Thread: New studio
View Single Post
Old 07-29-2020, 11:12 AM
joseph engraver's Avatar
joseph engraver joseph engraver is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Sarzana,Italy
Posts: 662
Default Billy Horse Capture

It was nearly forty years ago while I was living in the remote mountain town named Joseph, which is located in the north east corner of Oregon that I came to meet a full blooded Indian.
I had recently been commissioned to engrave a Winchester rifle for the Wallowa county Chamber of Commerce .And, while doing the research for the engraving I had developed a great empathy for the Indians that had lived in Oregon. Especially for the Nez Pierce who had inhabited the area where I was l was living, and their tragic history under the heavy and cruel treatment that they had endured in their fight with the US soldiers led by General Howard.
It is a legend in Joseph that Chief Joseph had placed a curse on the town named for him. He had said. “Let no white man who comes here live in peace and prosperity.” I later found this was true.
The locals have also a saying, “Once you get to Joseph you can never leave, because you will never have enough money to move away.”This I also later found to be true, but that is another story which I call “Escape from Joseph”
Every July twenty ninth there is a celebration in the town. It is called The Chief Joseph Days and has a parade, with cowboys, horses, a band, a rodeo, and a small gathering of Indians from many parts of the West. It was my habit at that time to take a sketch pad, pen, and a pipe full of marijuana and go for daily hikes along the lake and mountainside.
One day, while sitting on a knoll overlooking Wallowa Lake. While I was drawing a patch of wild flowers I noticed several groups of rocks far below me that appeared to have been placed in two large circles, and it occurred to me that they might have once been used by Indians to make Tepee rings. I decided to hike down to them and have a closer look .As I stood outside the ring of rocks and studied them, I saw that two were spaced father apart and looked like they could have been the entrance. Then I saw that a large flat rock next to them was stained by fire and might have been where meals were cooked.
Curious, I started to enter the ring of rocks. Suddenly, I heard a voice tell me to take off my boots, which I did without hesitation. Once inside I could see a dozen smaller flat stones placed in a semicircle around the fire stone. Now I was positive that I was standing inside of a teepee ring. I went to one of the flat stones and sat down and found it to be comfortable, so I tried sitting on them all.
Then I noticed that the one rock near the entrance was set with its very sharp edge turned up. I went over to it and sat down .It took me five minutes before the pain to my spine was unbearable.
When I stood up I decided that I was wrong, and the whole idea of this being a teepee ring was my imagination. I walked out of the rock ring and started to put on my boots. When again a voice says “That rock was for the white men to sit on”.
In my pocket I had a Buck folding knife that was engraved with simple scrolls...I took it out, went back into the ring of rocks and dug a hole next to the fire rock and buried it as a gift. Then I put on my boots and went home to tell my wife of the extraordinary experience.
Her reply was “Have you been smoking that stuff “When I said yes, she replied “Well that explains it.”Maybe it did, but I wasn’t sure.

It was a week later that the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo started and I was very anxious to meet some Indians. I was hoping to find someone who would be willing to go with me and look at the site where the ring of rocks was and get the opinion of a real Indian. That is where I met Charley Horse Capture.
He was about thirty years old, dressed in jeans and a western cut shirt. He was also very tall, slim, dark skinned, with black hair worn in a ponytail, he was selling belts and buckles displayed on a folding card table set up in front of a brand new pickup truck, a horse trailer and a small camping trailer. Though it was not even noon he was a bit intoxicated.
As I stood in front of his display he noticed my fishing vest and asked me where I went fishing, and that he liked also to fish. So, I told him about the lake, the ring of rocks and that I had buried my pocket knife there as a gift to honor his ancestors, the people who had once lived there. His response was not what I had expected. He said that he did not believe me and that I was a liar.
Offended, I told him that I never lie and, if he had enough ambition I would take him to the lake and show him where the knife was buried.
He agreed to go, and we set off to walk the four miles back to the lake. As we walked he told me that he was a member of the Lakota tribe and was proud that he was a great horseman and was at the rodeo to ride in the bucking horse completion. I told him that I was an artist and made my living engraving guns and knives and not a very good horse rider, and after we returned to town, I would invite him to my home to meet my wife, and show him my shop. When we got to the lake I showed him where the knife was buried and told him that I had no intension of removing it.
But he wanted to see it, and without asking me, he proceeded to dig it up. At first I started to object, but then I decided that he was an Indian and I had put it there for his ancestors and if he was fine with them, then I certainly should have no problem. Besides, I thought it better for him to have it, then leave it to rust away for some archeologist to maybe find one day, so I shrugged my shoulders and said,” Go ahead and dig.” When he found it the first thing he said was, “I want to keep it.”There was nothing I could say but, “It’s yours, take good care of it.”
When we got to my home I took him into the kitchen, introduced him to my wife, and then showed him my shop, when he saw my fishing rod he asked my where I went fishing .I said my favorite places to fish are Big Sheep Creek for rainbow trout and on the Imnaha River for steelhead, and bull trout and said we could go tomorrow morning if he wanted. He agreed to go, so I asked him what time did he want to leave? He said, “When the sun rises.
”I had absolutely no idea what time the sun rose, but I was pleased to go for I thought I would learn how a real Indian fished. So I cheerfully agreed, showed him to the door and we said goodbye.
I could not sleep that night. I was very excited to be going fishing with a true full blooded Indian and I hope to learn something from him .I was also worried that I would oversleep.
I was up and dressed by four AM. I fixed sandwiches, packed some fruit, made a thermos full of coffee, and then after I ate my breakfast I went outside to see if the sun was starting to rise. To the East I could see a very faint shade of violet behind the mountain. I packed my gear and the food into my seven year old Plymouth, and then sat down to wait for my new fishing friend to show up.
There is a precise moment when you know that it is sunrise. That morning it happened at 5.31 am and I stared down the street expecting Billy Horse Capture to appear as we had agreed. About an hour later I knew he had stood me up. At first I was disappointed then the disappointment turned into anger and I decided to find him and demand an explanation.
I found Billy at the rodeo grounds, drunk and staggering on his feet. “I thought we were going fishing, and you were to meet me at sunrise. Do you want to go or are you too drunk? He looked at me and said, “Am not drunk, I just had a couple of beers and I want to go fishing” He got into my car and we headed out of town and the Imnaha river .Do you have beer? He asked me. “No I don’t but I have coffee and sandwiches.” He nodded then said, OK, then I will look for a sign.
Stupid me, I thought he was looking for an omen that would tell us how the fishing would be .Maybe a raven , fox, coyote or even a deer. Then, when he said; I don’t see a sign. And you have no beer, I and am getting a headache-That is when I realized he was looking for a bar or a shop where i could buy him beer. I pulled over and made a u turn and headed back to Joseph. “I was wondering Billy, do you have the knife with you, and what did your friends think of it?” His answer was the final end of my relation with a real Indian.
He said, “No, I had an accident and wrecked my truck last night and left it in the glove box of my truck and someone stole it.”
I dropped Billy Horse Capture at the rodeo grounds, and then went home to get some much needed sleep
"What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life by him who interests his heart in everything"-Lawrence Sterne
Reply With Quote