IN THE DARK WILDS WE HAVE MANY FRIENDS [HUNTER GRAY MARCH 15, 2003] PLUS -- "JURY DUTY" IN IDAHO [HUNTER GRAY APRIL 2, 2003]
AND HIGHWAY 666 -- AND MY BROTHER, LEE BENALLY [HUNTER GRAY APRIL 18, 2003]
IN THE DARK WILDS WE HAVE MANY FRIENDS
By Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
It was completely new -- just a few early mornings ago. I jerked to a
sharp, abrupt stop on the rough downward trail. I had never heard
anything like that in the wilds before.
It boomed out in the pre-dawn darkness from a ridge across the valley -- a
half mile or so ahead of us -- a howl, deep and heavy and eerie, rising far
up and above the very high, steep mountain slopes. The primeval cry flowed
in over the dark green junipers and the brown sage and the thick red maples
in the canyons.
The Great Howl had been preceded by coyote yelps and cries at some
distance from it -- and it was followed by a few more of those. But I know
coyotes well, have all my life, and had one as my close companion
in my native Arizona for two years until he left home and got married
on the Apache National Forest.
This wasn't Them.
Hunter, my faithful Shelty, tensed tightly, peering intently ahead.
He's always extremely interested in wild canines but, living with
four house cats and my half-bobcat, pays only polite, cursory attention
to bobcats and mountain lions.
This was a wolf. I had heard they were coming back.
For years, now, I've been walking each day for several miles and a few
hours in the 'way up steep and rough country that
begins almost at our back door. That's all public land -- Bureau of Land
Management [BLM] and Caribou National Forest. And more recently -- all
winter long -- I've been doing it in the predawn darkness Cold winds, high
winds, snow, ice and even mud don't deter me. I don't need much sleep
and I do see very well in the dark.
But there is considerably more to all of this.
Ever since we returned to the Mountain West -- coming here in '97 to
Southeastern Idaho and living right on the far up western "frontier" of
Pocatello -- we've encountered various kinds of hostility from so-called
"lawmen" and racists. Almost all of our neighbors -- of many ethnicities --
are just fine.
But last fall, when I was doing my trek in the daytime, I began to see signs
in the new snowfall indicating that I'd been human-followed the day
before. And then there was the bizarre situation where, for whatever reason,
several BLM guys gathered down at the road to intercept me -- and look me
closely and surreptitiously over -- one day when I was returning
After that, although I still do some hiking in the daytime, I began to do
almost all in the very early morning darkness.
And that's a whole great world of its own.
Often there are Stars, sometimes the Moon. Frequently there are dark and
roily clouds. Sometimes snow. And the winds on the ridges can occasionally
get up to 50-60 miles per hour.
And there are always the friends. After dozens and dozens of our trips, they
know us very well indeed. The darkness belongs to them -- and now to us as
There's a huge gray/white owl whose hoots can be heard for more than a mile.
It loves to sit high on an ancient Forest Service pole that once carried a
heavy, naked No. 9 wire as a telephone link. It waits, and when we get
right up to the pole, it gazes down at us and then flaps noisily away --
only a few feet into the branches of a nearby juniper.
Going down the long remote trail into a special valley, a yellowish and
brown mountain lion once waited in the very nearby dark brush -- probably
assuming I was a tasty mule deer. When we came close to it, Big Kitty
suddenly realized who we were -- and broke noisily and ran -- but only a
hundred feet or so down the slope adjacent to us. And at that point,
it began to travel with us, paralleling our course in buddy fashion.
It's one of several lions whose pungent marking spray we sometimes smell
down in the game-filled valley and who we occasionally hear in the thickets
of juniper and red maple.
And early this very morning a bobcat did the very same thing.
And virtually every dark morning, there are several gray/tawny coyotes that
follow us -- close behind and paralleling -- for at least a mile and
sometimes two on our journey.
They and others all know us well. And we them. Bears and rattlesnakes
are sleeping but they'll soon be up and about. The snow is now gone.
And I know we'll see the wolf before very long at all.
We never -- never -- see any other humans. But in the dark wilds we have
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear] Micmac / St. Francis Abenaki / St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunterbear]
"JURY DUTY" IN IDAHO [HUNTERBEAR APRIL 2, 2003]
As if there weren't already enough complexities in our
colorful little local
world in Eastern Idaho, I got -- in February -- a district court jury duty
summons for the last two weeks of this March. Normal? Well, maybe not.
This is Bannock County. The major town is Pocatello -- in whose little
metro area we have about 70,000 folks. In addition, there's a scattered
rural population -- several small ranching towns -- sprinkled widely about
out in the county. All told, although there's much wild and unsettled
mountain turf in these parts, this really isn't Death Valley by a long shot.
I'd never been hit for jury duty. Once, back in North Dakota, I got a
questionnaire regarding Federal court. I filled it out and never heard
from them ever again.
What made this contemporary situation intriguing is that there are five
adults living here at our address. One is me, another is Eldri, and then
there's Maria [our oldest daughter] and Josie [our youngest] and Thomas
[Maria's oldest.] Samantha, Maria's youngest, is 12 and out of this
particular loop. All adults voted in Election 2000 -- and for Nader/LaDuke.
All voted in 2002.
Thomas [now 21] , who had voted for the first time in 2000, was called for
jury duty in February, 2002. Then, a few weeks later, Josie [now 23], who
had also voted for the first time in 2000, was called. In January, 2003,
Maria was summoned -- and then, in February, 2003, I got my summons for
Eldri remains at large.
All of this in a family that, in contrast to my father who was a frequent
winner of raffles and other chance contests, never wins even a cake in any
Anyway, 80% of the adults in the family at this address were called for jury
duty within a 12 month period -- and two months of family time tied up in
the wait-and-call-in routine.
I filled out my jury questionnaire -- having to cram a listing of all of my
[agitator] arrests and injunctions and related lawsuits into a very tiny
space. Josie's special friend, a young Mormon electrician [IBEW] and avid
hunter from an old Idaho rural family in and around an outlying ranch-town
in this county, was here at that point and said no one in his large
entourage had ever been called for jury duty -- ever.
I sent in the questionnaire -- and then called the county office that
handles this sorting of the souls.
The man in charge, pleasant enough -- helpfully telling me he'd never been
called for jury duty nor had his neighbors -- informed me that, every two
weeks, "the computer" selected -- on the basis of voting and driver's
license -- 250 names from a pool of many, many many thousands. "Completely
random and nothing to do with address," he told me -- reiterating that even
after I pointed our strange family stats and the improbabilities of this
happening by chance.
As I thought about this while the time drew nigh, it occurred to me that
there are two precinct voting places at a local school. One covers that
immediate down-in-the-valley area -- which is substantially minority and
workingclass-to-lower income. The other precinct's voting place -- in a
room immediately adjacent to the first -- covers our area. Although 'way
far up in this general setting where we are, there is, in addition to our
own Native family, other Indians and Chicanos and two Black families along
with some Anglos, almost all of the lower and more populated region in our
precinct is Anglo middle-class [or sees itself as that] and seems very staid
and conservative. We were one of only two families around here who, in
2000, had a large -- really large and conspicuous -- wooden sign advertising
the [ultimately successful] State Senate campaign of Lin Whitworth, senior
Democrat and major union labor figure [and also the grandfather of Josie's
special friend.] Folks in our immediate area certainly approved of all of
this -- but, below us, many signs were those of Bro.Whitworth's very Birchy
Doesn't take a paranoid sociologist [ yeah, I am paranoid -- "earned
paranoia," remember? ] -- to conjecture that a disproportionate number of
prospective jurors are presently being taken out of a relatively staid and
"respectably" conservative precinct.
Certainly, it's a workable hypothesis into I'll be looking and doing some
obvious multi-precinct research.
And the jury duty? Dry hole for all of us. Every time we -- Tom, Josie,
Maria and me, consecutively -- called in, we learned that the upcoming trial
or two had been "settled." Never got a chance to be interrogated by counsel
for both sides on my impressive arrest and injunction and lawsuit record.
Never got a chance to Pass Judgment. Never got a chance to use some of the
pointers that our good lawyer friend and Redbadbear list member, Reber
Boult, tendered me soon after I Got the Call.
And still-at-large Eldri? She hopes she's called. She's bored.
So, with our drawing Non-Luck -- well, she'll probably remain at large
Mesmerized -- almost -- by the complexities of Our Time
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
AND HIGHWAY 666 -- AND MY BROTHER, LEE BENALLY [HUNTER GRAY APRIL 18, 2003]
Note by Hunterbear:
This is a post relating to the western/northwestern NM region -- but, more properly speaking, within and immediately around the vast Navajo Nation. But first, my daily pre-dawn junket of several hours in the remote high country could have been more pleasant. The cold 40 mph winds that swept clouds -- dark and foreboding ones across the fleeting and spooky moonscape -- never became quite cold enough to freeze the sometimes slippery stretches of mud and wet sage stemming from a night of rain.
This post involves the coming change-of-name for Highway 666 ["Triple Six"]. The Arizona portion of 666 was changed in 1992 to Highway 191. All of this in both Arizona and New Mexico is very familiar terrain for me. Narrow, rugged and circuitous, the road's name change in Arizona has had no effect on the high accident rate stemming from the highway's physical challenges and limitations. The forthcoming change on the New Mexico stretch will have no effect either on its lethal impact. In both instances, highway widening -- and many special passing sections -- are critically needed.
The New Mexico stretch has another problem: Navajo drinking -- and that stems primarily from alcohol prohibition on the Navajo reservation [and NOT from any unique Native ethnic vulnerability to alcohol]. The Federal law against selling alcohol to Natives was, fortunately, repealed in 1954. But alcohol prohibition via tribal law -- supported openly by the traditional medicine men and covertly by bootleggers -- is the official law in Navajoland [bigger than the state of West Virginia.]
My respect for the medicine men and the traditional view is extremely high, always has been and always will be. But the fact is, of course, that prohibition simply isn't working at all. Bootlegging abounds -- like it does anywhere at anytime. The prices charged are extremely high and many people drive on narrow reservation roads until, off the res, they can buy alcohol at conventional prices [e.g., Gallup or Farmington.] This is where 666 often enters the picture since, on that and/or on comparably narrow reservation roads, people frequently start drinking as they drive the long distances back home. And many never make it. I have known many who died there.
One of my closest friends from childhood on -- a brother in every sense -- was Lee Taylor Benally, a Navajo kid from the Four Corners area, who lived with our family at Flagstaff for substantial periods of time. We graduated together from Flagstaff High. We entered the service at about the same time, Lee into the Navy and I into the Army -- and we kept in close touch all the way through. A non-drinker, Lee was home on leave from Guam -- and was killed by a drunk driver one night on 666 near Shiprock.
Personally, I hate that highway. But I've driven it countless times. One often has to.
Satan's highway: Route 666 likely to get name change next month
Route 666 likely to get name change next month
By Electa Draper, Denver Post Four Corners Bureau
CORTEZ - South of here, U.S. 666 is the only asphalt cutting through a barren
desert that looks about as Godforsaken as can be imagined.
Few signs declare this stretch of the so-called Devil's Highway to be "adopted"
by any Scout troop or other do-gooders. The brown glass of tossed beer bottles
and aluminum cans glint along the highway in searing sun. A few sagebrush
puncture crusty earth tinged a sulfurous yellow.
But the days this desolate road will be known by the diabolical digits 666 are
numbered. After 77 years, the road's numerals, identified as the "number of the
beast" by the Bible's Book of Revelations, are likely to change this summer to
something without an evil, some say satanic, stigma.
The 190 miles of U.S. 666 start at Gallup, N.M., wend through 70 miles of
Colorado and end in Monticello, Utah. Their de-demonization has been urged by
the state of New Mexico, the Navajos and Ute Mountain Utes. And Colorado and
Utah highway officials say they will go along.
"It's a pretty involved process, and such requests are pretty rare," says
Richard Reynolds, director for Region 5 of the Colorado Department of
Transportation. "The reason I'd like to change it that people steal the highway
signs out there like crazy."
He said the department doesn't track the numbers of stolen signs by individual
roadway, but his workers grumble that every year some of U.S. 666's are taken
and replaced, only to be taken again.
New Mexico's governor, legislators, and highway and tribal officials blame the
road's number for scaring off some local motorists, tourists and economic
development. Reynolds says the Utes, whose Colorado reservation is bisected by
666, have indicated to him they do not care for the numerical implications.
New Mexico officials also say that the stretch of two-lane, hilly 666 in their
state has a high accident rate, and the perception in Colorado is likewise that
it is a dangerous road. But Reynolds says statistics belie the widespread
belief. The Colorado section, although badly in need of improvements, he says,
is average in terms of safety when compared with similar highways in the state.
The prospect of changing U.S. 666 brings an equal mix of shrugs and shivers at
the M&M Phillips 66 Truck Stop on the southern outskirts of Cortez, a stop that
even has a small chapel run by the Trucking Troubadours for Jesus.
"I think it's ridiculous to change the highway. It's been that way for years,"
says M&M local patron T.E. Taylor, 71. "You could call it Highway XYZ; it just
doesn't make any difference. It's not a general topic of conversation around
Minnesota trucker Dave Olmstead, 49, almost imperceptibly shakes his head in
"It's a spooky number," he says softly. "I don't really care for it. I'm more
comfortable when I get off it.
"I had a credit card sent to me out of Salem, Mass., with 666 in the number,
and I cut it right up. It says in the Bible that if you take the number of the
beast upon your forehead or forearm, you belong to it forever. A credit card is
like an extension of your forearm."
His forearms are covered instead with tattoos of Native American images and a
Harley Davidson logo.
Just down the road, patrons at the Ute tribal casino on 666 near Towaoc are
also of mixed opinions. Navajo Nation member Patty Warren, 46, of Kayenta,
Ariz., says she might have better luck gambling if the number changes. Rowena
Robbins, 73, of Mancos, says she is not superstitious and, besides, she is "one
of those old people who don't like changes."
Those who never liked the 666 appellation can blame the state of Kentucky,
highway historian Richard Weingroff writes.
There was no sinister intent behind numbering the highway 666 in the 1920s. The
road initially bore the number 660 because it was the sixth branch of road off
of an interstate route then labeled U.S. 60. When Kentucky and a handful of
other Eastern states disputed the numbering of U.S. 60, claiming the digits
already belonged to one of their regional roadways, the giant crescent of
highway linking Chicago to Los Angeles became the fabled Route 66. And the Four
Corners detour off of it, with parts bleak and others beautiful, was thus
renumbered 666 in August 1926.
Route 66, eventually supplanted by new interstate highways such as I-40, is
just a fond memory for aging motorists. And 666 is likely to end up a
historical oddity, remembered as the highway to hell in films such as "Natural
Born Killers" and "Route 666."
The issue is likely to be decided at the May meeting of the American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. They are in charge
of considering road renumbering requests.
"You know what they should change it to - 777. That's God's number," trucker
But the highway group, which also is responsible for determining exactly when
the change will happen, is likely to eschew religious arcana for its own. The
new numerals probably will be 491 or 393.
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
[John R Salter, Jr]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´