THE SNOW IS MELTING [HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR FEBRUARY 21, 2004]
The Sun is beating the Drum of Spring. And
the snow, very heavy here in
Eastern Idaho this long and challenging Winter, is finally melting fast.
Normally, this would be the point where, a long time ago, I'd be
getting my early Spring predator trapping outfit together, or looking
into where I might find work both challenging and meaningful. Much more
recently I'd be oiling my heavy [Size 15] boots in preparation
for going into the high, high country that rises sharply above
our house in this 'way up frontier
setting -- and greeting some of my many animals buddies -- lions and bobcats
and coyotes and moose and deer and maybe even the wolf -- and the huge
gray owls as well.
That isn't, of course, in the cards now. The worst and most malicious form
of systemic Lupus [Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE] which struck me
openly last July, has accomplished what cops and sheriffs and the state
police and injunctions and the Federal finks could never do:
imprisoned me for months on end in our home -- to say nothing
of a total month of hospital time.
"It's like Dad is doing House Arrest," my youngest son, Peter [Mack], a key
editor for the Lincoln Journal Star said as early as last Fall.
The Lupus we are fighting here attacked my cardiovascular system, savagely,
did a great deal of damage -- producing heavy anemia and extraordinarily
pervasive weakness. It attacked my lungs in a predatory and hungry fashion
--giving me a very dangerous form of pneumonia: pneumanitis. We beat
back its several forays against my kidneys and liver -- but it attacked my
heart [traditionally never a problem area with me.] It took weeks to
effect a specific diagnosis -- and some doctors were thinking cancer.
As a result I had a colonoscopy [produced zero] during which my heart
stopped twice and, through the anesthesia, I could feel doctors frantically
hitting my chest in such a fashion that my hazy perceptions saw me in
combat on a football field. Later, a fine cancer specialist eliminated
any cancer possibilities via a bone marrow test and a cat scan, and finally,
with an excellent dermatologist, diagnosed the worst version of pervasive
and "full-blown" SLE.
And later, with the SLE spearheading major diabetes, and my blood sugar
count close to 1,000, doctors did a cat scan on my unconscious head which
eliminated the existence of any strokes.
There has been some improvement, slow but pretty steady. My lungs
are clear, my cardiovascular system has improved, my heart now seems
OK. Lupus has not gotten into my central nervous system. My strength
is returning at a glacial pace -- but it's coming back. Whereas my only
outings for months have been to be driven to doctor's offices, and thrice
to the hospital, I have -- with another family member always present --
driven my Jeep to get a tire fixed and then, on another occasion, for a lube
job. Big deal -- but it is a start.
While I am regularly taking many pills, the basic question developing is
whether to continue with Prednisone -- or, gradually phasing that out,
switch to moderate dosages of chemo drugs: i.e., Methotrexate or
Imuran. Until a few days ago, my many doctors supported the use
of Prednisone, in all probability for the rest of my life. A newly on-
board rheumatologist, who had not initially disputed this, is now
pushing the chemo drugs. Some of the other doctors are beginning
to tilt in that direction.
Our family is definitely not interested in those chemo drugs.
While it's true that the Prednisone has several problematic side
effects -- the ostensibly rare one of joining Lupus in producing
diabetes [which I now have] and shrinking and eroding bones,
the suggested chemo drugs have been known to produce
cancer in their own right. Thomas, moving into Medicine [and
also teaching a special Chemistry class at ISU], brought home
a dozen abstracts [Pub Med/National Library of Medicine] which,
joining perceptions and other material given us by good folks,
raise the possibility of cancer development via Methotrexate or
Imuran and a few discuss its actual emergence.
Our family tends to function as a collective body -- a horde. At
this point, all eight of us -- plus spouses of our two older sons,
special friends of our younger kids, etc -- have discussed this
at length, totally reject the chemo drugs, and believe we should
stick with Prednisone. Many of them have been at the hospital
during my three strenuous incarcerations and have also been
present in office conferences with physicians. [Josie, our
youngest daughter, has just become a fully licensed Social
Worker.] Eldri has been present for everything.
I already have diabetes on top of everything else. We can protect my bones
from Prednisone via my heavy buttermilk drinking, heavy calcium and vitamin
D supplements -- and, if necessary, special medicine such as Fosamax.
Lupus could strike me hard out of the Blue at any point. But, even
with my immunity still shot to Hell, I'll have a fighting chance.
I am not interested in taking any chances with any kind of
But enough of disease, medics and medicines. I'd much rather discuss
[as I've been writing] the union organization of contemporary Dixie -- and
what traditional and newly creative forms of militant and democratic and
sensibly radical industrial unionism can be developed to massively enhance
grassroots organization, smash the bosses and capitalism, and achieve
genuine socialist democracy.
In addition to brooding and reflecting on my own experiences and
observations, and doing some writing -- much of this autobiographical for
another book of mine,
I've been involved in productive reading: HAMMER AND
HOE: ALABAMA COMMUNISTS DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION
[Robin D.G. Kelly, 1990]; UNION STEWARD'S COMPLETE GUIDE: A
SURVIVAL MANUAL [Edited by David Prosten, 1997]; CONTRACT
BARGAINING HANDBOOK FOR LOCAL UNION LEADERS
[Maurice B. Better, 1993]; THE NEGOTIATION HANDBOOK
[Patrick J. Cleary, 2001].
And now, with a bit of prologue, an optimistic word -- despite the often
foreboding clouds of personal realism.
Our basic cultural ethos is essentially Iroquoian:
That ideal for a man is that he be autonomous; a good hunter and provider; a
courageous warrior; loyal to friends and family; fearless; and oblivious to
hardship, pain and to death.
Women have much influence. They caucus with frequency; cue and lobby the
male speakers; can remove [for cause] a Life Chief -- of which there are
traditionally 49 in the great inter-tribal Iroquois Confederacy; and the
senior women in a family can nominate a successor to a deceased
Life Chief in that specific lineal line.
We hold to a form of organization that, once a particular framework
or forum is determined, wide discussion of diverse views can occur
but no change in that organizational structure can be permitted.
The ultimate decisional goal is a consensus which must be observed.
And, recognizing the conscious and unconscious dichotomy of the Mind, we
always place heavy stock in dreams -- see these as expressing the key to the
desires of one's soul and providing the torchlight and the trail to follow.
So here, in the best Iroquoian sense, is a possibly very significant dream
that I had almost four years ago. We will take it step by step:
Frank Little, Cherokee Indian, and a metal miner and a great IWW organizer,
was lynched in the early morning hours of August 1, 1917, at Butte. The
killers were thugs employed by the Anaconda Copper Corporation.
His funeral and funeral march were the largest ever held in Montana
to that date.
The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area has been extremely important to me for
virtually all of my entire life. Certain sections of the Canyon appear
either literally or symbolically to me in very meaningful dreams. This is
usually rare -- once or so every year or two.
Around Summer, 2000, I ordered a true copy of a photo of Frank Little's
funeral procession. [It was very similar, BTW, to that of Medgar Evers
at Jackson on June 15, 1963.]
About two or three days after it came, I had this dream:
1] I saw the western Rim area of Sycamore in daylight -- cedar plains in
contrast to the rough and sloping geographically diverse eastern Rim [our
domain]. The fact that it was Sycamore was immediately established by
two white horses, dancing. White Horse Lake is a large body of water
on that cedar plain, just west of the Canyon's western Rim.
2] The scene immediately shifted at night to some sort of urban setting. A
black hearse, a Model T, appeared. Initially, it seemed to have something
to do with Frank Little.
3] But then it came -- still at night -- and put-put-put, to the house in
which we all lived. It may very well have been this house, right here. I
could look down from our large picture window and see it. But, in any
case, it was able to circle our house which it proceeded to do three times.
On the third, it stopped in front, with its
engine going -- as though it were waiting. This wait lasted for --
dream-wise -- several long minutes.
4] Then, suddenly, again put-put-put, it drove off and away. I felt a
tremendous sense of relief.
5] Still asleep and in my dream state, several of us in our family went the
next morning to a local funeral home to see if we could see the [archaic]
vehicle. What we did see was a contemporary hearse, conventionally parked
in the funeral home's lot.
6] After I awakened, I told the dream to Eldri. At that point, given its
diversities, it was difficult to interpret. But we have always remembered
7] I have almost died three times in the past several months. Sycamore
Canyon has figured very heavily indeed in this context -- especially as the
site for my Near Death Experience. Frank Little's martyrdom is explicitly
indicated in that NDE GHOSTS account. http://www.hunterbear.org/ghosts.htm
8] But I have not died. Not yet.
And the snow is indeed melting.
The best of everything to all of you -
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk; and
CCDS, DSA, SPUSA, Solidarity -- and UAW and United Association for Labor
In the 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.