"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Henry Slough Chapter III

Taking the Pima twins to Minnesota was a win-win situation.  Dina was delighted that she would have them in no-man’s land for at least three weeks and probably longer the way they talked about The Reservation.  The twins couldn’t believe their luck, not only being with other Indians but being on a reservation.  Mr. and Mrs. DiMarco had gotten to the point where the finally realized they had made a big mistake adopted the twins; and now that they were over 21, there were more than happy to let them lead their own lives.  In Dina’s eyes, Henry could do no wrong for getting rid of the twins and was even sweeter, more loving, and more passionate than before.

The North Valley Reservation near the Canadian border in Minnesota was even worse than the Pine Ridge in North Dakota if that were possible.  Despite the glamorous and alluring pictures on the website (an Ojibwe Chief standing on a rise, overlooking the green prairie at sunset), it was a dump.  Life expectancy rates approaching those of Africa; alcoholism, teenage pregnancies, malnutrition, drug addition, and infant mortality worse than those of Detroit.  It, in fact, was the poorest and worst place in America.  Housing was no more than beat up trailers, unemployment was so high that the entire adult population lived on welfare and food stamps, and the best – and only – recreation was to get puking, staggering drunk every day.  North Valley was a shithole, and  Henry told the twins this.

“Hey”, they said.  “We’re Indians”.

Henry called a friend at the Bureau of Indian Affairs that had oversight over North Valley, and told him that he was coming with two Pimas who wanted to work.  When the friend heard that they had Bobcat and backhoe experience, he said, “We’ll take ‘em.  The last time we got anyone on a motor, Billy Great Horse cut his foot off in the blades of the tractor-mower, was so drunk he never realized it until he had finished mowing down to the water pump, and it took us a hour to find his foot by the swings.”

Henry said his good-byes to Dina, her parents, and the boys at the site.  He would be gone for about two weeks summer vacation, and would see them in September.  He and the twins flew Alaska to Minneapolis and changed to a small commuter prop to Prairieville.  The crew was not going to let the twins on board because each of them would take two seats and so throw off the balance of weight that the reconditioned Cessna would never take off.   After much discussion they agreed to shift the baggage around, put one twin front left and one rear right.  As it was the Cessna yawed down the runway and took every bit of mileage to get off the ground.

Henry’s parents met them at the airport and drove them the 50 miles to the farm.  “This is home”, his father said to the Pima twins, “and that is where you are going to stay”.  He pointed to an old bunkhouse at the end of long yard on the edge of the cornfields.  “For as long as you want”.

“Yeah, OK”, said one twin, “but we’re going to live on the reservation”. 

Henry told his parents the whole story over dinner which didn’t last long because the twins were used to heaping up their plates, scarfing three helpings, and the pot roast, baked potatoes, peas, and peach cobbler went in minutes.  “My Lord”, said Mrs. Slough, “Those boys know how to eat”.

The next day they drove up to North Valley, and stopped to see the Bureau Manager.  “So these are your Indian friends”, he said.  “Mighty big boys.  Glad to see that, lot’s of work to do on the reservation”.

“We thought we were going to work the Cats and backhoes”, they said, not happy to hear that they might have to dig, shovel, or rake. “Why, yes, you’re right; but there will be some other work as well.  We’ve got the school property, the firehouse….”

“We get it”, they interrupted.  “Where’s the Rez?”

Hannah Barnes, an Indian who ran a small boarding house on the reservation, mainly for Bureau people who didn’t want to drive back out in bad weather, said she would take the Pimas in.  “This is a fucking dump”, they said, the reality of the pure, unadulterated badness of the reservation quickly setting in.  “Well, we’re nice people here”, said Mrs. Barnes. “I know it isn’t Boston, but it is Indian country”.  She had been prepped by the Bureau Manager.   Henry had done all he could, and if they wanted to leave, they could.  He left for Prairieville the next day, spent a nice week with his parents and then headed back East.

Once the twins got a couple of paychecks, they put money down on an old F-150, a truck that looked just like those that had fallen apart and been cannibalized and now littered the reservation.  Its windshield was cracked down both sides, the alignment was so out of whack that it went almost sideways down the road, its shocks were gone so with any load it sagged halfway to the ground; but it worked, and it was cheap, and you had to have wheels to get you off the rez to drink.  The twins got used to driving it with no second gear, putting oil in every 200 miles, and speed-jumping over grade crossings just to give a little lift if they were carrying any kind of a load. 

Their new life really started when the met Jimmy One Feather, the bartender at the South Fork just outside the reservation.  Jimmy was a twitchy crankhead who got spun on the weekends on local meth, then snorted oxycontin taken from cancer patients who died at the hospice over in Jefford to get right for work on Monday.  He was skinny, gnarly, toothless, wore feather earrings and a turquoise tie for his ponytail, and was totally fucked up.  The only reason he had the bartending job was because everyone was worse off.  Most people drank Bud Lite on tap, saved the real drunk for the moonshine back in the trailer, so not much figuring was required.

Bartending, however, was not his main profession.  He cooked meth, and used the bar for point-of-sale distribution.  Now, the twins had never gotten this deep into shit back in the North End.  After the glue phase they did some meth, but it was nothing like this local brew.  “This is some baaad shit, Bro’”, said one twin to the other, “and he cooks it up in his back yard.  Talk about a short supply chain”.

Social life – if you can call fucking the same squaws that hung out at the South Fork when Henry worked up there, doing crank, and digging muddy tracks out of the school yard with the Cat a social life.  The twins were more street dudes than they thought, and while they didn’t want to go back to the DiMarco circus, even Prairieville would be better than this.  Before they got to wacko to think straight, the made a proposition to Jimmy One Feather.  “Whaddya say we open an outlet in Prairieville?”

“Outlet?  What kind of outlet”

“Crank.  There’re as many jerkoffs down there as here – more actually – and we can open up easy operations.  Until we get our connections, you can supply us with whatever, teach us how to cook, and we’re in business”.

“Yeah”, said the other twin.  “And we got the perfect place, too.”

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