The Reach

 I have a friend who found out what it would have been like.  When he was young he was married.  He eventually divorced his wife and he had a good career at that time. Like lots of young men he eventually quit his job and did things here and there. He always wondered what it would have been like if he stayed married to his first wife and stuck with that job.  He always thought he would have lived in a ranch style house with horses, a lawn and a nice car.  I have heard people talk like that.  They had something real good and they lost it.  They would speak wishfully of what could have been.  They never got the chance to find out but he did.

 He met this women he liked.  She was a fine honest women.  She loved him and wanted him to move in with her.  She already had more than one house and wanted to buy a nice house so they could live together.  She tried to buy another house but the credit guy said she needed more income because she already had other houses.  At that time the guy had a steady job with a good history of employment.  So he applied for the house with her and she was able to buy it.  He could tell she really liked him but he felt kind of funny because he didnít really feel the same way toward her, but this was his chance.  He could live the life he would have had if he didnít mess up.

 So he moved into the nice two-story house.  There was a swimming pool, a lawn, a white fence, horses and a Mercedes car.  She told him he had to cut his hair and wear a suit so he would look like a guy who could drive a Mercedes.  So he cut his hair and wore a suit.  He thought to himself that this is how he was supposed to live.  So he lived that life he would have had and he really tried.

 One morning he looked at his face in the mirror and he wasnít smiling.  He tried to smile so he could be happy but only his mouth smiled.  That night he looked out the window and in the moonlight he saw the lawn and white fence.  Then he would think about his house on the reservation.  He would think about the dirt yard and broken down barbed wire fence.  He would think about driving up the dirt road in his Junker car and the bumps and dips in the road and how if it rained you had to drive off the road on the grass because your carís wheels would spin on the mud.  He thought about the plumbing that didnít work in his reservation house and how the mean guy he rented it from wouldnít fix it and he ended up doing the work fixing it himself.  He would think about how he and his friends would take gourd rattles and sing about the stars, clouds and crying mountains, and as he thought about the old dusty reservation he saw his face reflected in the window and he was smiling.

 So, he packed up a U-Haul and his girlfriend told him how she loved him and for him not to leave.  He told her it was just a trial separation and he would see how things worked out.  He drove away from that two-story house with the lawn, swimming pool, white fence, horses and the Mercedes, 

and he didnít even glance in the rear view mirror.

The Shovels

 Many years ago we were digging someone's grave.  There is a little cemetery next to the reservation church and people are buried there.  People would bring their own tools and dig the grave.  My Uncle Charlie Curo said, "We ought to buy special tools to dig the graves.  That way the tools would always be available and be sharp."  It seemed like a good idea because no one knew if there would be enough tools or even  if there would be the right kind of tools.  It can be really hard digging in hard earth with dull picks and shovels.  Then old Bob Quitack said, "If  you do that people's gonna die."  We all laughed at that.  This old man and his beliefs in the old ways.  Bob was the last person who knew about herbs.  If you got sick and the white doctor's couldn't fix you, you knew there were some Indian cures and Bob could get um for you.  He would go up the mountains and look for this or that and fix something up.  No one knows those thing today but back then we still had him.

 Most of those guys that dug that grave are gone now.  My Uncle and Bob are long gone.  Maybe we did have a laugh but we didn't buy the tools.

The War

My Grandma and Mom would talk about WWII. It was a trying time for the nation but everyone pitched in an worked hard to get by. My Grandma would tell how there was a tribal meeting and the government came by and told the people how the enemy would parachute into an rural area just like the reservation. The people had to keep their windows blacked out so the enemy would not know where their houses were. At the beginning of the war the US didn't have much of an army and it could have happened. There was a lot of concern that the war would come here.

I eventually talked to and ex OSS officer and she said when the war started there was almost nothing on the west coast. There was one machine gun for 400 miles of coast. They could have run right over us. My Dad said the government knew that something was up before the war started. There was a branch of the US Forrest Service that looked like a military camp with uniforms and barracks. A former Tribal Chairman, Joe Muller, belonged to it and my Dad remembered him wearing an army uniform. This was probably to circumvent some type of military funding restriction. Still when the war started there was no equipment available. The US Forrest Service gave up all their radios and binoculars and had to use the naked eye to spot fires. Indians had good eye sight so they were used to spot fires and to report aircraft to the massive underground communications center located in down town San Diego, it is still there under the city. My Dad taught the Marine Raiders how to use their radio equipment as my Dad was one of the few Radiomen available in those days. The Marine Raiders became legend. Like me, my Dad got a 4-F and did not serve but did make significant contributions on the civilian side.

My Grandma remembered the soldiers marching through Barona singing, "Your girl was there when you left. Your right. Your girl was there when you left." She would wonder how many of those soldiers would ever return. She would refer to the soldiers as "Our Boys."

Eventually my Grandma and Mom went to work in the factories down town. They made fighters and bombers. My Mon would eat lunch alone because the Whitepeople ate together and the Mexicans ate together but she had no one to eat with. She would climb into the cockpit and eat her lunch. There were women for Tiajuna working there. They crossed the border every day to work in the factories. The Whitepeople seemed to resent the Mexicans taking jobs so they didn't speak to each other much. One day one of the Whiteladies said to my Mother, "Doesn't it take you MEXICANS a long time to get over here to work." My Mother knew it was a snide remark made to make her feel bad if she was a Mexican. My Mother replied proudly, "I am not a Mexican. I am and American INDIAN." The Whiteladies all took a kind interest in my Mom after that. They asked her about her tribe and would even greet her in the morning. Everyone knew that my Mom was a real American.

My Grandma was very serious about her work. She took a great pride in being a riveter and getting the plans out to "Our Boys." She worked fast and furious and get the planes out before the war came over here. She also knew that the planes were badly needed and would help win the war if she got them out fast enough. My Grandma remembered one incident. The lady inside the plane was suppose to wiggle the rivet so she could apply the riveting gun and secure the rivet. One time the lady in the plane wiggled the rivet and my Grandma applied the gun. The gun went right through the skin of the plane because the lady below wasn't ready. Then my Grandma yelled out a speech about "What's wrong with you! Don't you know Our Boys need these planes! The enemy is coming and you are not paying attention! We've got to get these planes out!" Everyone stopped and stared as my Grandma fired everyone up about the War Effort. It was the only mistake she ever remembers on one of the planes she put together.

Now the Trade Towers where destroyed. For a long time I really didn't know how she felt about the enemy and preserving the country. Now I do and now we all do.

The Road to Conejos

From the Viejas reservation, near the town of Alpine, there is a five mile road that goes to the Los Conejos Reservation. The Los Conejos Reservation is a part of the El Capitan Reservation that was abandoned after 1934 when a dam was built on the El Capitan side. The Indians purchased the Barona Reservation and the Viejas Reservation. Since I was a child the people would journey down to the Los Conejos Reservation to clean the graves and there used to be a church there where mass was held. The white ranchers eventually tore down the church for its redwood and hauled the lumber away without asking the Indians. From time to time the road was graded so the cars could get down there. Then it would rain and the road would get washed away and have to be re-graded. The road down was always a tough trip and you had to really want to go there to take that road.

I heard that the road was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps because my Dad was a member and he helped build that road. The other day I asked my Dad about that and he told me the story about the original road. His Dad told him that at one time there was no road. Just a trail that the men would use to go to the nearby town of Alpine and work in the fields. One day the railroad came to the town of Lakeside. Lakeside was the next closest town about 15 miles away. For some reason the government gave a wagon load of barded wire to the Indians of Los Conejos. A huge wagon came to Alpine and followed the stage coach road to the trail that lead to Conejos. The wagon could not go down the trail so the team of horses was unhitched and the wagon was left at the top of the trail. For a long time the wagon and barbed wire just stayed there as the Indians couldn't figure out how to haul the wire down. They eventually decided on a pack train of horses that would haul down the wire little by little. For some reason they never followed through. So the wagon and wire stayed there for a longer time. I asked my Dad how come someone didn't just steal the wire and he said in those days people didn't do things like that. It made me remember how the church was torn down and hauled away and how times have changed.

Finally they decided to make a road down to the reservation. All the people got together and built the first road down to Conejos. It took a long time but in those days people did things that needed to be done. They made the road good enough so that wagon could get down there. It was actually a boon to the tribe because then the Indians could buy wagons to haul goods back and forth. So the reservation was no longer so isolated and lives of the people changed forever.

In later years it allowed the white people to sneak in bust down and haul away our church.

My Mom's Driving

My Late Mom used to drive a car, just barely. She was very short and you could just see her tilted head over the driving wheel. She would drive down the freeway and just change lanes. She would not signal or even glance in the mirror. Behind the car there would be the inevitable car horn and squealing of tires. One day I finally said, "Mom, why don't you check the driver behind you?" She looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, "He's got brakes."

She had a problem telling right from left. If you asked her what way is right she would make a motion in the air with her right hand. She was writing her name so she knew that way was right. She could not do that while she was driving in a car but she would extend her thumb and index finger. She would glance down and see which fingers made an "L," that would be left.

To this day I do not know if my Mom was smart or, what?

Life of a Deer

When I was a kid, the reservation was still isolated and the outside world was still a mystery to my family. One day I walked into the house and I saw my Mother reading a newspaper with a look of concern on her face. Someone was sharing the newspaper with her. My Grandma Phil and another visitor was there but that was a long time ago and I don't remember who it was. My Mother said "The newspaper says that when Whitepeople hunt they only cut off the deer's head." My Grandmother had a very stern look on her face, she was famous for that look. She said, "They just leave all meat there and don't take it with them."

 Everyone in the room looked upset and maybe my Mother was not talking to me, since I was just a kid. I was too young to understand what the people were feeling. I did know that deer hunting was very important and there was nothing like having deer meat on the table. The hunters would track and get the deer. They would come back and share the deer meat with as many people as they could. The life of the deer was/is very highly respected. I really don't know how to explain it but it is like animals are people.

It would be many years later when I learned the word  "Blaspheme."