Here too, the wild heart of the world showed itself in the dark of night, particularly the dark of the moon. I remember one especially inky night up on the second ridge line with Jimmy and Endo Bobbo. By the time we climbed to the top of The Ripper to begin our descent, the moon was down and the clouds were thick with the promise of rain by morning. We stopped at the top to eat a candy bar, drink some water and share a bowl of the holy herb, and while we were sitting there, we heard the howls of a coyote pack on the hunt. They were maybe a half mile above us on the third ridge line. Instantly, we all stashed our gear and hopped on our bikes, eager for a reason to sprint the seriously technical trail that lay ahead of us.
Twenty minutes later, when we shot across the old logging road that separates The Upper Ripper from The Lower Ripper, we could hear the coyotes were following us down the trail. I asked Endo Bobbo how many he thought there were, and he said, "a couple dozen maybe." By the time we hit the flats before the final descent to the car, we could hear the coyotes were quite close, and apparently excited. The staccato cadence of their yips had accelerated, and so too had their speed. Realizing that we were in the slowest portion of the descent, where our wheels would give us the least leverage, we rushed on without respite through a narrow tunnel of pine trees.
I was in the lead when we swung left and began the last little climb before we tipped into the final long descent. Then I noticed Jimmy was screaming my name, and it didn't sound like he was introducing me to the Italian ambassador. It sounded more like he was introducing me to a Ringwraith.
"Dude, look OUT!"
I twisted my head looked up just in time to see what looked like a huge barred owl pass without a sound about two feet above my head and then disappear into the darkness. Whoah! The owl had come from the attack quadrant and I had literally been as powerless before it as your average field mouse. Made me think. What is fast? Who is wild and free? What's for dinner?
When we got back to the car, we were all hungry, so we grabbed a burger at Hank's on the way back to town. There was a book of matches on the table when we sat down at the back-most booth. As I slid in, I opened it. Someone had carefully torn out alternating matches, leaving a distinctive gap tooth-like pattern of matches remaining.
Seeing this froze me more than the running yip of the coyote or the silent swoop of the owl. The reason was that I suddenly realized I'd seen this match pattern before. I had seen this exact pattern in a dream that I didn't understand or remember much of, except for that one detail, the pattern of the matches.
Wait a second. Did that really just happen? Suddenly I looked around and saw the guy sitting by the door had stopped chewing and was now staring at me. Excellent. Give me more prophesy, please, I said to myself. And the Dream Genie replied, "your wish is my command."
After that, my "dream life" and my "real life" started to run together like water colors, creating what I can only call impossible shades of meaning, where my dream life was sometimes prophetically true and my real life was sometimes a waking prophesy dream.
Clearly, I was in a bad way. I felt like I was in a full free-wheeling skid with a severe drop on one side and hard rock on the other, and I wanted nothing at all to do with the future.
* * *
THE VOICE was soft and hard at the same time, given to understatement and bluntness in equal measure, and it rarely spoke above a confiding whisper.
So it was one sunny afternoon when Crazy Horse inquired...
Why do Americans murder and steal and lie?
I bristled immediately. I was really starting to get tired of this whole line of conversation. I shot back ...
Hey, what's the deal? I thought we talked that subject to death yesterday!
I was just starting to come out of my seat when I froze, and tried to casually glance left and right. Gotta look out for traps. Crazy Horse had a genius for intuiting his opponents' weakness, and attacking where his opponents expected it least.
The sharp-eyed Sioux saw this quality in young Crazy Horse before he was grown or ever became a warrior. Once when he was twelve, according to Ohiyesa, he and his younger brother, Little Hawk, discovered a wild cherry tree in full fruit. While they were gorging themselves on cherries, they were startled by the roaring appearance of a grizzly bear.
Little Hawk scampered up the tree while Crazy Horse jumped on his pony, which ran some distance away from the bear before he was able to bring it under control. Then he wheeled about, pulled out a short lariat he carried with him for roping horses, began swinging the lariat above his head, and charged straight at the grizzly.
Don't let these words slip by lightly -- he hopped on his pony and charged straight at the grizzly. This alone testifies to the young man's courage and command of his stead, since changing straight at a grizzly is roughly akin to charging straight at an on rushing locomotive, in terms of ultimate effect.
But wait! There is much more of Crazy Horse in this little story, because while he charged his horse straight at the angry grizzly, he twirled a lariat over his head. This is off the charts in terms of the Sioux approach to the ever dangerous griz. No one had ever heard of anything like it before, and no one had the courage to try anything like it before either.
The most remarkable thing of all -- it worked! After a moment's hesitation, the puzzled grizzly bear stood down and circled away from the tree where Little Hawk still clung. So suddenly confronted by a dangerous foe, young Crazy Horse -- then called Curly or Light Hair -- displayed exceptional horsemanship, personally bravery and loyalty to his brother.
The thing that really got the elders' attention, though, was his uncanny ability to intuit an opponent’s weakness and boldly improvise tactics to exploit it. The Sioux were a warrior people and they knew that few have this natural military ability -- maybe one in a generation; maybe a handful in the history of a great nation.
It was a quality Crazy Horse demonstrated all his life, and one which made him particularly important at a time when warfare on the Great Plains was evolving at a breakneck pace as the American Army and the free Sioux and Cheyenne armies grappled with each other in the high prairie, groping for what would become the modern American way of war.
In the process, Indians imitated soldiers and soldiers imitated Indians. One striking example of this was the Battle of Beecher's Island in September 1868, where the renowned Southern Cheyenne war chief Roman Nose deployed his horseman like heavy cavalry and used a bugler to command them against a company of Army irregulars led by Colonel George A. Forsyth. The American soldiers, for their part, dug in "like gophers," desperately improvising guerilla tactics found in no Army field manual.
Many great Indian chiefs made contributions to the American way of war during the 19th century -- such as Yakima Chief Kamiakin, who instructed Phil Sheridan on the use of semaphore signals at the Battle of Union Gap in 1856 -- but Crazy Horse stood above all the rest in this respect. Frank Grouard, the U.S. Army scout who was a close personal friend of Crazy Horse and who ultimately played a Judas role in the Crazy Horse tragedy, called him "the Napoleon among the Sioux."
Crazy Horse "liked to have his battles planned out," as his long time comrade-in-arms He Dog put it, and he liked to lead the charge himself. Crazy Horse "always leads and he never allows his men to close up on him," observed Phil Sheridan. Otherwise, Crazy Horse's tactical versatility made him very hard to predict. Typically, General Nelson Miles, an experienced Indian fighter who faced Crazy Horse for the first time in what proved to be Crazy Horse's last battle at Wolf Mt., said his grim, five-hour struggle in the snow with Crazy Horse "was unlike any other Indian fight I ever witnessed."
At the Battle of Wolf Mt., Crazy Horse used his forces as mounted light infantry, all the fighting took place on the ground, and he initially attempted to ensnare the Americans in a trap. On the other hand, at the Battle of the Rosebud, Crazy Horse used his men as light cavalry, all the fighting took place on horseback, and he initially attempted a bold, unambiguous first-strike kill.
General George Crook was badly mauled at the Rosebud by one of Crazy Horse's most lethal innovations, a rapid enveloping technique designed to isolate and then annihilate the American enemy positions piecemeal. General Anson Mills, who survived the battle, recalled the technique from the American perspective: "The Indians came not in a line but in flocks or herds like buffalo, and they piled upon us until I think there must have been one thousand or fifteen hundred in our immediate front."
John Bourke, who was Crook's adjutant, recalled, "The Sioux advanced boldly and in overwhelming force, covering the hills to the north, and seemingly confident that our command would prove an easy prey." After a period of quick parrying in which Crazy Horse exposed Crook's flank, the Sioux and Cheyenne struck hard at the American's weak point, separating Troop L of the 3rd Cavalry from the rest of Crook's troops and nearly annihilating them.
Troops commanded by Col. Guy V. Henry managed to rescue the remnants of Troop L, but in the subsequent retreat, Henry, "one of the most accomplished officers in the army, was struck by a bullet which passed through both cheek bones, broke the bridge of his nose, and destroyed the optic nerve in one eye." Altogether, the 3rd Cavalry lost nearly 50 men.
So I'll admit I was a little nervous when Crazy Horse came right at me like that, demanding to know why Americans murder and steal and lie. It felt like he was circling me. So I turned and circled with him -- like a man who always keeps his back turned to the fire through the long night -- for I knew the very last thing you wanted to do was to show the Sioux and Cheyenne your back.
Then they would hunt you like buffalo, the way they hunted Reno's fleeing men in the retreat to the river at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Flying Hawk recalled that moment: "Crazy Horse was ahead of all, and he killed a lot of them with his war-club; he pulled them off their horses when they tried to get across the river where the bank was steep."
I also realized I was a fool to try to slip into the mall, grab a new flashlight, and get out quickly without incident. Going in, I told myself confidently -- "I can do this" -- but I hadn't even gotten as far as the Radio Shack when Crazy Horse hit me. And now there I was: trapped out in the open between a video game store and women's lingerie store. Instinctively, I flattened against the wall and tried to look unobtrusive, two things which are more or less impossible to do at the same time.
I studied my options. The quickest way out was to forget about the flashlight and just cut across the food court and go out the south doors. One, two, three... go! I peeled myself off the wall, swung into the flow of pedestrian traffic and started walking next to a well-scrubbed family of five.
I felt pretty dazed and confused, but then I had an inspiration, "use your confusion; make it work for you right now by confusing your opponent."
So I fired back at Crazy Horse...
You should get out more. It's a big world out there. And believe it or not, some people are having a good time.
Yeah, there are bad things in the world, but that doesn't mean everything is bad. Why are you always so negative? When's the last time you had a good time, apart from killing somebody?
You might want to take a look in the mirror before you start criticizing other people. I mean, seriously, what do you think the mall is all about? Hurting people? Making people feel bad? What century are you from? The mall is all about making people happy. It's about feeling good. Is there something wrong with that?
I hoped that'd give him a hefty wad to chew on, maybe even enough for me to get most of the way to the door before he returned to the attack, but I was wrong. He was on me again instantly, and it sounded like he might be about to go into one of his terrier-like shopping mall frenzies.
It makes Americans feel good to buy lies?!
This place is a soul trap. Everything here is false, and everything is greed -- greed of the seller and greed of the buyer both for things that are false...
I kept right on moving and sniped out of the side of my mouth...
You are so loose with the language. Lies everywhere? Everything false? I'm sure! Show me lies...
I knew immediately that was the wrong thing to say, especially as I was walking past the counter for a fast food chain called “Manchu Pichu,” which featured a menu that was half “Chinese” and half “Mexican,” although the menu had no suan cai, or pickled cabbage, (the most common component in Manchu cuisine), and the “nachos” they served were neither Mexican nor Peruvian (I’d say they most closely resembled Spokane bar food).
Fortunately, Crazy Horse didn't seem to notice. He was focused the basics, like air. He said...
There is no wind here. No weather. No seasons. No sun. No shadows. No sweet beauty of life in the Moon When All Things Ripen. No awfulness of death in the Snowblind Moon. Nothing real at all. The table that looks like wood is not made of wood. It is made of plastic. The floor that looks like stone is not made of stone. It is made of a polymer. The lotus flower positioned on the counter to hide the store's return and exchange policy is not a lotus flower. It is made of a synthetic fabric.
Keep right on talking there, chief, I thought to myself as I sped past a home furnishings store called The Depot Factory, which was neither a depot nor a factory, and the Everything Under $1 Store, where many items priced up to $11.95 were visible in the window. Next was a bank with a poster of a smiling woman in the window that sounded just like my first grade teacher -- "Bank accounts have numbers. People have names" -- and a shoe store that had a big, cartoon drawing of a shoe in the window with voice balloon that advised, "Be true to your brand."
Crazy Horse continued...
The things they teach you to think and believe and feel are false. They are lies that hunt the young. They keep you childish, so you have no idea who you really are or what they have stolen from you, like white cows locked in a white cow barn.
I passed yet another shoe store catering to teenagers and young adults. One of the sales people, who was himself probably no more than 18, judging by his complexion, was standing in the doorway, half-bored and waiting for something to happen. As he smiled at me and inquired, "'sup?" I could feel Crazy Horse recoil in alarm.
I said out of the corner of my mouth...
Hey, relax. The guy isn't armed, you know.
Crazy Horse replied...
He smiles like a friend, but he is not a friend.
It's just his job, OK?
Crazy Horse said...
His job is to feed little bits of your life energy to the soulless beings that rule you...
Next I skirted a kid's amusement center on the edge of the food mall. One of the rides -- a brightly painted car with a goofy comic book face -- was apparently hooked to a motion detector that made it go off whenever anyone walked by. So as I hurried past it suddenly started jiggling and laughing maniacally.
Crazy Horse hissed...
This place is evil.
I was almost there, though. Only a couple dozen yards more and I'd be outside again, back in the sunshine and the breeze. I picked up the pace, maybe even started to run a little. That's when Crazy Horse really surprised me, and he stopped me "dead in my tracks," as the expression goes.
Crazy Horse said...
I was wrong.
Wait a second! Did I hear that right? Did my man say he was WRONG? I hit the brakes immediately and said something eloquent and appropriate to the moment like...
I was so stunned I barely noticed the Mall Security Guard watching me closely as I stood apparently talking to myself and a nearby artificial plant.
Crazy Horse replied...
I said there was nothing honest in this mall, but I was wrong. There is one honest thing here. Behold! It is this hole within this artificial circle.
My gaze fell on what I initially thought was an over-sized drinking fountain, but what I realized on closer examination was actually some sort of a paying amusement that had been set up in a wide place in the pedestrian thoroughfare.
It consisted of a large smooth black plastic funnel with a hole in the center that fed a locked collection box, and a sign which authoritatively instructed readers to "Roll Coins On Funnel Surface!"
Crazy Horse was probably drawn to this "artificial circle" because the circle or ring was the central tangible symbol of Lakota religion, expressing life itself, as well as the concept of the Great Mystery at the center of all things, Wakan Tanaka.
Again I sensed a trap, perhaps the Ancient Sarcasm Trap, just as Crazy Horse whispered...
This is the one true thing in the mall. This device simply and honestly asks you to throw away your money for thrill of watching it roll into someone else's hand.
OK, I thought, two can play the sarcasm game. I said to Crazy Horse and the artificial plant nearby...
What do you expect these people to do? Get into a boutique Sun Dance thing? You think Americans are going to pierce their chests with skewers and hang for hours staring at the sun, even if you serve a trendy little merlot on the side? Let me break it to you. That's not gonna happen.
At that moment, I sensed a strange, sudden and subtle change in Crazy Horse, the way one drop of oil can almost instantly change the surface of a large pool of water. Looking up, I saw the Mall Security Guard bearing down on me. I started to go, but too late: the guard grabbed my arm from behind like my third grade teacher, Miss Smithers.
A large, imposing looking black woman in her mid-thirties spun me around and said, "No, let me tell you what's going to happen. You're going to walk out that door, and keep going. I do not want to see you in here again this afternoon." She paused slightly, and then added as a half-afterthought, "You're bothering the plants. Do you understand me?"
I meekly replied, "Yes, mam," and started to go, but I couldn't help myself. I turned back and Crazy Horse said...
Hoka hey, baby!
Then I ran.
* * *
SO YOU try it.
You’ve heard of time delay, where an event – say a sports contest -- is broadcast some time after it actually happened. Well, this is the reverse.
Say you’re somewhere, just jacking around, and inexplicably you know something is going to happen, sort of like little random bits of your life are on a six-second time preview.
Personally, I found the whole thing really disconcerting when it started. It actually made me physically sick to my stomach at first, sort of like getting big air off the first heinous drop on the old Severed Dick Trail in Vancouver, BC.
I later realized that these little six second forays into the future were sort of like "baby steps," where I was venturing a little ways outside my native time, but not so far that I couldn't look back and see my hamburger on the counter in front of me. At the time, though, the distance between then and now seemed alarmingly large, like the Atlantic Ocean.
So sometimes I'd just close my eyes and wait for it to pass, which usually took a minute or two. Sometimes I was in a situation where I couldn't do that, though, and sometimes I got distracted, like the time I was sitting in the old Feed & Read, waiting for a cup of coffee and Kristen -- the lithe blond waitress I'd met there a couple months before -- hurried by.
Gotta admit I brightened immediately, but she looked right through me and kept moving down the line. I was getting all this on six-second time preview, but I didn't close my eyes. I watched Kristin's beautiful ass striding away from me down the line when suddenly I knew the bus just turning the corner at the end of the street was about to crash through front window of the coffee house.
Without even thinking, I stood up, took two big strides and threw a flying block on the unsuspecting Kristen, hitting her up near the shoulders and knocking her flying across the coffee house floor and driving her and me a bunch of spilled food together in a tangled ball against the kitchen wall.
Wow! Talk about a-n-g-r-y! Kristen came up furious and spitting like water in a hot frying pan. With each breath she struggled to take after I knocked the wind out of her, she chanted at me, "WHAT... THE... HELL... DO... YOU... THINK... YOU'RE... DOING? YOU... LUNATIC... FOOL... YOU..."
Just then the bus came crashing through the front window pretty much exactly where Kristen had been moments before, hurling glass and masonry through the premises. The bus totally greased the four tables on the street side, the waitresses' station next to the kitchen and the kitchen itself. When the dust cleared, the nose of the bus was more or less where the dishwasher had been and my little sojourn into the future was over.
It was at that moment that Kristen and I realized we were lying in each others’ arms on the floor of a public place. Kristen relaxed and let go of me first, but she had that same look on her face I'd seen before: The Major Reappraisal Look.
"Are you OK?" I asked.
"I guess. I mean, I don't think I'm hurt," she said, laughing a little light-headedly.
I was about to say something about my knee, but there was an explosion of steam in the kitchen, and in the distance I could hear the sirens of the police and aid cars coming. I had a little hairy bud in an Altoid tin in my pocket, so instead, I said, "Hey, let's get out of here. Come on."
Out on the street, I steered us toward the river a couple blocks over. "Do you want to take a walk?" I asked Kristen. "Maybe down to the river?"
Before we had gone a block, I was glad the mighty Sisoula was close at hand. My knee was really starting to scream at me. I instinctively went into the mountain biker's injury examination mode. Right knee, above the knee cap. Didn't feel sharp, but it did feel deep. Might be in the bone, I thought.
"Hey, how about you?" Kristen asked. "Are you OK?"
I stopped for a second, stood up straight and took a deep breath."No offense," Kristen said, "but you don't look too good. Is there something wrong?"
"It's my knee," I replied nonchalantly.
"Ohhh," she said, and put her arm sympathetically in mine. "Can you walk?"
"No problem," I lied. Then something happened that blew me away. When we started off again, we accidentally started off in step, like we were in some sort epic adventure in a movie like The Wizard of Oz, and we both laughed. We were both embarrassed again too, like when we found ourselves lying together in each others' arms on the floor of the restaurant. We walked together in silence for a while, and then Kirsten said, "You knew, didn't you?"
"Excuse me," I said, playing dumb.
"The bus. The crash. The whole thing. Why..." She stopped. I hardly noticed, though. I was thrilled that she was still holding my arm.
"How..." she began again. "How did you know? How did you know that bus was going to crash through the window? You knocked me out of the way when the bus was still up the street. How did you know that was going to happen?"
We had arrived at the River Park. "Let's go sit on the bench at the overlook," I said. We walked a ways further in silence. Kirsten seemed content to give me all the time I needed, so I finally said, "I don't know 'how.' Seriously. I don't have the slightest idea how any of this happens."
"What do you mean?" she asked. "What happens?"
I suddenly realized that I was in the situation that I tried above all else to avoid -- that is, talking to someone else about Crazy Horse and the whole process going on in my head. I also realized that the thread of Kirsten and my conversation had gotten tangled enough that I could probably escape into confusion without really exposing myself, covering the maneuver with a couple jokes and the practiced charm of the naturally evasive.
But I didn't do that. Instead, I said, "I have knowledge... outside of time." Another pause. What I'd said now sounded so preposterous out there ringing in the air that I quickly offered, "knowledge outside Akron would probably have been better, actually, but you know, you've gotta go with what you've got."
Kirsten smiled. "Sometimes you put yourself down," she said. "You don't have to do that, you know. You don't have to put yourself down, at least not to please me."
I loved the way she said, "me." It was like we were on some remote beach somewhere under palm trees. So I started to talk and before I realized what I was doing, I told her pretty much the complete, no-holds-barred story of my conversations with Crazy Horse.
Revised May 5, 2010