A Strange Way of Thinking

I’ve encountered this other places, but the first time was several years ago from the man in the picture.

Dean Kindsvater.  Deano.  A man who never saw $50,000 free and clear in his sixty-four years of life.  He played the lottery, but he’d scoff when the prizes weren’t in the high millions.  He’d buy tickets for the big jackpots and wouldn’t even check them if nobody won.  “Hell,” he’d say, “those small prizes aren’t even worth the trouble!”

Here’s a guy, never finished high school, left home in his low-teen years, bounced around as a dish washer and short-order cook for years.  Finally got into the HeeChee jewelry manufacturing business in the early `70s.  Bought an old railroad hotel in Belen, NM, ran a team of illegal aliens out of the top floor until someone discovered Heechee  could be made cheaper in Southeast Asia.

Deano rode through, living in one room of the bottom floor of that hotel the remainder of his life.  Windows all boarded up, top floor a vacant ruin of pigeon droppings and the debris of the life of the man.  He opened a junk shop and sold odds and ends and made up the difference moving a little jade on the side.  Lived downstairs with a propane bottle for heat, extension cords running all over the place from the one outlet, keeping the TV going, the microwave oven for coffee, refrigerator for TV dinners. Cold water sink to wash his utensils.

Three mongrel dogs living there with him.

The only book Dean ever read in his entire life convinced him he could make a living playing Blackjack, which he couldn’t.  Visiting him in that hotel the first time, knocking on that door, hearing him coming from the interior coughing, reminded me of a Frankenstein movie, him as Igor.

I was with him once when someone asked him what religion he was.  “Christian.”…. “No… I mean what denomination?  Catholic?  Baptist?”

Deano thought about it before he answered.  “Catholic.”  But the conversation afterward suggested Deano didn’t know the difference between a Catholic and a Baptist.  He’d never stopped to think about it.  To him those churches he never went into were all alike, all the same bunch of folks.  Never entered his mind that it might be something worth thinking about.  Never been in a church in 64 years of life, never paused to wonder anything at all about anything at all, so far as I could tell.  A unique man.

But Deano thought the prizes too small to bother with if the jackpot was just $10 million.  Never even bothered to check if he’d won  the $100K someone had a ticket for in NM, but had never claimed.  He had, in common with a lot of other people, that scorn for the smaller prizes that could have changed his life.  He’d probably be shyly flattered, knowing his picture was up here for strangers to see.  Flattered and a little suspicious.  “How’s this going to make anyone any money?” he’d ask the universe.

RIP Deano.

Hope the prizes are bigger wherever the heck you are these days.

Old Jules

12 responses to “A Strange Way of Thinking

  1. Guys like Dean make things go round.

    I put you on my blog list Jules but I see it does not update so it never gets to the top. I think that has something to do with enabling the RSS feed or some damn thing like that.

  2. This story has a sad Kerouacian beauty to it. Thanks for posting.

  3. Sgt. Jarhead: Thanks for the visit, the read and the comment. I just came across your blog this morning, enjoyed it thoroughly.

  4. Pingback: More Future Me: Bass-ackwards Letter to the Past | So Far From Heaven

  5. Connie Sullivan-Blum

    Jules – may I use this picture in a talk I’m giving? I’m doing a talk on picking and scrapping in upstate New York and I want an image of a “junk” shop. the story reminded me a lot of the people I know.

  6. Old Jules,

    I came across your blog about an old friend of mine, Dean Kindsvater. Although I don’t deny that your observations about him may ring true, but it presents an unbalanced perspective of Dean and his life. Your essay may stand as his only epitaph and it describes a pitiful one-sided view of an old friend.

    I met Dean in 1974 when I first got into the jewelry business. My partner, Jim Ricker, and I had just started a turquoise heishi company when we happened to meet Larry “Dean” Kindsvater at the “Turquoise Nugget” in Flagstaff, AZ He immediately ordered some turquoise strands from us and said he would be back every week to buy more. Dean became one of our main buyers and was one of our more dependable sources of income. Dean was a godsend in our early days because he was well known, well connected and bought in quantity. Everyone in the jewelry business looked forward to Dean coming to town. Dean’s early fame came from the creation of a heishi shop in Belen, NM which was one of the largest heishi manufacturing shops at that time. He did it at the right time and made a bundle; true enough, wealth never stayed with Dean, but it may have been his early success that kept him looking for the bigger pot of gold. He never gave up on his ideas.

    Two to three times a month Dean would come to town. Several of us would meet with him at his motel room for poker and drinks. We thoroughly enjoyed Dean, he was an unusual character. Toward the end of the 70’s the Indian Jewelry business was destroyed by the Filipinos who manufactured and sold jewelry for less than it cost us to make it. They used fake turquoise and fake silver. Within a year or two, the Indian Jewelry hey-day was over; the fad was gone. The last time I saw Dean was when he pulled up to the house in a Lincoln convertible, shirt partially unbuttoned and a big grin on his face. He was headed to Vegas to play blackjack.

    I never judged Dean’s life nor was I critical of what he did or how he lived. Dean was a friend, I accepted him at face value and I enjoyed his company.


    • Thanks for the comment, Roger. Nice to get a glimpse of Deano’s life from before we knew him (I only met him a couple of times, but they were memorable experiences). I am not sure for how long Jack knew him, or how they met, but he definitely valued his relationship with him. He was certainly unique. We were both sorry when he died.

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