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30 years with Snow Bird

New Nike sneakers

August 16, 2019

In my almost 30 years with Mr. Eddie (Snowbird) Alden, I sometimes said to myself, Wow.  Someone needs to write a book.  He was unique.  Several people remarked on his singularity at his memorial service, that lasted two hours and forty minutes.  Eddie was unique.  I have never seen anyone even remotely similar to him.  His life made sense to him.  He was his own boss, a crime fighter. Like the Green Lantern.

Several times I asked him if I could call him Snowbird.  “Call me Eddie,” he said each time.

Eddie was an iconic figure in Billings.  He weighed more than 300 lbs, always wore a bright yellow fleece, unless the weather was hot, then he wore a clean white tee shirt.  He pedaled slowly across parking lots, across streets.  His hair was always cut short, less than a quarter inch.  He had vertical black stripes on his scalp where his hair was a bit longer.  He wore white Nike sneakers, white cotton socks, black sweat pants, the bright yellow fleece.  He owned perhaps a dozen of those fleeces, which he stored at a unit on the West end of Billings. I helped him take a lot of his belongings from an apartment near 6th Avenue. As we drove away an old guy, perhaps a property manager for the basement apartment, called out to Eddie, “Don’t come back!”

Aside from angry landlords, he was well known, even loved; but sometimes hated.  One Crow man told me as a child he remembered seeing Eddie and was afraid of him because he sometimes lurked at the corner of buildings.

How well known was he?  This blog you are reading typically attracts one or two readers a day, sometimes as many as ten, when I write about picking up my small dog Gunther’s poop in the neighborhood.  

The day I wrote about Eddie’s funeral service I got more than 500 readers!  I think the most I had ever gotten was around 30, when I wrote about being depressed.  I always took for granted that my blog posts are dull.

The day after that, the blog post about Eddie attracted nearly 8,000 readers!  That number was back to about 500 today.

Eddie always liked publicity.  I think he would be thrilled to know how his story attracts people.

Three days ago, Eddie’s memorial service was held at the Spirit of Life Four Square Church, in Crow Agency.  Right around the corner from the old Crow Mercantile, which was across the street from the Post Office.  I’d say 30 people attended, including four or five of us from Billings.  

Eddie’s service was gorgeous, elaborate, beautiful—all those things.  Two of his bikes were on display with his trademark 64-ounce Big Gulp soda holder.  A two-liter Pepsi bottle, some cologne, a couple of radios, tape recorders, yellow fleeces.  Lots of little touches.  Grocery bags hanging from his handlebars.  He didn’t always use plastic bags.  He started out with paper bags, each reinforced with a half-roll of duct tape. Probably that was before he was settled in Billings, complete with lots of bicycles.

Over the years, I often asked Eddie questions and he would answer cryptically, “Yeah?”  Example:  “Eddie, are you coming over for Thanksgiving?”  He would answer, “Yeah?”  Me:  “Is your apartment clean?”  Eddie:  “Yeah?”

The people at Eddie’s funeral extolled his virtues, which are approximately the same as those of any officer in law enforcement, except Eddie invented his own, volunteer, role.  They said Eddie had some sort of disability, but he valued his family’s tradition of police work.  Generations of policemen (and women, perhaps).  Therefore, according to Eddie’s uncle Art Alden, “Snowbird had a siren on his bicycle.” 

I think I’ve gotten ahead of myself again.

Eddie did not say much about himself, unless asked specifically.  Even then, he was often vague.  Example:  “Eddie, what are you doing tonight?”  Answer:  “Oh, you know, routines.”  I learned later that “routines” referred to the route he pedaled his bicycle.  

I was shocked to learn that he had enemies.  Oh yes.  They were often his victims—people he turned in to the police, usually when intoxicated, often when driving.

One year at Crow Fair, which is a huge annual encampment each August of literally hundreds and hundreds of tepees—possibly more than even one or two thousand—I found Eddie pedaling his bike on one of the many curved roads.  Typically, Eddie wouldn’t recognize me right away.  The reason:  non-Indians, like me, all look alike.  But I called out Eddie’s name and he pedaled slowly to me.  I never saw Eddie pedal quickly. I had driven over to Crow Fair early that morning for the annual “Teepee Creeper’s Classic” three mile run.  I was expecting breakfast at a relative’s camp, so I asked one of the women there if I could invite “Snowbird.”  She said, “sure.”  I didn’t know it, but she was just being ultra kind and polite to me!  

She fried up a rasher of bacon, which Eddie ate from a paper plate.  Soon, my son pulled me aside.  He told me that more than a few people in that camp had spent actual time in jail because of Snowbird’s ratting them out.  I was never never NEVER to invite him to breakfast there again!  

That’s when I learned of Eddie’s “zero tolerance” for the crime of possessing alcohol on a dry reservation.  Both the Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations are “dry.”  Eddie also had zero tolerance for any natives that crawl out of a bar and get into a motor vehicle in the small hours of the morning when the places closed down.  Eddie would certainly call the cops on them and that might result in going to jail.

But Eddie didn’t mind at all if I drank.  He even provided me with wine the last few years at Christmas.  Always great generous bottles of pink, or this last Christmas, merlot.  He had gone to some trouble to find out what kind I liked.  Last Christmas I sat with Eddie and drank a few glasses of the merlot.  Our conversations went something like this:

Eddie:  Dan?

Me:  Yeah, Eddie?

Eddie: Dan?

Me: What is it, Eddie?  

Eddie: Does Jon want to buy me a gift card for the Holiday station for Christmas?

Me: How would I know?  Why don’t you ask Jon?

Eddie: Yeah?

Sometimes I bought Eddie black sweat pants for Christmas, sometimes shoes and socks.  One time, I bought him a 12 pack of Mountain Dew, which I wrapped in shiny paper with little trees on it.  After he unwrapped it, he put it on the floor.  He looked at it, then at me.  “This is it?”  He didn’t bother to take it with him.

That’s why I often said that I didn’t really know Eddie that well, despite being acquainted with him for almost 30 years.  Part of the problem was that I frequently was critical of him.  I scolded him for teasing the Bureau of Indian Affairs police officers by carrying around pop in a Budweiser beer box at Crow Fair.  

I got perturbed when he got into trouble, usually having to do with his relationship with a landlord, and he asked four or five different people for help, but didn’t tell any of them about the others.  “Eddie, you need someone’s help,” I said.  “But you don’t need four people who each think they are the only ones helping.”

Eddie kept his business to himself.  He frequently lined up several unrelated groups to help him celebrate his birthday.  On the big day he stopped in at one after another:  the police department, legal services, the Billings Gazette, my house, his sister’s house.  When things went well, he couldn’t help exulting.

I didn’t know Eddie 30 years.  I knew Eddie 1 year, 30 times.  I miss him because his independence delighted me. A legend in his own time.

I criticized Eddie for hoarding stuff in his apartment.  That’s one of the reasons he got eviction notices.  His places were frightful.

I didn’t visit the last three places he lived because I felt depressed when I could barely fit through an aisle of plastic trash bags filled with filthy blankets, gray sheets, phones, sweat clothes, socks, batteries, tape recorders, hair clippers, bicycle parts, radios, cameras, new bike helmets (never worn—I don’t know how often I urged him to wear his helmet.  His answer was always, “Yeah?”) 

Pill box organizers, prescription bottles, envelopes, newspapers, hunters orange gloves, empty soda containers (large) cologne bottles, more envelopes, posters, tools, telephones, more telephones, more bike parts, underwear, camping gear, televisions, fake flowers, food wrappers, bottles of cleaners, vacuum cleaners, neck ties, suits, mattresses, more radios, toy police cars, flashlights, flashlight batteries, a bull horn, a siren, blue and red flashing lights, more toys, hats, hats, more hats, coats, old shoes.  Garbage. Newspapers.  Like 40 copies of the same date.

Fire crackers, bottle rockets, matches, other toys, an empty whisky bottle, pepper.  More pepper.  Thirty cans of black pepper.  And telephones, police scanners, police scanner parts, bicycle seats, bicycle wheels, tires, tubes.  More receipts, paper, a huge pile of bike wheels, bike frames.  A couch, under there somewhere.  ID cards for random people.  Panty hose.  Telephones.  Cooking pan on the stove, with grease.  

I’d ask Eddie the last few years:  “Are you keeping your place pretty clean?”  He answered:  “Yeah?”  

“Really?” I continued.

“Yeah.” He said.  Well, I couldn’t vouch for his honesty in that regard, but I never checked.

Link

PW Volume II number 1

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Click the link below to read the entire issue.

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A post about these posts

I am coaxing a burp from my first son, Todd, a few months after he was born in Santa Ana, California. An officer asked me if I thought he was really mine. I told him he’d be mine when I got him home from the hospital. Everyone on the Marine base agreed with me.

Posts

These days I am thinking fundamental thoughts about this blog. Hmmm. Like “who is the intended reader?” Also, “what are the general themes?” And, “why write this at all?”

Intended reader

I keep thinking you are the intended reader. Who are you? You’re intelligent, but impatient. You want the truth and when bullshit appears, you vanish like the sun in May behind a cloud. Otherwise, I’d like most of this stuff to be for my children and grandchildren so they can have a sense of who they are.

I have trouble with the truth. I’d be inclined to say I have a, say, lawnmower, when I really meant an electric Black and Decker M 100. This is important because my dear friend Mark Fryberger owns a Black and Decker M 200.

Grr. Chaps my hide. Near as I can tell, his has a more easily adjusted blade height. Well, he doesn’t have to rub it in. Actually, I don’t think he ever has.

General themes

I have to eschew the term “miscellaneous.”

  • posts that pertain primarily to the title story wherein I am in search of my uncle Bud, killed in the waning months of WW II during the Battle of the Bulge.
  • fables. I have just a few that pertain to the fauna of our block in Billings, Montana.
  • gunther, our Brussels Griffon. He is popular with many readers.
  • stories mined from my childhood. Many of these are boring, but a damned few aren’t–like the one where I got locked in a laboratory after hours, or the one where I almost burned down our house.
  • travel stories about the amazing places in the Northwest part of the United States and Canada.
  • oddities–the so-called cow-in-a-tree.
  • pharmacy stories, especially on the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Indian Reservations.
  • obituaries. Seems like many of these occurred during the pandemic year, 2020.

Why write at all?

Truth is, I feel sorry for the reader. Life is starting to make sense for me, beginning to have a kind of logic. I feel sorry the reader has to wade through so much deceptive bullshit. I believe a little truth to be a kind of magic. As far as making sense, I’ve lived 72 years and amazing things have happened. For instance, the man who hired me and rented an apartment to me later needed me to lend him $300 when he lived in the same apartment. Of course I did! He treated me generously, so how could I refuse him?

I enjoy writing. At the same time, we all know how much fucking work it is; kind of like hammering the wall with your head.

I can’t seem to leave it alone.

George Clifford Meakins

I snapped this when we had just one child and we visited Della and Lawrence in Hall, Montana.

5/9/21

My daughter Clara asked me to write about her maternal grandfather, George Clifford Meakins, whom she never met.

George was a cowboy with little formal education.  He was born in Mobridge, South Dakota, April 3, 1899, to John and Cora Jane Meakins.  George had a bunch of siblings:  Ethel, Pearl, Harley, Vern, Elmer, Dorothy, and Merle.

Mobridge is situated on the Little Missouri River.  George’s dad either died when a mule kicked him in the head or from tuberculosis.  Hard to tell fact from story with George.

Impressions of George come flooding in, not in any sequence, just impressions.  He was a weather-beaten, old-timer.  Penny was always proud to say she was George’s daughter, and often identified herself as such.

Once, in 1972, before Bob was born, when Todd, Penny and I were traveling across Montana, we checked at Garrison Junction Cafe to locate George.  I walked up to a long cafe counter and asked the line of weathered cowboy-looking types if they knew where I could find George Meakins.

“He’s generally at the Corner Bar in Deer Lodge,” answered one gruffly.

I thanked him and we drove the 30 or 40 miles to Deer Lodge to the above bar.  

The woman tending bar directed me back to the area with the pool tables.  The room was dark with several tables under hanging lights.  There, seated in a kitchen chair back in a corner in the dark was a wizened old man.  “George?” I asked.  ‘I seem to remember seeing a dime on the rail of a nearby table.

“Hello,” he answered.  

I asked him if wanted to go with us to visit his daughter Della and her family in Hall, Montana.  He responded by standing and walking with me to the car.  It was almost like he was waiting for us to invite him.

George didn’t drink;  he smoked unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes.  He played pool with unsuspecting, probably half-drunk cowboys.  Perhaps the gruff guy at Garrison Junction lost to old George.

He often didn’t say much.

I remember the first time I met George in the Spring of 1970.

Penny and I met up with him briefly in Deer Lodge at George’s sister Pearl’s house.  This was before Penny and I even considered marriage.  We had broken off our relationship when I joined the military service. After basic I got a 30-day leave of absence so I drove from my mother’s in Dillon to Missoula to visit old friends.

I was soon to be headed to Marine Corps training, Penny was headed to her mother’s in Lewistown.  

I figured she and I might never see each other again, so I felt kind of melancholy.  I had driven my mother’s car to Missoula, picked up Penny, and we drove to Deer Lodge together.

We sat at a dining room table:  George, Penny, Pearl, and me.  Pearl’s husband stood nearby, as if waiting on us.  After some small talk, Penny asked her dad if he would give her a ride to Lewistown.

“I had to sell my car,” answered George, looking sad.

Then he brightened up, “I still have a saddle horse, but just one saddle.”

We chuckled a bit, changed the subject.  I felt distinctly bad for the old man.

Quite a while later Penny noticed her dad’s pink Ford parked in front of Pearl’s house.  She turned pink when she realized she’d been taken in.  He did give her a ride to Lewistown.

I ended up marrying Penny in 1971.

George—I have a photo of him—was a traditional cowboy who bought good clothes:  wool shirts, blue jeans.  He often had a wool hat with earflaps, the kind with a decorative ball on top.  I don’t know if those are still a thing.  He had huge, square hands that had been burned by the sun.  His nose and ears were nibbled away from skin cancers.  Penny said he wore long underwear every day of his life, so he had pale arms and legs, and the top of his head was also white.  He generally had a short haircut.  Penny said she enjoyed playing with his hair when she was a girl.

George died in early 1975 in Missoula.  When we saw him at Saint Patrick Hospital, a radio in his room was playing, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”  George asked us how the roads were.  Penny told him she loved him, that he was a good dad.  Penny offered to sing him a song, but he declined.  He died in a matter of hours.

Pharmacist in Lame Deer, Montana

5/6/21

Do you think I looked forward daily to working in Lame Deer five days/week, 106 miles from my house?  I did. For most of seventeen years. I commuted daily most of the time. Once I discovered I didn’t like cleaning both an apartment in Lame Deer and home in Billings. Also, my apartment that I had in Lame Deer (only for a few months, maybe six) was infested with mice. Then I bought a cat. Then my apartment was infested with cats.

When I first arrived in Lame Deer August, 1988, Rabbit Hiwalker gave me a sideways look. “What religion are you?” In other words, he found my enthusiasm for his reservation incredible.

My view of the reservation was greatly influenced by the clinic environment, the way people were looking their best, acting their best. I quickly learned the word “aho” meant thanks, and I heard it frequently every day.

Plus the countryside is gorgeous to me and I enjoyed studying it from the highway. Velvet green changes to gold.

Especially in June.  The air is cool at 6 a.m. and two hours to work is an easy drive through beautiful country, Eastern Montana, hills, sunrise, traveling almost exactly east.  I never got tired of the drive and I still feel intimate with every mile.  Something would catch my eye one year and I’d photograph it the following year on the same day. Or try to.

The cowboys gathered the horses in a round corral as the sun rose behind them, dust billowing from countless horse’s hooves.  No camera, but the following year I was ready.  The occurrence didn’t repeat, so I got off the road to a nearby butte.  A twin butte, really, because I could catch the early morning light as it bathed the butte with orange light.  I kept the photograph on a bulletin board in my office and people came in to visit and talk about the butte.  I’ll bet several people were conceived there on its sandy summit.  I don’t remember what the butte was called, but I returned again and again to photograph it.  Always it looked different, depending upon the weather—clouds, time of day, whether I was in a hurry to get to work.

Once I was in a hurry because I was to attend my retirement party and I’d gotten a medical exam at Crow Agency earlier.  I drove a fast car, a good one I’d bought in Denver.  Natives often obtained good horses from a distant place, and my pony was fast.  So fast a highway patrolman stopped me on a long hill near the previously mentioned circular corral.  I was traveling uphill, 105 mph.  I didn’t tell the cop I didn’t want to be late for my retirement party, but I did need to appear before a judge in Hardin, the county seat of Bighorn County.

Cars in Montana don’t usually go 105 mph uphill.  Did I mention I was in the passing lane? The judge fined me $150.

It’s all Indian country from there to Lame Deer;  mostly houses built by the government set back from the highway, connected by a straight unpaved road.  Frequently you’ll see a cluster of teepee poles leaning against the house.  The houses rarely have garages or other outbuildings.  One of my friends painted a teepee on the side of his house.  He said tourists often approach to take pictures, mostly asking permission first.  He worked at the Busby school and I have a picture of him.  Somewhere. Floyd Glenmore.  He was an artist.  I gave him most of the prints I made of tribal elders.  I believe he intended to display them at the Busby school.

Raymond Brady, Sr.

Ray Brady was generous to me.

5/3/21

Ray Brady was one of the healthy people who used to visit with me at Lame Deer clinic pharmacy.  We often spoke of his service during the World War II “Battle of the Bulge,” the bitterly cold winter when Hitler tried one last time to conquer France and, probably, all of Europe.

He had charisma and was neither needy nor overly profuse.  He did enjoy a conversation and he was a man of the world.

Mr. Brady died about five years after I retired from the Indian Health Service.

LAME DEER – On May 29, 2010, our beloved father, grandfather, great-grandfather and uncle Raymond Brady, Sr., “Naesohtoheove” (Six Stands) left his worldly existence and traveled on to be home to be with our Lord. Ray was born Jan. 16, 1925, to George Brady and Flossie Bearchum at the family ranch in the Muddy Creek area. He was raised by his grandparents Arthur and Ellen Heap of Birds Braided Locks.

Ray started his education up to the eighth grade at Lame Deer School, riding a horse to school and earning perfect attendance throughout his tenure. He went to high school at Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Ore., through his junior year before volunteering for the U.S. Army. There, he received his General Equivalency Diploma. He later attended Haskell Indian University and the Billings Business College, where he received his certification as an accountant. He worked in various positions throughout his lifetime before retiring in the early 1990s.

He was a member and former headsman of the Crazy Dog society, advising and teaching younger members the proper procedures and responsibilities as a society member.

His grandfather, Braided Locks, living to the age of 106, survived the Sand Creek Massacre and fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Ray was featured in articles from the Denver Post and Billings Gazette recalling the stories that were told to him firsthand by his grandfather. Braided Locks also had the distinction of taking the last scalp that was placed in the ceremonial bundle of the Cheyenne Sacred Hat.

Raised from a traditional Cheyenne family with strong core values, Ray was taught to live according to certain disciplines and protocols. He was always there to give advice on any subject, no matter how big or small, and could always be relied upon to give guidance to his children and grandchildren based upon his own experiences and teachings.

Ray received four Cheyenne Indian names in his lifetime, his last being “Naesohtoheove,” meaning Six Stands. This name was given to him following his return home from combat in World War II. His family honored him by having a victory dance celebration and he was given the name Six Stands because he fought battles in six different countries throughout Europe.

PFC Raymond Brady was in the 82nd Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Private First Class Raymond Brady, Sr., was part of Company “G” 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was a distinguished World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. A Pathfinder during the Normandy Invasion, he helped to set up drop zones, being the first to parachute into the field and set up instruments to guide the planes carrying other paratroopers. At the Battle of the Bulge, his 82nd Airborne Division witnessed face to face combat with the feared German 6th SS Army. With only 13 left of his company, they held off the Germans and took the village of Clervaux (Belgium) and his unit received the Presidential Unit Citation. His medals earned were: The Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and Silver Star Attachment (Single), World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Belgian Fourragere, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, Sharpshooter Badge and Carbine Bar and Parachute Badge-Basic.

Ray was humble in his achievements, never one to gloat or boast of his military accomplishments. He often liked to tease and was always ready for a cup of coffee and a good visit. Easygoing and sociable by nature, Ray dearly loved and was extremely proud of his entire family.

A recovered alcoholic for approximately 50 years, Ray was a certified state and national Alcoholics Anonymous counselor who sponsored and helped many people to overcome their struggles with alcoholism. He traveled extensively throughout the United States and Canada with his adopted brother, Carl Schmaus, serving as a motivational speaker.

Ray was a proud member of the Catholic Church. He made it a point to go to church every Sunday and liked to worship and pray at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Lame Deer. He was always glad to see his family members going to church and was the proud godparent of two of his grandkids, Derek Knows His Gun and Misty Flying.  

As the patriarch of the Brady family, Ray made it a point to keep familial bonds alive with his relatives, especially those from South Dakota and Oklahoma. He reminded and encouraged his family to keep in touch and stay connected with one another, no matter how far apart they were physically. He put his family’s welfare in the forefront of his everyday life and constantly checked on them just to make sure that everything was going all right.

He was preceded in death by his parents, four brothers, four sisters and many others.

Survivors include his children, Raymond Brady, Jr., Calvin (Marie) Brady, Sr., Shirley (Dan) Brady, Annette Standing Water, Esther (Daniel) Brady Oldman and Irene (Larry) Flying, Sr. from Lame Deer and Serena (Wayne) Brady from Eureka. Also, nieces Lavina Blackwolf, Leona Limberhand, Phyliss Fisher, Mary Ann Bear Comes Out, Linda Bisonette, Thomasine Hardground, Lavonda Brady, Elizabeth Braided Hair and Theresa Brady Small. Nephews include Charles, Herman, Michael, Sr., and Peter Bear Comes Out, Jr.; Steve Brady, Sr., Otto and Martin Braided Hair.  Also the children of Charles, Wilson, Howard, Elmer, Sr., James and Ramona Brady.

Raymond also leaves behind 23 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren as his direct descendants.

Extended families include: Bearchum, Whistling Elk, Tall Bull, White Dirt, Stands In Timber, Little Wolf, Rock Roads, One Bear, Alice Red Cloud and Mary Blackhorse families. Pine Ridge Reservation families: Youngman, Dreaming Bear, Two Bulls, Dreamers, Hamilton, Serry, Longjaw and Gillespie. Southern Cheyenne families from Oklahoma: Hoffman, Star, Heap of Birds, Lone Bear, Blackery, Nightwalker, Cometsevah and Big Foot. There are many other relatives from family names too numerous to mention. Please accept our sincere apologies if we have failed to mention your name at this time.

The family would like to thank the staff of the Mountain View Living Center and Veteran’s Administration in Sheridan, Wyo. In particular, Robert Axland, Dr. Carmen and DONs Laurie and Sherry for the wonderful loving care and respect showed to our father.

We were blessed to have you in our lives for so many years and although it is a time of tremendous sorrow, we are also comforted, knowing you’re in a better place and continuing to watch over us. Nastavasavoomste, Paba!

Betty Nora Flying

5/1/21

I bought an app for my phone so I can scan color negatives to make color positive prints.  I don’t know if it’s the best of its kind, so I’m not going to advertise here.  The quality of the positive image is not excellent, but fairly good.  Colors are approximate and the resultant image doesn’t have anywhere near the detail.  

However, I quickly ran to my collection of negatives.  I keep them carefully filed away with notes on many of them.  My photo prints are almost useless because they are jumbled together, thousands of them.  Moreover, I’ve given away most of the good images so I end up with a thousand blurry, boring, crappy. . . you get the idea.

One image I liked, particularly, was one of Nora Betty Flying.  She lived to be an old woman in a bright little blue house set way back from the road between Busby and Muddy Cluster on highway 212 to Lame Deer.  I knew her kids.  

In fact her daughter, Mary Jane Flying, was our first pharmacy technician at the Indian Health Service clinic in Lame Deer.  And this was in 1988 because of the generosity of her boss, Lynwood Tallbull.  He allowed her to come help us. 

At first, the pharmacist at the time, Bill Schuman, wouldn’t let her into the pharmacy itself, but kept her outside the door for her to dole out OTCs like Tylenol to those requesting them. 

Bill worked solo to prepare and dispense the prescriptions.  He prepared anywhere from 50-100 prescriptions daily. He was known for breaking telephones and strewing pills when he became enraged, although I never witnessed it.

Maybe you don’t know how the IHS works.  If you do, skip this paragraph.  Enrolled natives can receive care, including prescriptions, doctor and dental and optometry visits, free of charge.  It is pure socialized medicine.  The drawback is the clinic is always poorly funded.  Another drawback is the clinic is usually packed with patients seeking care.  However, the mission statement has always been to elevate the health of the indigenous people to the highest level possible.  I never saw us achieve that goal, but many of us tried as hard as we could.

Anyhow, Bill Schuman soon transferred to the Coast Guard and I eventually joined the IHS and ran the pharmacy, so I asked Lynwood to allow Mary Jane Flying to work right in the pharmacy.  Her job was to count out and pour the medicines into bottles after I made the labels.  Then I would check Mary Jane’s work and give the medicine to the patients.  We could get the prescriptions done more quickly, the two of us.  Mary Jane was a fast learner.

Soon Mary Jane asked for my pharmacy name tag so her mother could bead it.  Of course I gave her $35 for her trouble.  Then I had her make some moccasins for my newborn grandson.

That’s how I became acquainted with Nora Betty Flying, Mary Jane’s mother. 

She was willing to sit while I photographed her.

Gunther’s adventure on the block.

Is he tuckered out?

4/15/21

Gunther lies on his side on the couch as the clock strikes one.  Tuckered from barking all morning, no doubt.  Earlier, he barked so much I had to send him to the basement so I could take a nap.  Such is the excitement I experience. I’m not complaining. I like excitement like this.

Well, I do have a book, John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row,” and I enjoy the earthy and gritty prose therein.  I’m about halfway through the short novel.

Our house is cold.  I draw myself a glass of malbec from a “bota box” in the cupboard above the stove because I believe it lubricates the brain to churn out some writing. I think documentation is essential.

I started out wanting to write a fable about Gunther, the famous little dog of Facebook.  

He is a brussels griffon, I breed of street dog from Belgium, used for killing rats. I believe Gunther would love to kill rats, although he’s killed one squirrel. I have a picture somewhere.

The brussels griffon is typically smaller than an ordinary griffon, usually 6-15 lbs.

He is comically self-important and seems to believe he is much larger because he will menace other dogs. Gunther weighs 28 lbs, and has wounds from being bitten by other dogs. He acted fierce, but ran in terror when attacked. Brussels griffons have an almost human face that some people find attractive. Others think he is ugly, like an Ewok.

This morning about 9:30 I took Gunther for a walk unleashed; or I should say, he walked and I followed him west, around the block.  Things went well.  He made it past the vomit in the street without visiting it.  (I sharply ordered him to stay out of the street, then rewarded him with one of the bribes I carried:  a 5-lobed dog biscuit.  I gave him one of the lobes.)

Gunther visited the porch at the corner as I watched helplessly.  I paused, and as I walked past, he reappeared to lead me to the house next to the alley, where he began scarfing some black stuff that I think is barbecue grease.  I arrested his effort there.  Grabbed him. Gave him a bribe.

Around past our neighbor Charlie Grime’s corner he finally pooped and I caught all of it with my bagged hand before inverting the bag and shaking its contents.  I tied a knot.  We proceeded east along the backside of the block.

Our neighbor Sharon’s bird feeder was too much temptation for Gunther.  I never did walk onto Sharon’s yard to get Gunther.  I issued some stern commands to cease and desist eating garbage, followed by a honeyed promise of a dog treat, but of course, none of it worked.  His weakness is bird feed there. I opted to leave Gunther behind.

I walked on alone, past a truck supposedly owned by a carpet cleaning company.  Stepped over a fat blue hose and an electric cord. A worker was pulling the fat hose.

A driveway leads between two garages and my alley, so I cut through because the owner’s pickup was gone.  I dropped the poop into a dumpster, then walked the alley to the end of the block, thence home.  

I didn’t curse Gunther.  I stopped doing that perhaps six months ago.  I still reflect on the hundreds of dollars in veterinarian bills I’ve paid to rehydrate him and medicate him for what the vet called his “garbage gut.”

Instead I returned home.  Once indoors, I looked out the window to see Gunther trotting back down the block from the East, same way I had come.  I went to the back door, whistled, and “jingle jingle,” in ran the dog himself.

Please, someone, corroborate Michael Fiedler’s fate.

Michael takes a photo of me in our house.

4/9/21

Soon after I received news that my dear friend Michael Fiedler died I posted an appreciation and lament. 

Soon after I got an evening phone call from Swain Wolfe, a man I had only the briefest connection with, more than 30 years previously.  I think he tossed me out of a meeting when I was a reporter for the Montana Kaimin, published by the associated students of the University of Montana.  I was a lousy reporter and a worse writer, so I studied chemistry instead.  That was my ordinary interest, and it led me toward a career in pharmacy, a career that was good to me and I to it.  I think I left the profession in better shape than I found it.

The same evening Peter Koch phoned me in appreciation of a piece I wrote about Michael. I told him about my conversation with Swain. Peter said he loved Swain. Swain is a sweet man, he said.

I meant to write about Swain.  He was my sister’s age, so about 10 years my senior. Therefore, he lived until he was about 82, or so.  Died by his own hand.  Suicide is the usual word.  Swain Wolfe’s death prompted a friend to write me a card of sympathy, in solidarity to those who’d lost a loved one to suicide, as she had.

Trouble is, I don’t feel bad that Swain killed himself because he said he had intractable pain he was unable to control.  Death is a natural part of life.

Is all suicide bad?  Perhaps most is bad.  We certainly feel bad when a youngster has a sudden urge to pull the trigger and does.  The ones left behind a young person suffer a huge amount of grief forever. 

Locally, the Suicide Prevention group stages an annual “Out of the Darkness” event involving a three-mile walk.  Our family has walked, worn the tee shirts, attended the rally, participated in the auction, listened to the speeches by the mayor and several city council members.

Somehow, it feels good to walk through town to prevent suicide.  But what about assisted suicide?

When I worked for Joan McCracken at Planned Parenthood I enjoyed looking through the magazines and journals back in the employees area.  I recall seeing one from the Hemlock Society, a group that advocated physician-assisted suicide.

Now I am conflicted.

I particularly am sorry I’ll never again be able to meet up with Swain Wolfe.  When he phoned me to ask about Michael Fiedler, he told me that he and Michael had been very close friends in recent months.  I didn’t mention the incident 40 years ago.  (Yeah, I said 30 years earlier.)

Swain sounded kind and humble.  He said he loved Michael and knew where Michael must have met his end, someplace in Texas.  Swain said he could show me on a map, but the place Michael went with his friends didn’t have a name.  It was in the country, somewhere.

Swain said he’d miss Michael until he died.  For my part, I wanted to know more about the place Michael went.  Apparently it was closer to Mexico.

Then Swain died.

All would be well and good.  Like I said, I was a lousy reporter and a worse writer.  Still guilty as charged!

The deal is, I got no confirmation of Mike’s death. 

I heard about Mike’s death from Bob Gesell, who got the news from Colleen Kane, who got the news from her daughter who got the news from Gary Scales.  Presumably Mr. Scales had first hand information.

I have googled Michael Fiedler numerous times without finding any news to corroborate Mike’s death.

This bothered our friend Mark Fryberger, who is an ace reporter and excellent writer.

Therefore, the mystery is open.  Fiedler’s death remains unconfirmed.  

I asked my son, an emergency room physician, if the lack of corroboration of news of a death was a thing.  He said it might not be.  Notice in a newspaper might not occur, depending.  

Therefore, Fryberger and I have a long-range mission to clear this mystery.

Cloying smell of death. April 6 is bitter sweet for me.

Tom poses for a picture with two of our children. He lived across the alley from the train yard in Missoula.

4/6/21

My brother Tom would be 77 today if he had survived the heart attack he had in August 1997 in Missoula.  In his Northside house where he collapsed on the floor, alone. 

Our friend Mark Fryberger discovered his body, perhaps a week or two later, badly decomposed.  Mark said he looked through Tom’s kitchen window and thought he saw a scarecrow on the floor, at first.

Our oldest son Todd helped a couple of professionals clean up the mess, putting the remains into a metal box with a rubber seal.  The peculiar cloying smell permeated everything.  Todd bought a bunch of scented candles and placed them all around the kitchen.  He scrubbed the floor with Ajax.  This removed the design from the linoleum, so that a body-shaped image remained on the floor.  A spread-eagle image of Tom’s body. Later I snapped a photo.

Todd much later wrote a poem about this experience, part of earning a master’s in creative writing at the University of Montana.  Then he studied medicine at the University of Washington and became an emergency room doctor.

We drove to Missoula after Todd phoned us, saying he didn’t want to be alone with the trauma of the intense experience. 

Tom’s Northside Missoula neighborhood was dark, but we saw candlelight flickering through the kitchen window of Tom’s house.  I picked up a discarded rubber glove from the gravel path as we walked past Tom’s old blue volkswagen.  The first thing I noticed was Tom’s stove with its electric frying pan next to it.  Tom inherited the pan from our mother.  The stove had several scented candles aflame.

Mark Fryberger had visited Tom to see if he wanted to adopt a cat; in his words, to see if he was “between cats.”

I didn’t see the image of Tom on the floor because Todd had thrown down an old rug to hide it, presumably.  We didn’t linger in the house with its stench of death.  We piled back into the car to head across the river to visit Todd, to stay up with him.

Next day we checked into a motel near the Safeway store where I plugged up the toilet.  The manager thought I was joking and the next person to flush flooded the floor.

Nobody touched any of Tom’s stuff in his kitchen, except we pulled away the rug that hid Tom’s image on the floor.

I didn’t hang around.  I asked around, found Mike Fiedler’s house, begged him to come with me.  Of course he did.  I also phoned Tom’s daughter Hannah.  She was angry because I hadn’t told her about Tom’s heart attack, even though I knew about it several days before he died.  

She wanted to burn Tom’s bed.  Tom built the bed himself, about the size of a cot.  Nobody wanted to burn the bed because the workmanship of the simple construction was excellent.  We gave it to Mike Fiedler who took it home.

Many years later Fryberger and I were searching for Fiedler near South Fifth Street.  We drove down the alley and spied Tom’s bed, still in good shape.  Sure enough, Fiedler was in the house and he received us with much joy.

Two days later, after Hannah and her family arrived in Missoula, we had a feast in Tom’s house, even though the stench of death permeated everything. From Left, Michael Fiedler, Jason Wild, Hannah and Jacob, Penny, and Todd (with his back to the camera).

Happy birthday, Gunther!

This image is a year old, when our forsythia was blooming.

Today is Gunther’s unofficial birthday.  Yesterday three of us walked on Norm’s Island with G. when we met a woman who recognized him from Facebook.  “I know that dog,” she gushed.  I wanted to hear more about how much she loved him, but my companions, including Gunther, were walking on ahead.  I straggled behind.

“He will be five tomorrow,” I said, over my shoulder.

We aren’t sure of Gunther’s birthday because he’s a rescue dog whom we adopted when he was a couple months old.  I had never heard of his breed, “Brussels Griffon.”  At first I got it wrong.  “Belgian griffin, or maybe pug,” I told the writing group I paid to attend.

“I love Pugs,” announced Russell Rowland.  Then, when I showed him a photo, he informed me Gunther wasn’t even close to being a pug.

Took me a week or two to learn about Brussels Griffons, and Gunther fit the description, except he’s roughly twice the size (28 lbs vs 10-15 lb) of the classic Wikipedia description.

Gunther, like typical Brussels Griffons, is comically self-important, has bug-eyes, and wants to attack huge ferocious dogs.  This last trait is the reason for some scars on his butt and a $300 vet bill.  I had to give him pain medicine and an antibiotic for a week.

He’s a better dog now than when he was as a puppy.  He used to poop in the house and chew the furniture.  He even chewed my glasses.  My new glasses that cost, like $400.  They probably tasted salty.  I have them still.  The damage to the lenses is near the edges, so I could still wear them, damaged bows and all.  

We selected April 3 arbitrarily because P.’s father’s birthday was on that day in 1899.

Michael Fitzpatrick, Jr. bowled a 300 game.

Mike, in the US Air Force. I was probably an infant when this picture was taken.

I want to share some thoughts about a Crow gentleman, Michael Fitzpatrick, Jr, a young 85-year-old with whom I enjoyed working.  His death notice appeared this week in the Gazette.  Bullis Mortuary provided an obituary on line, which I am including here.

I worked five years at Crow as a pharmacist, most of the time with Mike.  Working at Crow IHS pharmacy was no longer as much fun after Mike retired in 1995, so I returned to my job at Lame Deer, even though it meant driving 40 extra miles.

Michael had a rich sense of humor.  I wish I could share some instances here, but I don’t think I should.  I mean to assure you he was gentle, loved to tease in the Crow way.  He was always good-natured and kind.

Plus, he was laid-back and grandfatherly, and he knew how to deflect the slings and arrows of our hard-charging boss, Jim Carder.  

I was inclined to be lazy, and Carder always attacked me at annual evaluation when he criticized my inability to plan.  Because I didn’t routinely stock dozens of empty vials and lids into a drawer at the end of my shift, I got a poor grade.  I suppose I should have thought ahead, but couldn’t he have said something before evaluation time?  Sure, I should have been able to figure it out, but I was usually tired!  Also, I didn’t think it was my job.  Wasn’t I a professional?  Maybe, but not professional enough.  Because I didn’t plan. 

Enough of a rant. Back to telling about Mr. Fitzpatrick.

Mike started working as a supply/pharmacy technician in 1958, when I was nine years old.  

In those days, he said, he used to manage large post-WW II stockpiles of medicines for the Public Health Service. 

When I worked with Mike starting in 1990, he often sat in a little alcove, surrounded by the stock bottles of medicine that he made up for the nurses who worked nights and weekends on the inpatient ward of the clinic/hospital.  He kept meticulous records.

Well, if I couldn’t find a medication for a prescription, his mellow voice could be heard, “Look in the fridge!”  

If that failed, and I couldn’t find the medicine in a list, he’d say, “Look under ‘sodium.’”

He also told me about Crow cultural ways, such as language and the clan system.

He told me how one of his friends played marbles with an artificial glass eye. I later gave the friend, Robert Seestheground, a ride to Hardin, and I asked if the story was true.

It was. I asked Mr. Seestheground what happened that he lost an eye. He explained he got poked by cheat grass when he jumped off a fence. I asked him if it got infected? “Almost,” he said.

In those days we worked at the old Crow hospital, the one on the Western edge of the village of Crow Agency.  Mike retired before the new Crow/Northern Cheyenne IHS Hospital opened in 1995.

Here’s his obituary, copied verbatim:

Michael Edward Fitzpatrick, Jr., 85, passed away peacefully on March 29, 2021 at his home in Crow Agency.  He was born to Michael and Alfretta (Pretty Weasel) Fitzpatrick, Sr. on December 15, 1936 in Crow Agency.  His Indian name is Bache’xia’sash’ (Notable Man). He was a member of the Ties the Bundle Clan and a child of the Whistling Water Clan.  He was raised in Crow Agency area and spent many happy days with his grandparents Sidney and Edith Black Hair on the Black Hair Ranch. He graduated from St. Labre High School in Ashland, Montana in 1955.  While in high school, he participated in basketball.  Mike enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was a pitcher for his company baseball team and was honorably discharged. He married Minnie Little Light in 1959 and was lovingly taken into her family.  He enjoyed his brothers in law and spent many hours golfing and telling stories with them. He was the arrow throwing champion for ten years in a row. He was an excellent bowler and bowled a perfect 300 game during his bowling years.  Mike enjoyed playing horseshoes and golfing with his friends.  He was a member of the original Night Hawk Singers and enjoyed traveling with the drum group to many powwows. He had many good times taking his grandson, Eli Rock Above to powwows throughout Indian Country.  He was adopted into the Tobacco Society by Ivan and Pauline Small. Later Bill and Josephine Russell adopted Mike and Minnie as a couple into the Tobacco Society.  His adopted Tobacco Society children are the late Peter and Marella Grey Bull.  He enjoyed catfishing with his brother John and his dad, Mike.  Mike and Minnie made their home in Crow Agency where they raised their children Robert, PattiAnn, Rodney and Rex.  Mike was employed with the Indian Health Service as a pharmacy technician at the Crow – Northern Cheyenne Public Health Hospital.  He took pride in his work and retired after 35 years of service.

He was preceded in death by his wife Minnie and his parents; his brothers Sidney, Richard, John and Lansing Fitzpatrick; his sister Gail Fitzpatrick; his grandson Brendan Fitzpatrick; his special friends Mort Dreamer and his brother-in-law Bobby Little Light.

Survivors include his sons Rodney (Dora), Robert (Danelle) and Rex (Susan) Fitzpatrick and his daughter PattiAnn (Albert Stewart) Fitzpatrick. He took his nieces Carrie Old Coyote and Jordis Hugs as his own; his adopted son Ben Hudetz of Illinois; his sisters Regina Goes Ahead, Delma Yarlott , Mary Black Eagle; his brothers Clifford (Ardith) Birdinground, Dana and Larry Tobacco; his 11 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren and 1 great great grandson; his brothers in law and good friends  Leo Hudetz and Cornelius Little Light, his life-long friends Larry (Agnes) Pretty Weasel, Sr. and John Paul Other Medicine, special neighbor and friend Robert Clarence Pickett and his golfing buddy Bud Moran; his sisters in law Lena and Ella Little Light and Janice Hudetz.   As well as his extended family including the Stewart, Pretty Weasel, Other Medicine, Pretty Paint, Shane, Doyle, Walks Over Ice, Long Ears, High Nose and the families of Edith Bird in Ground, Bernice Jefferson, Arthur Stewart Sr., Stacy Stewart, Theresa Guns Shows, Jeanette Adams, Catherine Little Light, George Little Light Sr. and Dorothy Takes Enemy. Mike was a well-known member of the community and had many friends who will miss him. His family is large and if we have forgotten you, please accept our apology in our time of grief.