Jack wrote this in February, 2005:
All that tribal talk got me thinking about an old Mescalero bud I’ve known on and off through the parts of this lifetime that matter. We go long times without seeing one another, but we top off the long spells by bumping into one another in unlikely places.
Kurtiss and I first met working on Skeeter Jenkin’s ranch near Kenna, New Mexico. Must have been 1958, ’59. Skeeter wasn’t a joyful man on his ranch-hands. He’d berate Kurtiss by comparing him to us white lads, then he’d turn around five minutes later and tell us we weren’t half as good cowboying as that damned Apache over there.
I guess the only good that came out of that job was the bond that formed between Kurtiss and me, and the lifelong lesson I learned about not trusting ranchers. Old Skeeter cheated all of us spang out of a hard week pay and spread around the word none of us were worth the board he’d furnished working for him.
Fortunately, he’d done that sort of thing before, so nobody paid him any mind when it came to hiring us for other jobs, which we frequently got screwed out of our pay on, same as with Skeeter.
The last time I ran into Kurtiss must have been 1998, ’99. He and a couple of Arizona broncos were sitting on the tailgate of a truck parked for a powwow in Albuquerque when I came across them and a case of beer that was too close to gone to be any good.
When we’d killed what was left of that case we kicked out of there and spent the night singing ’50s rock and roll songs, getting roaring and filling in on the minutia of our lives since we’d last met.
Spent a good bit of time talking about Y2K also, which was much on my mind at the time, and they’d never heard of.
I’m going to talk more about Kurtiss in other blog entries, about his views on the Y2K ‘end of life as we know it’ I expected at the time and explained to them. Those Apaches thought that just might be something really fine. Kurtiss immediately thought of a state cop over toward Ruidoso who’s bad about kicking around folks who’ve had a bit much to drink, who mightn’t survive a Y2K event after the first ten minutes or so.
Those Apaches demonstrated some rich imagination concerning the nuances of Y2K aftermath. Thought maybe running raids on the Rio Grande tribes like the old days would be a middling amusing way to pass post-civilization, and the Arizonians were fairly sure Mexico would be open for a bit of raiding.
Kurtiss laughed, saying Navajo country might offer prospects for revenge. The Mescalero still feels resentment about all the slaughter the more numerous Navajo did to Mescalero at Bosque Redondo, decimating Apache numbers there until they were almost extinct.
Bosque Redondo was fresh on his mind because of Navajo whines he heard at the powwow. “Mescalero’s too large for such few people.” (The enormous Din’e Rez is getting jam-packed these days, by comparison.) “They ought to take some of that land away and give it to us,” was the general theme.
“We fought our way down,” Kurtiss quoted himself. “And you guys multiply like rabbits.”
This led to some laughs and sneers about the theme of the Gathering of Nations Powwow, “Celebrating 400 years of unity (among the tribes)”.
“I wonder where that was,” one of the Coyoteros grunted. “The Apache never saw it and neither did our enemies. Those Mexicans and Pima and all those town Indians were lucky the whites came along to save them.”
Mostly those guys were in agreement in their scorn for other southwestern tribes. “They don’t know how to use the land,” gesturing with a nod and a slight pucker of the lips.
But I was going to wait to tell you about all that. Guess I’ll have to wait to tell you some other yarns about that long night of drinking that came a long time after I gave up the devil rum.
Sometimes a man has to make exceptions in this life. Prelude to the end of life as we know it was one of them.