Scheduled for publication in 5th World Journal.


The wild,  high-pitched buzzing sound that exploded from the clump of sage
just to my right as I walked down the bare trace of a game trail brought me to
ice-water reality -- pronto indeed!  Jerking to face the sound, then
instinctively freezing, I next heard my daughter, Maria, yell out an alarm.
Our Shelty [also named Hunter], then on a leash held by me, really seemed
quite casual about it all.

Backing off, and then backing a few steps up the trail, I saw it.

This was the kind of early morning where one stands in the high country,
looks up  at the sun and the deep -- very deep -- blue sky. And feels the
cool wind singing its song in the Idaho cedars and sage and pines.

And it was also an early morning where the brownish face in the broad head
that looked out at me from the tangle of sagebrush -- almost triangular in a
finely-cut fashion --  moved not a whit.  And its dark eyes, fixed upon
mine, were intense. Extremely intense and absolutely gripping. Vigilance
distilled into super-essence.

Right at ready,  that sharp head stiff and up out of his body with its
several coils  -- and with his rattling tail straight up and singing high -- he faced me and I
him. His tannish skin with many light and darker brown splotches blended easily into
the sage and dry gramma grass.  No Army troopers from my old unit could have
been better camouflaged.

And I said, "Well! Goddamn! Are we glad to see you."

The rattling stopped -- but the intensity of those eyes burned into my mind
and beyond -- deep into my skull.

"It's him," I said to Maria.  "Longer than he was, a few more rattles -- but
that's our buddy."

And she agreed.  And he certainly wasn't rattling angrily at all anymore.

About two years before, at the end of July 2000, right in this very
immediate setting, Maria and Hunter [the Shelty] and I had been climbing the bare trace of the
game trail from our already far-up Idaho home --  'way 'way up into the high country.
As I passed by a thick clump of sage, Maria saw a snake start to emerge.  She
yelled, I turned around, and saw him retreat back into the bushes.  We got a
glimpse or two of him at that point. And then we continued our junket high
up and far away.  But then, much later that day as we prepared to return and
after some strange then-indecipherable brooding on my part, I
decided we'd go back down by way of the snake.

And so we did,  saw him splendidly sprawled in the cooling dust in the
middle of that trace of a trail, watched him action-coil in a split-second,
then move swiftly and ultra-smoothly from the open area right back into the
protective brush. And then we went home.

But, very early the next morning, drinking strong coffee and wondrously pondering why I felt some
sort of bond with a rattlesnake -- a poisonous, venomous rattler! -- I
suddenly realized that both he and I had some deep things in common. We were

Most humans would kill him in a moment -- and some of those very humans in our particular Idaho setting
who'd do so were giving our family -- radical Native activists-- a great
deal of harassment. They, so-called lawmen and vigilante-types, had done so ever
since we'd arrived in Idaho three years before in the summer of '97.

So I wrote about Him and Us and Our Setting and Our Challenges.  And that
was published in due course in the January/February 2001 issue of the
excellent socialist journal, Against the Current, as "Reflections on Idaho:
Unfriendly Forces, Mountain Lions, and Our Rattlesnake Friend."  [You can
find it in this specific section of our large social justice website, Lair
of Hunterbear
 http://www.hunterbear.org/THE%20WILD%20WEST.htm  -- or within the excellent
website of Solidarity/Against the Current at
http://www.igc.org/solidarity/indexATC.html ]

But after those two sightings that late July day of two years ago, we never
saw him again. We looked many times the rest of that hot, drought-stricken summer.
Nothing.  And we looked into the fall.  Nothing at all.

The next spring and summer and fall -- still extremely dry -- we
continued to make our junkets 'way, 'way up.  And we looked faithfully for
him.  Nothing.  As usual we saw coyotes, bobcats, lions, mule deer,
moose -- and  much more.

But we never saw him.  And we worried.  Had someone spotted him, done away
with him?  Had a hawk grabbed him, carried him off to a craggy nest for the
little hawkies?  A good friend of ours, Jeff, a young mining engineer who
works for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, was up in the high country  one day
last summer with his dog, Stormy, an affable retriever.

And then Stormy was bitten -- by a sure enough rattler.  Jeff, a rare gentle
soul, didn't kill the snake, carried his dog down the high ridges and
mountain slopes to an emergency session with a vet, and anti-venom
injections pulled Stormy through.  But that happened far from our special Friend's Land. It
may have been his cousin, at least his fellow-tribesmember, but it wasn't him.

Then this past winter saw the severe drought break in our Intermountain West
via heavy and frequent snows.  Spring saw rain -- some of it heavy. Things
were very green, every flower bloomed.  Even the yucca  and cacti in the
cedar country. Many animals of all kinds during the summer drought periods had
had to go way up into the mountain tops -- where it generally rains even if
doesn't anywhere else. Or, in other cases, some predators -- lions and
coyotes and bobcats -- chose to go down to the very edges of fringe-area
homes like ours to scavenge. But now, they're all -- game animals and the
hunter animals -- scattered normally and conventionally all over the upper regions
just above our home and beyond.  The Balance of Nature is balanced in the
context of water.

And again as this spring began,  and as we made our regular trips out and
far, far up,  and looked in the area where we'd last seen  him -- now almost two years
before -- there was no sign of our Ishmaelite buddy.

And now we were really worried.  Downright  troubled. It's always a rough
life for the likes of him.

When we started out very early  this  last Saturday morning, there was no
sense of expectancy.  A small forest fire was burning in the ridges ten
miles or so away -- but that was not the direction we were going.  Our junket went
conventionally and well. And then,  on the return and going down, and no
more than 150 feet or so from where we had met him on that now far away day, the Rattling
Rolled and We Gathered Again.  Right there in the sage.

After quickly recapturing my composure,  I  certainly had a few things to

"Much has happened since we last saw you," I told him.  "The country has
gone straight over the canyon edge to Hell.  Fear and Hysteria, War and

The dark eyes stared on, deeply into mine.

"But people are fighting back," I told him.  "And we're going to win."

His coils shifted smoothly, slightly -- but the sharp face in the sharp
broad head with the sharp dark eyes never moved.

"And you," I asked.  "You're OK?  Plenty of little things to catch and eat?
Warm den in the winter?"

He looked fine, very healthy indeed. In fact, he looked sleek, flush.
Most likely a very capable hunter.

But I'm sure he had had some tough times -- with the drought and all.  And
he certainly always has his enemies. Some hawkishly hungry -- and some humanly vindictive.

I did have one more thing to say.  "I wrote about you, buddy.  And it was
published in a socialist magazine.  Socialist!  It's called Against the
Current. We talked once or twice about bringing a copy up and reading it to you."

And the  dark eyes certainly seemed now to be super, super intent indeed.

"So take care, amigo," I said and finished, "We'll bring a copy of the
socialist magazine next time. That's a solid promise. And we'll keep
bringing it 'till we see you once again."

 I waved as we backed away and slowly turned.

As we did so, the sharp face in the sharp head with the very, very sharp
dark eyes carefully turned to watch us go.

He has his challenges, We have ours.  So far he's made it.  And so have we.

But we're together in this fight.  In some strange and mysterious way, it's
Real Solidarity.

And that's the Trail to the Sun.

For everyone.

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]  Micmac / St Francis Abenaki / St Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org (strawberry socialism)
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´



[Hunterbear note:  This is my comment regarding an 8/27/02 article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune indicating that Devils Lake , N.D. has dumped Satan as its high school nickname and  mascot.]


Note by Hunterbear:

Don't get me wrong.  I don't believe in a Literal Satan.  And I'm not really
one of the Satan Lovers  [the name, incidentally, of an especially challenging early
'70s youth gang in the Englewood region of Southside Chicago.]  And I ain't no
Christian Purist, either.

I  do know Devils Lake, North Dakota pretty well indeed -- where, until a
historical moment ago, the high school athletic teams were known as the
Satans.  [And I also know, BTW, Chuck Haga, the quite capable reporter and
good guy who has written this piece for the Minneapolis Star. Formerly of
the Grand Forks Herald and UND Journalism, he's interviewed me on a number
of occasions over past years.]

I don't usually spend lots of sympathy on Devils Lake.  A small
hard-scrabble city [8,000 or so]  in the northeast/central part of the state, it adjoins the
lake by the same name and it's also immediately adjacent to the Fort Totten Sioux Reservation
[Spirit Lake Nation.] And, despite the presenceof a number of very decent people within its city limits,  Devils Lake has in the past exemplified some of the  worst border-town anti-Indian bigotry and outright racism I've ever seen anywhere. And all the while and concurrently, of course, it's
historically exploited the Indians in every economic way it can.  In the late 1980s, we fought a
number of successful Native rights battles at Devils Lake -- with successful
booster-skirmishes thereafter -- and, while things there are still far from
the Beloved Community, they've been a lot better attitude and action-wise
ever since our very intensive Just Wars.  See this page on our website for some idea of
the issues and struggles  http://www.hunterbear.org/Devil's%20Lake.htm

About a decade ago, the Devils Lake Sioux Tribe, in a very reasonable move
which had nothing whatsoever to do with Christian theology and everything to
do with  Tribal Nationhood and Tradition, changed its name to the Spirit
Lake Nation.

And for a long, long time  indeed Christian purists at Devils Lake have been
extremely unhappy theologically with the high school's use of Satan as its
athletic totem. But, until a few minutes ago so to speak, high school traditionalists and
their supporters were able to keep Satan safe and secure in their hearts,
minds, and sports arenas.

No longer.  In a super-cowardly capitulation to religious fundamentalism and
politically-correct twittering, the Devils Lake School Board, never usually
known for its sensitivity to anything warm-blooded, has dumped Ole Nick.

I'll bet the kids are mad as Pure Hell.  And so, frankly, am I.

North Dakota is a place where pedigree -- especially Old Pedigree -- is
considered mighty crucial, socially and politically. My father was a full-blooded
Indian and my mother Scottish-American and I grew up in Northern Arizona --
BUT my mother's extremely hot-tempered grandfather came from Ontario,
with his black Stetson hat, into Dakota Territory in 1870 [that portion of
the tough Plains that eventually became North Dakota in 1889 ]  and, through
force and violence, established a large ranch on which he raised horses and
ten feisty children -- the oldest of whom was my grandfather.[The old
rancher got along well enough with the Indians -- but never with
homesteaders.]  Anyway, I have a North Dakota Pioneer Certificate [!]
attesting to my Dakota Territorial blood ties --  and it's also on our large
website.  Speaking from that perspective -- the Certificate  & Symbolism  -- I strongly object to dumping Satan into [or out of] Devils Lake.  Satan is about the only titillating thing that poor
town has  going for it --  for as long as I can remember.

And Satan also kind of fits the place. And kind of a right tight fit it is.

But I wouldn't count Ole Satan  out of things too quick-like.  As Ivanov
[the soon-to-be killed himself secret police inquisitor of his old friend
Rubashov] put it so very well in Darkness at Noon:

" Satan . . .is thin, ascetic and a fanatical devotee of logic.  He reads
Machiavelli, Ignatius of Loyola, Marx and Hegel;  he is cold and unmerciful
to mankind, out of a kind of mathematical mercifulness . . .don't imagine
that he grinds his teeth and spits fire in his fury.  He shrugs his
shoulders;  he is thin and ascetic;  he has seen many weaken and creep out
of his ranks with pompous pretexts. . ."

[Ivanov to Rubashov in Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon  [New York:
The Macmillan Company, 1941] pp. 149-150 -- and many subsequent

Now That's what I call a well-read Entity.

And given all of that -- and Tradition --  I'm putting my money on Satan's

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