Thursday, October 30, 2008

Flip Your World

Flip Your World

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD – I’ve been waiting all summer for two things; water, and, to get my hands on this bobcat.

The bobcat, in its third or fourth year in the neighborhood, has been in constant use since its acquisition, a gift from a donor. Henry Red Cloud kept it for over a year, digging out Lake Red Cloud and telling folks it was his, and since its retrieval, has had a whole shitload of guys in line for excavation, post-hole drilling, dam-building, and all manner of things a bobcat can do.

Milo delivered it here yesterday with five Gs of diesel, and after a couple hours of driveway work and the excavation of my planned pond, the right front tire went flat.

Wouldn’t ya know it, I have a 15/16, a 1 and 1/16, a 1 and 1/8 inch socket in a half-inch drive, but no one-inch, which is the size of the nuts on the wheel. I had a one-inch 3/8 drive socket, but after bending the shit out of one ratchet and stripping another, I gave up and came in here to wait for Jesus to show up with the necessary tools.

The tire needs to go to Hills Tire in Chadron. You need big-ass tractor tools, which I don’t have, and have never purchased in my life, valuing my fingers more for adaptation to a keyboard than a handyman jack or things hydraulic. I tried my portable air tank, but the wheel is off the rim, and unless you’ve got starting fluid, which I don’t, to ignite and pop that baby back it back into place, it needs professional attention.

Jesus told me I needed to stop writing about him because some people might get the wrong idea. “You can’t write about me, or politics,” he advised. Steer clear. Stay with the humor and social commentary, and I’ll be all right, he said. And also, don’t try using starting fluid on the tire, he said. It could be dangerously explosive.

Can’t write about politics, Jesus, or Allah. All three will get you in hot water, instigating the wrath of the Really Serious. Thunderclap is ok, he said, because he’s a comedian, and comedians can get away with shit onstage with a microphone that will never float past more than half the people in an editorial column, radio talk show, or blog rant.

And the clone can do stupid shit because self-deprecation is found to be a successful and admirable quality in comedians that the public will accept. Charlie Chaplin, Joey Bishop, Dick Cavett, Bob Hope, Foghorn Leghorn, Jack Benny, Catfish, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, Chris Farley, Chevy Chase, Sienfeld, Jim Carrey, a whole raft of new comics, and to the extreme, Richard Lewis, Wiley Coyote, and Jerry Lewis, all employed the dunce to appeal to their audience and rake in the big bucks, on stage and in film.

So, that’s one of the keys to advancement. Average people can use it, or variations, at work. There, your colleagues will call it ‘brown-nosing’, or having your nose up the boss’s ass.



It was too windy, too cold to go outside. Better to remain indoors and feed the fire, drink coffee, wait for the necessary tool for the job for the bobcat.

Milo rolled in, then Tom and Virgil and Lupe’. Just for asking, Lupe’ went out and removed the tire with a big cross-wrench tire tool for Big Dog wheels. He needed the exercise, Tom said, since his extended stay in the ‘pree-son’. “I don’t need no gloves,” he said.

Later, at some point, Lupe’ explained his entire case; the wrong turn, the firing of his court-appointed lawyer, his conversation with the judge, his explanation that this was his second DWI, and not his third – “the other time was DWS” - and the judge wanting to snatch his license for fifteen years, and how the ‘whole ting’ had already cost him 1500 dollars and the sale of his truck, and how ‘that judge really don’t like me,’ but nobody was listening. Two weeks ago, he told the same story, right here, from the same spot.

Those guys, Tom, Virgil, and Lupe’, took off to Pine Ridge village with the bobcat tire, and Milo and I went down to the timber-frame to clean the pit, prep the fire and the lodge. Earlier in the day, I thought maybe it was too cold.

We lit it just at dark, and put the lodge covers back on in the wind. Guys started showing up. Gooksie Red Bear and his friend John from the Mission of Love, James Underbaggage, Owen Warrior, Uncle Joe, Dewayne and Stewart Blind Man, Tom, Virgil, and Lupe.’ Just as the rocks came in, Louie showed up. Make room.

Lupe and I sat in the back, in the ‘Sinner’s Seats’, or seats of honor, whichever might apply. It had been a year or so since he’d been back with the bros, after a stint here and there, with Ms. Vodka, Mr. Sham Master, neither of whom would post the magistrate’s declared bail. He sat in the back there with me, singing strong.

It was a Wednesday night. A dozen guys getting together to sweat. It was freezing-ass cold when we came out.


1500 hours on that bobcats’ engine, and after six hours it quits on me. Throughout the summer, every Indian and his brother has had his ass in the saddle of that bobcat, and when it comes my turn, first the tire’s flat, and now, she’s sitting dead-in-the-water, atop the rim of my new pond.

“Was that tire flat when you dropped it off?” I asked Milo. “No,” he said. It was good.

And now what? Yesterday, I had a sixth sense of seeing Tom on the road, and sure enough, out on Slim Buttes Road, here he come, flashing his lights so I’d stop. We pulled up alongside each other.

“I got good news, and I got bad news,” I said. “Good news is, I didn’t flip the bobcat.”*


Every once in a while, our worlds get turned upside down.

Before leaving Virgil’s house, Virgil snapped up his seat belt and said to Tom, ‘Better buckle up.’

Five miles out of Chadron on Slim Buttes Road, a tie rod broke, they went off into the ditch, and rolled, ending up, upside down. Good news is, they were buckled up.

Sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally, our world gets turned upside down. Ever happen to you?

The Right Rev. Gregg Jones of the Union Community Church used to talk about ‘drama’ going on all the time, all the time in people’s lives, what Mr. Ferguson would call ‘front-burner-on-a-boil issues’. We usually create all this sort of bullshit for ourselves, whereas, trauma often occurs from the outside, if there is such a thing, he said.

Trauma can generate transformation, both positive and paralyzing, requiring deep processing and/or a shift in perception, but drama usually moves about within the parameters of everyday shit, and tends to reinforce previously held attitudes, well within the comfort zone, he said.

A walk-away from an accident can make you stop and think. Tom sat on a log at the fire before sweat, quiet and looking at the ground, apparently absorbed in his thoughts. Saka hung around the fire and watched the door for us, wanting to be around her dad.

The Cowboy’s mother died a week ago, suddenly, at 54. I talked about hanging around another month to spend Thanksgiving with my kids. “That would be good,” said the Cowboy.

- end

*Several people have flipped the bobcat. Milo, Bo, Holton, to name just a few. You can flip it by going forward up a steep incline with a loaded bucket, instead of backwards; by having a loaded bucket too high in the air; or sideways, off an incline, like Milo did.