Critique of Bear Island (Part 3)

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The third section, Hole in the Day: Grafters and Warrants, begins with turbulent natural images around Leech Lake, and transitions into the equally turbulent social conditions on the reservation as a result of demeaning “treaty ties,” “federal legacies,” and “shady agents.” Then Vizenor begins to elaborate on the main character of this section, Chief Bugonaygeshig, Hole in the Day, who, the reader found out earlier, was disrespectfully called “Old Bug” by the local long knives. Continue reading

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Critique of Bear Island: (Part 1&2)

Bear Island 1

 

PART ONE:

Bear Island: the War at Sugar Point is by Gerald Vizenor. The foreword by Jace Weaver and the introduction by Vizenor give a fairly detailed account of the Sugar Point incident near the more notable Bear Island. It was an incident that predominantly occurred after Chief Hole in the Day became upset at being forced to walk a long distance after being acquitted of whiskey running charges. He swore he would never deal with the white man’s court again, so when he was again subpoenaed to go to court, this time as a witness, he refused. Thus, the authorities attempted to arrest him, but the chief called for aid and approximately twenty natives helped him escape. Continue reading

A Man is a Man by His Actions

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I’m a boy from the slums where livin’ is rough

Fought daily for survival, you’ve got to be tough

One on one is expected, but one against many is too

Arise and keep swingin’ or they’ll walk all over you

 

If you can’t take a fall and quickly bounce back

You’ll never earn respect, and they’ll never cut you slack

You learn to be ruthless, when ruthless is called for

But don’t let it change you, not deep in your core

 

Being ruthless is not the same as being mean

It’s taking others down, but keepin’ it clean

Purely for self-defense or in defense of others

Continue to respect life: fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers

 

From slums to foreign soil when fightin’ for “Uncle Sam”

For freedom and G.I. brothers… fuck the political flim-flam

Busted and bloody, but I returned standing tall

But don’t give me no praise, give it to those who gave all

 

Dad said, “A man is a man by his actions

not from his years on Earth;

he sweats courage and bleeds honor

and guards integrity for all it’s worth”

Dad in Navy

Alferd Packer the cannibal tracker

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Alferd Packer, aka Alfred,

alias John Schwartze,

earned his claim ta’ infamy

as a mountain guide ta’ greenhorns.

Born in Colorado,

with only a smidge of education,

he grew up rude an’ crude,

an’ all humanity he did scorn.

At first he tried prospectin’,

he survived by eatin’ game,

but skills fer’ findin’ precious metal

had never lived within his brain.

He was good at drinkin’ courage,

he could talk down tenderfeet,

but when push came ta’ shove

he would crack under the strain.

In the early eighteen-seventies,

a miner struck it rich,

which brought a heap a’ dreamers

ta’ the mountains of Utah.

Yet most who came ta’ prospect

were as poor as Packer at it,

they all dreamed of bein’ Big Chiefs,

but they labored like a squaw.

In the Fall of seventy-three

Packer changed his way of thinkin’,

instead of scratchin’ dirt

he would snatch from those who would.

He conned nineteen Eastern lillies

into acceptin’ him as guide,

an’ they set out in a Winter,

at a time when no one should.

It was record breakin’ cold,

an’ the game it went ta’ ground,

so all these would-be miners had

was carried on their backs.

The days turned into weeks,

an’ the weeks they took their toll,

an’ Packer could not perform

like the lies he told in shacks.

When the food ran out the party barked,

an’ Packer acted squirrely;

he was lost, an’ he knew it,

but he wanted his commission.

A stroke of luck while trekking long,

to a friendly tribe they came;

so with a full belly Packer thought

he’d go back ta’ his ambition.

Chief Ouray, with wisdom wrought

from survivin’ many winters,

told the men ta’ turn back now,

or you’ll not survive til Spring.

The prospectin’ party had a parlay,

an’ ten did see the wisdom;

what good is silver, or of gold,

if ta’ life they couldn’t cling?

A loud-mouthed braggert, Packer was,

he mocked the ten fer’ quittin’,

but all he really cared about

was the money he would lose.

Salt Lake City was not an option,

Packer knew he could not go back;

back there his debts were high an’ wide,

an’ this grubstake was all he could use.

So off they tredged within the storm,

ta’ find within a few weeks,

the very same dire consequence

that had made them desparate before.

Then bickerin’ became the norm,

the party it split again,

to the Los Pinos Indian Agency:

the number ta’ go would be four.

The weather was bad,

the directions not good,

only two men ended up where they should:

an’ that’s after days in the blizzard.

They were gaunt, they were stringy,

they looked like Death come a walkin’,

an’ both were so hungry

 they’d be happy ta’ eat a lizzard.

Though as bad as it was

it coulda’ been worse,

they coulda’ remained with Packer,

like Swan, Humphreys, Noon, Miller, an’ Bell.

Off in the frozen beyond,

in an’ abandoned trapper’s cabin,

they ate their last meal

an’ laid down ta’ fight the chill.

From nineteen men ta’ five,

Packer saw his profit dwindlin’,

so he swore it was the end,

an’ took action ta’ see it thru.

Single-shots ta’ the heads

of all but Miller,

who awoke from the sounds

an’ arose fer’ a fight.

But alas, he was weak

an’ disoriented,

an’ Packer caved in his skull:

a ghastly sight.

Then thru the pockets

an’ packs he did go,

no food did they have,

just thousands in cash.

Yet that wouldn’t do,

he quickly surmised,

an’ the obvious

came in a flash.

With knife in hand

he cut an’ he sliced,

an’ filled his pack

with meat from the men.

A matter of taste,

man breast was his liking;

he judged it quite good,

as he swallowed his sin.

Though at civilization’s door

he would toss the remainder away,

an’ play the last survivor role

fer’ at least a country minute.

He then spent freely

from what he stole,

an’ the wise began ta’ wonder,

an’ Packer knew he stuck his foot in it.

But the biggest ‘damn’ was yet ta’ come,

indians found them on the way in:

the human jerky he tossed away

this time came ta’ bite him.

The jig was up,

his lies unfold,

he would show the law

where the story turned grim.

Yet even then he tried ta’ lie,

ta’ claim it was self-defense;

but with four in bed, with shots ta’ head,

it easily broke that spell.

We’ll take ya’ back an’ do it right

the law dogs quoted sternly,

but these five souls will never rest

til yer’ shit deep in hell.

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© JW Thomas

Abilene: wild beginnings

 

In the early days of Abilene

A wide open town in Kansas it would seem

They had a few who served the law

Those quick on the draw

But for the most part it was wicked and mean

 

You would see a gunfight pert near every day

Many came to the town honest then started to stray

Life was an oddity

And death was a commodity

For residents in Abilene in its heyday

 

Many a souls there quaked and quivered

Hoping by day-break they’d be delivered

The drunks had stopped drinkin’

By morning they’re stinkin’

And shoot ‘um ups slowed cuz’ gun hands shivered

 

But mornings turned to noon and then to night

And hangovers gave way to the call of dance hall delight

Between dealings quite shady

They’d court a scarlet lady

And just for kicks they’d cause someone fright

 

Cowboys and floozies danced cheek-to-cheek

Then turned and switched partners for a whole new treat

Cowboys chose pokin’

Or opium smokin’

Yes, every known sin was on an Abilene street

 

Don’t turn down a drink or you’ll be called out

Don’t be caught with a hole-card or you’ll feel a clout

Keep your horse off the pool table

And your paws off Aunt Mable

And you might live to see what Abilene’s all about

 

 

© JW Thomas

Killing Bill Dunn

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[Charley Pierce and Bitter Creek Newcomb killed by Dunn brothers]

Bill Dunn was a hunter of men.

Hunting bounties was a trade for him and his kin.

Calvin, George, Dal, and Bee,

brothers in a bloody family.

They spent most of their time engaged in some sin.

 

A road ranch was owned by the Brothers Dunn.

It was sometimes used by men on the run.

The men would salivate

Over teenage Rose, the bait,

till each of her brothers came with a gun.

 

When Charley Pierce and Bitter Creek Newcomb spent the night,

they were caught by surprise like a deer in the light.

As a matter of course

each stabled their horse,

then were waylaid with an ambush done right.

 

When loading the bodies for a trip to town,

Newcomb — thought dead — started coming around.

No thought of their sister,

just “a glass of water, Mister.”

But they sent him to Hell where no water is found.

 

Bill Dunn was with the posse that dropped Bill Doolin the same way.

But the townsfolk started wondering about their sense of fair play.

Bill tried to shift blame,

using Frank Canton’s name;

but his mouth charged a debt his body would have to pay.

 

Deputy Sheriff Canton faced Dunn on the streets of Pawnee.

And Dunn drew first for all witnesses to see.

But Canton was faster

to trigger his blaster,

and a head shot sent Bill Dunn to Death’s mystery.

 

 

© JW Thomas

Dutch Henry: outlaw

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German born of Dutch descent his name was Henry Borne
Dutch Henry was his alias that many men would scorn
By a twist of fate
He chose the States
And became a person no one would mourn

A member of the 7th CAV, known for Custer’s folly
Mustered out in the sixties, he was anything but jolly
He joined the ranks of fools
Stole twenty government mules
And he was arrested soon after, by golly

At Fort Smith he was taken and charged with the crime
Then sent off to prison to do all his time
But three months was enough
He thought it too rough
So he escaped from the grit and the grime

He soon built a rep that was second to none
A horse thief with a gang up to 300 guns
He’d send forth the word
And they’d bring in the herd
The law wanted Dutch who was kept on the run

Well, Bat Masterson finally took ol’ Dutch in
Only to find out he escaped justice again
The law was encumbered
But Dutch’s days were numbered
He soon found himself doing twenty in the pen

When he got out he wanted to sob
He found that progress put him out of a job
The horse was “has been”
The auto now “in”
So for the rest of his days he was a miserable slob

© JW Thomas