Sunday, January 17, 2010
Blue Bear's story and a good man.
It is told that at a large spring there suddenly appeared a Bear whose body was sky-blue and so bright that it seemed like part of the sky itself. This was Blue Bear, and Earthmaker brought him there for a special purpose. Standing to the side of Blue Bear were twelve men. Then, unexpectedly, four times the Earth shook, and each time a great spirit being came up from the Earth. When the third of these emerged, the Earth erupted in fruit of every kind and in plenty it was spread over the Earth. And Earthmaker told Blue Bear that he, and all who were with him, were to go to a gathering at Red Banks. As they tread the Earth, it shook, and the leaves with spiny edges changed to men, and so too the thorns and briars, the serpents with sharp fangs, and the birds of prey with the sharp talons -- all these became men under the charge of Blue Bear. When they arrived, they found that a place had already been prepared for them, but they did not tarry there long. Blue Bear announced that Earthmaker had made these men to be spiritual guardians to ward off evil from the Hotcâgara, for they were all soldiers among the living things of this world. When this was made known, everyone dispersed to their homes, but those who remained behind as men became the Hotcâk Soldier (Bear) Clan.
From Bear Clan’s Origins Myth –Winnebago, First People/The Legends.
When I was a kid, my friend Mark was, for all intents and purposes, pure physical talent. Strong as ox, big as grizzly, fast as Mercury. He, of course, excelled at every sport in which he participated.
As a two-step punter, he could boot the football so high and deep, the special teams had time to drink a beer before stopping a return.
In track, he would routinely clock 56-second quartermiles, and though they called him all kinds of mean and nasty names, his court presence and ability inspired fear in the hearts of rival basketball teams.
Despite this great talent, speed and size — he didn’t seem to mind hanging out with mere mortals such as myself. In fact, though by many of the measures that count with such youth, he was double the material structure or physical form of my own rather stunted size, speed and talent — yet, we developed a sturdy bond.
And though we rarely see each other or have contact today, I still carry a great measure of respect for the man. As no doubt evidenced by this missive.
Some of my favorite recollections are centered around his fearlessness. The guy will try just about anything once.
One time, we had these snorkel diving goggles that we were trying to use to spear sucker fish over at Big Rock. He would dive off the front of the rock, push himself all the way to bottom and try to go after mutant ninja suckers in the little cavern carved out by the current under the rock.
Another time, also on the river, we had cut a circular piece of plywood out and laced it inside a log skidder tube with nylon rope to make our own homemade raft. The two of us, one on each side with a paddle, would then ride it horse style, as the beer rested in the center on the plywood. It was amazingly stable as it road high in the water and turned on a dime in the rapids above town.
Completely fearless on the ski slope, in the river, in his pickup — it was a lot of fun to load up his slobbering dog Lucky (St. Bernard), and seven or eight knuckle-headed buds in a little orange Ford Courier headed to the big city of Cortez back then.
Another hallmark with Mark is his steadfast determination. He does not give up or give in.
I think the single most memorable noise I have ever heard is the pop of his upper arm breaking during an arm wrestling contest in Dolores.
"Good men are the stars, the planets of the ages wherein they live, and illustrate the times," wrote Ben Johnson way back in 1640. I always thought Mark was a good man.
But as I said, I don’t see him much any more.
Still, I don’t think that changes a thing.