by J.S. Kierland
of the novel)
Willy Two Horse cut through the childrens playground, crossed the
backend of the hotels parking lot and climbed down the steep slope
to look out over Prosser, Arizona. The forests on either side made a dull
woooosh in the crisp morning wind, but the sky remained empty and Willy
wondered if Coocochee would ever show up. It wouldnt be the first
time the old bird had copped out on him. In fact, they hadnt talked
much since Willy had been elected, not that they ever talked that much
before, but this time he needed Coocochees advice...more than ever
An odd phone call had come in from a White Man he didnt know, who
specifically told him he needed something extra special and right
away. Hed refused to say what that was but promised to reveal
everything when they met eye-to-eye over flapjacks at Dennys.
(He had actually said, flapjacks at Dennys.) These kinds
of phone-calls, with their secret demands and needs, had started coming
in right after Willy Two Horse was elected the Tupai Tribes President
in a close vote only a few weeks before. And from the moment Willy was
told that hed won the election, every breakfast, lunch, dinner,
and friendly cocktail took on a new significance, whether
Willy wanted it that way or not.
Hed been duly elected, handed a phone, assigned a secretary, and
given the exact same office and the exact same desk that Tupai Chiefs
before him had occupied for decades. (The old wooden desk even had a few
loose family snapshots of past Chiefs and Presidents, unopened packages
of Juicy Fruit Gum, an old ballpoint pen that still worked, and the rubbery
remnants of an old soap eraser.)
Viola is your secretary, he was told. She also makes
the coffee. Of course Willy knew all this about Viola but didnt
bother to mention it to the office manager who seemed to resent anyone
invading her world even if he happened to be the newly elected Chief of
the tribe. Besides, Viola was Willys niece and had been Secretary
for the last President and the one before that. This may not have meant
much at the time, but it was the first solid realization for Willy that
Indian Chiefs blew in and out like August winds. That fact hit him the
moment he sat down at the old oak desk, that had been occupied by Tupai
Chiefs past and present, and when all his dreams came crashing in on him.
The rifle-waving warrior astride a magnificent stallion faded into phone
calls from lawyers, bankers, insurance brokers, personnel agents and a
variety of contractors looking for an angle to make a quick buck off the
Tribe and its sprawling Reservation that included a failing shopping center,
a resort hotel and a couple of casinos. Willy had been elected, certified,
and thrown onto the corporate trash pile like a worn out bolo tie. Instead
of a magnificent stallion he was given a desk to ride, a phone to wave,
and a calendar that detailed board meetings and special events that even
he was required to attend. And when he saw his gum-chewing niece making
still another pot of coffee for the office caffeine freaks, he realized
that Great Indian Warriors just werent needed anymore. No Red Cloud,
Cochise, Geronimo or Crazy Horse, no eagle-feathered headdress, or blazing
fire to dance around in the dead of night. Hed been given a dusty
office, an old wooden desk, with a squeaky chair, a phone, and his niece
Viola for a secretary. They were all just symbolic tokens like Silent
Knight, the mongrel dog that roamed their Reservation but now slinked
away whenever he saw Willy. In some strange way this had all become part
of the position.
Willys main job was meeting with town politicians, businessmen,
the Rotary Club, and all requests for financing new ventures
and other great ideas that the banks had deftly sidestepped
for years. So the simple trick of his new job was to make as few mistakes
as possible, and push as many decisions as he could over to the Tribes
Executive Board. He had plenty of advisors for all this, like the vice-President,
a heavyset, arrogant, alcoholic with deep family problems who gave Willy
bad advice because he had dreams of taking over after the next election
and straightening things out. There was also the Executive
Board, consisting of three women named after flowers, who could barely
stay awake during their weekly meetings and didnt seem to have a
clue of why they were there. So Willys basic duties dragged on,
meeting White Men in fast food restaurants to discuss money matters
and elections, which he soon realized were exactly the same thing.
At first, he just tried getting to the meetings on time so that it looked
like he cared and was involved. Arriving early had always been important
to Willy even though his great teacher Coocochee had taught him to do
the opposite. The White Man expects Indians to be late, Coocochee
lectured, but Willy could never quite understand why anyone would purposely
arrive late for anything. Coocochee would get so angry with his pupil
that hed shake all over and caw, What kind of an Indian are
you? and that would make all the children in the class laugh. Arriving
early for anything just wasnt expected. Hours, minutes, and seconds
were the White Mans creation but the Indians seemed perfectly happy
to let him have them. Nights, days, and moon phases seemed to be all the
Indians needed or wanted.
At one of these classroom confrontations, the contrary little
Willy snapped back at his teacher and said, Guess Im just
one of those Indians that doesnt like being late. Crazy Horse was
never late for a battle, and thats why he won them all. An
ominous hush rippled through the class at such arrogance from a little
Willys quick answer agitated his teacher so much that the birds
thick body began to shake out of control under his shiny black feathers.
If youre on time for anything that has to do with the White
Man youll confuse him, Coocochee insisted. If you arrive
on time the White Man wont trust you. Everything the White Man does
is based on trust, he squawked from a low branch on a scrub oak.
Even the White Mans money has TRUST printed on it. Thats
the reason his money is so important to him. Printing the money, counting
the money, feeling the money, smelling the money, and spending the money
is the essential part of the White Mans daily life force. He worships
money, like the Indian worships the land, Coocochee squawked down
at the little boy. And that means if you show up on time for an
appointment with a White Man youll break his trust in you. Later
is always better with the White Man. He doesnt trust early, especially
when an Indian does it. If an Indian arrives early it throws the White
Mans whole world out of whack, makes him suspicious and angry, and
that could make things bad for us again. Trust is sacred to the White
Man even though he cant be trusted. Always remember that!
the large black Raven croaked in low warbled warning. This simple paradox
of the White Mans trust and his not being able to be trusted made
little Willy Two Horse more confused than ever. No matter how hard he
tried, Willy just couldnt seem to grasp his teachers lesson
and the importance of being late.
Even if the White Man wants me to be late, he asked, why
cant HE be trusted?
By this time, Coocochee had his back to Willy and the Great Bird had to
turn his entire neck around to look down at the annoying little boy waiting
for an answer to his dumb question. Coocochees black wings opened
wide at young Willys impertinence, and he rose in the air, ever
so slightly, and did something hed never done before. He grew larger
on the low hanging branch and stared down into the dark eyes of little
Willy Two Horse at the same time.
Coocochees trick had been totally unexpected and some of the more
timid children ran and hid behind the large copper-stained boulders on
the hill. But little Willy held his ground and stared back into the large
Black Birds yellow eye that never closed, flinched, or blinked.
No one knows why the White Man doesnt trust anyone even though
his money says TRUST on it, the bird began. What we do know
is that his women and the weather fall into this same category, complicating
things even more. And even though the White Man spends much of his time
with his women and the weather, for some unknown reason both of them seem
to confuse him. Thats a given and not to be argued, the dark
bird warbled down at the little boy.
But what do women and weather have to do with trust? Willy
asked when Coocochee stopped to take a breath.
This time the big black bird took in large gulps of air and his entire
head began to spin and turn. Trust is the simple test for all living
things, he cawed.
TRUST has come to us from the Anasazi, handed down by sacred spirits
from generation to generation as a precious gift. The White Man has also
been given special knowledge from a variety of his ancient peoples. The
Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, and of course, all those drunken crazies
in the Dark Ages. His sacred gifts were handed down from one monk to another
monk until they finally reached him here at the White Mans New Age
of Semi-Reasoning. The White Man may have lost many things along the way,
including his ability to learn from his mistakes, but TRUST is the one
thing he has kept with him through the centuries. TRUST is sacred to the
White Man and he believes that trust is the great denominator of all living
things. You do know what a denominator is? Coocochee screeched.
Little Willy nodded and the Great Bird continued the lecture without taking
The numerator of life changes with every situation we run into,
but TRUST being the denominator of all living things remains constant
like the buffalo moves with the rains and the wolf follows. The
children sighed their understanding, nodded in agreement, and came back
out from where they were hiding behind the rocks. The endless dance
of the tides and the moon, and the migration of the birds and the whales
swings the great fusion that holds all the rhythms of life we need and
live in. One must TRUST in all this because its what sustains us.
It must not be altered. Not ever! Coocochee cawed at the little
Little Willy Two Horse nodded his acceptance of the complicated lesson,
and waited for Coocochee to stop fluttering his eye like he did when he
wanted to let the children know that this part of the lesson would be
on the test. The White Man is simple to understand, he chirped.
But if he cant trust his women and the weather then he cant
be trusted either, he shrieked, and the other children sighed their
approval. No one knows why the White Man has trouble with these
things. Even the White Women refuse to talk about them, and we know that
whenever the Weather God resents having been blinded by the Sun, he punishes
everything in his path without ever seeing it.
But if the White Man cant trust ANYONE, does that mean he
cant trust other White Men too? Willy asked.
Coocochee began to hop up and down at Willys sudden grasp of the
Great Ravens reversed logic, and cawed, At last you understand
the simple truth of the world and the White Man who rules it!
Willy could feel the admiration of the rest of the children in the class,
but deep down he knew that he had no idea what the Great Black Bird was
trying to teach him. It made no sense, and he blamed himself for not grasping
these great social ideas. So he just kept nodding his head at his teacher,
pretending to understand everything he was saying, and accepting the admiration
of the other children.
Back then, The Great Coocochee had tried to teach them the way of the
world, but had only made the whole thing more confusing than ever. So
Little Willy Two Horse was left with the distinct feeling that hed
have to learn much more about the White Man if he was to become the great
leader of the Tupai Tribe he so wanted to be.
Willy stared at the early weekend traffic rolling into town along Highway
69. Behind him, the tribes great hotel stood in the clear morning
light like a Colossus, throwing its shadow across the parking lot and
most of the grassy hill below. The Tupais Resort Hotel was the largest
and tallest building in Tupai County, and its attached walk-in casino
took in mucho bags of White Mans money that had to be sorted, counted,
wrapped, stacked, bundled, bagged, and taken to the bank twice a day and
three times on weekends. It may have been the White Mans age of
Semi-Reasoning, but the Indians were now in their Casino Era
and the Tupais had become richer than everyone else in town.
They had built their massive structure on the highest hill of their Reservation
and it dominated the entire eastern side of Prosser. Its rows and rows
of windows stared out at the enormous butte that dominated the western
side of town and was shaped like a large thumb. At this hour in the morning
both monoliths glowed in the suns bright glare, and faced each other
like primitive, arrogant gods about to battle for the Arizona town that
stretched between them like an old rubber band.
The rough, rugged butte was the hikers Paradise, and the Tupais
hotel with its layered dining room, four-way views, Olympic indoor swimming
pool, and split-level casino with flashing lights and beeping slot machines
had become the wandering tourists escape and solace in the pervasive
boredom of the White Mans confusing Age of Semi-Reasoning. Like
the Balm of Gilead and the Hindu Wheel of Life, the Tupai Tribes
Hotel and Resort was the only place in the County where you could hide
behind a poker hand, pump quarters into its slot machines, and get rubdowns
from ten in the morning to eight at night without having to show an ID.
This great building held the promise and future for all Mankind, and it
was wrapped in a great weekend package at a fair and modest price. American
Express, Master Card, and Visa accepted.
Unfortunately, all of this successful decadence happened too fast for
the white owners of Prosser Citys cramped motels that grew like
a filthy fungus out of the towns seedy center called Whiskey Row.
The depravity of this street, in the very center of town, had grown and
expanded like a misshapen spiders web. The fact was you couldnt
go anywhere in Prosser without seeing the magnificent butte to the west,
and the Indians shining hotel on the hill in the east. Both monoliths
had become Prossers landmarks for the growing number of tourists
that poured in on weekends and holidays to hike the massive butte on the
one end of town and gamble in the Tupais casinos at the other end.
But the white businessmen in town were not happy. They wanted those
illicit slots, poker tables, and beeping money games to be theirs too.
It was unfair, illegal and immoral to have it any other way, they
shouted in their City Council meetings. They were shocked that the
federal government allowed such an abomination to go on within their town
limits without giving them the right to have those same devil-games that
obviously made so much money for the Injuns. Not to share these wonderful
machines that gave so much pleasure to the tourists, and generated so
much money, favored the Tupai Tribe in an unfair way and would eventually
ruin the small businesses that the White Man had created and maintained
for over a century!
They stomped, picketed, and threw money at the Governor until a reluctant
County Board was forced to vote for a sickly looking betting parlor at
the old broken down racetrack on the north side of town that very few,
if any, had attended in years. And to do the County one better, the Prosser
City Board declared racetrack betting legal at Whiskey Rows Black
Barts Saloon on any given weekend. (Naturally, this betting parlor
would not be allowed to interfere with Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, or
any other Church Sunday within a radius of fifty miles.)
This new City ordinance not only put the White Mans trust at stake,
but as Coocochee predicted, it placed the White Mans sacred
religious beliefs in a hypocritical jeopardy with everything he swore
by, including his printed money that stated quite clearly, IN GOD WE TRUST.
In the White Mans ardent political fight against the Indians, he
had unwittingly put his religious beliefs into questionable philosophic
differences with what he called, those goddamned money-making Injun
The White Mans fight to have gambling had turned into the greatest
historic and political battle in the short, nondescript history of Prosser
City. This new position of wanting gambling, and all the wonderful things
that came with it, would test the citys sacred Christian principles,
and make Coocochees theory that the White Mans lack
of trust in women and the weather become a Law of Nature.
But even after all the memos, legislating, and court battles, it only
took the white businessmen about two weeks to figure out they still couldnt
compete with the juicy hotdogs, comfortable stools, Mondays free
beer, and the well-oiled slot machines that hummed and spun at both of
the Tupais walk-in casinos 24-7, all year long.
The Indians parking lots remained filled with the usual cars, cycles,
and busses. Gamblers, hotel guests, and those same white businessmen wrangling
for a bigger piece of the Arizona Pie kept dropping by the
Tupais hotel for dinner and drinks with the family, a fox trot with
the little woman, and a shot at those one-armed bandits. And
while the slots spun and took their money, they complained about being
discriminated against by their government officials, their women, and
Even the White Governor began to do crazy things. In a fit of frustration
and anger, he actually shut down the Tupais casinos until an Appeals
Court ordered them opened again. And in yet another weak moment,
the Governor signed a bank loan to himself for a building he was constructing
in the middle of downtown Scottsdale that would eventually, after a bitter
and costly trial, throw him in jail for fraud and grand theft, and end
his political career.
These were terrible times the White Man had brought upon himself and,
of course, he blamed it all on the Injuns. And what seemed
to irritate the White Man even more was that a White Woman had taken over
for the jailed Governor and her first order of business was to declare
a Day of Prayer. Obviously, the tight, hypocritical world that the White
Man had so carefully built was beginning to crack and fall apart.
With each unexpected new event things became more and more confused and
self evident, and the White Mans resentment toward the Indians began
to grow deeper and deeper. History had always been on the side of the
White Man, but now it seemed to be getting away from him and he didnt
know how to stop this swinging pendulum, or even slow it down. A floodgate
had opened and Indians, Black People, Asians and Latinos seemed to be
everywhere. They worked the restaurants, did the landscaping, drove the
cabs, cleaned the buildings and shops, and one of them was even running
for the House of Representatives. Those dangerous times the
White Man had predicted were coming, had arrived.
* * *
Willy Two Horse stared out over the land that had been taken from the
Tupais more than a hundred years before when a tall, bearded lawyer wearing
a dark high hat and a long chesterfield coat sent his blue-and-gold-draped
horse soldiers into the Arizona territory to take possession of all the
land surrounding that upward pointing fingered butte on the
west side of town. Back then, the great White Chief was determined to
make the Arizona Territory part of the Union even before it applied. The
word had gotten out that Confederate soldiers fighting in the Civil War
were deserting their Cause and running to settle in the Arizona Territory.
Trying to avoid an obvious problem, the President moved fast. The bearded
Chief instructed his horse soldiers to grab every bit of land that belonged
to the Tupais, which took up most of Central Arizona, even though they
had worshipped and farmed its soil for centuries before anyone had even
known the land was there. And just like the towns present businessmen,
who wanted gambling and well-oiled slot machines, the 19th century Tupais
complained that their sacred land was being stolen by horse soldiers
waving a document from a faraway Chief with a mole on his face and a sad
look in his eye.
Then an historic thunderbolt struck in a place the White Man called Virginia,
on a warm Palm Sunday morning in the year of our Lord, 1865. The War Between
the States came to a screeching halt. White Men stopped killing White
Men and the Great White Chief with the mole on his face set all black
slaves free, much to the surprise of the Indians who quickly sensed the
terror that would be coming next.
For years the White Man had been burning, raping, stealing, and killing.
Now they were told to stop because two bearded men in uniforms signed
a truce at a place with an Indian name called Appomattox, on a warm Palm
Sunday. But it was all too late because a strange twisted desire had taken
hold of the White Man. It was the smell of gunpowder that persisted in
him and he couldnt just let it go. He had been riding
too long with Death, and the Indians knew it would soon be the end of
one horror and the beginning of another. The White Man had become addicted
to the smell of gunpowder, and what it wrought. Fire and death prevailed
because addictions like that have to find a release, and the Indians knew
they were next on the list.
It started right away when some crazed actor killed the White Chief with
a mole on his face, and a new drunken Chief was quickly sworn in to take
his place. After that, it wasnt long before the cigar-smoking General
from the last insane White Mans war became the new President. This
White Chief decided it was time to take away the Indians food, water,
land and horses, and force them on marches to places the White Man called
RESERVATIONS. The eighteenth President took words from the fifth President
and declared the White Mans curse, Manifest Destiny,
over all the land. The White Man was going to take all the land, and his
destructive addiction for gunpowder and death would go on. If the Indians
resisted theyd be hunted down by the new cigar-smoking Presidents
horse soldiers and killed. All those years of death and burning had turned
the White Man blind like the Indians Weather God, and
nothing was going to stand in his way.
Willy Two Horse had been taught these things in the shade of a golden
oak before an early snow. And even though lessons of slavery, war, and
Indian Reservations made no sense to little Willy, it didnt stop
Coocochee from teaching the children all the things that had happened
to make their life so difficult. Willy remembered how Coocochee would
garble on and on, as the snow fell, and in the middle of the lecture,
the large black bird would stop and stare down at the little faces trying
to make sense of the White Mans logic and why these terrible things
had come to pass.
Then one day, from a deep primitive understanding of the universe, Coocochees
long black wings began to flap and shake on the stump where he was perched.
The children clapped in excitement at the birds great feat and watched
their teacher rise in the air and fly up into the snow-filled sky amid
their rousing cheers. And from that moment on the subjects of slavery,
Indian Reservations, women, weather gods, and casinos never came up again.
This had never happened before in the treacherous, battle-weary centuries
between Indians, White Men, and Ravens. All of that history seemed to
fade in unopened books and unspoken subjects, and was never to be discussed
again. There would be no learning from the mistakes of the past. Coocochee
had tried to explain the unexplainable, but none of it was ever really
understood by anyone, including Little Willy Two Horse. And so it went
like so many other things. Unsolved, unlearned, but never quite forgotten.
* * *
Willy searched the cloudless expanse and wondered why Coocochee hadnt
come to advise him. It was late and there wasnt a feather in the
sky. By now he would barely be able to make it to the Valley on time for
his appointment. He had parked his red pickup in back of the casino and
when he turned the corner he saw Coocochee sitting on top of the truck,
pruning his feathers.
The old bird began cawing at him when he approached. Where the hell
have you been? he asked in his semi-Navajo garble. Ive
been waiting for hours!
I only got here a few minutes ago, give or take, Willy said,
placing his brown, wrinkled hand on his trucks hood. The motors
still warm. Youre late! he said.
You calling me a liar? Coocochee snapped.
A warm motor never lies.
The bird began an agitated dance on top of the trucks cab, glaring
down at Willy with his dark flicking eyes. I told the Elder Ravens
that since youve become Chief its gotten harder and harder
to deal with you, he cawed.
The Great Council of Ravens had actually discussed this problem at several
meetings, and had ordered Coocochee to instruct Willy about his behavior,
but the opportunity never seemed to arrive. Even now, Willy had manipulated
Coocochee into a situation where there was little time to discuss leadership,
expanding the casino, or anything else. In fact, Willy had not asked for
any advice from the Elder Council at all, and the Ravens felt that Willys
attitude had gotten so bad it threatened the entire tribe and all the
gains they had made since the great Casino Era had begun. If this arrogance
continued, then the quick-money casinos might disappear like mist in a
sudden rain and the Tribe could be destitute again.
We must have a meeting after your meeting, Coocochee demanded.
I have been ordered to speak to you by the command of the Grand
Circle of Elder Ravens.
Because my motor is still warm? Willy asked.
That, and other things, Coocochee muttered.
Where do we meet for such a meeting?
You will be notified.
What about my meeting right now? Coocochee just stared back
at him. This White Man has asked me to breakfast because there is
something special he needs, and I want to know what that is before I go.
We dont know what it is, Coocochee answered. The
White Man has become more secretive since he was told he couldnt
have the one-armed bandits. So the Grand Elders have nothing to report
on this matter.
What good are the Grand Elders if they have nothing to report?
Willy sneered. Coocochee stomped across the top of the pickup and Willy
thought the bird might slip off. I didnt mean to upset you,
Willy said, moving in closer to catch the old bird if he did fall.
Youre upsetting everyone in the forest and it has to stop.
The Great Council of Ravens insists!
But all I wanted was some advice from my teacher.
Cant you hear the sarcasm in your voice?
Why would I be here if I didnt need advice?
You hide your mistrust in questions. This is an old White Mans
trick handed down from the Hebraic Tribes.
What has that got to do with my meeting with the White Man this
We dont know. Just dont give anything away!
I dont have anything to give away. I can only vote if theres
a tie on the Executive Board, and that hardly ever happens.
Thats because its modeled after the Great Council of
Ravens and the American Constitution. It takes longer but its safer.
Willy grunted an approval, but shook his head. Theres your
Hebraic ambivalence again, Coocochee snapped.
I dont even know what that means, Willy muttered.
Thats because you didnt pay attention in class,
the bird screeched, prancing back and forth on top of the truck.
Ive got to go. Ill be late, Willy insisted.
At least you learned that!
But I still dont understand it.
Now youre being insolent, the old bird snapped.
I dont know what that means either.
It means you dont pay attention. Willy shrugged. If
this White Man wont tell you what he wants it means he needs something
very important, and he wont mention it until the very end of your
meeting. Just when you think the meetings over hell say, Oh,
by the way, or I forgot to mention, and it will end
with Dont you have a vote or Arent you in
charge of, and hell spring one of those little remarks just
when youre leaving so he can catch you off guard. Dont be
fooled. The White Man always has that little extra thing he
wants and needs.
What should I tell him? Willy asked.
Nothing. Just nod and smile. Hell circle you. White Men love
to circle. THATS when hell tell you what he needs.
Then what do I do?
Just nod, smile, and head for your truck. Dont wave or look
back. That gives the wrong signal.
What signal do I want to give?
You dont want to give any signal.
Neither moved. Then Willy nodded, smiled, and got into the truck. Are
you coming with me? he shouted up at the old bird on his roof. Or
are you just going to shit and leave?
They stared at each other for a long time, and then an insulted Coocochee
stretched his great wings and flew off the truck as Willy started down
the hill to his meeting with the White Man.