“Drink The Same Water, Eat The Same Bread:”
Near Council Rocks, Dragoon Mountains, Arizona
Fall, 1872 & Summer 2005
“LSD and Buffalo,”
Bear Butte, South Dakota
Images and text (c) 2016 Stu Jenks and Fezziwig Press.
An excerpt from the e-book The Transpersonal Papers by Stu Jenks.
Sweet Jesus. I've never been so happy to engage the 4-wheel-drive in all my life. That dirt road out of Tombstone is, by far, one of the worst washboard roads I've ever driven on. Huge standing waves of dirt and rock. And trying to drive on the shoulder, like I do up on the Navajo Rez, just doesn't work here. There is no shoulder, no ditch, no narrow smooth strip of dirt on the far right, to drive on. Just one wide carpet of washboard from edge to edge. But now, after ten miles of teeth-rattling, I've turned onto the smooth, gently rolling Jeep trail that leads deep into the western side of the Dragoon Mountains. Then again, the bumpity-bumpity I’ve just experienced may have had more to do with these very stiff shocks on my very old truck than anything else. I really shouldn’t blame it all on the road.
I’ve never been on this side of the Dragoons before, but I've felt pulled to it lately after I started researching Cochise and his Chokonen band of Chiricahua Apaches. On the outside of the Dragoons, on its eastern slope, is Cochise's Stronghold, a place I've been to a number of times over the years, but this Jeep trail on the western slope is brand new to me and that's saying something, given all the dirt roads and jeep trails in Southern Arizona I've driven on over the past twenty-some years.
I stop the truck after about a half-mile, grab my Forest Service map and study it. I look in the rear view mirror. No one there. No one in front of me. I take a little time. On the map, there seems to be a place called White House Ruins. Doesn’t look far. And near that to the south, are something called Council Rocks. I wonder what those are? I wonder if any thing significant happened there, back in the day?
A couple of weeks later, I discovered a lot did happen on this side of the mountain, but I didn't know it at the time. Just had an intuition. But in the Fall of 1872, Cochine negotiated a peace near Council Rocks, and a few years early, further north in the Western Stronghold, he meet Tom Jeffords for the first time. Or so the story goes.
A little about Tom Jeffords, the man who will forever be known as Cochise's best White friend. Born in 1832, Thomas J. Jeffords was a tall, thin man with red hair and a long beard. In the 1850's, he sailed on the Great Lakes. He helped lay road in Kansas and Colorado after his stint as a boatman, and he prospected in New Mexico before the Civil War. In the Civil War, he worked as a scout for the Union General Canby, in the area of New Mexico and Arizona.
After the Civil War, things get a little foggy to say the least. It is said that he either started or managed a mail run that traveled between Santa Fe and Tucson. He probably met the Chihennes clan of the Apaches in New Mexico before he meet Cochise and his Arizonan Chokenens. My guess is, it was through his knowing the Chihennes that he learned to speak Apache. After not too long, he quit the mail business and went back to prospecting and trading. Many say he met Cochise in 1869 in Canada Alamosa, New Mexico when Cochise briefly came to that area to talk peace. The peace failed, mostly because the U.S. Army and government wanted Cochise and his clan to move to New Mexico, but Cochise wanted to stay in his beloved Chiricahua and Dragoon Mountains. Anyway, some accounts point toward Tom Jeffords first meeting Cochise there, in New Mexico, but two stories strongly contradict that notion, one of those tales I believe is closer to the truth.
The first story comes from Jeffords' account told to Robert Forbes in 1913 when Jeffords was his eighties, a story that was told again in the movie "Broken Arrow," and in the book "Blood Brother," by Elliott Arnold. Basically, what Jeffords said was that in the early 1860's, when [according to him,] he was running the mail through Cochise's land, he grew tired of getting his couriers killed by Cochise’s men. Seems most riders never made it to Tucson from parts East, with perhaps as many as twenty of Jeffords' employees being killed running the mail on horseback along the old Butterfield Stage road. Tom said he took a big risk and rode alone into Cochise's camp in the Western Stronghold of the Dragoon Mountains. He was armed but he did not show his guns. He just walked right up to Cochise's wickiup and introduced himself. Cochise was so impressed with Jeffords' bravery that he spared his life and through some discussions, Cochise agreed to let Jeffords’ mail pass through his land unhindered.
A few problems with this story. First, only Jeffords tells the story this way. No Apaches, no U.S. troops, nobody, ever heard this story, besides Tom. Secondly, Apache raids on the mail continued until the eventual peace in 1872, and lastly, Jeffords probably wasn't carrying the mail at that time. Many said that after the Civil War, Jeffords was mostly prospecting and a number of good sources say that Jeffords met Cochise while prospecting in the mountains of Southeastern Arizona.
The account that I think is probably closest to the truth is the story told to Mrs. Eve Ball, an historian of the Apaches, by Daklugie, son of Juh. Tom Jeffords didn't go find Cochise, according to her and her sources. Cochise (or his scouts) ran across Jeffords while he was prospecting and due to Jefford's fearlessness, Cochise and his men didn't kill him. Judging from what is often written about Jeffords, he was a straight shooter, didn't bullshit anyone, and told the truth no matter what. He was also fluent in the Apache language. That, I believe, is incredibly significant, for he could talk directly to the Apaches and to Cochise. Also, Apaches, as a people, prized candor and truthfulness as very high virtues. They also believed in just being silent instead of telling a bold-faced lie. (The exception to the rule being, lying to your enemies in order to get him off guard so you can kill them. Makes sense to me.)
I picture Tom’s and Cochise's meeting, something like this. Remember though, I'm just making this up:
Tom’s digging a hole, looking for gold or silver or copper, maybe in the Dragoons, maybe in the Chiricahuas. I'm guessing the Dragoon Mountains. He hears a horse whinny, then another. Then through the trees, he sees five to ten Apaches on horseback, slowing riding toward him. He probably thinks he's screwed but you never know.
Perhaps he speaks first:
"Hello, how are you doing?" say Jeffords, in Apache.
A number of warriors flank Cochise. He pulls up his horse. He's surprised a white man speaks his language. His warriors rest their rifles on their laps. They look intently at Jeffords. Only Cochise speaks.
"I'm good. How are you?” replies Cochise.
"I'm good too," says Tom.
"My name is Cochise."
"Mine’s Tom Jeffords. Pleased to meet you."
"So you speak my language?" says the chief.
"Enough to get by."
"You know this is my land, don't you?"
"I sure do," says Jeffords.
"What are you doing?" asks Cochise.
"Looking for gold, but not having much luck. Mostly just digging a hole."
"You also know I've killed a lot of white men."
"Yep, I know that too. Seen your handiwork quite a bit."
"Do you think I'm wrong to kill the white man, to kill the Mexicans?"
"Not my place to say. I would rather you not kill this white man," say Jeffords, pointing to himself.
Cochise smiles again.
"You don't seem that frightened," he says.
"Oh, I'm pretty scared,” say Tom, “But frankly, you'll either kill me or you won't and there ain't a goddamn thing I can do to stop you. But, Cochise, Sir, I'd prefer that you let me live."
"Are you always this blunt?" say Cochise, now laughing.
"Pretty much. At least that’s what my friends say," says Tom.
"I like you, Tom,” says Cochise “I don't think I'll kill you today. By the way, would you like to come to my camp and have some dinner with the wives & me tonight?"
"Thought you'd never ask," says Tom, taking off his hat, wiping his forehead with the back of his arm.
Both Tom and Cochise laugh. Even some of the other warriors crack a smile.
I bet you this is closer to the truth, but hell if I or anyone else really knows for sure, even if they say differently. Daklugie, the prominent elder Apache who told Eve Ball a similar story, was only a boy at the time, and he wasn’t there. He said it was Apache scouts and not Cochise himself, who first found Jeffords, and that Cochise’s men first brought the white man into camp. I took some poetic license making the first meeting between these two men at Jefford’s mining claim. And yes, there is a very strong tradition with the Apaches to pass along stories as accurately as possible, since they had no written language. But everyone, Whites, Mexicans and Apaches alike had their own agendas. Daklugie, I suppose, would have had his too. But I tend to believe what the Apaches say over what the U. S Army officers report, or even Jeffords himself.
But I don't blame Jeffords for sweetening the story when he was an old man. Seems quite a few young women, interested in the Apaches, visited him when he was elderly. He was just trying to impress the ladies, I suppose. Hell, I'll probably be telling people, if I make it to my 80's, that those flame spiral photographs I made in my 40’s and 50’s were actually not created using a Zippo lighter but rather, were the visual records of ghosts I photographed in the desert moonlight.
And as far as agendas go, I have mine too. I want to present the Chiricahua Apaches as good people, who like most other American Indian tribes, got the short end of the stick. They were killed, lied to, made sick and treated like crap, and if I had a magic wand, I would give Apache Pass and the Chiricahua Mountains back to them before today’s sun goes down.
But regarding Cochise and Jeffords, one thing is certain. However they met, they became fast friends. They trusted each other, cared for each other, and neither ever betrayed the other. Ever.
This is interesting land. The huge rocks of the Dragoons seemed to have just tumbled down from the sky, coming to rest on an almost flat plain of tall grass and Mesquite trees. No foothills to speak of at all, in this part of the mountains. A little rising and falling through the shallow arroyos, but the driving’s mostly flat and smooth. Campers are here and there, hidden in the trees, but not too many. Maybe three bunches in the hour I've been on this road. I've just past camper number three, when up ahead I see a majestic cluster of boulders, rising to at least a thousand feet or more. Even from the distance of a mile, I can see how I might be able to bushwhack-hike, if not to the top, damn close to it. I drive a bit faster now, and within minutes, I've crossed that mile. I take a right on a side road and quickly find a place to park.
I gaze up at the rocks. I wonder if these are the Council Rocks? Are the White House Ruins nearby? I suddenly don't care. I'm here. Those boulders are there. I want to climb as high up as I can. I stow my Kodak Brownie and my 35mm Pentax in my Camelbak water pack, shoulder the pack and head for the base of those rocks.
By 1872, Cochise was ready to stop fighting the Americans. Many of his warriors were dead. His women and children were tired and hungry and so was he. Yet, two U.S. Army Generals, who jockeyed for power in the Southwest, had greatly opposing ideas on how to solve the ‘Indian Problem.’ First, there was General George Crook, a man who had been fighting the Apaches all across Southern Arizona for the last year. He was not for the placement of Indians on reservations. He wanted to defeat them and kill them. But then another General arrived in 1872 who outranked Crook.
O.O. Howard was a deeply Christian man who lost an arm in The Civil War. Howard saw the Indians as people, not as vermin to be exterminated, and he had a mandate from Washington to do anything he could to bring peace to the area and to lead the Apaches onto a reservation.
General Howard arrived in New Mexico and soon found out that a man, a white man, was a close friend of Cochise's. He summoned Tom Jeffords to his camp and employed him to find Cochise and invite him to come to Howard's camp and talk peace. Jeffords was straightforward and direct with Howard, telling him that Cochise would never come to Howard, but he would be happy to take Howard to see Cochise. Jeffords also said that he must not come with force, but to come unarmed. Howard agreed. In the coming days before their journey to find Cochise, O.O. was so taken by Tom Jeffords, that he appointed him to be the agent of the 'Cochise Reservation,’ if and when it was formed. Within a few days, Howard, Jeffords and three other white men began their trek to find Cochise.
With the help of some Apaches along the way and a bit of luck, The Howard-Jeffords party found Cochise in the Western Stronghold of the Dragoon Mountains. Accompanying the party were two of Cochise's relatives, Ponce and Chie. Ponce and Chie burned smoke signals the day before their arrival, to say who they were and why they were coming. Cochise's scouts, high in the hills, had seen the group’s progress for days, plus the smoke signals gave Cochise the knowledge that a couple of his cousins were coming too, which really helped the cause. Jeffords' being there also gave Howard the extra clout he needed.
Jeffords, Howard, Ponce, Chie and the others camped that night near the Western Stronghold, and the next day, Cochise came to see them. Cochise immediately hugged Jeffords and Jeffords then introduced Howard to the chief.
"This is the man," Jeffords said to Howard.
"Buenos dios, Senor," Cochise said, shaking Howard's hand.
Cochise then pulled his friend Jeffords aside.
"Do you think the General and his men will be honest and do as they say they will do?" asked Cochise.
"Well, I don't know," said Jeffords, "I think they will, but I will see that they don't promise too much." The two men laughed.
After briefly talking with Ponce and Chie, Cochise went to Howard and asked why the General was here.
"I have come from Washington to meet your people and to make peace, and I will stay as long as it is necessary," said Howard.
"Nobody wants peace more than I do,” said Cochise. “I have done no mischief since I came from Canada Alamosa, but I am poor, my horses are poor, and I have but a few horses left. I might have gotten more by raiding the Tucson road but I did not do that."
Howard then proposed his idea of a reservation at Canada Alamosa in New Mexico. "I'll go, but I am sure it would break my band," said Cochise, knowing his people would not go to New Mexico.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, Cochise asked, "Why not give me Apache Pass? Give me that and I will protect all the roads. I will see that nobody's property is taken by Indians. But I need to talk this over with my captains, and most of them are out making a living." (By the way, 'making a living' was the Apaches’ way of saying they were out stealing livestock in Mexico.)
Howard agreed to wait until Cochise had talked with his leadership. Cochise however asked Howard to go to Fort Bowie and tell them a truce was in place and not to fight with his captains as they came to the Western Dragoons. Howard first wanted to send a Lieutenant Sladen but Cochise insisted that Howard go himself. That night with the help of Chie, Howard made his way to Fort Bowie. Howard later talked about the tough crossing of the Dragoon Mountains that night, how the trees and brush tore his coat to shreds in the dark. Howard got to Fort Bowie the next morning, delivered the message of truce, and left the fort around 2 p.m. to make his way back to the Dragoons. The next day, Howard arrived after having traveled 80 miles in just a couple of days.
Then came the long wait until all of Cochise's captains came to the Western Stronghold. Lieutenant Joseph A. Sladen is our best witness of that week in Cochise's camp. Sadly, little was known by most Americans of how the Apaches lived until this particular peace parley. (Thanks, Lieutenant, for keeping meticulous notes.) Not even an accurate physical description of Cochise, post-Civil War, was available, until Sladen’s accounts of this meeting. Many thought Cochise was old and beat down, when in reality, he was still strong, relatively young and the best groomed of all, White and Indian alike.
During that week of waiting, Sladen witnessed Cochise getting drunk and having a fight with one of his wives, and saw Jeffords stepping in to calm down the domestic dispute. Another time, Sladen heard Cochise singing and praying over the severely wounded body of one of his warriors. The lieutenant had medical training and Howard offered Salden’s services to Cochise. Cochise thanked them but refused. He told Sladen the warrior was very ill, and if he died, and his people knew that the lieutenant had worked on him, they might think Sladen had given him bad medicine, hastening his death, and then they would want to kill the officer. Sladen didn't treat the warrior. The warrior died soon after.
One by one, the Apache captains arrived throughout that week, twelve all total, with two absent who were off raiding in Sonora, Mexico. The following day, the captains and Cochise held council to decide if they wanted peace. General Howard wanted to sit in, but Jeffords dissuaded him from this, saying that they would know soon enough by the sounds coming from the council camp. Sure enough, soon Cochise returned to where Jeffords and Howard were camped and stated that they were ready to decide on the specific terms of peace.
The terms were simple. Even though Howard initially wished for Cochise and his people to go to New Mexico, the General changed his mind and agreed to Cochise's terms that the reservation would be on land beloved by Cochise, namely the Chiricahuas Mountains, the Dragoons, and most of Southeastern Arizona, down to the Mexican border. He and the U.S Government also agreed to provide provisions of food and clothing to the Apaches. Cochise agreed to protect the roads and to keep them safe and open to travel. And finally, Tom Jeffords would be the Apaches' Indian agent on the reservation, representing their needs to the U.S. Army and Government. I believe that without Jeffords' willingness to perform this role, peace would have never been agreed upon.
During the negotiation with Jeffords and Howard, Cochise is quoted as saying that "Hereafter, the White Man and the Indian are to drink from the same water, eat of the same bread, and be at peace."
A couple of days later, everyone went home, except for Cochise who was already home. There were great concerns if the peace would last, especially among some of the Army officers, but the biggest concern was Mexico to the south. The Apaches would likely continue raiding across the border, taking cattle however they wished. Cochise himself said that, "The Mexicans are on one side of this matter and the Americans on another. I made peace with the Americans, but the Mexicans did not come to ask peace from me."
But that matter would come home to roust later. This peace between the Americans and the Apaches was extremely significant and Cochise and his people would be at peace with the United States for the remainder of his life. Cochise never again fought with the U.S. Army, nor did he himself raid again into Mexico. General Crook was furious when he heard the conditions of the treaty, but he had very little power to change anything for he was outranked. And as the peace continued to hold, General Howard gained support from not only the hostile newspapers in Tucson, but also from the ranchers and miners of Southern Arizona.
Peace had finally come, negotiated by an old trio of men: A one-armed Christian General, a straight-shooting ex-prospector, and a tall fastidiously dressed Apache Indian Chief.
The hike up here wasn't all that difficult but there was a moment or two of some semi-serious bouldering. At one point, I had to force myself to move my legs as I spidered up a steep crevasse between two large granite boulders. I could feel myself freezing up with fear. I literally had to say softly out loud 'Move, Stu. Move your legs.' I moved. I'm OK.
I'm guessing I'm about 800 feet or so above the flat valley floor now. Off a ways, I can see Chesapeake, my truck, parked in a turnaround. Further west rises the gentle silhouette of the Whetstone Mountain range, and to the southwest, the large blue mass of the Huachuca Mountains.
I'm standing in a cradle of space created by more boulders. There is a sheltering feeling to this place. The granite hasn't been worn by cattle hoofs or hiking boot soles. It's still as rough as coarse sandpaper. A middle-aged Juniper tree struggles for purchase in a crack in one of the boulders, the tree wider than its height, gnarled by the westerly winds. There is no real soil to speak of. Only fine granite dust and pebbles, but life does find a way.
To the east stands a tall rock tower, another 800 feet higher than where I sit. That peak was my initial goal. I can picture the route up to the top, up that crevasse, hop that gap between boulders, spider up that side, but I decide not to attempt it. Over the years, I've learned that I sometimes prefer to stop just before a summit, for when I'm on the mountain top, I can't see the mountain top. I’m standing on it. But if I stop just a ways before the top, I can see the peak and feel the summit at the same time. Plus right now, this shelter of stones, these rock hands holding me, feels very healing, and healing is what I need, much more that a summit pitch.
I take out the Brownie and squeeze off a couple of diptychs of that three-foot Juniper tree. I also have my Pentax with its 28 mm lenses with me and I take some shots of the tree with it, as well. I look around for some other images but feel a little lost in the moment and decide to put down the cameras.
I begin to wander around my large stone cradle, to those stones over there, then to that ocotillo, then back to the center again. I walk more lightly than I usually do. I'm so aware of how virgin this landscape is, how perhaps a hiker or two over the years has climbed up here, but it isn't really that dramatic of a spot to draw most people. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the last person up here wasn’t Apache.
My wanderings in this space take me to a granite rock that's shaped like those stone megaliths you find dispersed throughout the British Isles. Pointy at the top, wide toward the base, not a standing stone moved by men, but a stone left after all around it has eroded away. And I then see the shot; ocotillos to the left, the stone on the right, a group of even more dramatic granite slabs and boulders far to the north. Now those stones over there would attract the occasional weekend warrior looking to bag a few boulders. Apache sentries from a century ago might want to sit atop them as well. I compose the image. I pop a couple exposures. Then a couple more. I then put down the Brownie and grab the Pentax. I take some shots with the 35mm, but I can tell it won’t be the same as the images taken with the Kodak. The Pentax will create an actual record of the Standing Stone and the boulders in the distance. That’s not bad, but I'm looking to create a bit more of a dreamy image, not just an actual representation of reality. The Brownie’s great for that, with its cheap plastic lens, that’s only in focus in the center of the frame. But the Pentax does its job well too. Both cameras have their strengths and weakness. I love them both.
After a few more minutes, I pack up my gear and plan my descent. I'll go a different route down. I gaze down and kinda-sorta see a way to descend. Slowly, sometimes in reverse spider form, I make my descent. Takes no time really. Before too long, I'm out of the boulders and walking the narrow trail that’s leading me through the waist-tall grass.
Well, not out of all the boulders. To the south, I see in the grassy flat, a small group of twenty-foot high granite rocks, clustered together as if they are trying to stay warm, and I flashback to Bear Butte, South Dakota, 23 years ago. One of those fast visual memories with few words but with huge amounts of feeling and power.
Crazy Horse. Those Council Rocks in South Dakota. These rocks here reminding me of those stones there. I slowly walk toward that huddling cluster of stones and fall in memory. A very spacey, brightly colored memory.
Tom, John and I drove up to Chicago to be part of Bo and Cathy’s wedding. Great wedding: John was best man, Tom played his mandolin and I filmed it all on my 8mm movie camera. Cathy seemed really sweet too, (not like some of the other women Bo has dated.) We are hopeful for them. (Bo and Cathy are still married and their twin boys recently graduated from the University of South Carolina.) Tom and John had to get home to North Carolina another way, for I was taking my second-ever road trip out West. Just me and the Chevy.
My first trip out West in 1977 was more struggle than fun. I hitchhiked from North Carolina to visit friends of friends in Austin, Texas, and then I couldn't get picked up leaving Austin to save my life, and had to take a bus to Colorado. Bob, my old friend from Chapel Hill had transferred to a school in Colorado. Seems there were just too many distractions for him at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, if you know what I mean. When I got to Alamosa, Colorado, Bob had gotten me a room in an empty college dorm, but since I was hitchhiking and I feared getting arrested, I didn't bring along any dope to smoke and had to bum pot off people in Colorado. That really sucked in about half a dozen different ways. The ride back to Carolina with Bob’s brother, Ray was quite fun actually, drinking Lone Star and Coors as we drove, and the hiking up The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado was fabulous, but when I returned home, I was utterly exhausted, wondering if the trip had been worth the time, energy and money.
But this trip is different, at least I hope it will be. I was with close friends until Chicago and being part of Bo and Cathy’s wedding was a great beginning to the journey. I have plenty of marijuana with me, and a shit-load of acid and mushrooms, as well. I’ve saved up a little money by living at home with my folks, while waiting tables at a Marriott in Raleigh, North Carolina. And I’m in a 1966 Chevy II I inherited from my deceased grandmother, Mama Lillie. Four doors, build like a tank, with a big back seat, that’s great for sleeping and other intimacies. I am filled with hope, false hopes perhaps, of getting back together with Alicia in San Francisco. I’ll call her when I get there. In the back of my mind, I’m considering moving to a new city out West somewhere. I told my friends in Chapel Hill, it was like that Talking Heads song. 'Looking for a city to live in.’ Maybe San Francisco will be that city, or perhaps Tucson where my aunt and uncle live.
I‘m a few days out of Chicago. I dropped some acid after I crossed the South Dakota line. Haven’t peaked yet, but I’m feeling a little overly connected. The hum of my tires matches the hum in my head. I exit Interstate 80 east of Wall and drive on a two-lane farm road for a few miles. I pull off onto the shoulder. I step out of my Chevy and watch, for about an hour, the wind blowing across the top of these huge fields of wheat that surround me. Grey rain clouds race overhead. Some rain falls, then it stops, then it starts to rain again, but always there is the constant wind through the wheat. They are waving at me. Hello, wheat. So these are the amber waves of grain they sing about? It’s so pretty. I’m sure glad I dropped this acid. But I wonder if it’s like Bo says, “You don’t really need dope when things are already beautiful. Dope just messes with the high that’s already there.” Maybe. Too late now.
That night, I collapse in a fleabag motel in Wall, South Dakota. The next morning, I’m up early, pay the bill, get a cup of coffee, load a bowl, smoke it, and I’m back on I-80 West. My goal for the day is to make it to Mount Rushmore, timing the LSD I will soon drop, so I will peak right when I see the four presidential faces.
The morning light amazes me. I have never seen light like this back in North Carolina. Too much humidity I guess. Each blade of grass seemed alive, shining in the early morning light. Could be the pot. Could be the residual of yesterday's LSD. Could be the grass itself. Could be all three and a fourth-something I don’t know about. Yea, there does seem to be a fourth-something I’m missing all time. I light the pipe, inhale deeply and hold it.
I’ve been driving a little more than an hour when off to the right I notice a dome-shaped mountain rising alone out of the grassy plains. I exit the Interstate and drive toward the mountain. I know it isn’t in my plans, but Mount Rushmore will just have to wait.
I soon discover I’m entering Bear Butte State Park. Through my open driver's side window, I suddenly see a small herd of buffalo eating grass near the roadside. Real live buffalo! I stopped at the first History road sign and read about this place.
Seems Bear Butte is sacred ground to many Native tribes, primarily the Lakota and the Cheyenne. Indians from all over the United States come here to pray. No kidding? They tie medicine bundles to the trees as a form of worship. The sign says that we Whites can hike to the top of the butte too, but to respect the closed areas that are only for the Native People, and to not disturb the prayer bundles. Prayer bundles? What kind of prayer bundles? I get back in my Chevy and quickly drive to the parking lot, next to the trail that leads to the top. I grab some water, some pot, a plastic whirligig to give as my own little prayer offering and head up the trail. Very soon though, the trail splits. Left goes up to the top, right goes to a number of boulders off to my right. I’ll go check out the boulders first before I head toward the summit.
There, I found another historic marker stating that this natural amphitheatre of boulders was a place where Native people would come and discuss the events of the day. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, all stood here, it said, and they spoke to the members of their tribes about the troubled times they lived in. Wow. I walked up to the most obvious rock that looks like a pulpit. I place my hand on it. I’m all alone. It’s the middle of the week. Nobody but me and the buffalo. I looked at the surrounding boulders. I’m not an emotional guy, but I’m close to tears, standing here. I close my eyes. I don’t feel alone. I can almost hear voices. I swear I hear people talking.
These boulders are smaller than those at Bear Butte, but the feel is similar. I walk up to one and place my hand on its side. I close my eyes. I breathe in. That intuition from earlier returns. Something happened here. Maybe not right here but close by. Something important, something big, like Crazy Horse talking at Bear Butte. Maybe as I read more about Cochise, I'll find out. I breathe deep again. I think about taking a couple more Brownie images but reconsider. Isn’t the time for that. My hand on the rock with be my record, not exposed silver on plastic.
I close my eyes.
I breathe in. I connect.
I breathe out. I see a world.
I breathe in again. The world opens up.
I breathe out again. It is beautiful.
[Footnote: Many thanks to Edwin Sweeney and his great scholarly books, “Cochise, Chiricahua Apache Chief.” and “Making Peace with Cochise: The 1872 Journal of Captain Joseph Alton Sladen.” Of all the books I’ve read on the Apaches of Southeast Arizona, his, I believe, are some of the most accurate records of those times. The renowned Apache historian Eve Ball’s marvelous book “Indeh” and others of her writings are also great source materials. Also, thank you to Robert H. Forbes’ “Letters to the Journal of Arizona History”, Jay W. Sharp’s “Cochise and the Bascom Affair”, and Frank C. Lockwood’s “The Apache Indians”. And no, the above circle of rocks that reminded me of Bear Butte was not The Council Rocks. That historic and sacred area lies less than a mile to the north of the cradle of rocks I climbed to, that day in 2005. I’ve visited The Council Rocks many times over the past five years. And I’ve heard the ghost voices of Apaches there. And others have heard them too. And I’m sober as a deacon, these days – Summer, 2010]
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