MORNING MEMORIES [HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR FEBRUARY 17 2004]
John R Salter Sr. [by Richard, 1978]
I get up these days between 2 am
and 3 -- Idaho time -- and do a good deal of thinking
and black coffee drinking.
I grew up in Northern Arizona -- Flag is my home town -- and also in Western New Mexico. In both geographical instances, I very much grew up among the Navajo. The extremely close ties of my family then, and my own family now, with the Dine' could not be more complex and personal.
My Native father [who never had one day of high school] was an excellent artist and professor [ASC at Flagstaff, later renamed NAU]. My father wound up with a BA from the Chicago Art Institute and an MA from the University of Iowa [and, later, an MFA from Iowa -- a year and a half of work beyond the MA.] Two of my own kids never finished high school -- very minimal experiences at that level, John only finished seventh grade -- and each did extremely well at the university level. Two others did the full high school thing and also did just fine at university. My oldest grandson/son, Thomas, did high school and is well established at Idaho State where his focus is medicine.
Anyway, the other day, a very large -- maybe 4 1/2 feet by 3 feet -- oil
painting of my Dad arrived here. It was done by my youngest brother,
Richard, himself an excellent artist -- about the time my father died in
Arizona at almost 80, in 1978. Richard, who spends time in Mexico, has been meaning to send this to us for more than 25 years. Coming back from San Miguel de Allende [GTO] recently, he stopped to visit with my other brother, Michael, also younger, who lives in southern New Mexico. That's where the painting had wound up -- and Richard, as he'd promised, mailed it on to me.
We were delighted, of course, to get it. It's an implicit abstract of my
father, wearing his old red shirt and holding a pop can in one hand. A
bleached cow skull is painted onto the upper right hand side of the
painting and a literal wild turkey feather is added to the painting. He
never drank beer but he did put away, for many decades, one full quart of
Old Crow [100 proof] per day. The painting is now on a great big piece of
[If you go to my Personal Narrative page on our Hunterbear website, you can see the Indian Scholarship Committee at Arizona State College, Flag, 1956.
Seated: Jimmy Kewanwytewa; John Salter, Chairman; Raymond Nakai; George Kirk and Willie Coin. Standing are the Anglos: M.T. Lewellen; Ellery Gibson; Dr. Garland Downum, Secretary-treasurer; Dr. William Tinsley; Melvin T. Hutchinson, publicity chairman; and Dr. Lewis J. McDonald.
That Old Crow finally led to two
quickly consecutive massive strokes --
Mother had become virtually blind almost at the same time -- and I took
things over. I had to make very difficult decisions regarding my father
especially. When things had settled, I took my family and we moved to the Navajo Reservation where I taught and was privileged to do many other things as well at Navajo Community College -- now Dine' College -- which had been founded at the end of the '60s by Dad's great art student and our very close family friend, the late Ned A. Hatathli. We were there for several extremely interesting years -- our old friend, Easy, who posts on our current Lists, was there as well and that's where we initially met and became firm friends. My youngest daughter, Josie, was born at Gallup immediately after Christmas, 1979. That's 95 miles from NCC and we went there a day or so early in my big yellow Chev pickup to make certain I didn't have to do a roadside delivery.
When we finally left NCC, there was a large surprise farewell party
organized by all groups at the College. I was honored in several ways:
given an excellent painting -- "Navajo Woman " -- by the gifted Dine'
artist, Harry Walters. I was also given a fine silver/turquoise bolo tie
carrying the NCC logo. Three of these had been made by the noted Navajo silversmith, Albert Yazzie of Flagstaff. The first was given to Senator Barry Goldwater, the second to the President of Exxon. And the third was given to me. You can see it on the Narrative page -- on our Lair of Hunterbear website at http://www.hunterbear.org/narrative.htm
As I looked at my Dad-on-our-Wall very early indeed this morn, I remembered
many things . . .
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]
mountains of Eastern Idaho.
When you cut to the bone and cut away the college degrees, academic and other titles, published books and articles, ours is essentially a working class and Indian family. We consistently join unions -- and we always support them with the greatest vigor.
It's critical to always keep fighting -- and to always remember that, if one
lives with grace, he/she should be prepared to die with grace.