On the way I had moments when I felt like one of those Hindu widows who used to burn themselves alive on their husband’s funeral pyre.
When I got to the Mission, I found Taze in his instruction room teaching doctrine to disciples. He was sitting cross-legged on a fat red cushion on a dais while the disciples sat in folding chairs. He had the pyramid on his head. I waited in the door until he had finished teaching.
When the disciples left the room Taze stood up and smiled at me. It was real. It’s not often I can say that about anything Taze does – less often than I can say it about Louie. I walked slowly across the room. I had a memorized speech. I had rehearsed It as carefully as Taze rehearses everything he does.
“Taze,” I said, taking a deep breath, “I’d like to live in the mission again and help you. I know how the place works and I have a lot of ideas that could improve it. I don’t want to have sex with you – at least not now. Don’t bother to lie to me about how you won’t be with other women. I know you, so I know you will. I just want to be here and do the work.”
For the only time I have ever seen, Taze had tears in his eyes. He came over and hugged me and his pyramid wobbled and fell off his head – I squeezed him as warmly as I could for a second. Then I got back to business.
“There’s my first suggestion,” I said, pointing to the fallen pyramid. “Stop wearing that damn thing! It makes you look ridiculous.”
“I’ll…keep it in my room,” he said slowly and softly. “But I’ll wear it sometimes. Some things can be very dear to a person and look ridiculous to other people.”
In the next weeks I got Taze to go easier on the new disciples. I got him to give them food of nearly as good a quality as he gave his elders.
For some reason the Pristine Foundation and his other wealthy sources weren’t dealing as much money out to him as they used to. I went over the Mission’s accounts with him and figured out ways to save money. I helped clean all the dirty cobwebs out of his ranch house and shoveling shit out of the old stable.
Some of the disciples were amazed to see a woman who was so close to Taze doing all this manual work.
Every week I wrote a letter to Manny about all of Taze’s meetings with people, his phone calls about finances, what I discovered going through Taze’s account books. I was determined to become an expert on the Pristine Foundation and I wanted Manny to know as much about it as I did.
Really, who did I think I was kidding, trying to be a spy? Taze always answered all my questions. He never tried to hide anything about his finances from me. If there was any hiding, it was done by the Pristine Foundation itself.
All those things I learned and sent to Manny – not one pit of it was able to prevent the disasters that Louie caused, which came originally from his dealings with Taze. But whoever was behind the scenes was using Taze to try to control the Circle and later to try to destroy it – they could never succeed. The Circle is too strong for that.
There’s so much that happened to me that winter in Santa Fe that doesn’t seem to have anything to do directly with the politics of the Circle. Like my blond young German lover Waldemar. He came to New Mexico to go backpacking and fell in love with the place like I did. He didn’t stay in this country long enough to go to the Circle in Wyoming in the summer of 1975. However he wanted to start a Circle in Germany to rally the youth there to support democracy – and to compete with the hysterical rituals other young people were performing at Hitler’s grave.
As for the number of women Taze was with that winter – I lost count.
In some way I think I helped the circle by moving into the Maria Russell Mission – but it wasn’t by my efforts at espionage. Constantly, people were stopping at the Mission who had been at the Circles in Colorado and Sequoyah. I served as a contact for the, let them know that the spirit of the Circle was still going on. I encouraged everyone I met to go to next years Circle in Wyoming.
Comment by Manny
I learned a lot from the information Rivka sent me. It’s true that all of it was useless in influencing Louie’s decisions. Over the years I have come to know Louie in some ways as well as Rivka does. I know how bull-headed he can be as few others do. Louie started out with almost no knowledge of politics, economics or whatever. He’s picked up a lot of knowledge in those fields as he went along. But his decisions come from some deep well spring inside himself that none of us know or understand.
Louie has a tremendous strength of will that is so wonderful when he is in the right and so terrible when he is wrong.
No, Rivka’s messages didn’t help me out in the Louie department. But her information was very useful to the People’s Party Youth Alliance groups that I worked with. Rivka helped us learn who a lot of concealed enemies are.
Some times that winter I would go with Clark on errands for Bishop Louie. See, Bishop Louie was still interested in knowing where these Nationalist people was piling up guns and dynamite.
There was a place fine miles down the Pobre Clara River from Zarahemla where hot springs come to the surface. People dug pools for this hot water by the edge of the river and walled them in with river rocks to keep the cold Pobre Clara water out.
The Coyote Family would camp at that place in winter – get their baths for the whole year out of them hot springs pools. They would hitch into La Plata and beg, scavenge and steal food. They camped around their old truck, the one they brought me and Twyla and Aries John and Clark back from Sequoyah in. It got as far as the hot springs and it wouldn’t go no further.
But some of Coyote Family would hike all over them mountains and they would see a lot about that guns and dynamite stuff and they would tell me and Clark and we would tell Bishop Louie.
Every time I went out to see them, I would get drunk and I would usually hear it from Twyla when I got back. Several different class of these Coyote Folks would show up and they would have some pretty wild fights. Clark didn’t get in the fights, but he was big enough where they would listen to him and calm down.
They had up to 30 people there sometimes – including a bunch of girls. Seems like all the Coyote boys was with all the girls at one time or another. Clark was with the girls a couple of times, but he quit cause he got crabs. I kept on being with them girls and brought the crabs back to Twyla. I thought I was never going to hear the last of it, boy. It was like she was my mother and I was a bad little kid. She didn’t want me to go scouting with Clark no more.
“Look” I says to her, “I’m sorry about the girls and getting drunk and stuff, but I am doing important work for Bishop Louie.”
“You’re being a little limb of Satan is what you’re doing!” Twyla shrilled at me. “I hate this stinky-sweet stuff I have to spray on myself to get rid of the crabs you gave me!”
“All right, Twyla,” I says. “I’m sorry about the crabs too. But I am trying to keep watch to protect you and all the people from them people out there with the guns.”
“Oh, don’t you see, Nephi?” and she was rubbing away the tears form her eyes. “If you’re drunk out there and can’t move, you’re a target for anyone with a gun.”
I don’t know if there was any place we could go really, and be safe from them people with guns. Late one night somebody drove past Bishop Louie’s house and shot a bullet right through his mail box. When I heard the shot, I sat up wide awake next to Twyla.
I went with Bishop Louie to see the sheriff the next day. We wasn’t in the same county with La Plata. Our sheriff’s office was in this little town called Highlander – about 300 people if that many.
In La Plata, the sheriff belongs to the People’s Party, which means he would have helped us. But in Highlander, the sheriff wasn’t even a Republican. He was just hard core.
“Why should I go out and look at your damn mail box?” he says to Louie. “As far as I know, you shot it yourself.”
After that, Clark slept on the floor in bishop Louie’s living room a lot of nights with a rifle right next to him.
It stays shadowy so much more in the winter, big gray clouds drifting over our valley. It put me in a real down mood. Cause I knew that somebody somewhere was real mad at us.
Chapter Twenty Five
Testing, one, two, three…Here we go again, Buffington Journeycake PhD.. June 8, 1978.
This morning was so beautiful, I decided I wouldn’t ask Manny for a ride. And I sure enough wasn’t going to waste what little money I had on Rural Bus services. I hitched up to Zarahemla, ready for the big interview with Bishop Louie – and Liz, although I wasn’t sure how much she’d say with Louie around.
I was lucky enough to get to Zarahemla by noon. As I walked down the steep gravel road that turned off from the highway into the valley, I could see a flash of white among the green of the cottonwoods along the river in the distance. The white was the new frame community center that Liz had stirred up the effort to build in the place where Louie’s church had been burned down.
But when I got down into the valley, there was no trace of Louie at his house or at the community center.
I went by Aries John’s tipi. He and his wives weren’t inside.
Liz was in the tipi. She was in shorts, squatting next to the fire pit, her arms folded across her knees and her head hanging down.
“Hi Liz, where’s Louie?” I said.
“He’s gone – it’s over,” Liz said, looking up at me.
“What happened,” I asked.
“Oh, you know the reasons,” she said.
“Not all of them,” I said, sitting down on the opposite side of the fire pit from her.
“but you know the most important reason,” Liz said, giving me a frank stare. “Louie will not lighten up. I just had enough. I love him and that means an awful lot – but I just couldn’t take it any more.”
Just then Aries John’s wife Cassie walked in, slightly bent over, holding the hand of Chad, the two-year-old son of Liz and Bishop Louie. The boy was red-haired and freckled. He looked up at me and I thought, “Wow, his features are so like Louie!” He is Bishop Louie and some wizard shrunk him!” But Louie never had such a wide-open smile as Chad, who searched my face with his wide gray-green eyes.
Then he looked over and saw his mother and his lips drooped; he looked upset. He let go of Cassie’s hand and walked over to Liz and put his small hands on her knee. She reached her arm down around him.
All of a sudden, “Hey, Buff!”
I turned around. Clark walked in the tipi and hugged me. He was a man of 24 now, filled out and powerful, with a bristly red beard. He plopped down on some folded-up bedding.
“What are you here for?” Clark asked.
“I was going to tape record Louie,” I said, “I wanted him to help me do a history of the Circle. But then I kept recording more people. First Nephi…”
“Nephi!” Clark said with laughter in his voice, “You’d record a crazy guy like Nephi?” But he said it with affection. I knew he was kidding.
“OK, OK!” I said, holding my hand up – like stop! I knew Clark could keep on and on kidding for an hour if I didn’t cut it off.
“Here it is!” I said quickly before the kidding really started. “I wanted to record Liz – and maybe you too, Clark.”
“Naw!” Clark said, sitting up with a troubled look on his face, a look that always makes me forget his size and strength when he gets it.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Clark said. “There’s stuff I don’t want to talk about. Louie’s still always my brother, but for the first time in my life, I think he’s been unfair.”
“You finally caught on that he could be unfair!” Liz said. “Join the club!”
“Now, just, just, just…” Clark stammered. “Liz, I don’t like the idea of you or anybody else talking about everything.”
Liz looked up quickly at Cassie and said, “Cassie, could you take Chad over to my house and look in the ice chest? There’s a candy bar in the chest. Cut half of it and give it to him.”
“Come on, Chad, “ Cassie said, and the little boy followed her out of the tipi.
“I guess you can record me,” Liz said. “But there’s things I don’t want to say around Chad. And he’ll be coming back all day. So let’s get the worst over first.”
“Now I don’t want…” Clark started, but Liz held up her hand. He shut up for her quicker than for me. Liz started talking and then Clark joined in. Chad was in and out of the tipi and both Liz and Clark would switch to more innocuous parts of the story when he came in. They talked until after nightfall.
Now I am arranging their stories into chronological order and blending them with the stories I have already recorded.
My father worked in the railroad yards in one of the big industrial cities near the Great Lakes. When I was nine years old in 1960, somebody made a mistake and a train got switched down the wrong track and ran over my father. Me and my mom and my older sister and my two brothers were left alone and poor.
As far as I knew when I was a child, for us there was a holy trinity – being Irish, being Catholic and being Democrats. My mom was the kind of person who was friendly with all the neighbors – always taking by some hot soup she made to a home where someone was sick. Everybody knew her and liked her. In a Catholic neighborhood, the Irish are kind of like the leaders of the Polish and the Italians and the other Catholic nationalities. I mean, the Irish practically invented politics. So that’s why the city Democratic organization asked my mom to be a precinct leader. She accepted to fill up the lonely hours she had after my dad’s death.
It was like the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party were teaming up to help us if we helped them. My and my sister and my brothers got to go to the Catholic school for free.
There was the older generation of nuns – like Sister Stanislaus who we called Sister Sour Puss or sister Eudoxia who we called Sister You Dose Her. And the principal was the ultimate – Sister Anna Rose. She was Anna Rose the Banana Nose.
They would whack us with their wide black belts or with a ruler – ram that catechism into us catty-cornered.
But then there were the younger nuns who were the first to wear short skirts only halfway down their legs. They treated us like human beings. Later some of the older nuns started wearing short skirts. But not Anna Rose. I bet she had legs like a rhinoceros under those long black robes that reached down to her big black tugboat shoes.
I admire toughness in a woman, but when I was young I was just mad at Sister Anna Rose. I remember once she backed me into a closet. I wondered if she was going to hang me from one of the coat hooks.
“Elizabeth!” she barked at me, “Elizabeth Hill! Your older sister Joanna was here. We saw how she behaved and we learned how to handle her. So we know exactly how to handle you, young lady.”
Well, that was a declaration of war. I did everything that was taboo at that school I smoked in the bathroom – even in class when the nun wasn’t there. I hollered “Fuck you!” at other kids on the playground. I would cut classes and hide out in the storerooms and smoke and drink a can of beer. But Anna Rose would track me down like the Canadian Mounties and always get her woman – me. I would end up in Anna Rose’s office having a shouting match. The other kids would make faces at me and holler:
“Elizabeth, Elizabeth Hill!
If the Devil don’t get her, Anna Rose will!”
But all the time there was more of these nice young nuns with the short skirts. Because of them I even thought briefly about becoming a nun, like a lot of young Catholic girls did then. But then my very favorite young nun quit the school and got married. I never wanted to be a nun after that.
And then with all these changes, the Catholic Church stopped backing the Democratic Party. So the Democratic machine in our city just fell to pieces. A lot of the neighborhood Democratic organizations, like the one my mother was in went over to the People’s Party. In 1964 the People’s Party ran Robert Kennedy, who had been the youthful hope of the Democrats, for President. And he won! When the news came over our radio, I jumped up and down and cheered.
My mom told me that when Robert Kennedy said he was going to run on the People’s Party ticket, some people went to his father, old Joseph Kennedy, and said, “Isn’t it terrible that your son is running for that bunch of Communists in the People’s Party!”
And old Joseph Kennedy banged his cane on the ground and said, “Let Bobby run for the damn Communists! Let him run for Satan himself so long as he gets to be the first Catholic President of the United States!”
When my mom told me this story, she blushed when she said “damn.” But we loved Bobby Kennedy. When he got shot in 1965, I felt like I was the one who got killed.
The People’s Party was still in – so we started getting free medical care for most things. Some things you still couldn’t get for free at a clinic or hospital – like birth control pills cost money to please the Catholic Church. So did abortions. And you couldn’t get an abortion except for reasons of physical or mental health with a doctor’s say-so.
Our lives were easier in some ways, but they were still had. So many of the kids I grew up with couldn’t find a job. Our house was the hangout for all the kids in the neighborhood. There was so many kids and they stayed so late, I used to wander around at night with a blanket looking for a place to sleep. I couldn’t use my older sister Joanna’s room, of course. And when her girlfriends were over, they were in my room. If I was on the phone when Her Majesty Joanna wanted to use it – wham! I got yanked away from the phone and found myself making friends with the nearest wall.
Joanna the Jungle Girl! How many times I had to stand outside the bathroom waiting to pee because Joanna wanted to spend an extra long time taking a bath and making up her face. But if I wanted to take a bath when Joanna wanted to? I was on my way to the moon!
The kids who lived close to our house were a bunch called the Ninety-Eight. They were named for the Irish uprising against the British back in 1798. At the other end of the street were a bunch of kids who were mostly Polish called the Falcons.
The Ninety-Eight and the Falcons mostly got along good together. We would bring out a record player and roll up the rugs and dance. I think my mom liked it because it kept her from being lonely for my dad. One winter night she was gone on business for the People’s Party – she did nearly as much for them as she had for the Democrats. The Ninety-Eight and the Falcons were over at my place drinking lots of beer. Suddenly everybody was out in the front yard having a fist fight – my sister Joanna not the least, I tell you.
Then somebody from the Falcons pulled a knife and stabbed a Ninety-Eighter boy. There was blood all over the snow, kids screaming. Then the Falcons were gone. My brother Frank helped the wounded boy get to his home. The boy’s mom called the cops and nobody stayed around my house but me and my sister and my brothers. The other Ninety Eighters got away quick.
It’s just that there were so few jobs. We had so little useful to do with our lives. Sure, the People’s Party set up all the government youth program jobs. But there weren’t that many. If a kid in our neighborhood got one of those jobs, there would be a celebration. The kid’s mom would bake him a cake.
I was 18 years old when the stabbing happened. Joanna was 20, still hanging around the house getting jobs now and then. But a woman can’t wait for a man to come provide for her. Not as scarce as jobs are. I figured waiting around for a job was just waiting around for the cops to get you.
So when I was 19, I went on the road. That’s where I met up with one of the clans of the Coyote Family. I had already had a truck driver grab my thigh when I hitched a ride with him. I bit him on the ear and he pulled the truck to a halt, slapped me and pushed me out, five feet to the ground. So I figured I would be safer traveling with a bunch like the Coyotes.
Actually, it was just about as dangerous. I was brought up not to steal. But every time we’d go in a store to buy some food with money we’d panhandled, one of the Coyotes would try to steal something. Often enough the storekeeper would see it and call the cops on us. We would be running for blocks, gasping for breath. My lungs would be burning up, all for someone else’s stealing.
To be poor means to be closer to death than other people. When you get down to the level of the Coyote Family is when you are closest to death of all. There’s a place by the side of the road in Colorado where Tex the Wreck was so drunk, he stepped out into the highway and got run over by a truck. Three times when I was traveling with the Coyote Family, we stopped by that place and poured out big splashes of beer or wine for Tex the Wreck. He died before I started running with the Coyote Family, but I felt I knew him.
Finally I made up my mind I didn’t want to end up like Tex the Wreck. I went all by myself to a People’s Party Youth Shelter. I didn’t do like the other Coyote Family people did in those places – that is, I didn’t get drunk and I didn’t smash a window and I didn’t write SUZIE EATS SHIT on the bathroom wall.
I told them, “I’m getting into a place that I want to get out of because I might die if I stay this way any longer. If you guys will help me, I’m willing to do anything I can do to help this place. Just tell me whatever it is you need, and I’ll do it.”
Chapter Twenty Six
This was the Youth Shelter in Albuquerque – a cinder-block place with six big rooms painted puke-yellow. There were two very large sleeping rooms, a kitchen, a dining hall, a recreation room, a library and a room where we’d just sit and talk. The staff people lived in a little house next door. They’d go crazy if they actually tried to live in the shelter.
The main staff person at the shelter was named Arlene. She had her hair in two long brown pony tails down her back. She was 28, but she looked older because of the difficulties of running the shelter. There were dark, shadowy places under her eyes, and lines of strain on her face. Not only did she have the shelter to worry about, but she had her two small children, a girl and a boy, living with her in her two-room apartment in the staff house.
When I offered to help in any way I could, Arlene said, “Sure! Could you start today?” And soon I was stacking boxes of canned food in the storehouse.
In a week I was doing cooking and first aid and organizing the homeless people who stayed in the shelter to clean the place up and serve the meals. Then when a People’s Party cultural team came around to put on a play at the shelter, I said, “Hey! This is for me!”
I loved acting and making scenery and costumes. One thing I learned from being in the cultural team theater was the importance of the proper setting for the mood you are trying to create. So once more I organized the people and we painted the shelter a bright turquoise blue instead of that ugly yellow.
By the middle of the next year, 1971, I was very active in the Albuquerque branch of the People’s Party Youth Alliance. I got a small student grant and took nursing courses at TVI, the vocational school and worked part time in the hospital.
Then in early March of 1972, I first saw Louie and Aries John handing out leaflets about the Circle in Colorado on Central Avenue. Louie was giving a rap as fast and loud as he could about the importance of the Circle while this teenage boy named Nephi passed Louie’s cowboy hat around the crowd for money.
“Help us out, sister!” Aries John called out to me. “We need money for gas so we can go to Colorado and talk to the governor about the Circle.”
All I had in my purse was 50 cents, but I dropped that in the hat. Of course later I found out how much money Taze was giving them. They money they were panhandling was just for extra goodies to eat.
At the very first I disliked Louie. He was just too loud and harsh. But he had energy and hard work and the ability to get things done. These are qualities I have always respected. He held my attention and I stood there on the sidewalk and listened to him go through his whole rap. I didn’t introduce myself, though, or say anything to him at the time. I knew I would go see what he was doing.
In the middle of June I started hitch hiking to the Circle in Colorado. I knew enough by now to watch just whose car I got into. No more letchy truck drivers! But as I got close to the place where the Circle was to be, I saw more cops than I had ever seen in one place in my life. As soon as my last ride let me off, the cops drove up to me and ordered me to get in their car and took me to jail.
The jail had four cells and there must have been over 100 people, almost all of them on their way to the Circle. Around four in the afternoon, a young man and woman showed up with a garbage can full of money which they dumped on the sheriff’s desk. The young woman called out, “We only have enough to get out everybody who’s been here for more than two days.”
The deputies let about 30 people out, who headed off with the young man and woman.
“We’ll be back to get everybody else out as soon as we can,” the young man called over his shoulder as they all went out the door.
That night we sand till daybreak. I was leading a lot of the songs – People’s Party songs like the one making fun of the missions:
“You will eat by and by
In your beautiful home in the sky.
Work and pray, live on hay.
You’ll get pie in the sky by and by.”
Finally, I ran out of most of the songs I knew and I was leading the people in singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” It was just too crowded to sleep, but we got quiet in the morning. Then at noon when they brought our meals, we were singing again. We banged our spoons against our plates in time to the music. I used my spoon on the bars like a xylophone. I bet we drove the jailers crazy.
Then the same young man and woman showed up with enough to bail the rest of us out. We went out of the jail throwing our fists up in the air and yelling. The young man and woman and another young man outside had three flat-bed trucks. They loaded us in the back and we rode, singing all the way, to a log cabin where a lot of people were camped in the yard.
But when I got there, I’d had enough singing. I had gone all the night before with no sleep. I had a bedroll and a big handbag full of extra clothes that I called my trucking bag. I unrolled my sleeping bag and stretched out on top of it. Then I put my trucking bag under my head and closed my eyes.
Right then I heard the sound of an inexhaustible fountain of energy – Manny Zamora. “All right folks!” he called out, “We’re getting too many people piled up in this brother’s yard. I want everybody who can do it to meet with me about hiking across the mountains after nightfall to the place where we’re gonna make the Circle!”
“Oh shit,” I said, “I need a little rest. But – I can’t just stay and clutter up this guy’s scene here at the cabin.” So after dark I was going along in a single file behind Manny. I had maybe a half hour’s sleep in 24 hours.
About dawn Manny let us crawl under the bushes and go to sleep because the National Guard helicopter was about to start hovering over the trail. I sank down into this bottomless well of rest. I could feel my very toenails uncurling. Then all of a sudden, I heard Manny’s voice – “OK, team, they’ve flown away! Now let’s get on the trail again.”
We spent one more night out on the trail and then we got into the camp the next day – Rivka was there smiling as she poured me a cup of hot coffee and then I collapsed backward, wrapping my sleeping bag and blanket around my shoulders. I closed my eyes and didn’t know a thing until the sun flashed in my face as it camp up over the high mountains to the east.
When I woke up, Rivka wasn’t around. I walked around. I walked around looking at all the camps. There were a couple hundred people in the valley at that time.
I hiked back to the log cabin and led more people in myself. I led in some people I knew from Albuquerque and camped with them. I didn’t really talk with Rivka and get to know her until after the Circle during cleanup when we walked the meadows together picking up scraps of paper and cigarette filters. (You have to get those cigarette filters or the birds take them in their beaks to line their nests with – and they strangle of the fibers.)
Rivka was the first Jewish woman I had ever met. I suppose the first Jew I had met was an old man who owned a grocery store in my neighborhood back home. After that, the next one was Manny who led us over the mountains.
With Rivka, for the first time I really knew a woman that I wanted to be a sister of my heart. We talked about our homes and growing up. Rivka had a good laugh when I told her about Sister Anna Rose the Banana Nose. But at the time I didn’t tell her about my life with the Coyote Family. And she didn’t tell me that she had lived with Bishop Louie who had started the Circle – and for that matter she was still legally married to him.
We exchanged addresses and wrote one another once a week. At Christmas she came up to see me in Albuquerque. I was living in the youth shelter staff house by then – it was just a complete madhouse. All this People’s Party talk was going on and Rivka just smiled at Arlene and the other staff people and said, “I’m sorry, I’m not very political.”
But we had some really in-depth talks. Rivka gasped at some of my Coyote Family stories and I was just stunned to find out about her life with Louie and Taze. Especially Louie. Her description of him sounded even more obnoxious than he had appeared to me when I saw him giving out leaflets about the Circle. But she really emphasized Louie’s positive side as well.
She described something powerful in Louie, something mysterious that fascinated me. I don’t know if she understood him any better from living with him than I did from seeing him once on the street. After living with him for four years, I don’t know if I understand him any better than I did at the first.
When Christmas holidays were over there were hugs and tears and promises to write. She went back to her school and I went back to mine. And we did write one another regularly until my spring break when Louie showed up in Albuquerque.
I had seen the stuff he handed out on the street about the Circle Taze was gonna call in Sequoyah. And then Rivka had written me that Louie and some of the others were planning to go to Sequoyah to see what they could do to stop Taze form offending the Indians and getting a lot of people arrested.
Now I saw Louie just walking down the street in Albuquerque and I could ask him for myself what was going on. I felt a mild shock as he looked at me. A lot of people tell me they feel it when Louie looks at them. I have met Taze since then. When he looks at you, he’s just trying to convince you that he has a hypnotic gaze. Louie has no need to try, believe me. People want to look back at him. “Say!” he called out to me, taking off his cowboy hat and bowing. ”Didn’t I see you around? Out on the street here, wasn’t it? And at our Circle in Colorado!”
“Uh-sure, yes indeed,” I answered. Getting hit by Louie’s energy wave put me at a loss for words.
Finally I stammered out, “Yeah-uh, I was at Colorado. Uh-what are you doing here now?”
“I hitched up here to check out some names,” he said. “My friend Manny used to go to college up here. He gave me a list of people who might contribute to help us deal with some problems that have come up – sort of the aftermath of the Circle. Anyhow, we need money. Got any?” And he gave a big grin. I couldn’t help smiling myself. He was still passing the hat.
“Uh-I heard about some of this,” I answered. “Somebody said someone’s gonna do something in Sequoyah.”
“Right! You know!” he said.
“Yeah, I do,” I answered. “I just don’t have more than a couple of dollars right now.”
“That’s good,” he said. “Could you get us both a glass of orange juice?”
The guy had so much nerve I laughed! But I said, “Sure, come on,” and took him to a big student hangout and ordered two glasses of orange juice. When we stat down, I asked him, “Do you think any of the people on your list will help you out much with this business in Sequoyah?”
“As a matter of fact,” Louie said, “I’ve phoned all of them and none of them are willing to come through with more than five dollars.”
“By the way,” he added, with a shrewd twist to his features, “Do you have a place where I could sleep tonight?”
“UH-I live at the people’s Party Youth staff house,” I said, It’s at the youth shelter down by the tracks. The staff house is awfully small and crowded, but maybe if you go to the shelter…”
“I’d like to stop by the staff house,” Louie said. “I want to talk to the people there. After all this time, I still don’t know much about the People’s Party. Then I may see about the shelter.”
A voice in the back of my mind said, “What is this man trying to do?” Still, from what he said, he wanted to see Arlene and the other staffers at the shelter as much as seeing me, so I said, “All right. As soon as I finish my orange juice, we’ll go.”
Both of us drank our orange juice down in a couple of gulps and right away, Louie was following me to the shelter. “By the way,” I said as we were walking, “My name is Liz Hill.”
“And I’m Louie McGowan.”
Whatever else happened, we had that out of the way.
At the staff house I saw Louie at his best. So often Arlene and the other staffers working with these young people in poverty feel like they’re banging their heads against a stone wall. Louie made each of them feel like the most important person on earth. He squatted on the floor as they sat around exhausted in chairs and sofas after their hard day.
He looked up at them with the light of his eyes and his smile and he drew them out, got them talking about their difficulties while he listened with an attentive, compassionate expression on his face. Arlene started crying as she talked about what a mess the whole shelter was.
Then Louie made his reply and every word was like, “You all are doing a great job. You may not see it now, but this place is a success.”
I could see the looks of relief and happiness his words gave to every face. Arlene was beaming.
And the, sure enough, late that night Louie was in my room. He spread his sleeping bag out on my floor.
I was lying on my stomach on my mattress. Louie reached up and stroked my back gently and tenderly – and didn’t try to do anything else! Then he got in his bag and went to sleep.
People will never believe it, but Louie can be soft and sensitive – when he’s willing to take the time. It’s just…well, I’ve said it all – when he’s willing to take the time.
Next day when I woke up, Louie and his sleeping bag were gone. At our breakfast – cold scrambled eggs and even colder coffee, everybody was talking about Louie.
“I hope he puts together another circle,” Arlene said. “I missed the last one. I’d really like to get to another one.”
Everybody said, “Yeah! Me too!”
I wanted to be one of the ones who made a new Circle happen. I went to nursing school and withdrew. The woman in the records office stared at me like I was completely crazy. “But your grades are very good,” she said. Her hands started trembling. She took her glasses off and started fiddling with them so her hands wouldn’t be just fluttering in the air nervously.
“I know I’m doing good in school,” I said. “That’s why I want to be sure you put down ‘withdrew passing,’ because I hope to come back and finish those courses.”
“All right,” she said, shaking her head. “But you’ve had one grant. It may not be so easy to get another. It’s easy to get out of school, but a lot harder to get back in.”
Next day I took my trucking bag and my bedroll and I was hitching down the road to Zarahemla.
Chapter Twenty Seven
The last ride I got let me off at night on the gravel road turn off into the valley. I walked down the gravel road. Only a few dim kerosene lamps were on in the windows of the adobe houses.
A few people were sitting around campfires outdoors talking quietly, but most were probably asleep. After dark there’s not much to do in Zarahemla.
I came to a tipi glowing from the fire inside it. A man was pacing back and forth between the tipi and the road, whittling at a willow stick with a buck knife.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know where Bishop Louie lives?”
“Over yonder,” he said, pointing with his knife tip at a small adobe house, “but you’d better stay in the tipi for now and go see Louie in the morning.”
“Oh, thank you anyway,” I said and started running to the adobe house, which had a lamp burning in its front window. When I got there, I peeked in the living room where the lamp was. Nobody was there. The door was locked. And yet I distinctly heard faint voices.
I ran around to the bedroom. There was a small window, too high for me to look into. I went around to the back of the house. The kitchen door was locked. Beside the kitchen door was a garbage can. I poured the garbage out and kicked it together with my foot to make as small a pile as possible.
Then I ran with the garbage can to the ground under the window. I turned the can upside down and climbed on it and peeked in the window. In the dimness I saw Louie naked in bed propping his bony body up with his skinny arms over the plump body of a young woman.
“Shit!” I whispered and hopped off the can. I took it back to the kitchen door and picked up the rotten tomatoes and egg shells and wilted lettuce in my hands and put them back in the can. I was crying a little as I walked back to the tipi. The man was still walking back and forth whittling the willow stick.
“There’s space for you inside the tipi,” he said. “I sleep in the pup tent out in back.”
All of a sudden I recognized him. “Wow!” I said. “I saw you with Louie giving out leaflets in Albuquerque about the Circle.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m Louie’s cousin Aries John. Go on inside the tipi. My wives will have some food in there for you.”
I went in the tipi and that’s when I first met Emma, Cassie and Zerena. Those are good women and strong. We told each other our names and I said, “I just hitched here from Albuquerque.”
Zerena said, “We know. We have some chicken soup with green chile in it still warm on the fire for you.”
It seems that as soon as people cross the New Mexico state line, they get addicted to hot peppers. I still had a hard time with them, but I was hungry.
“Give me a little bowlful of soup,” I said. “If it’s too hot or me, I won’t finish it and if I’m hungry enough I’ll ask for more.”
They all laughed and Zerena fixed me a little bowlful. I ended up having three bowlfuls of soup in all.
We got to talking about our lives. They told me of growing up on ranches and Mormon communal farms in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Their hardships sounded like something out of the frontier a hundred years ago to me.
I told them about my childhood and adolescence as a Catholic girl in the big city – from their wide eyes, my Catholic world must have seemed as exotic as Buddhism to them. I was careful not to tell them of my time on the road with the Coyote Family. I wasn’t sure how they’d take that. How could I talk to them about my boozing days when these women still thought that even coffee was kind of sinful?
Still – one thing I have found – if a woman feels hurt from something that a man does, it helps to have a group of other women to talk to – about any subject in the world.
At last Zerena picked up her sleeping baby girl and went out to Aries John’s tent.
I was stretched out on a Navajo rug in the tipi in my sleeping bag. One of the thick woolen blankets that were always stacked up in the tipi was over me. The tipi fire flickered out and it was dark and I was asleep.
Next morning when we got up, Aries John and Zerena came back in the tipi and fixed eggs – scrambled with green chile pepper, of course. As we were eating breakfast, Louie and the short plump woman walked into the tipi. Louie was talking full blast as he entered – “I just got a letter yesterday from Manny and he says that…”
His voice was cut off in his throat when he saw me. “Oh-uh-how are you?”
“Oh, I’m just fine,” I said, looking up with a slight smile because for once I had seen Louie at a loss for words.
He doesn’t stay at a loss long. “Liz, this is Teresa.” The plump woman nodded. “Teresa, this is Liz. Now we have some plans to discuss,” and he sat down and motioned to Teresa to sit down, which she did.
But a tipi is a small, enclosed space and there were lots of strange energies bouncing off each other. Not much discussion was getting done.Finally, as some words died away, Aries John lifted his hand up over the cooling fire pit.
“I got a good idea,” he said. “Let’s go down to the hot springs where we can talk things over out in the open and relax.”
“But how do we get down there?” Louie asked.
“Oh, I can take my wives and these two sisters in my pickup,” Aries John replied. “The pickup is a wreck right now but it’ll get us that far. And Ivy’s supposed to be at this discussion too. We’ll wait on her and take her with us.”
“But me? What about me?” Louie said and all of a sudden through his rough tones, there broke very briefly the tones of a four-year-old afraid to be left behind.
“That’s what I was thinking of,” Aries John said. “Yesterday I seen Clark and some other guys floating down the river holding on to rafts made of boards and inner tubes. Now Clark’s supposed to be at this discussion. So if you and him can get together – float down the river with them rafts to the hot springs…”
“But I can’t do that!” Louie said in the voice of the Pope being asked to tap dance in public.
“Yes, you can!” Aries John said. “I’m just tired of staying in this tipi so late in good daylight.”
We waited a little while until Clark and Ivy showed up. I had never met either of them. “Tell you what,” Clark said. “our inner tube rafts are in better shape than Aries John’s pickup. And he can make an extra trip to bring the rafts back. Why not?”
Finally Louie and Clark took off all their clothes and left them with Louie’s hat and glasses in John’s pickup. They walked off to the rafts. The snows in the mountains had melted and filled the river up as deep as it usually gets – about three and a half feet, good for floating.
Aries John, Emma, Zerena and Sariah (Zerena’s little girl) got in the front of the pickup. I got in back with Teresa, Cassie and Ivy. We were lucky that Cassie and Ivy could keep a lot of conversation going because I didn’t have the remotest idea of what to say to Teresa – and I think she felt the same about me.
Aries John drove us down the two-lane highway to another gravel road turn off to a part of the Pobre Clara river valley separated from the Zarahemla Valley by a spur ridge that came down almost to the river’s edge along with steep cliffs with a few prickly pear cactuses growing on them here and there.
We drove down the narrow, twisting gravel road to the river. When Aries John got out, he went over and checked the low barriers of rocks around the hot pools on the edge of the river. He looked around and found two or three good-sized rocks which he put at places where the cold river water was leaking into the hot pools.
We all took off our clothes except Aries John’s wife Emma, who was pregnant. She sat on the grass beside the pools. When I waded into the water, it burned my ankles at first, but when I stretched out against that soft mud bottom and felt the warmth go through me, I yelled, “My God! I never knew what relaxing was!”
“Be careful of your words!” Emma said in a low voice. “Don’t blaspheme!”
I forgot whatever worry I had about Louie being with Teresa. All I wanted to do was just feel that good hot water against the back of my neck – for all time!
Nearly an hour later – it seemed like many centuries – I heard laughter. I sat up in the pool. Louie and Clark were floating in on their rafts.
“Hey, Bishop Louie’s as blind as a bat without his glasses!” Clark said with a big guffaw. “I had to guide his raft a few times to keep him from bumping into rocks!” Louie was laughing too.
They both stepped out of the water. There was Clark – a great specimen, beautifully built, gonna be a fine mate for some woman some day. Then Louie – skinny, ribs sticking out, no hat, no glasses – no props for his act – dripping all over. For once he was really laughing and enjoying himself. And I tell you my looks were for Louie, not Clark. Louie trying to blink the water out of his unfocused eyes, then rubbing them with his fists.
Even without the power of those eyes, Louie had the dream – it shone all over him. He had what I wanted to be part of and work with. I sat there in that hot pool watching Louie. I was breathing deep.
Louie and Clark went over to Aries John’s pickup. They got their clothes out and put them on.
Aries John had brought some of his thinner blankets (he was good about remembering to do things like that). Pretty soon Louie had one of the blankets draped around his shoulders and was trying to lead a discussion – except ever so often a huge sneeze came blasting out of his nose.
The talk went on and on all afternoon about Taze and what he was planning to do in Sequoyah. Between sneezes Louie made it clear how upset he was about Taze making us all look bad in front of the Indians. I think it’s a tribute to how much people admired and trusted Louie that no one said, “If Taze I so bad, how come you took all that money from him in the first place?
As the sun started down over the cliffs on the west side of the river, we hadn’t made many more plans than when we first got there. But Aries John had built a small fire and he handed out weenies to everybody to roast over it.
Teresa had gone away from Louie’s side to talk with some of the other women, so I sat down beside Louie to eat my hot dog. Pretty soon I reached out and grabbed his hand. He turned his head and looked at me and whispered, “Do we have enough time?”
I was trembling all over, but I said, “I think so,” and we walked off in the dark and found a grassy place where Louie spread out the blanket he had been wearing on his shoulders.
One of the things I have had to endure from being with Louie is overhearing all these other women gossiping about his sexual technique. One will say, “Oh, he’s a fantastic lover!” ad another will say, “No, he’s awful!” But I didn’t feel good or bad at all. What I felt was an is – me and Louie having to get together, be a part of each other’s lives.
In the middle of the climax, Louie sneezed loud.
A few seconds later as he was pulling out, there was Teresa watching us and crying. She ran off to the fire and right after that Aries John walked over from the fire to us and said, “You folks wait here overnight. I’ll come back and get you in the morning.”
Soon the fire was out and the pickup gone. I was sitting there in the dark alone with Louie. He put his face in his hands and cried till his shoulders were shaking – longer and harder than I have ever heard a man cry.
Like I said, the blanket Louie had wasn’t one of Aries John’s heavy blankets, so we shivered all that cold desert night. In the morning Aries John came for us in his pickup and drove us back to Zarahemla. When we got off at Louie’s house, we found all of Teresa’s stuff was gone. I went over to Aries John’s tipi to get my bedroll and my trucking bag. Teresa was sitting in the tipi in her slip. I grabbed my stuff and split. I didn’t even bother to roll up my sleeping bag – just draped it over my shoulder.
In the next few days, Louie explained to me how he had once been married to Aries John’s wives. And now Aries John had another of Louie’s wives, Teresa – except that Louie was still legally married to Rivka. By the time Manny came up to visit us, everything was peaceful. We would go by Aries John’s tipi like nothing had happened.
I was always glad to get to that tipi, because as I found out, waking up with Louie is no easy business. When he growls and snaps, I suppose there are physical causes. Like maybe his back hurts. But then he wants to blame the person next to him and make a big federal case out of it. I would try to ignore him because I don’t have time to argue like that. I need to save my energy for better things. Still, it’s hard to ignore Louie.
I was now close to the center of the action, but I needed some space now and then from Louie I became good friends with Ivy and spent a lot of time with her.
I also was good friends with Brenda, the stocky strawberry blonde woman in her forties who was married and sealed for eternity to Brother Maceo, the black carpenter. Brenda was one of the original Mormon settlers of Zarahemla. Her and Brother Maceo lived in an adobe house, not a tent or a shelter. Her ex-husband was with the rival Mormon community further up the valley. “I think he was one of the guys who shot into this place,” she told me. “I think he’s still mad at Maceo and me being together.”
Several miracles happened. Louie went off to Sequoyah with Manny and Uncle Denny, which gave me a lot of breathing space. Then some of the Coyote Family showed up with an old truck and Brother Maceo helped them repair it. Best of all, me and Ivy went down to La Plata to get dumpster food and found Rivka. I still felt Rivka was my close sister. She came back to Zarahemla with us and gave us $200 – enough to get the Coyote truck and Brother Maceo’s car and Ivy’s pickup to Sequoyah.
(Aires John’s wives didn’t want to go with us. Emma was pregnant and Teresa still felt uncomfortable about going with me to Sequoyah to meet Louie.)
When we got to Sequoyah I had a lot of ideas I talked over with Louie. I said, “First, I want to see the camping at this Circle planned better than it was in Colorado,” Louie said, “I agree with you completely.”
Then we discussed plans for hours. He had a lot of excellent suggestions and he listened to what I had to say. This is what I had gotten together with him for. We made sure that people wouldn’t camp in the meadows – also that they would keep to certain pathways. We didn’t want everybody’s feet causing erosion or trampling the wild flowers. Also we made sure there was just one big fire for each group of camps. That way there wouldn’t be this low cloud of smoke over everything from hundreds of campfires like there was at Colorado. I really enjoyed putting together a couple of kitchens and a first aid tent.
On the day after the Circle, I went to check out a place where a bunch of people had just moved out of their camp. I wanted to pick up their garbage so it wouldn’t be left over for cleanup. They had left their camp as clean as a whistle, but they left a big white piece of cardboard hanging from a tree. On the cardboard was a cowboy riding a bucking bronco painted with red Magic Marker. Under the cowboy were the words NEXT YEAR IN WYOMING!!
I carried the cardboard to a big campfire where a couple hundred people were sitting in a circle, listening to Louie tell stories. I walked into the circle, holding the sign over my head. Everybody clapped and yelled, “Yeah, Wyoming!”
And so Wyoming in 1974 it was.
Chapter Twenty Eight
My story begins before the Civil War back in my great-great grandpa’s time. Our family owned some land in Georgia in them days where the steep rocky hill country meets the good flat land. We owned a little farm with some of the hills and some of the flat land. There was a big plantation owner next to us. He owned a lot of slaves. He took my great-great grandpa to court to prove that we didn’t have a right to the good land. My great-great grandpa couldn’t read or write and couldn’t afford a lawyer like the plantation owner so that ass hole took our land.
My great-great granddad didn’t fight in the Civil war because of that. He hid out in the mountains so they couldn’t draft him for the Confederate Army and make him fight for the big plantation owners like the one who stole our land. On the other hand he didn’t want to fight for the North to help a bunch of diggers. Pardon me, that’s what I called them up until a few years ago.
After the Civil war the Yankee government divided up all the plantations. Every slave family got 40 acres apiece and the white tenant farmers got title to as much land as they rented. Most of the rest of the plantation land was sold off real, real cheap. But they didn’t give our land back to us. They had a bunch of blacks and low class whites living on it, acting like they owned it. Which pissed my great-great grandpa off.
So he started burning down the shacks of all these people squatting on his land. He shot their cattle and hogs – just like the church up the valley did a few years ago to Bishop Louie.
In the 1890’s the People’s Party started organizing the blacks and the poor whites together. My great-great grandpa said, “It’s a disgusting shame – the whites willing to club around with the niggers.” So then he said, “I’ll help out the Democratic Party cause that’s the white man’s party.”
And he went with a gang of Democrats to shoot up that settlement of blacks and poor whites that was squatting on our land and voting for the People’s Party. There was a big shoot-out. My great-great grandpa and his son both got killed. That left his grandson, who was my pa. It was 1892. My grandpa was only 12 years old, but he wanted revenge.
In 1900 he was able to kill a couple of the guys that killed his pa and grandpa. But there was a warrant for his arrest. The People’s Party was getting strong, so he might get hung if he stayed around. He headed west.
He was a miner and a logger and he seen how the unions was run by the Socialist Party and then the Socialist Party joined up with the People’s Party. So he knew he hated unions. He was one big tough son of a bitch, as strong as an ox. He said, “Ain’t no union can stop me from working when I want to! Just because I’m so strong I can out-work them-fuck ‘em! Let ‘em drop!”
My grandpa got together a gang of big mean motherfuckers to smash in the heads of union organizers and to protect people that wanted to keep working when a strike was on.
My grandpa lived to be 86 years old, still bad and strong as ever. I held his hand when he died. I was 12.
We lived in Los Angeles then. For years my grandpa had terrorized the unions out of that town. Me and my dad and mom was all in the Klan. I joined the Klan when I was 15 years old.
That year I was in the ninth grade. I was sharpening a pencil in class and the lead broke. I yelled “Goddamit!”
The teacher told me, “You’ll have to go to the principal’s office for that!”
I says, “No I won’t, you whore!”
I just walked out of the class and never went to school again. My dad said, “Good for you!”
It was the school’s loss, not mine. I had my IQ tested and it was 150 – the smartest kid in the school. I hitched all over California – didn’t have no trouble. I was big enough where they thought I was 18 instead of 15. Then I come back to Los Angeles and started working for a friend of my dad’s, Jim Einkorn, who had the Nationalist Youth Corps.
I figured out quick enough that I was smarter than Jim. Before I was 16 years old, I was handling his finances. I knew all about politicians and rich people that was ashamed to be seen with Jim in public – but they would give him money in secret.
When I was 16 years old I could drive legally, so I was going all kinds of stuff for Jim. And I didn’t have to wear one of his damn uniforms or sit bolt upright like I had a pencil up my ass.
Jim’s youth groups was mostly on the West Coast. He wanted to spread out more. But there’s other Nationalist groups all over, especially in the desert and mountain country. You don’t just go in their territory and try to set up your own thing. A bunch of Nationalists have been killed for trying to move into other Nationalists’ territory. You gotta negotiate things, move in easy. Jim had me going to negotiate for him when I was 17 years old.
I been asking myself for years when I first met Taze. Then wow! All of a sudden I just remembered while I’ve been telling you this. I met Taze at a mansion in Denver when I was doing negotiations for Jim. The mansion belonged to this old man named McElroy. His grandpa made a fortune out of the silver mines in the early days and built the mansion. It was dark inside with the kind of cool air you breathe in a cellar. The air in those rooms smelled like mothballs. I was expecting cobwebs to float into my face.
Mr. McElroy pointed for me to sit in this black ebony chair with a back lined with dark green velvet. The chair back went up in all kinds of fancy carvings into big high points – the tips was about six foot off the floor. It looked like a throne King Solomon built for the Queen of Sheba. It was in a parlor with ceilings about 14 foot high.
I got the biggest chair, so I felt like a lot of other 17 year olds would – that I would be in the best place negotiating. They had representatives of other Nationalist groups there too. I remember now, one guy I seen there was Fred Zeller who later let us use his land to camp on until we could make the Circle in Colorado.
We all sat down and then Mr. McElroy brought in all the rich folks that might give us money if we pleased them enough. There was about 20 of us Nationalists and maybe ten of these money people. Taze was there with an old bat named Mrs. De Venter. She looked about 80 and she had something to do with a big oil company. Taze held her arm and helped her along like she was the crown jewels – which she was to us.
I kept my mouth shut for quite a while to listen to which way the talk was going. I noticed all the other Nationalists talked about the spiritual meaning of our work. It seemed like this would go over with them rich folks better than saying we was gonna store up rifles and dynamite and take out after the Jews and the colored.
One guy sitting next to Fred Zeller stood up and talked on and on about spiritual this and spiritual that. Finally Mrs. De Venter spoke up in a real deep voice for such an old lady. What she said was, “Cut the bull!”
Then she jabbed Taze in his upper arm and he popped up like a jack-in-the box. He introduced himself – said he had been a professor of some kind of ology I hadn’t never heard of before and now he was with the Maria Russell Missions. He started off, “I’m sure we all want a more spiritual civilization so…”
“Can you get us some money?” somebody called out from a corner of the room.
“I’ll call my people up and see,” Taze says, “and I’ll have to meet you alone in a couple of days.” Then Mrs. De Venter stood up and made a little bow. She gripped Taze by the forearm and growled, “Let’s get!”
He led her out of there, but it seemed to me she was pushing him along – awful fast for such an old lady.
So that’s the last I seen of Taze for months. We stayed there in McElroy’s parlor talking to the other rich people. After everybody had talked all the psychic stuff. I stood up and said, “I’m glad to get to meet everybody here. I’m from the Nationalist Youth Corps. We are working with poor, jobless young people, trying to get them off the streets and into working for a more spiritual civilization like everybody here’s been talking about. We would appreciate being able to work with all of the groups here and we’d like to know if there’s any possibility of help. I always figure it sounds nicer to say ‘help” than “money.”
I can see how it was better me being there than Jim. These older Nationalists was looking me over like I was a prize young stallion. I was just the kind of young fellow they wanted in their troops if we made the big uprising.
A woman stood up. She was in her forties. She was wearing a real nice suit dress. She had black hair streaked with gray and a smile that looked like it was cut into her face with a knife.
“I think we can provide some assistance for this young man,” she says, “but I don’t think he needs to approach our contributors directly,” and she waved her hand like a bony fan at the row of rich people. “Let’s all meet with him after we arrange our finances with the contributors and see what we can do for him.”
In plain English, what she said meant, “Kid, we like your looks so we won’t kill you for barging into our territory. But you can’t get your money directly from our rich guys. You come around to us and see what we’re willing to give you from our loot. That way you’ll be dependent on us.”
I felt pretty hot in the neck but I kept my nice All-American boy smile. They took me to have dinner with them at a nice restaurant. And that’s where I met E. J. Caldwell for the first time.
E. J. had been tagging along with one of the Nationalist groups that went to old McElroy’s mansion to hit up them folks for money. I don’t think E. J. was a member of any group. Somebody said, “Who invited him?” But nobody ever bothered to send him away. Everybody just said, “Let E. J. stay, he’s cool.”
He was a short man with broad shoulders, real strong, in old Army fatigue clothes. He had yellow and green eyes, like a bobcat at night and a fringe of black beard around his face. He was talking rifles and machine guns and explosives with us in the restaurant until one of the big Nationalists whispered to him, “Shut up in here! A cop might overhear you!”
E. J. just got a big wide smile and stayed quiet the rest of the time he was there. The woman who had spoke at McElroy’s place got everybody to make pledges of money to me – about $300 in all.
I went to the pay phone and called Jim. I says, “We got a little bit of money, but not the real big stuff. At least they’ll let us show our faces here in Colorado.”
“That’s good enough for now,” Jim says. “Now I want you to go down and see about a Nationalist Mormon group at the north end of Zarahemla Valley in New Mexico. They’ve had a split with the Mormons in the south end of the valley. The folks in the south end allowed a nigger to become a Mormon priest. I hear the upper and lower valley are shooting it out with each other and I want you to go see if we can link up with the church at the upper end of the valley.”
The Nationalist lady paid for my dinner and give me $50 – enough to buy gas over halfway to Zarahemla. I had enough from Jim to get the rest of the way. As I drove along, I can’t tell you want a relief it was to get out of that spooky old dark mansion in the city with people hustling for money. Now I was out under the clean blue sky looking up at all these mountains I wanted to climb. I stopped in La Plata for gas and heard all about Bishop Louie’s naked teenagers. I drove past them on my way to the upper end of the valley.
When I got to the north end of Zarahemla Valley, a woman walking along the gravel road told me, “Everyone’s at the ward meeting.” She pointed to an adobe house which they was using for a church building and a meeting hall.
There must have been about 50 people crowed in a big front room in folding chairs. A big red-faced guy in a white shirt was standing in front of everybody. And right beside him, sitting in a folding chair was E. J. form Denver.
E. J. grinned at me like a possum as I walked in. It was like he had followed me all that distance. But I don’t think it was his first time in the upper end of Zarahemla Valley.
The red-faced man looked at me and says, “Howdy, I’m Brother Bob, the elder.” Then he went on hollering about Louie McGowan who said he was a Bishop and called his wife a Bishopess, then broke up with her and made a bunch of women and a nigger into Mormon priests. Louie stole a bunch of cropland and some cattle and a tractor. He even stole the lost for their new church. “And worst of all, he stole my wife Zerena!” Brother Bob hollered, shaking his fist. Everybody hollered, “Yeah! Yeah! A shame!”
Finally Brother Bob was crying, big tears going down his fat red cheeks. “Then Louie McGowan give my wife to his cousin John,” he sobbed. “Louie says she’s sealed to John for all eternity instead of to me!” And he pulled out a handkerchief and covered his eyes and sat down in a folding chair next to E. J.
A man in his fifties stood up and said, “There will be a meeting of the Danites after this ward meeting. Brother E. J. Caldwell is welcome to stay for the Danite meeting. I’ve worked with Brother E. J. before on important business.”
Then E. J. stood up and pointed at me. “I know this young man from Denver,” he says, “and he is worthy of your trust. I ask you to let him stay for the Danite meeting.”
The man in his fifties nodded. Brother Bob said a blessing and everybody left the house except for me and E. J. and Brother Bob and this man in his fifties (his name was Brother McClintock) and five other men, farmers with their faces tan from the sun.
Brother McClintock said, “I want to explain for this young man, the Danites are a band of warriors for God. We kept the security of the Mormon church and nowadays the big Mormon church in Salt Lake City has gotten rid of the Danites – the same way they say we can only have one wife! That’s why we split off – to have the Danites and our marriage customs and keep the religion in purity. But now Louie lets people drink coffee and smoke tobacco and he lets a nigger be priest and seals him to a white woman for all eternity…”
“And he sealed my wife to his Cousin John, who drinks coffee!” Brother Bob said and started sobbing again.
The Danite group made plans to drive down quick after midnight to the south end of the valley and splash Louie’s church with gasoline and set it on fire. They looked at me and said, “You’ll be with us, won’t you brother?”
I said, “Uh, yeah.” They all shook my hand and we left the adobe house – except for Brother Bob, who lived there. Pretty soon I was alone in the dark with E. J. He just paced back and forth, stepping on the balls of his feet, like a cat. Finally he rolled a cigarette.
“Thank God, they’re gone,” he said. “Them Mormons are crazy against alcohol and tobacco and coffee. I need my smokes.” He sucked in deep on his cigarette. Then he looked at his watch. “We’ve got about two hours to go,” he says. “I would like to go have dinner at their houses – Mormon women are good cooks – but you and me don’t want too many witnesses about us and what were doing here.”
We both set in by car for a while and smoked.
Nephi is my best friend and he’s the one who talks a lot about God. I don’t know about God. I just knew that at that time I didn’t want to hurt them naked teenagers and women and kids. I decided to warn them.
I told E. J., “Excuse me, I gotta go take a leak.” I got out of the car and walked into the brush. Pretty soon when I was far enough away from him, I started running through the brush. I knew E. J. could never keep up with me. Then I fell down in to a deep ravine – got scratched up on thorns and rocks, wondered if I broke my ribs. It took me a while to realize I was in a side canyon that opened into the valley. It’s easier to get lost in that country than you think. I was limping along. I tried climbing out of the ravine, but kept sliding back in. Finally I got out. I staggered through the woods, trying to work up a run again.
When I got to the south end of the valley, I could see the flames from the church. E. J. must have decided I had run out on him and gotten the Danites to burn the church early. Some people was standing around the church. I stumbled up to them, gasping for air with my lings hurting. “Is Louie McGowan here?” I asked.
“I’m Bishop Louie,” a voice answered.
Chapter Twenty Nine
I stayed up talking to Bishop Louie all night, even though I was tired and hurting. Aries John kept bringing me cups of coffee. I told them everything I knew about Nationalists and people making caches of weapons and explosives and rich people giving money and Danites and E. J. It makes me huff and puff just to remember all that talking I done.
When the church in Zarahemla Valley split up, Bishop Louie’s people had patrols along the edges of their territory. The judge in Highlander, the county seat, divided the church lands between Louie’s church and the church in the upper end of the valley. The folks in the upper end didn’t want to take it to the state court in Santa Fe, because that’s all People’s Party. Every night Bishop Louie had people doing sentry on the boundary of their land and the other church had their people on the other side.
Then a year passed and things got pretty lax. Both sides stopped their patrols. Then at the beginning of 1971, all the Nationalist groups started sending guns and explosives to the Rocky Mountain country to stash them for the big uprising in 1972, right before the elections. They wanted to just take over part of the Rockies. If they could take over more, that was great – anything to stir things up against that Jew People’s Party president and that colored woman vice president. So action was starting again. People from the upper end of the valley shot at people working in the fields on Bishop Louie’s end. They shot over their heads – after all, a lot of Bishop Louie’s people was their cousins. But things was starting to get hot again.
I helped Bishop Louie organize new patrols. A lot of the patrols was just teenage boys and girls. It was strange to me having girls and women on a patrol. We didn’t have many rifles or shotguns. Besides, most of these kids didn’t know hot to shoot. They was more likely to hurt theirself than anybody else. But they did know how to lay still on a hillside in a gully full of dead leaves and earth for whatever was going on. And they was ready to do anything for Bishop Louie and the community. The one who would do the most patrolling, even in the worst winter was a Mexican boy named Turco. Turco come up first with Manny Zamora when they put on a show for us. Turco told me and Aries John and Louie everything he knew about people making weapons caches in our part of the country. Aries John could fit that in with the other stuff on his map. He had traveled up the Rockies as far as Montana and had X’s on the map wherever he knew of arms and explosives catches.
Turco hitched up and stayed with us all that winter and spring until the Circle in Colorado. And he was always out on patrol – even when he had to lay belly down in deep snow. I asked him, “Why do you put so much time into it?”
“Cause I’m a Jew,” he says. “And them people up the valley are against the Jews.”
Can you believe it? This brown-skinned teenage boy who ate tacos and tamales and used to sing “La Cucaracha” and “Rancho Grande” all the time – he was a Jew! I asked him about it five times before I could believe it. And Manny Zamora finally told me it was so. Manny said he was a Jew himself and some of his own folks was Spanish.
I had run away from everything I had been doing, but Turco shook up everything my mom and dad and my uncle – all of them in the Klan – had ever taught me about Jews.
And what shook me up even more was Brother Maceo, black as he could be and his white wife Brenda. At first I got sick every time I seen them together. Then they was always so good and kind to me, having me over to their house for supper all the time. At first it was hard to force myself to go to their house. But I liked them and didn’t want to hurt their feelings. After a while, they looked just like any other middle aged couple to me, and I loved them!
I felt strange when Brenda told me, “My husband before Brother Maceo was one of the Danites that burned the church down. He didn’t want me to become a priestess. So he’s there and I’m here.”
That fall I climbed some of the mountains around there and slept with some of the young women that came through. I quit smoking so I could run and climb mountains better, but I kept on drinking coffee.
When Louie had his big message about the Circle, he sent me and Nephi to give the invitation to Taze in Sante Fe and we brought Rivka back with us. While we was in Santa Fe, I seen E. J. from Denver riding around in my car that I had run off and left him with – rather it was Jim’s car that Jim had trusted me with. I knew if I seen E. J., then he seen me. E. J. always notices whatever’s going on around him.
When I went to the Circle in June, 1972, I went in Brother Maceo’s car with him and his white wife. Just a year before, you couldn’t have paid me a million dollars to get in a car with them. But we was laughing and joking all the way – about any old thing in the world.
I won’t say it was all easy. When I stood in the Circle on July Fourth holding Brother Maceo’s hand, I could also feel when I held my grandpa’s hand when he was dying. My grandpa was pulling another way and I felt this huge pain in the middle of my hand. Sometimes my spirit would go out of me and fly in the breeze hundreds of feet above the Circle so I could get away from the pain. So many things about the Circle have been like that, splitting me right down the middle. It all makes me cry. I cried that day.
Right as everybody quit humming and went to hollering, Aries John run up to me and started talking. I could see Aries John’s mouth moving, but I couldn’t hear him. My spirit was still some place else. Finally he yelled, “Hey, Clark!”
All of a sudden I was right back on call.
“Here, take these keys,” Aries John said, jingling some car keys at me. I grabbed them and said, “What’s happening?”
“These are the keys to Manny’s truck,” Aries John said. “Manny and Bishop Louie and me have to get out of here right away or we’ll get arrested. We want you to drive the trucks and take the other folks that come in it back to New Mexico.”
I hiked back down to Fred Zeller’s cabin where we had our parking lot. There was still a bunch of cars all over the pasture. When I finally found Manny’s truck, I seen E. J. leaning against it smoking a cigarette. He looked up at me like nothing had ever happened.
“Hello Clark, what’s up?” he says.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I says back. “Was you up there making the circle, E. J.?”
“Naw,” he says, waving his hand like he was brushing the whole Circle away. “I don’t go in for things like that. I just come up to take a little look.”
“What about Jim’s car?” I asked, “Where is it now?”
“Oh, right over there,” E. J. says and he pointed and I could see Jim’s car about 50 feet away – the car that I run away from the night they burned the church down.
“Well-uh, can’t you get it back to Jim?” I asked.
“Oh, I phoned up Jim,” E. J. says. “I told him all about it. I’m using the car. He understands.”
“Understands what?” I says.
“He understands,” E. J. says, kind of growly, but with a big grin. And he hurried to Jim’s car and drove off before I could ask him about my nice down sleeping bag that I had left in the trunk.
I hung around the log cabin and got to know Fred Zeller who’s a real great guy. Fred was even happy after putting up with all of us. In about three days, all the people who come on Manny’s truck was back down out of the mountains and I drove them to New Mexico.
The rest of the year, life was easy. I helped harvest the corn and beans and chile peppers at Zarahemla. I went hiking in the mountains and hunted elk with Aries John. For some reason we stopped hearing for a while about folks storing up weapons and explosives. They didn’t make their big uprising. I sure could do without it. I just wanted to stay in the mountains. I only went into Albuquerque and Santa Fe a couple of times – and both times I seen E. J. looking at me.
That spring after Liz showed up, six people from the Coyote Family drove into Zarahemla in an old truck that was about to fall apart. I knew two of them, Mike and Ginny. They had showed up at the Nationalist Youth Corps headquarters when I was working there with Him. They had been all pissed off then at the People’s Party Youth Alliance for kicking them out of their shelter for getting drunk and trashing the place. This happened at about four different People’s Party youth shelters. Jim could see that Mike was a pretty smart guy. He really wanted Mike for the Nationalist Youth Corps – at first. And Ginny was pregnant then.
Jim sent all of the Coyote Family women over to his Women’s Division shelter – except for Ginny. She wouldn’t leave Mike. But the Coyote Family women would show up at Jim’s back door when Jim wasn’t there. Mike and Ginny helped them steal a bunch of food from Jim’s freezer. They done what the Coyote Family usually does with what they steal – give it away to people that was worse off than they was.
They done this three times before Jim kicked all the Coyote Family people out of his places. When they left, Mike stole Jim’s picture of Adolf Hitler.
“Hey, look man,” Mike said to me when they piled out of their truck in Zarahemla. “I still got it.” And he reach under the seat in his truck cab and pulled out the picture of Hitler.
“I look into Hitler’s face very night when I’m alone,” Mike said. “I wish I could get in touch with his spirit. Why did he kill hisself and go away from us?”
The Coyotes had showed up to take Nephi with them down to Florida. But as soon as we explained that Nephi and Aries John was gone to Sequoyah and we needed to get there our self, all the Coyote Family started working with me and Brother Maceo and the others to get their truck ready so we could go to Sequoyah and have a real Circle instead of what Taze was doing.
“Me and Mike been in Taze’s mission in Santa Fe,” Ginny told me, “I couldn’t stand the way Taze and his elders ordered us around. I wish we had trashed his place.”
I’ll say this for the Coyote Family. They may have seemed like a bunch of fuck-ups, but they worked hard on getting that truck ready. Finally we had the truck fixed. We loaded a lot of the corn and beans we had raised on it and we set out for Sequoyah with the truck and Ivy’s pickup and Brother Maceo’s car – where I was riding with Rivka and Liz and Brother Maceo and Brenda.
After three days we got to Sequoyah, to the turnoff to the Indian mounds with a sign that said CIRCLE INFORMATION. Not long after we got there, Taze and his busses drove up. Taze’s people cut up a bunch of watermelons and cantaloupes and passed them around. Then some of the Coyote Family started throwing pieces of watermelon and cantaloupe at Taze. They knocked off the pyramid he wore on his head.
I was just standing there with a cup of coffee in one hand and a piece of watermelon in the other. Then I heard someone laughing behind me – hard, harsh laughing like the sounds of an ax hitting a log. I turned around and there was E. J. leaning against a big, thick tree, laughing at Taze so hard the tears was coming down his cheeks. He straightened his face up pretty quick when he seen me. Then he stretched his hand out to me and said, “Why, hello, Clark!”
I tossed my piece of watermelon in the box where we dropped all our trash. Then I reached my hand out and shook his. ‘Howdy, E. J.” I says. “I thought you told me you didn’t go to the Circle.”
“Oh, I don’t need to hold hands and hum,” he says. “But something important is going on here and it does need to be watched.”
“When you need to watch something,” I says, and drunk down what was left of my coffee,” that must mean you’re gonna do something. What do you plan to do?”
“I don’t know yet,” E. J. says.
I started to feel the hair on the back of my head bristle up as I looked into E. J.’s face. Something about that face was hard – harder than Jim and the other Nationalists, and I had thought they was a cold, hard bunch. It started coming to me. E. J. wasn’t a Nationalist like the folks he was with in that old mansion in Denver. He was watching them – just like now he was watching Taze and Louie - and me. It gave me the chills to think about it, trying to figure out what he was watching us for?
“Hey, Clark,” E. J. says. “If you stare any harder, your left eye will roll into your coffee cup!” And he started laughing again.
“Who sent you here?” I asked.
“That’s none of your concern,” E. J. says.
Even back then, E. J. had a beer belly, but it was still small enough that he did a half-cart wheel. He was propping himself up with his hands on the ground and his feet in the air.
E. J. stuck his tongue out and wagged it at me. Then he did the rest of the cartwheel and he was standing on his feet again laughing. Right then, I could hear Taze’s buses all revving up to go to the Indian mounds.
“Are you going to get arrested at the mounds with Taze and them?” I asked.
“Nah,” E. J. says. “I’m going over to the National Forest where Louie’s camped. Taze will keep supplying the money, but Louie’s where the future is.”