COMING OF AGE INTO THE
RED: A SYCAMORE MEMOIR [HUNTER GRAY SEPTEMBER 4, 2002] AND THEN,
FRANK DOLPHIN: TRAILS IN THE GOLDEN WEST [HUNTER BEAR AUGUST 25 2007]; PLUS, SYCAMORE TREASURES [HUNTER
BEAR, JULY 10 2006] COMMENTS FOLLOWING EACH PIECE - UPDATED 2009
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] AT 18 -- JUST BEFORE
ENTERING THE U.S. ARMY
OIL PAINTING BY FRANK DOLPHIN, AT FLAGSTAFF
is as good the second time around as the first. I think you've also hit on
something that's really missing in our world today, and that is simple rituals
for young people--ceremonies. Joseph Campbell, in The Power of Myth, laments on
how this lack is weakening our culture. Solid, sacred rituals have been
swallowed by negative, ugly rituals--boys joining gangs and getting beaten up as
an initiation ceremony. This is a needed ritual but it is happening in a
perverse way. Not everyone can go hunting but we need to find ways to help
young men and women BECOME men and women.
- John Salter 10/12/05 ]
I wrote and posted this piece a few years ago. Some
have seen it, many have
not. When some things of mine are finally published as a print book, this
will certainly be high on the pine.
It's Fall in the West. Here in the higher altitudes of the Mountain States,
the air is living-crispy during the days and the nights call for our wolf
robe or at least my colorful Pendleton blankets. Occasional rain and some
snow are slowly bringing deer, elk, and moose down into the somewhat lower
winter ranges -- not far at all above us right here -- accompanied by lions,
bobcats, coyotes, even an occasional wolf. Bears are doing their final
fattening up for their long den-sleep -- which will carry them far
feelings-wise from oncoming cold weather with its cutting winds and
inevitable snow. But now, the sky can be as blue as turquoise, the mornings
always promising good luck, and the slowly dimming early evenings with their
fading sunlight and faint haze and creeping chill have a strangely appealing
and mystical feel. The nights can be downright witchy.
For me, it's the Time of my Coming of Age Bear.
As a boy, I shot my huge Coming of Age Bear -- deep in
the vast Sycamore Canyon wilderness area in Northern Arizona. At that point,
I then became a man. The fiery spirit of the Bear and its abundantly fine
qualities -- intelligence, courage, stamina, instinct -- are with me always
and have served me very well and faithfully on my swift and rocky River of No
Return. I plan to do much more in my life -- much more indeed -- before the
eventual trip into the Fog and Deep Canyon, up over the High Mountains, and
Far Beyond to the Shining Sun in the Turquoise Sky that glows forever down on
the Headwaters of Life. And when that Journey finally comes the great Bear
will accompany me. Fall 2005
COMING OF AGE INTO THE
RED: A SYCAMORE MEMOIR
His old Stetson pulled hard down just above the eyes in
face, Frank took a stick and drew three circles in the sandy soil on the
edge of our greasewood campfire -- its low, dancing flames keeping at bay
the chilly winter cold of that semi-desert Arizona night.
"Lenin saw it this way," he told me. "These are the things that strangle
the people. Capitalism. Government. Church." And he then drew a complex
of intricate, interactive lines between and around the Circles.
And, just a few yards to the west of us, we could hear in its little gorge
the rushing water of the Verde River, just joined by Sycamore Creek which
came down from the north out of that massive, splendid and vasty wilderness
area called Sycamore Canyon -- my own great traditional hunting region.
And only a few miles to our west loomed Mingus Mountain on which blinked the
lights of the old copper camp of Jerome. Now -- with the ore just played
out -- it was headed toward ghost and artist town status. But it was once
the hell-blasting scene of legendary Wobbly and then other class war
struggles -- some of which went well into my own Teen years.
I was a young Native -- 18 --
when that campfire burned on the Verde that winter night. And Igot a very thorough lesson in class struggle ideology -- not from a college
prof-type in a suit -- but from a Levi-clad cowpuncher turned artist because
of a back broken from a horse throw.
He was, of course, a great deal more than that. Born in 1914 in upstate New
York, his father a construction engineer who later did contract work in the
developing USSR, Frank Dolphin had briefly attended Syracuse University and
then went with his parents to live in a small town in Southern Arizona.
While his father worked abroad in the Red East, Frank drifted into
California, labored in the "Factories in the Fields," became a militant and
Left farm workers' organizer during the great waves of Red strikes in the
Imperial Valley and the San Joaquin. Framed up on a murder charge, he left
California, went into the Teton Basin country of Wyoming, established a
small ranch, married and had a couple of kids -- boys.
Sometimes things -- even things in as beautiful a setting as the Tetons --
just don't work out. The War was coming on fast. Pearl Harbor was still to
occur but Canada was now fully embroiled. Frank joined the RCAF, rose to the
rank of First Lieutenant, serving in the New Hebrides. After the War, he
drifted back into Arizona, working for various cow outfits in the northern
part of the state.
And then he was thrown by a spooky horse. And he broke his back.
He never rode again. For awhile he worked as a cow camp cook -- a major and
very important vocation. But even that was tough. Horses and wagon, rough
country, long hours, heavy weather.
In time, he came to my home town of Flagstaff. There he became an art
student of my father -- who was the first Native hired as a professor at
Arizona State College. And Frank was, even then, a damn good artist.
That's when we joined forces.
For my part, I was entering a Critical Transition. I
was very much -- as a
friendly and complimentary reference on my behalf later given the Army by a
top U.S. Forest Service official said -- "a nature boy." I spent a lot of
time in the woods -- as much as I could -- and had ever since I could button
my Levis and pull on my engineer's boots. My parents were permissive but
grade school and high school were, to me, prisons -- and some teachers and
all administrators seemed to see me as one of the guys for whom God had
especially designed punishment.
My best high school memories were not classes. They were our match-winning,
champion rifle club -- of which I served as president -- and our very
wide-ranging hiking club. In each case, the faculty sponsor was an effective
teacher -- and eminently kind -- and a friend.
In the woods -- and as the years passed I went into ever more rugged and
remote areas -- I could be my own person. I was always hunting, sometimes
trapping. Claiming to be the legal Federal work age of 18, even as I was
actually some years younger, I worked very capably indeed over several
consecutive seasons for the Coconino National Forest as a firefighter and
as a remote fire lookout/radio man.
Early on in forest fire fighting, I saw, first-hand, virulent anti-Black
hate and violence in a fire camp -- and years later I wrote an
award-winning short story about that, "The Destroyers." But in other such
camp settings, coming in from the fire lines to eat and drink coffee and
catch some sleep, I heard talk -- very interesting talk -- about the work
situations in the nearby metal mines and lumber camps. Favorable talk about
militant unions, like the old Wobblies, and some of the newer radical ones.
Things -- Big Things for me -- were happening. Flagstaff, a rough and
racist mountain town bordering Indian Country, was being challenged on
the human rights front by my parents and others of
conscience in a very tough crusade. And that effective and long-enduring
struggle included people from all Native tribes of the general region and
other ethnicities as well.
There was a new War -- and a Red Scare.
There was a lot of talk about "Communism." In the final semester of my
final year of high school, our English teacher, essentially a nice guy,
brought men from the American Legion to our class to warn us about That. We
were told It was in the unions -- and that It was also, through something
called the American Friends Service Committee, trying to agitate the
Navajos in our very own setting.
I grinned on that one. The young AFSC couple, Quakers starting work in the
vast and very adjacent Navajoland, were living temporarily -- at that precise
moment -- in our house on the far edge of Flagstaff. There, they were
meeting many Navajo leaders. They also met other activists such as Chicano
leaders -- and, too, Wilson Riles, principal of the small Black
elementary school, whose graduates then went into the fully integrated
Flagstaff junior high and high school complex.
I was at virtually the end of high school when I read a copy of The
Communist Manifesto that an older academic friend of our family lent me at my
from his own vast library. I was surprised at how it stirred my blood,
planting seeds for sure.
So too and very much did Granville Hicks' excellent biography of Jack Reed
stir and plant, that next fall when I started in as a freshman at my
hometown Arizona State. [John Reed: The Making of a Revolutionary,
Macmillan, 1936.] Mother had suggested I hunt up and read that one. The old
Anglo Mississippi-born lady who was college librarian looked suspiciously
at the book and then at me. But I was an Indian and so was Dad who, of
course, was a professor as well -- and she said nothing, at least not to
any of us. The book had not been checked out since 1938.
And then, in due course, Frank came into the picture as an older student of
Dad's. And he arrived just before I completed my young life-long Mission: to kill a very, very large bear.
That was mandated from almost the Hatch onward. It didn't come easily. It
took a super long time indeed to accomplish. And then, one warm October
mid-day, well off-any-road and far, far down into the huge and remote and
heavily forested eastern slope of the Sycamore Canyon wilderness, I came to
a rare wonderful spring of pure water emanating from the rocks in an aspen
grove. Flowing in a small stream two hundred yards down a leisurely slope
through the yellow pines and scrub oak and even some red maples, it
culminated in a kind of level clearing -- a "park" as we call it in the
Southwest -- which was about 20 yards across. There the water gathered,
surrounded by and mixed with green grass.
And there in the mud I saw the many fresh tracks of a huge black bear.
And so, under a scrub oak tree, surrounded by its fallen acorns mixing with
old needles from the pines, I waited. Hour after hour deeply into the late
afternoon. My 30/30 Winchester lever action with the long octagon barrel
and the curved metal buttplate leaned against a low oak limb, right handy.
And then, looking once again at my Hamilton wrist watch -- the high school
graduation gift from my folks -- I saw that it said 5:10 p.m. And I looked
up, across the clearing.
And there It was.
It was a huge black bear, a male, walking smoothly on its fours just inside
the timber along
the edge of the clearing, its massively long arms reaching full out and moving
back and then forward again in easy, flowing graceful coordination with its
Still seated, I cocked my 30/30 rifle, aimed and fired. The bear, not
mortally hit, turned and ran directly away from me. Standing tall, I now
fired by pure instinct -- one of my best shots ever -- hitting It in the
back area. It turned, snarling and pawing, and I fired five more shots into
I had killed it. A huge bear. I was now a Full Man.
The sun was dipping far down toward the western rim of the Great Canyon as I
cut the throat of the bear and drained the blood, then gutted him. Propping
the body cavity open with sticks in order to quickly cool the meat, I also
covered the area with my sweat-stained and human-odorous shirt in order to
discourage any scavenging critters from getting too close.
Then, literally covered with the Red Blood of the Bear, I climbed out of the
Canyon in the darkness and, eventually reaching my vehicle, made it back to
Flagstaff on the remote woods roads. It was very late. But my parents were
as pleased as I.
My father and I and one of my two younger brothers -- and Frank -- left
very early the next morning with bedrolls and three day's rations for
Sycamore and the Bear. It took Dad and I several trips and every bit of those
days for us to get all of the bear meat -- in several huge hunks -- out of
the super steep Canyon. Green blow flies laid maggot eggs in the bloody
hide and we had to abandon that -- save for several furry strips which I cut
off. During this back-breaking struggle -- hundreds of pounds of meat from
the huge bear whose live weight was estimated as being at least 650
pounds -- Frank cooked for us, assisted by my little brother.
And that's where I got to know Frank Dolphin well.
And he certainly came to know me.
After that, a lot happened fast in my life. Frank told me many things --
radical and militant organizing accounts and sagas and organizations and
movements. On things like Wobblies and Communists he had some pithy advice.
"You ride one horse," he told me, "and, when it goes down, you find another
and ride it. Keep going always, full ahead."
It wasn't all Revolution and such. One hilarious account involved his
spending six weeks in a brothel at Elko, Nevada painting appropriate murals
on every wall. During that extensive, strenuous period, in which all his
needs were attended to much more than adequately, he never "saw the light of
outside day -- neither the sun nor moon."
Even at the time of the campfire on the Verde, the Army loomed in my future.
So at 18, I finally volunteered. Before I left, Frank carefully painted an
excellent oil portrait of me -- seated and wearing my Levi jacket -- and
caught so very well the stubborn Native nuances in my still-searching face.
"This is for your family," he said, " Especially for your mother." Pausing,
he then he went on, "in case something should ever happen." Again he
momentarily hesitated, "If or whenever."
He was a realist but I've been lucky.
When I came out of the Army, an epoch later, with an honorable release from
a full stint of active duty, much indeed had flowed together in an
irreversibly committed River of No Return. I was a Red. And I've been one
I went on to many, many radical social justice activist things all around
the Land. And I saw Frank, who kept on painting fine stuff, over the many
years to come. In various news media, he sometimes saw me in all sorts of
colorful and strenuously challenging situations -- and he also heard all
sorts of accounts from my family. And he had no hesitation
about telegraphing me once from a Montana jail for funds to pay a large
fine for whatever Sin -- and I sent it all and more by return wire.
Frank died in early 1973, then living at a wide place in the road called Dolan Springs --
far out yonder in extreme Northwestern Arizona and close to the Nevada
The oil painting he did of the earnest 18 year old Native who was struggling so
hard to find his bearings in the high winds turbulence of the very early
'50s hangs now from the wall of our Idaho living room. And it's on our very
large social justice website, Lair of Hunterbear
All of the bear meat -- rich and strong -- every single bite of it, was
eaten by my family and close friends over several years. When I returned
from the Army, I resumed my eating. It lasted for a very long time.
And His skull, with feathers attached and the salvaged strips of furry hide
dangling, hangs always wherever I am. It looks down from my wall, right here
in Idaho. It looks at Frank Little, Cherokee Indian, and Wobbly martyr
lynched at Butte by the copper boss thugs in 1917. It gazes at a photo of
Jack Reed at his typewriter. It looks at a sketch my father gave me in my
baby crib of the Mohawk leader, Joseph Brant [ Thayendanegea] burning out
the Anglo settlers in up-state New York in the 1770s.
And the Skull sees a bust of Lenin -- and his 45
volumes. And sitting right alongside
those great works are several
splendid books from my
Saint, Ignatius of Loyola -- founder of the Jesuits.
They all look at the Essence of the Bear -- the Skull.
And They all go together. All of Them.
Now and then, I can close my eyes and smell the greasewood fire and hear
the Verde in its gorge. For a moment, I see the creased and friendly face
under the old Stetson.
And then, as I Fight On, I draw three circles in the dust and sand.
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear] www.hunterbear.org (strawberry
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
I hope you get your bear. I don't
claim to know how such things work, but I do know there is a lot of mystery
in the universe and I still recall you very wonderful and shining vision
that you shared (and wrote about so vividly). All my best, Dale [Jacobson]
As further commemoration of your Bear
Anniversary, here is my all-time favorite bear poem, by Jim Harrison. John
My Friend the Bear
Down in the bone myth of the cellar
of this farmhouse, behind the empty fruit jars
the whole wall swings open to the room
where I keep the bear. There's a tunnel
to the outside on the far wall that emerges
in the lilac grove in the backyard
but she rarely uses it, knowing there's no room
around here for a freewheeling bear.
She's not a dainty eater so once a day
I shovel shit while she lopes in playful circles.
Privately she likes religion -- from the bedroom
I hear her incantatory moans and howls
below me -- and April 23rd, when I open
the car trunk and whistle at midnight
and she shoots up the tunnel, almost airborne
when she meets the night. We head north
and her growls are less friendly as she scents
the forest-above-the-road smell. I release
her where I found her as an orphan three
years ago, bawling against the dead carcass
of her mother. I let her go at the head
of the gully leading down to the swamp,
jumping free of her snarls and roars.
But each October 9th, one day before bear season
she reappears at the cabin frightening
the bird dogs. We embrace ear to ear,
her huge head on my shoulder,
her breathing like god's.
Thanks for a very good poem. It reminds me
of a lecture I once heard during
my first year of North Park College in Chicago. The professor talked at
length about the "groaning of creation," (as described in some chapters of
Romans of the New Testament). This must have been a religion class. I
can't remember too much else.
Again, thank you for bringing this poem to our attention. And I would like
to add my wishes for a Happy Bear Day!
When you meet your Sycamore Bear in the next , it will
thank you for the passover and welcome your wisdom in
the council of elders so conviened to consider the
greater good you have created in this world. Your
words will be carried on this cyber-wind into eternity
and all who tune in will surf among the stars, in
peace and purpose, thanks to your scholarship. Mazal
tov n brucha, good luck and blessings.
Thanks so very much for the kind Bear Day messages and the even broader
plethora of Good Thoughts from a great many good friends. [That poem, "My
Friend the Bear," is an extraordinary piece of fine and soul-reaching work.]
Loyal and faithful Cloudy , with her own substantial wild strain and
intriguing little quirks, comes to mind immediately of course. She, is
gaining weight and furring out for the winter, with her usual impressive
Bobcat ruff. I am fortunate and we all are in our own unique ways.
William James, in his "Life is Worth Living", was neither simplistic nor
trite: it is a Great Experience. And with Spirits and
Friends-of-all-Species, we are never, never alone.
Yours, H 10/18/05
[HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
DOLPHIN: TRAILS IN THE GOLDEN WEST -- THE SEARCH FOR A COWBOY [HUNTER
BEAR AUGUST 25 2007]
EXCERPT FROM "COMING OF AGE INTO THE
RED: A SYCAMORE MEMOIR"
His old Stetson pulled hard down just above the eyes in
face, Frank took a stick and drew three circles in the
sandy soil on the
edge of our greasewood campfire -- its low, dancing
flames keeping at bay
the chilly winter cold of that semi-desert Arizona
"Lenin saw it this way," he told me. "These are the
things that strangle
the people. Capitalism. Government. Church." And he
then drew a complex
of intricate, interactive lines between and around the
And, just a few yards to the west of us, we could hear
in its little gorge
the rushing water of the Verde River, just joined by
Sycamore Creek which
came down from the north out of that massive, splendid
and vasty wilderness
area called Sycamore Canyon -- my own great traditional
And only a few miles to our west loomed Mingus Mountain
on which blinked the
lights of the old copper camp of Jerome. Now -- with the
ore just played
out -- it was headed toward ghost and artist town
status. But it was once
the hell-blasting scene of legendary Wobbly and then
other class war
struggles -- some of which went well into my own Teen
I was a young Native -- 18 -- when that campfire burned
on the Verde that
winter night. And I got a very thorough lesson in class
ideology -- not from a college prof-type in a suit --
but from a Levi-clad cowpuncher turned artist because
of a back broken from a horse throw.
He was, of course, a great deal more than that. Born in
1914 in upstate New
York, his father a construction engineer who later did
contract work in the
developing USSR, Frank Dolphin had briefly attended
Syracuse University and
then went with his parents to live in a small town in
While his father worked abroad in the Red East, Frank
California, labored in the "Factories in the Fields,"
became a militant and
Left farm workers' organizer during the great waves of
Red strikes in the
Imperial Valley and the San Joaquin. Framed up on a
murder charge, he left
California, went into the Teton Basin country of
Wyoming, established a
small ranch, married and had a couple of kids -- boys.
Sometimes things -- even things in as beautiful a
setting as the Tetons --
just don't work out. The War was coming on fast. Pearl
Harbor was still to
occur but Canada was now fully embroiled. Frank joined
the RCAF, rose to
the rank of First Lieutenant, serving in the New
Hebrides. After the War, he
drifted back into Arizona, working for various cow
outfits in the northern
part of the state.
And then he was thrown by a spooky horse. And he broke
He never rode again. For awhile he worked as a cow camp
cook -- a major and
very important vocation. But even that was tough.
Horses and wagon, rough
country, long hours, heavy weather.
In time, he came to my home town of Flagstaff. There he
became an art
student of my father -- who was the first Native hired
as a professor at
Arizona State College. And Frank was, even then, a damn
That's when we joined forces.
FROM TWO GOOD LADIES OF RURAL WYOMING:
My family knew Frank Dolphin in the late 1940's in
LaBarge, Wyoming. My
sister Toni, was a little girl when they lived on his
ranch. He left there
in 1949. My sister looked up his death certificate and
found he had died in
Arizona, she has visited his grave several times. She
has always wanted to
know where he went and what happened to him. We have a
ranch in Wyoming near
. . .. We would love to know more about Frank and share
stories with you.
He is someone that was very special to my sister and our
family even for
that short period of time that we knew him. We have some
pictures of him
when he was in LaBarge. My e-mail address is . .My
sister's name is
Toni . . . her e-mail is . . . .. Our phone number is .
. . . We would
appreciate any information you could give us. Thank you,
Dear Laurel and Toni --
I had always felt there would come a time when someone
would contact me, out
of the blue, about Frank Dolphin. Glad it happened.
I knew Frank personally very well -- both directly for a
number of years and
then, for a few, via my parents who saw and kept up with
him. That stretch
of time runs from 1952 until about 1967. After that, I
heard of him through
a mutual friend, Skip Martgan who carried Frank's saga
into 1968. And then
none of us heard anything from or about him -- until
decades later, when my
wife Eldri became involved with computer genealogy, I
found the sad final
note on the Social Security Death Index. By the time I
learned of his
passing early in '73, it was 1999. We had assumed,
given his deteriorating
health, that he had died long before I verified it.
I met him first when I was 18, in '52 at my home town of
Flagstaff. He came
there to study art with my father, who was a professor
at Arizona State
College. [Dad was the first American Indian on the
Without pressing him on his background, which our family
never does with
anyone, we learned early after his arrival at Flag that
he had wound up a
few years before in northwestern Arizona -- well to the
Seligman -- where he worked for John Norton's cattle
company -- the Diamond
A. He may also have done some work for the Boquillas
outfit in the same
general region. While working for Norton, he was thrown
from a horse,
severely injuring his back and neck. After he
recovered, somewhat, he
worked as a cook for Norton's outfit but that work, too,
proved to be too
much. He was able, finally, to get disability via the
Commission and, as part of that arrangement, came to
Flag for college art
He became a very close friend of our family immediately
and was often at our
home. And he became an important mentor of mine, His
art was excellent and
his work with Dad finessed it well. His focus was the
Real West. He was
closely associated with a good number of Dad's art
students, many of whom
were from the Southwestern tribes -- and with many
Anglos as well. Frank
related very well to almost everyone.
Although a relative kid, taking some classes at the
college and seeing much
of Frank at our house and occasionally on hunting trips,
I spotted him as
something of a lone wolf, kind of nomadic. [I was that
way myself.] He had
had a vast range of fascinating experiences which, piece
by piece, he shared
with me. I saw the photos of his sons who were roughly
my age peers. When
soon thereafter, I went into the Army, he spent portions
of my last few days of civilian life
painting a fine portrait of me which we have always
wherever we were. It is in our living room, right here
at Pocatello. We
corresponded when I was in the Army -- during which time
he left the college
but remained in very close contact with my folks. I
believe that, during
that period, around 1954 or so, he may have spent some
time with the Diamond
A. [He wrote me once from the Buckskin Mountains.] He
was a hell of a great
By the time I got out of the Army, at the beginning of
'55, Frank was living
in a small house in Phoenix on Indian School Road, doing
painting. At that time, I was going to the University
of Arizona at Tucson
and, whenever I passed back and forth through Phoenix to
and from Flag, I
stopped and spent a day or two with him. In 1959,
I returned to school, Arizona
State University, Tempe, very close to Phoenix, and saw
him with great
frequency during that year. In 1960, I left Arizona --
married in '61 --
but got back home during the first summers. I had heard
from my folks
around 1960 or so that he had married a lady from
Alberta -- Lethbridge --
Doris, a doctor's daughter. We knew where each of us was
-- and he once
wired me from Great Falls for a little cash to get him
out of jail on some
minor thing. I wired it immediately. In the summer of
'61, my wife and I
saw Frank in Phoenix for a good visit. At that time, I
noted that, never
husky, he was much thinner, coughed much,. He was in a
good deal of pain at
times and sometimes drank because of that. Again at Flag
during the summer
of '62, I went down to Phoenix and saw him; when we were
at Flag for a brief
visit during the summer of '63, he and Doris came up to
see us and my folks.
After that summer, we did not get to Flagstaff for a few
years -- but I kept
up with Frank and Doris through my folks as he did with
us. My parents saw
them with some frequency. We passed through Flagstaff
on our way to Seattle
in the late spring of '67. There we learned that Frank
and Doris had
divorced, she had returned to Alberta, and my folks did
not know where Frank
had gone. In the summer of '68, we passed back through
Flagstaff and my
parents said that Frank and another old student friend,
Skip Martgan, had
gone to northern California -- but that Skip was now
teaching at the
Wahpeton Indian School in eastern North Dakota. [Skip
was a good part
Indian.] We swung through there and saw Skip.
Skip told us that he and Frank had gone to northern
California, not too far
from Carson City, where they were scheduled to teach art
at a small college
that was just starting. But the college did not start
very well at all --
couldn't pay salaries -- and Frank decided, maybe
around the winter of
'67-68, to go to Reno. Skip stayed awhile longer, then
got the job at the
Wahpeton school. He told us there that the last he saw
of our good friend
was Frank, in an old battered pickup, heading off to
Reno at night. Skip,
who we saw many times over the years, [and who died
about four years ago in
New Mexico], never saw nor heard of Frank again. Nor
did my parents, or
myself and Eldri.
And then I picked up the confirmation of his passing and
Skip with the sad, but not unexpected news.
Frank was an extremely gifted person who had a wide
range of fascinating
experiences -- many [and perhaps most] of which he
shared with me at a time
I needed to hear those things from an all-around veteran
struggles. In addition to being a great artist, he was
committed to social justice for those "of the fewest
alternatives". He was
a man of great honor and great courage. And he was a
person of considerable
depth. He was a loyal and dedicated friend to myself
and my wife and to my
parents -- and to many others.
I look at the long ago painting of the 18 year old
several times each day.
[If you haven't seen it on our website, it is on the far
upper end of the
Directory/Index.] And I shall always remember Frank
Dolphin as one of the
best human beings -- and one of the most interesting --
that I have ever
been privileged to encounter.
Please feel free to contact me at any point you wish.
It has been very good
to hear from you all.
Warmest regards from myself and Eldri.
As Ever, Hunter Gray [John R Salter, Jr]
Dear Hunter and Eldri -
It was so good to hear from you, I've waited a long time
for this. I feel
the same way about Frank as you do. My parents, two
brothers and I lived at
his ranch near LaBarge, Wyoming with him , starting when
I was about five, in
1947. He left in March of 1949 and we never heard from
him again. I, like
you, found him on the Social Security death index. He
made such an
impression on me that I've never forgotten him. I even
married a cowboy that
reminded me of him.
Frank used to take his horse and a pack horse and ride
off to the west and
spend a couple of days, I guess for some alone time. How
I wished I could
have gone with him. He put me on my first horse.
I've visited his grave site in Kingman, Arizona. I got
a copy of his death
certificate. It was filled out by a nurse at a nursing
home there in
Kingman. He is buried in a pauper's grave. My sister
Laurel and I bought a
little statue of three howling coyote pups and put it at
the head of his
I had wondered if he ever had others that loved him like
we did. I'm so
happy to know that he had you and your family.
I have some pictures of him and a letter that he wrote
to my brother that
I'd be happy to share with you. He also had done some
sketches of my
brothers and me, I'll see if I can find them among my
My sister, Laurel, is the one who thought to look for
Frank on the internet
and that's how we found you. She lives in Boise so we
sometimes pass through
Pocatello, or you folks are welcome to come to our lodge
in Wyoming, we have
plenty of room. And we would be glad to show you where
Frank's ranch was in
We'd love to meet you. Thank you for sharing so much
Sincerely, Toni and Laurel
AND FROM HUNTER:
Dear Toni [and Laurel} --
Thanks so very much for the kind note. If you folks are
at some point in
this area, we'd be delighted to see you. Our address is
. . .
Pocatello, ID 83204 and our unlisted phone is . . .. We
live 'way up in a
small neighborhood on the West Bench, close to BLM
lands. For the past
several years, I have been actively fighting a serious
lupus, and this has curtailed our travel very much. On
the other hand,
things have improved on that front and, should that
happy trend continue, we
could get over Wyoming way and would be pleased indeed
to take you up on
your gracious invitation. Lupus is genetic, has no
cure, but a tough
fighter can sometimes put it down for a long time. We
believe in personal
immortality and I am certain Frank much appreciates your
fine thoughts --
and the howling coyote pups on his grave. When I lived
at Tempe in 1959-60,
and saw Frank frequently, I had a pet coyote which he
dearly loved. Later,
when I spent the following summer on one of the most
remote fire lookouts in
the Southwest -- Bear Mountain -- my coyote left home
and got married. I'm
probably related some way to every coyote in that
region: right on the NM/AZ
border, close to the White Mountains of Arizona and the
Mogollons of New
We will keep in close touch, believe me.
Our very best -- it's great to know you all.
Yours, Hunter [or John]
FINAL NOTE BY HUNTER:
Frank Dolphin died in March 1973, living at Dolan
Springs, Mohave Co., Arizona --
a small and lonesome spot on the road to Las Vegas,
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
Check out our Hunterbear social justice website: www.hunterbear.org
driving around Wyoming researching mountain man Joe Walker (my novel
about his last adventure, which took place in NM/Arizona in 1863, will
be coming out soon). I was traveling all the fur brigade rendezvous
sites, mountain man trails, Indian camps, etc. I was also harboring a
fugitive wolf hybrid, for whom the law in California was looking. Iris
and I met some fine people and saw some gorgeous sites. We went to
abandoned places, saw old Oregon trail tracks, saw towns consisting of
two caved-in log cabins (Daniel, Wyoming comes to mind), saw pronghorn,
glaciers, camped where the old paintings were made .. .one of those
places is now called La Barge, Wyoming. It will always be special to
Another note from that trip: went up on the hill in the upper Green
River valley where Father Pierre Jean deSmet preached the first mass
ever in Wyoming. He would have been staring at the Wind River range to
the east, the Tetons to the North, the Wyoming Range and Gray Range to
the west, and must miles of miles to the south. When I was up there with
the sun lighting up the Winds I got tears in my eyes and told my guide
Ah, Jack, that old priest must have known there was a heaven, there it
is right now.
ON: FRANK DOLPHIN AND THE LEGACY OF HIS STORIES [ HUNTER BEAR
MARCH 16 2009]
That fine Western cowboy
artist -- and a great campfire raconteur of many dramatic
experiences -- the late Frank Dolphin, told me a story once that's
always stuck in my mind. It was California in the mid-thirties, San
Joaquin country, and the air and scenery were filled with farm
worker strikes in which Frank, among many others, was engaged in an
activist role. Repression -- including state use of "criminal
syndicalism" laws -- was rife, state agents abounded, but the Cause
proceeded courageously and effectively. On a chilly night, Frank,
and about twenty others, were huddled around a hobo-type camp fire
arrangement in a brush-encased gully along-side railroad tracks.
One obviously battle-scarred man , in a black coat and wearing a
black Stetson, was joining the others in sipping coffee but spoke
only little. Rumor had it that he was a Wobbly, still plentiful in
those days where the Class Struggle was burning along.
A kid from the East finally
asked the man, "Are you an IWW?"
And the man stared coldly at
the Eastern kid, then drew a huge revolver from inside his coat
which he pointed appropriately, and replied, "Mind your own damn
The questioner wilted
psychologically: the man put the revolver back under his coat.
And everyone was quite
Ever since I've been small,
I've followed a code drawn from several cultural traditions -- which
prohibits asking personal questions [Who are you? Where are your
from? And -- if applicable -- How much Indian are you?" And other
such queries.] The only exceptions might involve someone who
deliberately seeks me out for relatively intricate personal advice
and counseling and, even then, I move carefully. [I never ask about
anyone's degree of "Indian blood."]
A few days ago, a friend on
the RBB list posted a leader/notice about a quite controversial
segment of Big Love due to show via HBO the coming Sunday. Big
Love, of course, is the series on a fundamentalist Mormon polygamist
family, based both in their rural Utah community as well as in Salt
Lake City. HBO had depicted, it had been learned, a sacrosanct and
secret LDS ceremony -- the Endowment ritual, which prepares a
living person [and sometimes a deceased] for ascent [whenever]
into the celestial heaven. The LDS church was offended by this
signal breach of its privacy -- and so were the fundamentalist
polygamist spin-off groups as well. HBO "apologized" but the thing
ran yesterday evening.
Cameron and Josie, both
Mormon, had spent the weekend down at Salt Lake and, tired from
shopping successfully for baby furniture for the forthcoming family
addition, came over for a fine dinner which featured one of Eldri's
all-around specialty favorites: a great blue-berry cobbler/cake.
We watched Big Love silently,
saw the depicted Endowment ceremony -- involving a polygamist wife
with emotional ties to mainline LDS -- through to its ritual
conclusion. Big Love then moved on into various related personal
I commented to Cameron,
"Those polygamist folks should never have moved to the big city."
He agreed. But we also
agreed that the sacred and secret components of anyone's faith --
and all faiths the wide world over have these very, very special and
sacrosanct private dimensions -- should never, ever, be
I spoke of the Hopi Nation of Northern Arizona.
I was always glad to see the
Hopi monitors politely but firmly take the cameras from Anglo
tourists who were violating the very well publicized "absolutely no
photos" signs during the final day of the late summer
ceremonial rain dances -- [known to the tourists as the "snake
dance"], the only day when outsiders can attend. At its conclusion,
the snakes [ mostly fanged rattlers] are released to the four
directions to carry the request for rain to the appropriate deities.
And, always, the rain comes
down very, very soon indeed. Often within an hour or two.
Inevitably. Just as
inevitably as the Hopis quite rightly confiscate the cameras.
And just as inevitably as
some of us -- like the black-clothed man of yore -- fight for our
And should fight for that of
Yours, Hunter [Hunter Bear]
Complete agreement from
New Mexico, thanks largely to Gov. Richardson's efforts, has recently
started running high speed train between Belen (south of Albuquerque)
and Santa Fe. It goes across a half dozen pueblos (without stopping on
most of them!). One or more of the pueblos, certainly including Santo
Domingo, conditioned this use of their land on the passengers not being
allowed to take pictures. The Albuquerque Journal has covered,
sympathetically, some minor controversy about it, a few letter writers,
inevitably, haven't been so sympathetic.
- Reber Boult
Your reference to the Hopi holding their traditions as sacred to their
communities is informative, yet over the years how many anthropologist
have tried to invade their culture to expose it to the world at large.
Same with the FLDS clan. I remember the description of a typical Navajo
family, "A father, mother, three and a half kids and an anthropologist."
(sp) I'm sure you have heard this.
Before communication became so ubiquitous, (HBO, CNN, Time Warner etc)
all these people enjoyed their pursuit of happiness in relative
obscurity as the Creator demanded them to do through myth and tradition.
These traditions were passed through ceremonies only to those who needed
to know and were vowed to not divulge them to outsiders. Now, we have
people who don't need to know intruding on these values. Fight or flight
Flee or fight, the Hopi way was always to settle arguments with
on a personal/clan level. The Hopi word was, Nalackna" to move to
another place" , thus the disputes were settled by one or the other
moving to another place where they could pursue their life without
dissension. Thus the clans were dis pursed, Rabbit, Bear, Snake,Coyote,
Short Corn came to create their own communities and eventually gained
respect for their values and contributions to the sustaining
ceremonies. The Hopi we know today are indeed the People of Peace
wrought over century's by peaceful resolution of conflicts.The FLDS will
have of figure this out on their own and find a way to fade back into
the far fringes of our present culture.
Loved the story of the IWW guy with his pistol...The only rationale I
ever read for cigarettes is in John Steinbeck's, "In Dubious Battle"
where the union organizer came into camp a stranger, sat down at the
campfire and offered ciggies all around. Two pages of how the organizer
got their attention and led them through their situation to reasons to
join the union. Hey, whatever it takes, huh ?
Thanks for the muse, Hunter, I look forward to reading this post again
and again to understand..
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER
JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
AND TREASURE HUNTERS [HUNTER BEAR, JULY 10 2006]
This is a letter I wrote a few days ago to a kid in
his mid-teens who lives
in a still small North Central Arizona town. He had learned of my powerful
and on-going empathy with the immense Sycamore Canyon country [now formally
designated as Wilderness Area], mentioned his own camping experiences in the
more accessible areas in the far lower end [just north of the Verde Valley]
and is interested in Treasure. He reminds me in many ways of myself in that
general age range [and me even now, as far as that goes] -- but a key
difference is that I had no interest [and still have none] in conventional
Treasure. My interests have always been in wildlife [especially bears and
lions], ever expanding new and greater geographical vistas, and anything
Unique. I may -- may -- be the only contemporary human who has walked the
basic length of Sycamore Canyon. That was in 1955, discussed in my post,
"Ghosts," its Link given at the end of my letter.] It's possible, of
course, that others have made that Great Trek -- but, if so, I have found no
account of it whatsoever nor heard any such tale and that kind of news does
eventually travel widely.
In that trip of mine, I did find gold-laden quartz but have never revealed
its location -- nor have I ever revealed the sites of the impressive and
ancient Native cliff dwellings that I found in one of the almost countless
side canyons -- great gulches themselves, vasty in their lower regions.
It's worth noting that I also saw on that trip, grizzly sign -- and a very
large black and long-horned Spanish bull, as wild as any other wildlife --
undoubtedly a lineal remnant from the tiny handful of short-lived small
Spanish settlements in the 1700s. It is worth noting that I saw that bull
in the general region where the Lost Spanish Mine may exist.
The old prospectors -- the "lone burro men" -- were obviously interested in
The Search far more than any conventional treasure. I rather suspect this
kid is cut from that cloth. Anyone going into Sycamore Canyon proper -- a
very long fantastic complex of canyons and cliffs but with its own natural
logic -- should be an extremely tough trail/rough country veteran indeed.
And it would, in all probability, take at least weeks of intensive searching
to locate the Lost Spanish Mine. [Besides, the fortunate designation of the
entire region as Wilderness now precludes any mining of any kind.]
But here's the story -- an interesting respite, I trust, from the Horrors of
our mainline world:
Flagstaff is my home town. From the 1940s into the early 1990s, my parents
owned about 15 acres along Lower Oak Creek, in the Cornville area. When
things became congested, my brothers and I sold the land to a Phoenix
doctor. When I was a kid, Cottonwood was just a little town and the mining
operations at Jerome and Clarkdale were going full blast.
I live now in Eastern Idaho, on the 'way far up western edge of Pocatello --
BLM and USFS lands begin almost adjacent to us. Many coyotes, and a fair
number of lions, moose and elk and mule deer, and much more are all around
You sound very much like myself when I was your age. Sycamore Canyon has
always been -- always will be -- my very special region. I hunted the
various down-in levels on the eastern side for years, fought fires up above
for the Coconino, and, in 1955 spent several days hiking down the length of
Sycamore -- all the way into the Verde Valley.
There are at least two Treasures in and immediately around Sycamore Canyon.
One is the cache of money buried by Old Man Casner, probably during the
Depression. Unless someone has a Vision, that is probably beyond reach.
The other is the Lost Spanish Mine or the Padre Mine -- and that is
certainly a findable reality. As you probably know, the entire Sycamore
Canyon and environs region is formally designated Wilderness Area and this
status now prevents any mining, lumbering, etc. Interestingly, I checked
all of this recently -- in a general, policy sense -- with a nearby
neighbor/friend of mine, a mining engineer for Bureau of Land Management and
he confirmed these legalities as they relate to Wilderness designations.
But that doesn't prevent someone from investigating the mystery of the Lost
There are two very old, relevant stories [which you may have picked up
somewhere but they may have long since faded.] They were told to me ages
ago by the two old Hermits, Joe Dickson and Jerry Greaves, who then lived at
the Old Packard Ranch at the far upper end of the Verde Valley region where
Sycamore Creek emerges and joins the Verde River. Joe and Jerry had
searched off and on for the Lost Mine but never got far enough up-Sycamore
to get into the region indicated by these stories.
One story involves a bear hunter [with dogs] named Daggs. The time was
somewhere in the 1910s. Mr Daggs and his dogs were pursuing what was
probably a grizzly in the area where the very long and relatively narrow
part of the Canyon begins to widen into Sycamore Basin. The bear went into
and up an extremely steep side canyon [and there are many of these, of
course] which headed up on the Canyon Rim itself. Although it sounds like
the Western Rim area, Daggs' account apparently was very sketchy. In any
case, he found himself -- up in that steep side canyon --at a very old,
small mine with an extremely rudimentary smelter works. He saw these as
Spanish in origin. But he had no interest in this and continued after the
bear [and I don't know the outcome of that part of it.]
The second account is more helpful. In the late 1930s or so, a young
Easterner [about 21], was at Sedona on an early tourist trip. He decided to
walk from Sedona to Williams, Ariz which, as you know, is about 40 miles due
west of Flag. He started forth and, many days later, in bad shape, finally
got to Williams. The whole country was new to him and his account, sketchy,
did convey a few more details than those given much earlier in time by Mr
Daggs [whose story the kid never heard.] Anyway, the young man described in
more detail exactly what Daggs had seen: going up a steep and narrow side
canyon; a very, very old mine; rudimentary smelter; and a kind of
mortar/pestal type thing which was probably used to smash the ore prior to
smelting. He saw all of this as very old indeed. He could give no cogent
specific directions of any kind.
But we can assume he was reasonably logical. If so, starting out from
Sedona, he would have gone through large Sycamore Pass, dropped down into
the upper end of Sycamore Basin, and then taken one of the several long and
narrow and steep side canyons up to the Western Rim. That side canyon, it
seems to me, would either be where the narrow part of the Canyon emerges
into the Basin -- or, just to the west, going up the very high cliffs that
immediately overlook Sycamore Basin.
If I were looking for the Lost Mine, I'd follow the in-Canyon route of the
Eastern kid. But, again, there are a number of steep side canyon
possibilities on that Western side.
If you do this venture, it might be best to be accompanied by a friend or
two. The country, as you know, is exceptionally rough, rocky, steep, and
You may have already seen these website pages of ours. But, if not, they
will be interesting:
It's been good talking with you. Hope this has at least been of some
interest. Write again if so inclined.
Good luck on things and all best, Hunter Bear
[COMMENT BY LOKI MULHOLLAND [UTAH]
Always enjoy your
emails. I hope you are doing well. We're fine down here. We've been
very busy working on getting the film out to the public. The website
looks like it will be up some time next week.
I've been meaning to call just to say hello. I
apologize for not making it a priority as it should be with old friends.
I keep thinking life is going to calm down in a day or two and then a few
months pass by. I'll try and call later this week.
Your friend and comrade,
AND AN EXCERPT FROM ERIC [PRESENTLY IN SUDAN]
Reading about hiking in canyons
perks me up!
[HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
I am honored -- humbled -- by the 2005 Elder Recognition Award of Wordcraft
Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. This particular, rarely issued
honor is one of several awards voted by the Caucus [board] of this
organization of writers, storytellers, film makers, and journalists.
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. [Hunter Bear]