Sunday, February 22, 2009

BUS STORY # 121 (Dependable Hickory Strongheart, Part 2: Contact)

A year ago this March, a rider told me about a “white guy” from Santa Fe who was attending Native American Church peyote ceremonies with the intention of eventually filming the ceremony. His name, I was told, was “Dependable Hickory Strongheart.”

I was skeptical. You hear a lot of stories on the bus. Besides the improbable name, a couple of details in my co-rider’s story didn’t quite fit.

I posted the story.

That post was eventually googled by “Anonymous” who commented in May of 2008 saying he’d known Dependable Hickory Strongheart and his sister, “Hallelujah Misty Mountain Strongheart,” when they were kids in Santa Fe.

That comment inspired a second bus story which concluded:

Anonymous’ comment is like the tip of some fantastic iceberg. Which is why this story is Part 1. I sense there is more to come. Not that I plan to go stalking, just that I have my radar set because the story of Dependable Hickory Strongheart, like the truth, is out there.
This posting drew yet a second comment from another “Anonymous” who had heard a boyfriend speak of these two siblings plus another sister, “Faith Brings Out The Wild.”

And then, a couple of weeks ago, a comment from “hickman” was posted that began:

“Hello. I am Dependable Hickory Strongheart. I have 5 sisters and live in Santa Fe. I just completed my Bachelor's Degree in Documentary Studies at the College of Santa Fe, and my final film thesis was on the Native American Church. I thought I'd google myself to see what was out there, and I find this blog...D.H.S.
I responded with an invitation to share his story.

What that story might be has been the matter of some personal speculation for a while now. At first glance, the unusual names of the siblings seem to be the focus. But that really leads one to the parents who named them, doesn’t it?

I’ve imagined a young couple from the countercultural ‘60s, maybe from here, maybe migrating to northern New Mexico from the east coast, maybe spending some time in one of the communes that dotted the landscape from Arroyo Hondo to Placitas.

I’ve imagined them as a “nation of two” who kept the faith after the countercultural movement ran out of gas, leaving behind its legacy of getting long hair on television and Richard Nixon in the White House.

I’ve imagined a secular fundamentalist family living in a culture that runs contrary to its every value, and the struggle it must have been to raise their children, to protect them and strengthen them against the seductively corrosive influences of that culture.

That is what names like “Dependable Hickory Strongheart” and “Hallelujah Misty Mountain” and “Faith Brings Out the Wild” summon up in my admittedly romantic imagination. Bold, strong names for the children of bold, strong parents. Names that would encourage strength, boldness, and imagination in the children who bore them.

Such a conjuring suggests that maybe D.H.S.’s family would be an exceptionally fine subject for a documentary.

But this is my pipe dream, not Dependable Hickory Strongheart’s story. If past experience is any guide, the real story is something else, and more interesting. As my friend, Bob, says, “And you want me to read a book with a story that someone made up?”

I haven’t heard from hickman since posting my response. But my invitation to share his story stands. Thank you, Dependable Hickory Strongheart, for writing.

The photo at the top of this story is posted with the kind permission of Sparky_R. You can see this and all Sparky_R’s photos on Flickr at:


Blogger Busboy said...

March 1, 2009 – This morning, I received two comments on Bus Story # 84, the second posting on Dependable Hickory Strongheart. They appear with my response on the comments attached to that story. But since they really belong more to this posting, I am reproducing the two comments and my response here.

Dear Busboy,

This is hilarious! My name is Mercy Blue Sky That Never Darkens (seriously). I'm one of Dependable Hickory Strongheart's five sisters (we just call him Hickory, though I think he is increasingly going by D.H.).

Yes, you got the right Hickory, he did his documentary on peyote ceremonies after years of study and participation. Anyway, his is not my story to tell. We grew up in Santa Fe, where hippie kids with strange names abound (Random Comet Love Joy and Sunday Peaches, to name a couple).

I like the concept of your blog! I ride the bus a lot in Portland, Oregon. My mom sent out a link to your blog, which is how I found this posting about my brother. You'll probably be hearing from my other sisters, if you haven't already, and hopefully they'll fill you in on their names, too.

Thanks for the chuckle!


I heard about your blog from our mother, Paula Strongheart, who heard about it from her Mohawk friend in upstate New York. Our mother gave us all our "unusual names". She named most of us after we were already born and said she waited for us to "tell" her our names. Meaning that, she wanted our personalities to come out and show her what we wanted to be called. Her spiritual beliefs were heavily influenced by the Native Americans, hence the very creative names. She didn't name our sister Mercy for a few years b/c no name came to her, so we just called her "baby sister". Our names on our birth certificates are (oldest to youngest):
1. Lake Manyfeathers
2. Faith Brings the Wild
3. Mercy Blue Sky that Never Darkens
4. Hallelujah Mist on the Mountains
5. Dependable Hickory
6. Sara Beth Aurelia Star

Most of us dropped the last names listed on our birth certificates and just used Strongheart. And, some of us are now married and use our husbands names. Nonetheless, we are all very proud to be named what we are.

Faith Strongheart

Faith and Mercy (beautiful combination, that), I can’t tell you how excited and how touched I am by your comments.

Your comments are posted to what is now the second of three posts on your brother and your family. I posted the last one just last Sunday -- # 121. (

I mention this because I indulged in some daydreaming about your parents and how you came by your names. I concluded by reminding myself and anyone else reading that “…this is my pipe dream, not Dependable Hickory Strongheart’s story. If past experience is any guide, the real story is something else, and more interesting.” Your stories have proven me right.

Faith, I’m grateful your response was to find these blogs “hilarious.” Since your brother’s comment, I’ve worried I’d gone from writing about someone who isn’t real to poking into a very real someone’s – several someones at this point – personal lives. I would be chagrinned to learn I’ve made any of you uncomfortable. Your responses have been most gracious.

Mercy, I love that you ride the bus in Portland! By the way, your light rail is iconic here in Albuquerque, and often cited as an example of what we could have here. So far, it’s been a tough sell. But I digress.

I’m especially happy to learn you are “all very proud to be named what we are.” As well you should. I’m also grateful to your mother (and to “her Mohawk friend in upstate New York” -- there’s another story I’d love to know) for sending the link to you. And, again, thank you both so much for writing.

Peace and joy.


5:18 PM  
Blogger Mercy Strongheart said...

Hello again, Busboy.

Since you seem to enjoy stories about people at least as much as me, I'll share with you the real story of Hickory's name. (He's a busy young lad with a daughter, jobs, girlfriend, etc., so you may not hear from him again.)

My father, Michael, is the father of the four youngest siblings. He worked as a woodcutter while he and my mom pursued their Back To The Land fantasy in the early '70's. My dad chopped trees by hand, and his ax handles kept breaking on him. One day, fed up, he threw down for the good ax handle. It was made of hickory wood and had the words "Dependable Hickory" carved into it. Lo and behold, the handle didn't break. Leaning against his truck one day, taking a break from chopping, he said to my mom, "If I ever have a son I'm going to name him Dependable Hickory. Either that or P.M. Breezes." Thank god he chose the first, right?

It was fun to read your speculations about our family. You got it right, sort of. Our parents tried and did their best.

Keep up the blogging! I'll be checking back in.


10:04 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Mercy, thank you for writing again. It's especially nice to have the original story now truly told. And, you know, the rider who told me how Hickory got his name also got it right, sort of. I really like that detail.

You've been remarkably gracious about sharing and in your comments about the blog. Thank you.

7:25 PM  

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