WHEN THE RED LEAVES FALL [NATIVES IN THE RADICAL CULTURE OF SEATTLE]  HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]  ADDED MATERIAL/UPDATED

 

 

 

HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] AT 18 -- JUST BEFORE ENTERING THE U.S. ARMY

OIL PAINTING BY FRANK DOLPHIN, AT FLAGSTAFF ARIZONA

 

 

 

See also http://hunterbear.org/wobbly_mentor.htm

"When the Red Leaves Fall" is simply lovely, hard as it is for
 me, old once-CP Red, to accept that bar scene with the sap hurled at
 you. But fine writing is a rare gift."  -- Bill Mandel [2002]

"Wow! Compelling story!" -- Morton Skorodin [2009]

Dear Hunter Bear,

I've been enjoying getting your e-mails for
several years. Thank you for sharing your
words and your heart. . . It's so good to hear
that your health is better!
Peace,
Joe Bruchac [Abenaki writer]  [2009]
 

Hi, Hunter -

This is a haunting, moving, lyrical piece.  You are-- among many other wonderful things--a gifted writer.

Love to all,
Willa [Cofield]  [2009]

 

I so enjoyed reading your essay on two Native Americans and their opposing ideologies.
You write beautifully.
WWW,
Mary Ann Hall Winters [2009]   ["WWW" - We Will Win is the slogan of the old Jackson Movement.]

 

_______________________

I saw them just as soon as they came in from the lower door on the far other
side of  the  vast old Seattle train station
 that Sunday afternoon in late October, down in what was left
of the increasingly Urban Renewed and Yuppie-Invaded old Skid Road district
below the totem poles on Yesler Way. Humanity numbered a few billion by that
fall of 1985 -- and many many years had come and gone -- but, joltingly and
with a sharp eerie chill, I knew immediately that it was Her. And there was
something familiar -- very familiar -- about the young and slender man of
around 29 or 30 who followed her, sometimes gently guiding.

They turned right, moving very slowly along the wall.  An old Black shoe
shine man rose from his chair, smiling and shaking  hands.  Visiting briefly
with him,  they then resumed what was obviously some sort of regular walk
routine.

She was a Native woman in an old dress and sweater, erect, walking with
stiff rigidity, short and halting steps.  And even from the distance across
the great wide floor she looked to be old with her very grayish/whitish
hair -- maybe even hitting her seventies.  But I knew -- I knew very well --
that she wasn't much older than my 51 years.  And the young guy following
her, though at first glance Black, was also as much Indian as African, and
obviously her son.

It had been a long, long time -- Another Age.  But only an hour or so
before, she had been much on my mind -- very heavily so. To an Indian, there
are no coincidences in the Creation.  But I still felt the eerie chills.

Based at that point in North Dakota, I had been in the Pacific Northwest --
mostly at Tacoma -- for a week, renewing those old Left contacts who still
remained. I was doing research on radical industrial unionism over several
great epochs.  Now, in Seattle and killing a few hours before I headed
train-wise back to the Northern Plains, I'd been wandering around the old
Skid Road area in a mild drizzling rain. And, as I hoofed it along, I'd been
doing a great deal of Remembering in what had once been the wide open
 land of  hell-raising working-stiffs.

For a little while, as I had walked that afternoon on the many rainy streets
below Yesler Way, I was once again hardly 21, a big husky Indian kid, barely
out of the Army, not yet ready to go back home to Northern Arizona.  It was
the very early Spring, 1955. And it was a gray and grim and awful time with
the Red Scare in full swing.   I was a fresh Red Card Wobbly, a member of the
old Industrial Workers of the World --  very recently signed up at the
ancient  Seattle Wobbly Hall on Skid Road.

Many years after '55, in 1967-68, we had lived in Seattle -- myself and
Eldri and our little developing family.
We came there right after we'd left the Deep South -- to which I and Eldri
had gone  in 1961 for six  extremely turbulent years in the Civil Rights
Movement.

At Seattle, we'd driven around the old Skid Road from time to time, looking
for my landmarks and memories while I noted the invasive changes even then
being wrought by urban renewal and the new human colonizers.  As we
junketed, now and again down there, it was clear that much was gone from the
old scene, including the Wobblies. Some traditional buildings and other
geography still remained.  But during that year, though only a little more
respectable and  much involved in many solid social justice causes, I never
actually walked around the old Skid Road.

And now, in '85 and a long generation after even that, I  did walk the turf
in the old rip-roaring district of long ago. The turbulent saloons were
gone, no Salvation soup kitchens remained,  a rather drab Asian marketing
firm was  in the building that had  housed the I.W.W. hall of yore.  A short
distance from that, I walked north up a very short hill to a small park.
And there, with tallish Washington-type trees all around me, I sat down in
the drizzling rain.

And I remembered when I last seen her, late one afternoon  -- walking down
into that very park in the early Spring of '55 when the trees were still
very small. And very young

And so were we -- she and I. Very young indeed.

And now -- in the Native world of no coincidence -- here she was more than
an Age later in the close-by train station.  It was heavy emotionally to watch
them. Continuing their walk along the wall, they stopped and visited with
the man who sold magazines, and then, turning left along the next stretch of
wall,  stopped briefly in front of the couple who hustled pre-fab sandwiches
and weak coffee. I noticed by this time that her son did almost all the
talking.

And by now, as they drew closer along that wall, her bronze features seemed
old, dried and sunken in a  face with sharp canyon lines. Her hair was
obviously very gray white. And she was now moving very slowly.

When I  had first seen her, not much older than I, the face was a Face
of Vibrant Fire and the Hair was Jet Black.  I had come that evening to a
bar that for me was new -- Hank's Place -- and the curtained front window
had a large, partially-raised slightly glowing red sheet of cardboard with a
bright light under it.  From inside, I could hear on a juke box a
Weavers' song -- one of my great favorites, Darlin' Corey.

I went inside.  Although it was dim, I could see about 30 people, many of
whom seemed surprisingly well-dressed.  But it was She who seized my eyes
and heart.

She was vigorously wiping a bar table.  And her eyes flashed Hot Light when
she saw me  come in -- and that was very mutual.

She motioned over to a bar stool.  I sat down.  A burly rough-hewn Anglo in
his forties was sitting next to me. "This is Matt," she said.  "From Great
Falls.  Montana.  Copper miner.  Just come over from Butte."

"I'm from Northern Arizona," said I.  I gave my full name. "Just a drifter.
For  now."

The miner grinned, stuck out his big hand.  "Well, me too," he said.  "I'm
Matt Rough."  He spelled his last name.  We shook hands.

"You're new here," she said.

"I guess so," I replied.  "You're Indian?"

She smiled all over,  "Sure am.  Blackfeet.  Montana."

"I'm Wabanaki and Mohawk," I told her. "Micmac,  St.  Francis Abenaki, St
Regis Mohawk."

"Now that's a mouthful," she grinned. "I could sure tell you're Indian," she
said.  "Just as soon as you walked in."

She moved off to carry drinks to the tables.  Matt Rough and I shot the
breeze briefly about the Big City.  The heavy bartender came over and
smiled.  His eyes were steel-cold and his mouth looked like a jagged gash in
a rough rock wall. He poured me a drink -- "on us."

Then she came back toward the bar.  But instead of going behind it, she sat
down by me -- very close indeed. Now I felt pure excitement.

She put her head close to mine, looked deeply into my eyes.  And she asked,
"What do you think of John Foster Dulles?"

The tree began to fall.  I felt dazed.  Finally, I said, "I don't like him
at all."

She smiled approvingly.  For a few minutes, we talked about the Secretary of
State.  I still felt dazed. Then she asked, "Where are you politically?"

I told her.  "I'm an I.W.W."  Matt Rough looked at me, sharply.  I reached
in my pocket and held up my Dark Red Card -- the little Wobbly membership
book.

There was, momentarily, a glint in her eyes.  Then the earnestness returned.
She looked at me carefully.  "That's good," she replied.  "But, and she
paused, then went on.  "But it's not enough.  We need to put something else
behind that, something stronger than it's ever had by itself."

The tree crashed, hard.  "You're a Bolshevik, aren't you?" I asked.  "A
Communist."

She said nothing, still looking intently at me. Matt Rough, staring straight
ahead over the bar itself, was nursing his drink.

I stood up sharply.  "I don't think much of that at all," I said.  "I'm a
Wobbly."

Her face was suddenly icy. And her eyes were narrowed and the glint was
back.  "The Wobblies don't huddle in a darkened bar," I finished tersely.

Then she jumped up and yelled, "Why Goddamn you!"

The lights went on.  Quickly I surveyed the faces at the bar and at the
table.  Matt Rough was still staring silently and dead ahead. But elsewhere
I saw storm clouds.

Step by step, I began to back out, very slowly, turning my head from side to
side.  Then something -- suddenly -- and it may have been a flash of psychic
intuition or the expression on the faces of the people at the tables, led me
to look quickly over my shoulder to the bar.  The bartender, his gash of a
mouth tightly closed and his face glowing the grimness  of determination,
was swinging a huge leather-covered sap at me.  I ducked away and it grazed
my neck.

Then I was out on the sidewalk.  The illuminated red poster looked at me.
And someone banged the door shut very hard behind me. I hung around in
front, for a minute or two.  But no one came out.

The next morning, I mentioned the incident to the regulars at the Wobbly
Hall. They all looked up immediately from cards and cribbage, books and
coffee and soup.

And they were all extremely interested.  Old O.N. Peterson, a former
lumberjack, dressed in an ancient and very proper black suit, headed the
Local.  "Mostly Communists at that place," he said. "Pretty tough outfit."
Looking at me sternly like a grandfather, he finished,  "A few are OK --
maybe. But don't go back to try to settle any scores."

I assured him I would not.  Late that afternoon, I walked north to the
little park and sat down.  The early Spring sun was warm.  Then, suddenly, I
saw Her -- coming into the park from the other end, walking in my direction.
She saw me and our eyes locked -- hard.  She stopped with a jerk.  There was
fear in her face and she moved, almost stumbling, sharply off to the side --
and then out of the park.  And Beyond.

And then I felt a very deep, poignant sadness.

A few days later, on a Sunday afternoon, O.N. Peterson, like most Wobblies a
stickler for super-precise financial accuracy, appointed a periodic ad-hoc
committee to spend an hour or so going over the financial books for the past
month.  He named me, Andrew Hatch [whose trail had started in New Mexico
ages ago and who was a veteran of several historic IWW lumber struggles],
and a colorful migratory "snow bird" hard-rock miner named Stevens who I later
knew down in Arizona.  We went over the dues payments, name by name, line by
line -- and then, suddenly, I saw the name of Matt Rough. He from Great
Falls, he of Hank's Place, And an obvious friend of Her.

I almost said something. The Wobblies wanted no Communists.  But I said
nothing.  Politics and possible political differences aside, I was an Indian
and a Westerner.  Whatever Rough was, it was Rough's business.  So I let it
pass.

The I.W.W. had inherited the large radical library  maintained for years by
the  Pacific Northwest Labor School -- which had accumulated books since the
Thirties.  Attacked from the earliest stages of the Red Scare onward by the
Washington State Un-American Activities Committee and then by HUAC and other
Federal witch-hunting outfits, the School -- formally listed as "subversive"
by the U.S. Attorney General -- finally went under.  A general council of
the spokespersons for those regional radical organizations still extant
eventually agreed consensus-wise that the I.W.W. would be the recipient of
the School's library -- with the understanding that the Wobblies would check
things out to all.

And the I.W.W. --  formally listed as "subversive" as well by the United
States A.G. but for damn sure keeping on keeping on -- brought in the very
large library indeed. To the letter, they faithfully carried out the
all-around radical consensus agreement. And I did a great deal of  reading
in that super-congenial setting with  the photos of the old Wobbly martyrs
on the wall above. And, when I wasn't reading, I was
listening to stories --  class war stories, old and new -- and learning much
that I've always treasured to this very moment.

Only a day or so after I'd seen Matt Rough's name on the membership
dues-record, a young Black man entered the Wobbly Hall to check out books.
In his mid-twenties, he was slender with a sharply quiet intensity
underlying his pleasantness.  The I.W.W. was always totally egalitarian in all
 respects -- and had been all the way through from
its hatch in 1905.  The young Black man was greeted cordially, given coffee.
When he'd checked out a stack of books and left, O.N. Peterson commented to
me, "He's a Commie.  But he's young.  Seems good."

And Andrew Hatch added, "He always brings the books back."

Not long after that, I left Seattle with my I.W.W. card and the lessons I'd
learned -- and went eastward into the Rockies for more adventures before
heading back to Northern Arizona. I always remembered all of the old
Wobblies at Seattle -- and kept in touch with them by letter over many, many
years until almost all were gone.  By 1967-68, none of the old-timers
remained.  And Hank's Place had been leveled for some sort of non-descript
and slick-looking business building.

But I always remembered Her. And sometimes I thought of Matt Rough as
well -- and the young Black man.  I knew the Communist Party was totally
egalitarian. It was a tough and brutal and racist time. Hard as Hell for
Indian people.  However she'd gotten to Seattle from the Montana mountains,
the Communists had obviously given her home and purpose.  And the young
Black guy -- whoever he was -- had found a refuge there as well.  Matt
Rough?  Well, I figured -- and always have -- that he went back to Montana
Copper.

And now, a long, long Age ahead in the Fall of '85, here she was, with her
son -- in the train station. And this only an hour or so after I'd hunched in
the rain in the little park surrounded by the tall trees which had been so
small more than thirty years before.  And remembered her with such
vital clarity.

I continued to feel eerie twinges.

The two had now turned left once again and were coming along directly toward
me.  And now I saw so absolutely clearly the burned out eyes and the ragged
face and the gray white hair.  They were moving very, very slowly and her son was
regularly and gently nudging her forward.  When they came almost abreast of
me, no more than a dozen feet away, she looked straight into my face.

And I at her.  And under the many, many tearing decades, I saw, in a deep
down illuminating flash, the beautifully vibrant face as I had first seen
her -- quickly wiping a bar table at Hank's on that long ago Spring evening. And then the
ravages covered it all again.

From my own extended family -- and from far, far beyond -- I knew the
corrosion and tragedy of alcoholism.

Our eyes -- hers almost twin caves --  lingered for an instant. What broken
pieces of Dreams and Visions with all their cutting edges lived far far down
in there?

There was no recognition from those dark caverns.

But she was still Indian.  A brightly beaded barrette held her hair back.

And when I looked at her son, I  saw clearly the young Black man who had
come to the I.W.W. hall to check out the books.

And it all came together then, in the old train station at Seattle -- at what had
become her tribal grounds. On what was left of Old Skid Road.

The young man was looking at me, knew I was Indian. Nodding, I smiled at him
and he at me.  Then they went on, very slowly, for the short Station
remainder of their walk routine.  Reaching the door through which they'd
come, they left.

And She was gone.  Forever.

_________________________________________

Some months before all of this, I'd mentioned the long-ago Hank's Place
confrontation -- two young Indians with competing radical brands of
Save-the-World -- to a historian friend of mine who published much on the
I.W.W. He suggested I write it up and get it into print.  And, when I
returned to North Dakota, I did just that.  In due course, the piece was
published in a rather surprisingly august journal along  with an excellent
sketch of Skid Road during its High Time.

But that Account ended in the park -- with myself sitting in the rain under
the now-tall trees and thinking deeply of her and of another Time.

My essay did not go into the old train station.  I  simply could not bring
myself to
do that to her. Certainly not at that point.  Not then.

Over the many decades after our meeting at Hank's Place, I had often
wondered  whatever had become of this beautiful and fiery Torch.  The
Communist Party went through wrenching factionalism beginning only a year
after our meeting. That built to tremendous  internal intensity in '57 --
when many indeed left it forever.

She, like I, was Indian and therefore most likely  to place loyalty to
friends over any ideological intricacies. And did she ever go back Home -- I
had frequently wondered -- back to the Blackfeet country?  Or had she stayed
in Seattle?

Now I knew.  And the truth was super heavy.

So when I wrote the  initial piece about the two of us and Hank's Place and
Wobblies and Communists, I stopped the ending short.  Let those
professorial readers, I figured -- all of them --  speculate as I had for
more than 30 years on the possible scenarios of her personal and political
future:  the Sun and the Clouds.  And let them, as I had for so very, very
long a time, remember the extremely young and the extremely  beautiful --
and the
extremely committed -- Native person in that early Spring evening during
that hideously grim time in 1955.

Let those initial readers remember Her -- as I still try to.

But until now, no one will remember the dried Red leaf, blowing along the
tortured Earth, blowing toward the inevitable Winter.

Hunter Gray  [Hunter Bear]
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

_________________________________________________________

INSERT NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR [APRIL 8  2007]

THE THINGS ONE FINDS ON GOOGLE:

American Communism and Anticommunism:
A Historian’s Bibliography and Guide to the Literature

 Compiled and edited by John Earl Haynes

Chapter 22

Biographies and Memoirs of the American Radical Left

John R. Salter

Salter, John R., Jr. “Red Encounters.” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 78, no.
1-2 (January-April 1987). Reminiscences about a 1955 confrontation between
Salter, then a young Wobbly, with Communists in a Seattle bar.

****************************************************************


ADDED NOTE:  HUNTER GRAY TO BILL MANDEL -- WHOSE COMMENT IS ATTACHED [9/13/02]

Bill:

I'm delighted that you like Red Leaves and I much appreciate, as always,
your fine words.  I was surprised at the various levels of emotion that
arose within me as I did the piece and which, in their own way, quickly
carried me far from the Idaho mountains and 2002 -- and  right back into
that fascinating time.  I'm posting this on our two Lists -- Redbadbear and
Marxist and a couple of others as well  --  with regard to a word or two on
violence in the Skid Road district and related matters. [I've been up
unusually early this morning to see an offspring off on a short junket.]

I miss those days when I knew full well that I could save the world by
myself.

In a word, the Hank's Place bartender swinging his heavy sap at me -- only
grazing my neck, thanks to my quick reflexes -- was par for the general
Turf -- a natural piece of the local culture.  He was an entity who, I
suspect, was far less ideological than simply instinctive in the most basic
sense and, on Skid Road as a permanent fixture, very much in his Habitat.

So, experientially and setting-wise, I certainly didn't  find the
bartender's reaction at all unusual.  I was born fighting -- and fought
physically and effectively [ and almost always defensively]  from early
childhood on into my mid-twenties.  In the South, I  adjusted, of course,
to the tactical non-violence that characterized most of us in the Southern
Movement [there were also, of course, some very genuine pacifists.]

I'm slightly -- very slightly -- over six feet and now somewhat more than
the 200 pounds of my youth. This physical construction has been helpful to
me in many ways indeed -- and on a life-long basis. I was learning about
firearms at age seven, have always appreciated good knives for good
purposes, and learned in my Teens the intricacies of dynamite and related
explosives for vocational purposes.  But in conventional fighting, I was
strictly a fist man.

Northern Arizona -- Flagstaff -- was very rough and tough [and racist] and
I grew up  much a product of that setting. The mining camps to the south of
us were, of course, quite turbulent -- and, wherever hard-rock mining still
is -- still are.  But I would have to say that the Seattle Skid Road, and
the smaller comparable stretch at Tacoma [Pacific Avenue], were settings
more pervasively violent than, say, even Jerome or Butte or Bingham Canyon.
The waterfront nature, enduringly frontier-like in many ways -- and a highly
booming, transient population -- played a key role in this ethos [and, to
some extent, certainly still does.]

Seattle and Tacoma even had the raw edge on Portland which, because of its
very early history, I've always seen as having a kind of Midwestern strain
in its overall makeup.  One of the Pacific Northwest's great journalists of
that era was Stewart H. Holbrook of the Portland Oregonian who wrote once
that the culture of the American West is  characterized by a "tendency to
threaten only briefly before acting..."  On the old Seattle Skid Road, and
its traditional Tacoma counterpart, I didn't find that people even
threatened.  Holbrook was not inclined to deep and intricate analyses of
fighting behavior -- nor, frankly, despite my sociological bent, am I.

Of course, much of this -- physical direct action -- is still broadly
present in American culture and much of human culture generally.  Skid road
and mining camp fighting tended to be "fair" in its own bare-knuckled and
sometimes booted fashion.  This was and is, of course, in sharp contrast to
official -- e.g., police et al. -- brutality, and  that of capitalism
generally.

Around noon one day, I was walking down a crowded sidewalk in the Skid Road
area when I saw  a man standing about thirty feet ahead of me, staring at
me.  As I drew closer, he suddenly reached down, seized a small portable
sign on the edge of the sidewalk -- metal sign on a short stem with a
relatively heavy base of some sort -- and struck me on the forehead with the
sign's metal edge, cutting me.  I had never seen him before.  Matter of
factly, I swung and knocked him flat down on the sidewalk.  He lay there,
cursing me, as I walked on with  everyone else -- matter-of-factly.

At a large and well known Skid Road recreational establishment -- very
turbulent and colorful -- owned and presided over by a Canadian Scot, the
patrons were virtually all lumber workers, sailors, longshoremen, migratory
agricultural workers, and metal miners passing through Seattle from the
Rockies and Alaska.  Everyone was a strong union member and almost all were
well on the Left. -- various basic varieties.  At that vasty saloon and its
related endeavours [ more attractions than simply alcohol] I never saw a
fight over ideology --   people there were not inclined to quibble about the
fine points of How To Fight The Boss and Capitalism or push conversion-wise
their particular radical perspective  -- but I saw many physical battles,
some very rough, over much else.

In that and comparable settings -- including the metal mining camps and
towns -- most verbalisms were [and are] trenchant, pointed.  Nothing unusual
about the long ago Skid Road leaflet, from which I've recently quoted a
couple of times on a couple of lists, and which thunderingly and pithily
stated that" Fascism Is The  Last Stand Of Finance Capitalism."

And, on that note, Bill, I will indeed heed your good advice about
eventually working closely with a book  editor and his/her paring knife when
that time eventually arrives -- always battling  of course [as do you and
all other very capably creative folk]  for the inclusion everything of mine
I deem precious and indispensable.

Our very best -

Hunter Gray  [Hunter Bear]
www.hunterbear.org (strawberry socialism)
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´


----- Original Message -----
From: "William Mandel"
To: "Hunter Gray" <hunterbadbear@earthlink.net>
Sent: Thursday, September 12, 2002 11:04 PM
Subject: Re: WHEN THE RED LEAVES FALL [Natives in the radical culture of
Seattle]


Hunter: "When the Red Leaves Fall" is simply lovely, hard as it is for
 me, old once-CP Red, to accept that bar scene with the sap hurled at
 you. But fine writing is a rare gift. Keep going. And when your book is
 ready to publish, don't resist the publisher's editor's attempts to
 rearrange, condense, smooth, discard. Fight like hell for what you think
 must stay in, and against anything that changes YOUR meaning. But
 remember the old, true, saw, that the greatest of writers needs an
 editor.
 Bill

 HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'
 
Check out our Hunterbear website Directory http://hunterbear.org/directory.htm
[The site is dedicated to our one-half Bobcat, Cloudy Gray:
http://hunterbear.org/cloudy_gray.htm
 
For a good feel for some of the civil liberties challenges faced by an effective
organizer, see this cluster of four related pages:
http://hunterbear.org/a_bizarre__1979_fbi_smear_effort.htm
 
And see Hunter's Movement Life Interview:
http://hunterbear.org/HUNTER%20BEAR%20INTERVIEW%20CRMV.htm
 


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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