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Lloyd Yellowrobe and Crazy Head Springs

August 31, 2016

Cheyenne Trail Ride 1998 6

Nineteen eighty-eight had the forest fires in Yellowstone, but also near Lame Deer, specifically the divide between that town and Ashland, at Crazy Head Springs.  We used to go fishing at Crazy Head Springs, deep ponds of icy water with planted trout.

The tribal sanitarian, a white guy, Italian, I think his name was Mark, took me fishing one day after work.  The fishing was so good I felt guilty and released mine back into the pond.  We used worms, but I think any kind of lure would have worked.  I forget what kind of trout we caught.  It all happened so fast.

Mark quit shortly after that and another named Matt came.  Matt broke his hand riding on a small motorcycle and we took him a milkshake from the local restaurant, the “Chicken Coop.”  As I handed him the shake Matt’s face got serious and he said, “That filthy place?  I mean, thanks!”

After work the next week I returned alone to Crazy Head Springs to try a lure I brought from my home in Billings.  It looked like a yellow jacket, yellow and black.  Turns out the trout weren’t interested.  But that’s when I invoked the name of my friend Lloyd.

Lloyd Yellowrobe was the clinic supply man, and even the depressed pharmacist I worked for, David Miller, spoke Lloyd’s name with reverence.  After all, Lloyd kept government issue pharmaceuticals and we ordered them from him by the case:  cough syrup, penicillin, acetaminophen, prenatal vitamins, and rubbing alcohol.  This last item was said to have helped destroy the clinic seven years later when a light fixture exploded early on a Sunday morning in February.

I invoked Lloyd’s name whenever I drove aimlessly on the miles and miles of logging roads that crisscrossed the Northern Cheyenne’s reservation burned out areas on the divide between Ashland and Lame Deer, Montana.  Well, I was appreensive.  In 1988 I had no experience with the Northern Cheyenne tribe and I was out of my element, not sure if I was trespassing.

I would drive the logging roads in the evening after work until my car’s gas tank was half gone, then return the same way.  That’s when I discovered the Badger Peak lookout tower, a metal structure built by the same Chicago Aeromotor company that made many metal windmills.  “I know Lloyd Yellowrobe,” I reassured myself as I drove, in case anyone stopped me and asked me what the hell I was doing.  Nobody ever did.  In fact, I didn’t see anyone else at all.

The road forked so many times that I took only rights for a long time, then switched to lefts.  Didn’t seem to matter.  I couldn’t tell where I was, the land was so hilly, crusted with a peculiar, bright pink rock, that someone told me was clay that had hardened from subterranean coal fires long ago.

At work Lloyd teased Larry “Rabbit” Hiwalker, who used to weigh about 350 lbs., he told me once.

In 1995 the tribe took over cleaning the clinic and Rabbit and the rest of the cleaning crew was fired.  A couple years later someone from the tribe decided the clinic was no longer getting cleaned properly, I guess, because someone went to Rabbit’s house and offered him his job back.  Fortunately Rabbit returned, about 100 pounds lighter and physically fit.

Lloyd had called Larry “Rabbit,” but Hiwalker called Lloyd “Coyote.”  By then Lloyd had suffered his broken neck in a pickup wreck and had to take disability retirement because he was no longer able to work.

One time when I was in Lloyd’s supply room he showed me a massive certificate on his wall, a Bronze Star for valor in battle during the Vietnam war.  The certificate ultimately burned in the fire and I doubt that Lloyd was able to replace it.

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