Sunday, February 24, 2008


BUS STORY # 72, Part 2 (Freedom Flies)


I’m out of the biting wind and aboard the homebound Lomas and listening to a fellow passenger start to tell me how his religion helps keep him from binge drinking and being on the street.

His religion is the Native American Church, and he describes the taking of peyote in a ceremony I frame as a communion ritual. He tells me his grandfather taught him one should go to the ceremony once a year as a way to stay level. “Your life turns to ____, then you go to the ceremony, and everything gets back in balance.”

I ask him where the church is located.

“All over. I have some family in Los Lunas, and out in To'hajiilee, all around the area. We get together at my cousin’s house or at one of my in-law’s . . . ” It sounds like his grandfather’s once-a-year ritual has evolved into a more frequent celebration. Perhaps a lot more rebalancing is needed these days.

He tells me how the price of peyote buttons has skyrocketed. His dealer – that’s what he says: “My dealer” – goes down into Mexico and harvests the buttons and sends them back by mail. But they’re dried up and hard, not at all like the buttons his grandfather used to harvest in “The Garden” down in Texas.

“What part of Texas?” I ask.

“I don’t remember. Somewhere way down south, maybe near McAllen, somewhere like that. I went with him once when I was nine years old. Anyone could go down there in those days, but some guys got lost in there and almost died, so they restricted it to people who know the area.”

Later that evening, I will type “peyote harvest, texas” in Google and discover the Rio Grande area in far South Texas is indeed a source of peyote, that peyote harvesting is indeed restricted to licensed harvesters known as peyoteros, and that demand is exceeding supply these days.

“People think all we do is just get high on the peyote,” he says, “but there’s a lot more to it, a lot of chanting and meditating . . . It’s hard to really understand it if you’re an outsider.”

He tells me there’s a “white guy” from Santa Fe that’s been coming to the ceremonies. Of course, I think to myself, of course he’s from Santa Fe. Apparently he wants to film a documentary about the ceremony, but he’s been told it won’t make any sense to him unless he understands it from the inside first. So he’s coming to the ceremonies without his camera.

“His name is Dependable Hickory Strongheart.”

“That’s quite a name for a white guy,” I reply. I say the name over and over because I want to remember it long enough to write it down when I get the opportunity.

“He got that name when he made a walking stick and the wood was no good, so he made another one out of hickory.” And then he adds, “It’s on his birth certificate, too.”

I will also google that name after my peyote harvest search and come up blank.

My stop comes up and I tell my co-rider thanks for the conversation. “Stay warm,” I tell him as I exit. I cross the street, stop, take off a glove and pull out a pen and write “Dependable Hickory Strongheart” on the back of a magazine. It’s at that moment I realize I hadn’t gotten around to asking about “freedom flies.” I console myself with the thought that asking might have derailed the better story.

4 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Hey there, I was curious if we could use one of your bus images on the Wikipedia article for ABQ RIDE? We're trying to improve the article and add an image or two, and your images are fantastic.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

John: no problem. I'm happy you like the images. Thanks.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So here's something random. I'm sitting here wasting time googling people from years ago. In 1987 I worked in a toy store in Santa Fe and remember a young brother and sister that used to come in a hang out. I'll never forget their names: Dependable Hickory Strongheart and his sister, Hallelujah Misty Mountain Strongheart (Lu Lu for short) Really unique kids, I always wondered where they ended up.
BTW, I'm not buying the story of how he got his name. He had it when he was a kid. I think there were other sibs too. Wonder what their names were.
Peace,

7:59 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

This is a wonderful coincidence, anonymous. I'm delighted you were wasting your time with Google. Thank you for posting this.

7:41 AM  

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