Five years or so ago was Another Time for me and my family here in Eastern
Idaho.  In those pre-SLE Lupus days, in peak shape health-wise, I could hike
six miles daily in the very roughest kind of country -- high hills, ridges,
canyons, mountains -- all of which begin immediately above our 'way far-up
home here on the western "frontier" of Pocatello.

It was a time when, although virtually all of our neighbors and the people
who got to know us were [and remain] very friendly, we were being
systemically harassed by various "lawmen" and vigilante types. This was
something which began as soon as we arrived here in the Summer of '97. At
that early point, we immediately deduced that, for some bizarre reason, we
were under attack from some kind of "task force":  city police were
blatantly conspicuous -- even parking in front of our home and leaving when
I emerged. And, when people came for a visit, police not only parked
nearby but drove back and forth. [This was the case when Beba [John] arrived
with his family from Minnesota for a visit in '99; he has always remembered
the spectacle of several police quickly descending on our immediate setting
like locusts.]

Our mail was obviously being delayed and "monitored" -- which
required Federal involvement; and I assembled, within a year, 100 or so
first class envelopes and Priority packages which had been deliberately
opened and/or damaged. [Some things had been heavily water soaked.] Postal inspectors did not respond in any way to our repeated complaints. The phone did weird things.

Faculty at Idaho State University seemed deathly afraid of me -- but those
students who became aware of us were just fine.

This was during the Clinton administration -- the same outfit which had
fervently initiated and backed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996
["Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act."]
And that, of course, laid the basis for Bush's Patriot Act and collateral

There were also hate calls -- and goons who, briefly stopping near our
place, mouthed obscenities. This may have been offspring of the so-called task
force, but it could also have been local white supremacists.

Of course, we fought back.  We told people, sent letters, made complaints.
We launched our now huge Lair of Hunterbear website and publicized nefarious
stuff on it. Occasionally, I was able to give talks on social justice
[historical and contemporary] to groups -- and, when she could, a friendly
writer on our Idaho State Journal ran good pieces on me. I was openly
critical, of course, of the police and the bigots.  In time, however, the
paper became extremely enamored of "law enforcement"  -- running an endless
series of articles praising the local and state police and the FBI, and
giving me virtually no more coverage.

It certainly carried no word of the revelations at Portland, Oregon -- late
in 2000 -- which revealed, via a unique public disclosure law in that
city, the existence of more than 30 Federal/state/local task forces, mostly
in the West, spying on every kind of dissident group [left, right and
center],  and all growing out of the Clinton Administration.

Over several years, this has now appeared, at least, to burn out for us.
We're still right here, doing what I've always done: speaking, writing, trying to
agitate effectively.  There has been a new and much better police chief for
the past while.  We now hardly ever see the cops around here and, when we
do, it's routine.  Mail comes on time these days, undamaged.

But we are still much on guard.

A couple of days ago, our local/regional newspaper gave my very recently
received 2005 Elder Recognition Award from Wordcraft Circle of Native
Writers and Storytellers very good coverage indeed.

During most of the last six years, there has been a horrendous drought in
the Mountain West.  But we had, hereabouts, a wet last fall and a mighty
snowy winter and now a very wet spring.  And, for the last several weeks,
we have had nothing but rain.  In those weeks, six times more than the
average annual non-drought rainfall has fallen, temps are chilly and often
in the '30s, snow falls up here and close by.  The grass in our good sized lawn
grows faster than any grass we have ever seen [outside the Deep South] and
our many trees are luxurious. [In the spring of 2000, we planted a Lombardy
Poplar -- the classic "Mormon Tree" -- and it thirstily lost all of its
leaves a year later in mid-July and for several summer seasons thereafter.
Now it's thriving.]

Wildlife critters are happy about all of this -- as are ranchers and farmers
and any other thoughtful folks. Snakes may not be.  It's cold and they
really don't like that.  But we will see them in due course, I am sure, and
we do look forward to hobnobbing with those faithful Rattler friends.

Here, from that troubled era, but also brightened by a new Snake Friend, is
an article I did for Against the Current [published in January/February 2001].

Unfriendly Forces, Mountain Lions and Our Rattlesnake Friend

Reflections on Idaho

by Hunter Gray

WE MOVED TO Pocatello, Idaho three years ago.  And there are certainly some
mighty friendly people hereabouts.  But from the very moment we first
arrived, we've been subjected to bizarre harassment-coming obviously from
Federal, state, local "lawmen" and vigilante types, and just as obviously
stemming from my traditionally Left Native rights/civil rights/labor
affiliations and beliefs and history and contemporary activities.

Surveillance, blatant interference with our mail, very weird telephone
experiences-including hate calls, people taking photos of our house,
intricate garbage searches, mounting indications of sub-rosa
vilification-and much, much more have been a consistent part of our scenery.

We are, of course, fighting back and will keep right on keeping on doing so.
To quote the old Mississippi saying: "Our enemies can go straight down to
Hell and wait there for us to change our minds."

My boyhood Western catechism from old and very old-time members of the
Industrial Workers of the World and, later, many rich and positive
experiences from in and around the old Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers-and a
myriad of other activist organizing feathers of mine as I've grown through
the decades: All of this adds up, among other things, to "It's better to be
called Red than be called Yellow," and all of this flies high and boldly in
my full consciousness.

But this is a social commentary that is really, in many ways, about a
rattlesnake-a rattlesnake friend.

I grew up in the wild and rugged mountains and canyons around the then
quasi-frontier Northern Arizona town of Flagstaff.  Early on, I was an avid
hunter-had my first rifle at age seven-and soon enough distinguished myself
as a trapper.

Most of Arizona is rattlesnake country.  I killed my share of them before I
hit my mid-teens.  Somehow, more or less consciously, I believed it was my
duty to do so.  Most people-but not I any longer-still feel that way.

My very first invasion of the news media involved a rattlesnake situation.
This, from the Arizona Daily Sun [Flagstaff/Coconino County], late June,

"John Wood, 13 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Wood, residing south of
Flagstaff, got introduced to an Arizona rattlesnake Wednesday of this week
while exploring Grass Canyon, near Schnebley Hill, but suffered no ill
effects because of the quick thinking of John Salter, Jr., his companion,
age 14.

"The snake was coiled within striking distance when the Salter boy killed it
with an accurately aimed .22 rifle bullet.  Wood must have felt he was
carrying with him one of the four leaf clovers his famous song-writing
father composed, "I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover'..."

In that situation, I had to do what I did-and I have no apologies.

I didn't kill every rattlesnake I encountered.  When our wide-ranging high
school hiking club plunged into the Grand Canyon (half a day down to the
bottom) and trudged up (two days), we'd frequently pass rattlesnakes camped
by the trail in the shade of a rock or a bush.  We were far too preoccupied
and trail-focused to take them on.

Then came a very abrupt shift in my generally violent anti-rattlesnake
attitude.  I was 18, my 45/70 Winchester in hand-taking an obscure game
trail down into the vast Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area, southwest of
Flagstaff.  Suddenly I saw a tiny rattler-very tiny, only a few inches in
length, a minute rattle at his tail tip-coiled by a rock, right in the
middle of the trail.  It was so absolutely small that, if it rattled, I
couldn't even hear it.

The still-coiled, near-baby snake looked feistily up-right at me.  His
message was, however telepathically conveyed, sharp and crystal clear.

And I began to laugh.  With my big-bore 45/70 I could have, in a split
instant, eliminated every physical vestige of my brave-hell,
admirable-little adversary.  But how could I have ever done that?

For a long moment more, we looked at each other.  And then the tiny
entity-his point made very well-uncoiled in leisurely fashion and moved
slowly away.  For my part, in a gesture of respect and deference I, too,
stepped away.

And from that point on, I never killed another rattler.  When I encountered
one, I simply gave him his space.  But I never felt the warmth of friendly
empathy with one-until very recently indeed.

We live on the far far up western "frontier" of Pocatello-right on the very
edge, only a few other houses around us, and with almost all of the town
well below.  From our door we can walk a few feet and be in open country:
high steep hills shooting up almost out of our back yard.  We often walk up
into the rugged hills and ridges-way up and far into the back country.  Wild
"critters" of all kinds abound and we frequently see mountain lion (cougar)
tracks in certain special settings that we've located.

Even many of our very nice neighbors are worried about the lions.  We are
not worried.  Northern Arizona is certainly lion country and they've never
bothered any humans of whom I've heard.  Lions are curious, and skittery
humans often mistake that quality for predatory, stalking hostility.

I remember, always with real pleasure, a very large lion (by its size,
obviously male), that followed my father and myself for a long time in the
rough Rim country, south of Flagstaff.  We were hunting but it never crossed
our Native minds to kill such a magnificent manifestation of the Creator's

The lion stayed about twenty-five yards behind us and, when we stopped and
looked back at him, he too stopped.  Then we all continued until, finally,
my father and I dropped below a ridge.  For the longest time, the lion,
profiled on the very top, gazed down at us until we faded into the pines and
scrub oak.

Now, when we see the large, rounded paw prints in the high-up hills west of
our far-up house-always hoping to see a lion in the flesh-we feel kinship.
For we, too, are having our problems with some of the humans hereabouts.

But a rattlesnake?

Not very long ago at all, my oldest daughter, Maria, and I-accompanied by
our Sheltie, Hunter-once again wended our way up into the ever higher
brush-covered hills, following a bare trace of a trail.  I went first and
Maria was some distance behind.  Suddenly, she yelled, "A snake!"

I turned and walked a few feet down toward her.  She pointed to a bush
slightly below me and to my left.

"It's in there." She then explained quickly that, when I walked up past the
bush, no snake was visible; but, just before she got to it, a snake started
to emerge, then withdrew.  I went cautiously to the bush.

And it was indeed a snake-and a rattler at that! A young desert-type, light
gray with interesting designs and about three rattles, was moving slowly
back, edging away from us, deeper under the bush and into tall grass.  We
stared at him and his graceful movement, fascinated.

Hunter arrived and, from deep in the bush and grass, came a perfunctory

We moved on, then, further up and away-checking our special places, studying
the new lion tracks.  But the rattlesnake was much on my mind.  I realized
that, unlike every prior rattlesnake sighting of mine, I had felt not an
iota of aversion or revulsion.

For Maria-ever the faithful friend of all creatures-this was not unusual.
But for me this was, frankly, extraordinary.  And then, away up on a super
high ridge, looking down and to far off Pocatello, I suddenly realized that,
in some completely inexplicable fashion, the snake and I had bonded.

"Let's go back the same way," I told Maria.  "Maybe we'll see him again."

Now, going down slowly, I in the lead, we came to the Land of the Snake:
high brush, the trail now extremely faint and narrow-and then the Bush!

The rattler was not visible therein.  I felt a sharp cut of genuine
disappointment.  "Not here," I said to Maria-and we moved slowly on down.

And then! Then suddenly-there he was in all his splendor, lying literally in
the trail immediately ahead of me: dusty gray, designed, graceful.  And even
as I stopped, abruptly, with a warning note to Maria, he coiled in a split
instant and faced me, head held high.

He didn't rattle because he didn't have to: Our eyes were locked together!
"Take it easy, amigo," I thought to him.  "We're buddies."

In a twinkling, he uncoiled and moved away into the brush and grass-in the
same leisurely fashion as my long-ago feisty baby-snake at Sycamore.  We
watched him for a moment; then, in deference again, we moved to the other
side of the trail and continued onward.

As we tell no one beyond the family and a couple of close friends the
whereabouts of the lion tracks, Maria and I pledged never to reveal the
rattler and his home area.

But residing in the full consciousness of my mind the rest of that day and
into the late evening, was the question: "Why in hell have I bonded with a
snake-and a rattler at that?" I went to bed.

And, as it always does, my mind worked things through as I slept.  Arising
at 4:30 a.m.  and sipping my first cup of strong black coffee, I had my

"Call me Ishmael," Melville wrote, a long time ago.  And while we have many
friends in this Pocatello and general Idaho setting-and certainly many
indeed across the country and into Canada and Mexico-it has been a tough
experience for us these past several years in this southeastern Idaho town.

But, of course, I've followed the trail of the radical organizer ever since
I was a teen-listening to the drum of History, and with others helping make
a little-and it's always been this way.  Hard not to see ourselves as
Ishmaelites of some sort, perceived by all kinds of so-called "lawmen" and
many "respectables" as outcasts on the edges.

But there are many of us, many indeed-and there will be many many more.

It takes an Ishmaelite to recognize an Ishmaelite-even one to whom the
Creator gave another shape: my good friend, my doughty buddy under the bush
against whom virtually every human hand would hurl rocks and bullets, even
though all he wishes is to be left in peace to pursue his Vision to the Sun.

That's what I realized at 4:30 that morning and I know it now and forever:
He was ready to fight.  We fight on.


HUNTER GRAY [John R. Salter, Jr.], "Hunter Bear," a half-blood Micmac/St.
Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk, grew up at Flagstaff, Arizona.  Since the
mid-1950s, he has been deeply and consistently involved in grassroots
organizing: Native rights, radical labor, civil rights, anti-poverty , urban

His trail has extended from the Southwest to the Deep South, Pacific
North-west, Chicago, up-state New York, Navajo Nation, Northern Plains, and
Rocky Mountains.  Trained as a sociologist, he has occasionally taught-while
organizing still-at such places as Tougaloo College, Goddard College,
University of Iowa, Navajo Community College [now Dine' College] and
University of North Dakota.

His written work has appeared over the decades in numerous journals and
books.  He is the author of Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of
Struggle and Schism [Krieger, 1987.]  He presently lives at Pocatello,
Idaho, with coyotes, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes among his friendly
neighbors and is, as always, a committed organizer and socialist.

 Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

Check out Surprise Tribute:

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] 



I much appreciate these kind words from Connie Murillo -- but she and her
colleagues are the ones who certainly deserve very kind and supportive words
indeed.  I am placing this, with the excellent website of their very solid
project, on more than a dozen lists.

Uranium mining, milling, and refining flourished in much of the mountain
Southwest of the United States from the mid-point of the 20th century onward
for several decades. [It was accompanied  during much of this period by the
obviously related technological  "step" of frequent nuclear testing at
Desert Rock, Nevada.]  All of this has left a still continuing, lethally
horrific legacy over a vast area.  Especially hard hit by the uranium
tragedy have been the Navajo Nation [which has also encountered some Desert
Rock fallout] and Laguna Pueblo.  Other regions have been hit hard by all of
this -- and one setting has been that of Grand Junction, Colorado in the
western part of that state -- at which this important and commendable
project is based.

Efforts by some uranium companies to revive the "development" of uranium ore
[carnotite] resulted in the Navajo Tribal Council passing legislation
several weeks ago -- prohibiting this from occurring anywhere on the vast
Dine'  [Navajo] reservation.  President Joe Shirley signed the prohibitive
legislation into formal law.


Hello, my name is Connie Murillo, I live in Grand Junction, Colorado.  I am
part of a grassroots coalition dedicated to raising awareness about the
effects of uranium mining, processing, and the nuclear industry.  I came
across your site while doing some research and was overwhelmed by the work
you have done.  It is really inspiring.  Anyways, I wanted to show you what
we were up to down here in my neck of the woods.  if you would like you can
check out our website at

thank you for your time and all the work you do. If you have any feedback or
you'd like you can email me directly or contact us thru the website.

peace, connie

 Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

Check out Surprise Tribute:

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]






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