My Uncle was Pancho Villa

Prohibition for the Indians ended in 1954. Before that time it was illegal to sell alcohol to the Indians. Many Indians were bootleggers and sold alcohol. Those Indians who could still buy alcohol were those that didn't look Indian or who spoke Spanish. (My Grandmother was one) If you wanted to go to a bar you had to go to the Hispanic neighborhoods and talk Spanish. There are funny stories as Indians who couldn't quite speak Spanish and tried to buy spirits. One of the funniest is about my Grandmother's sisterís husband who happened to be my Grandmother's husband's brother.

He went to a bar in the Hispanic part of town and was having a good time drinking. He began to suspect that they might think he was Indian so he had to come up with a cover story. His Spanish wasn't very good so he tried to figure up a story. Finally he said to the people around him "Do you know who I am, I'm Poncho Villa!." At that time Pancho Villa was raiding the U.S. along the Mexican border and he was rumored to be in Tiajuana.

He was in jail three days and couldn't figure out how to prove he wasn't Pancho Villa. He was about the same age and size and even looked like Pancho Villa. Finally his family found him and had to get the Bureau of Indian Affairs to come down and tell immigration that they did not have Pancho Villa in custody but just John Curo a local reservation Indian.

Sometimes itís better to be just who you are.

Joe the Bus Driver

I am always amazed that there are people who would stand up for the Indians for no gain for themselves. I later heard the saying "For evil to succeed all it takes is for a good man to do nothing."

When I just started school we had a bus driver named Joe. I remember going to school with Goodwill clothes and having to put cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes. All the Indians were that way so it didn't bother me at all. I guess Joe knew this.  I remember that Joe would sometimes stop the bus in Lakeside, the nearest town, and buy treats for the kids on the bus.  I was astounded that someone would do that for us. Candy was a big treat back then. The Indian students had bus number four, the oldest bus in the district. We also had the longest run and the old bus would sometimes not be able to chug up the steep grade to the Indian reservation and would break down. I noticed that other kids got new busses and I wondered what it was like to ride a new bus.

One day Joe stopped the bus on the way home from school. He said that we would be getting a new bus. He told us how he went to complain on why shorter routes were getting new powerful busses and why number four was to be rebuilt again. The people in charge told him that giving the Indian kids a new bus would only result in the interior of the bus being ruined by the children. He took them out and showed them all the busses. Number four was the oldest bus but it did not have any cuts, graffiti, or cracked windows. It was the only bus that did not have any damage to the interior.

Later on in life I found out that he eventually became the person in charge of all the busses.

Today, out of habit, I will wear shoes until they are flat but they never get holes and I can always buy new ones. I can eat all the candy I want. I don't remember what kind of candy Joe bought us but boy it sure tasted better than the candy I buy today.

The Big Mouth

My late mother told me this story about one of our relatives. This story took place in the late 40's. When my mother would tell the story she would mimic the voices and expressions.

There was one guy who told whopper stories all the time. He could do this and that, and he did this and that and he knew so and so.  I guess we have all known people like that.  One of his brags was that he knew Bob Crosby. When the radio would play a song by Bob Crosby's band he would say "Hell, I know Bob Crosby."  His friends got sick of this story, but the stories would help him get the ladies' attention and his friends would envy him. How could an Indian know Bob Crosby? So his friends decided to "fix his wagon".

Bob Crosby was going to be at a night club in town so his friends got tickets and invited him, but did not tell him what was up.  Somehow they got a front table and everyone waited to see who knew who.

Bob Crosby came out on stage and looked around the audience. He look at the table of Indians and his face lit up in recognition.  He immediately walked over and greeted his old friend to the astonishment of all.  It turns out the bigmouth was wounded in battle and was recovering from his wounds and was given light duty. One of his duties was to drive the U.S.O. around and he was the driver for Bob Crosby.

Another brag was that he met FDR, the President of the United States. He would say, "You can't say that to the man who shook the hand of Roosevelt." Roosevelt was a very popular president among the local Indians. He created the C.C.C. and gave the Indians jobs.

One day they could no longer stand it. They were at a bar and demanded that he prove that he met Roosevelt. The entire bar got quiet as he reached into his wallet and produced an old news clipping. There was a picture of him recovering from his wounds in a stateside hospital. It was a picture of him shaking the hand of the President of the United States.

Here he comes

Sometimes people ask me how come I went to college and became a web programmer. They want to know how to raise their children. Well there is really no advice I can give. When I grew up the reservation was an entirely different place.

The paved road that goes through the Barona Reservation was not totally paved when I was a kid. The pavement stopped just past the church. The remaining road was dirt and if you followed it for fifteen miles you would eventually end up in the town of Ramona. Not may souls ventured up the road unless they were locals. When cars did come down the road most everyone would look out to see who it was and most people could tell you who used the road that day. Today the road is paved and hundreds of cars roll down it coming from the housing developments or people going to the reservationís casino. Maybe there are thousands of cars and no one could tell you which cars used the road in a hour much less a day.

There were about one tenth the population living in the reservation when I was a kid. Everyone knew every single person on the reservation man, women, child and even the names of every dog. Today I am lucky if I know the names of someoneís grandparents.

When I was a kid I spent a great deal of time at my Grandma Philís. I used to run around in my native dress. My grandmother would say, "When a car comes down the road just hide behind the corn stalks." When I heard a car coming I would go and stand behind the rows of corn that my grandma grew in her front yard. I didnít wear shoes then so I saw no need to wear anything else.

In the evening we would listen for cars going by. Not by the road in front of the house but the road over the hills four miles away. When the small church would ring itís bell for Sunday mass or Thursday benediction you could hear its toll throughout the reservation. It began ringing a half hour before services and ring three times. The last time was when services started. My grandma and I would listen for the bells so we could go to church.

In those days everyone walked to where they were going. Why should you use a car just to go a few miles. My grandmother and I would walk through a small canyon to get to church. It was shorter than following the road. Later in life I would meet a mountain lion on that trail. I ran one way he ran another.

I remember going to Thursdayís rosary for the first time. We stopped by my Momís house so I could put my shoes on. For a kid the rosary takes a very long time. I was very fidgety and was real glad when the priest went into the sacristy. I thought it was all over and I could finally go home. If youíre a Catholic you know that the rosary is followed by what is called the benediction. To my great chagrin the priest came back out dressed in a different set of vestments. In loud disgust, and to giggles from the parishioners, I said, "Here he comes again!"