[R-G] SYCAMORE CANYON AND ME [AND FIDEL] AND MY ARGOSY STORY
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 10 10:39:19 MST 2004
COMMENT BY HUNTER BEAR: FEBRUARY 10 2004
"It's just like Flag around here now," I told a friend in Sunny New Mexico a
couple of days ago. I was referring to the very heavy snow that presently
covers us in Idaho -- snow that's still coming. Our house -- well above
Pocatello -- is much more than 5,000 feet above sea level. My hometown of
Flagstaff, Arizona is 7,000 feet -- with the very close San Francisco
mountains reaching to 13,000.
Because of illness, I still get out very little these days -- hardly at
all -- and I'm certainly hoping that changes soon. In the meantime, I do
try to keep busy. Yesterday, I took out a very large color map of the huge
Coconino National Forest [centered at Flag]. Eldri cut out the two large
sections that cover my most special place of all in the Cosmos -- the
Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area [mostly in the Coconino, but a good bit in
the adjoining Kaibab National Forest, and a small portion in the most
southerly area falling into the Prescott National Forest. She caught it
all.] None of these official Forest designations mean anything whatsoever
when you're in the massive Canyon: no trails down in and certainly no roads,
no signs and no fences. We now have the map sections in a secure frame and
it hangs on one of our walls, just below my father's abstract of Maine's
Mount Kahtahdin [Ktaadn] -- a very special place for the Natives of that
whole region and far beyond as well.
The old trail in a portion of the very upper reaches of Sycamore -- and it
isn't much, a ground trace and blazes on trees -- was done by the legendary
Old Man Dave Joy with a CCC crew back in the '30s. By the time I arrived to
fall in love with the Canyon, Mr Joy's carved name was still visible on the
bark of some aspen trees -- but he was in the Old Pioneers' Home at
Prescott and the stretch of trail was basically obscured. Since then, the
Coconino has slightly rejuvenated it -- but only slightly. And, as I say,
no human marks are anywhere down in the vast Gorge.
I may still be the only living person who has traveled -- as I did in May
'55 and then in a very recent Near Death Experience -- the very, very long
length of the Great Canyon.
Check this out:
Looking north from the eastern rim of Sycamore Canyon, about one-third of
the way down, in the lower [southerly] portion of the Canyon as it widens
into Sycamore Basin. Sycamore Creek is quite visible at this point.
And check this out:
http://www.hunterbear.org/ghosts.htm The massive Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
Area as the most special place of mine -- always. This very recent post
details much of my almost life-long personal history with the Canyon in the
context of my strange, unique Near Death Experience of several weeks ago.
The attached and following post of mine [ARGOSY], made about a year ago and
now with added material, does speak well of Fidel Castro as a human being.
While I know that His name can stir all kinds of emotions -- and some very
long pro and con tomes -- I just like him. [Never too ideological at all, I
tend to make personal judgments.] I am also very well aware of the nature of
the Mexican Revolution; and the many, many phases it went through before a
kind of equilibrium was established and maintained in the face of Yankee
hostility. It still has a long way and some basic changes to go. From the
Mexican example, I know, too, that at least for a while, a so-termed "one
party system" can be checked and balanced by component internal factions.
See this, if you're at all interested
http://www.hunterbear.org/narrative.htm Mentions [among other things] my
Native father's unique involvement on the Indian side of the Mexican
Revolution [beginning in 1913, at the age of 15] and our family's close
involvement with Mexico and its people -- including several of its
I should add, I suppose, apropos this attached post, that I really don't
trap anymore -- and haven't for ages. A wonderful full-blooded pet coyote
named "Good" that I had throughout 1959 and well into 1960 -- he left home,
with all his vaccination shots, and got married [occasionally returning to
say hello] when I was working in a very remote setting in eastern Arizona
between Bear Mountain and Blue River and the Clifton/Morenci copper
district -- and a wonderful half-Bobcat cat named "Cloudy" [sitting right
here right now as always, at my computer] has totally changed my perspective
on that score.
I always fight -- and fight hard -- right down to the bone. And I always
will. But, if something should happen -- say, because of this extreme Lupus
[SLE] illness -- my ashes will be placed at our now ancient hunting camp
right on the eastern rim of Sycamore and well above the inner far down
region where I killed my first bear, a huge and worthy bear indeed, as a hot
eyed kid with an old 30/30 Winchester lever action carrying out my very
special life-long mandate. Hunter Gray/Hunter Bear [formerly John R Salter,
"ARGOSY 1957_JOHN SALTER-WILD ONES_CIGARETTE AD" [WITH NOTES -- AND FIDEL AS
WELL] HUNTER GRAY / HUNTER BEAR
Note by Hunterbear:
If you're into the more minor dimensions of "politically correct" fretting,
probably better not read this post of mine.
In the November, 1957 issue of Argosy magazine, the introductory blurb of
the first piece -- "The Caribbean Legion" -- reads thusly:
"From all over the world they come -- soldiers of fortune and fighting
idealists alike -- to join the deadly little group known as the Caribbean
Legion. Here is the amazing story of this shadowy army and how it plugs the
guns of Latin America's strong-arm dictators."
The primary focus is Cuba and the lead photo's key face absolutely has to be
the very young Fidel -- surrounded by several comrades -- all holding up
rifles. It's a very friendly and pro-revolutionary article and I read it
Immediately following that is the second piece. Its lavish illustration in
color, spread over two pages, is the lead short story in the magazine:
"Last of the Wild Ones" by John R. Salter, Jr./Hunter Bear [who, in time,
became Hunter Gray.]
Of course, I read that one, too. And with great and deep appreciation. I've
always been an unabashed admirer of that writer.
Argosy was a hell of a good "man's magazine" -- chock full of all sorts of
well-done fictional and non-fictional pieces. Its circ came close to two
million. This particular issue, with 112 slick pages, also included
mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner [Perry Mason] writing in support of Dr
Sam Sheppard of Ohio, who many felt to have been framed up on a murder
charge; an extensive and objective discussion of United States
immigration/alien issues; articles on cars and guns; more stories; much
more -- and a raft of extremely alluring ads: firearms and vehicles and
cigarettes and pipe tobacco and good whiskey. And all of that in a shiny
and sturdy and well-illustrated cover for just 35 cents.
My story -- "Last of the Wild Ones" -- involves wilderness trapping in
Northern Arizona, the wisdom of age, and the greed of callow and very
By the time I was ten, I was an accomplished trapper and hunter. Finishing
up my full Army hitch when I was just turning 21, I wandered the Mountain
West for a time before returning to Arizona. There, I was immediately
offered a full partnership by the noted bear and lion hunter, Claude Wright,
whose wide range covered the vast and rugged country known as the Tonto
Basin. I seriously considered that, while my parents, bent on my university
student career, held their breath. In the end, I took my GI Bill and went
to school -- and Claude, always a good friend, understood.
But the Call of the Faraway Hills still sang - as it still always does to
me. At 22 going on 23, I took the spring semester 1957 off, and with an
extensive "outfit" which included two hundred Number 4 Victor Double-Spring
traps, hit my traditional wild lands. [I should add that I'm one of the
very, very few who can set that large and powerful steel trap with my hands,
on my knee -- the price for a slip being a forever lost finger or thumb.] I
also had a great big bundle of Left reading material and, among other
unions, a Blood Red paid-up membership card/book in the old-time I.W.W.
I set up my trapping camp in the right-under-the-Rim country -- where the
yellow pine regions drop in sheer-cliff fashion a few thousand feet down
to cedars and manzanita -- stretching west of now too-well-known Sedona,
Arizona [south of Flagstaff in the Oak Creek setting ] and over into the
great Sycamore Canyon wilderness region. The whole panorama was flush with
clean and drinkable winter snow water from above and full of winter-range
game -- and lots and lots of coyotes, bobcats, and lions. For me, it was a
successful spring season of predator animal bounty trapping. In due course,
returning home to Flagstaff much later that spring, I got ready to hit the
academic summer sessions. And then, suddenly, I sat down at our dining room
table and in a few hours wrote what became "Last of the Wild Ones."
It's the story of an old trapper in the vast and deep and rugged Sycamore
Canyon country southwest of Flagstaff -- and his nephew, a kid in his late
teens, whom the elder is inducting into this latter day version of the old
Mountain Man way of life. And it's the story of a large mountain lion -- a
lion that's very unusual, a lion with a reddish [rather than conventional
yellow/gray] coat. The old man traps in free-agent fashion for the
Cattleman's Association, for whom the Red Lion is pure Nemesis -- almost
seen as Satanic -- and on whose head is the huge bounty of one thousand
The kid wants a new pickup.
There comes a point where the old man takes his nephew deep down into some
of the most isolated inner recesses of the Great Canyon. He explains, with
shining pride and depthy warm appreciation, that he has a friend -- a very
old and extremely good friend -- to whom he will now introduce the nephew.
He promises the boy that it'll be a surprise. A great surprise.
And when they've reached a point 'way, 'way down in -- they sit on a log and
And then, as he always has over his many years of friendship with the elder,
the friend arrives -- quietly, serenely confident in his enduring friendship
with the old man.
It's the Red Lion. He and the old trapper have known one another for many
very good years indeed. Many, many secretive years.
But the boy does not see Any of That. He sees only the huge bounty -- and,
through and beyond, the new pickup. Desperately, the stunned old man tries
to reason with his wildly excited nephew -- to drag him into the perspective
of all-around friendship and respect -- but, before he can stop him, the
inflamed youth frenetically pumps shot after shot from a 30/30 Winchester
into the Old Red Friend.
The Red Lion dies. And so does the inner being of the elder -- and a way of
life as well.
I knew my story was a good one -- because my mother, who could be very
brass-tacks Scottish, cried when she finished it. My less visibly emotional
Native father, who liked it very much indeed, was not surprised at all --
and may well have recognized something therein that I, myself saw only some
years later: that I was now taking, with increasing frequency, other
trails -- radical labor, Native rights, social justice stuff.
A sharp New York agent took the story immediately and, within two days, had
sold it to Argosy for ten cents a word -- slightly over $400.00. He, quite
justifiably, took forty bucks for commission. I took the rest, a tidy sum
for a 23 year old, which joined my GI Bill funds and my trapping monies in
making my life unusually enjoyable as I plunged into the day-after-day
summer sessions at Arizona State University.
And, concurrently, I swam more and more in that great River Of No Return:
The Save the World Business.
Three years later, the very fine Left literary magazine, Mainstream,
published [May, 1960] my soon-to-be award-winning short story, "The
Destroyers", which deals with virulent race hatred in the context of a
massive Northern Arizona forest fire. And, in the same issue, his name with
mine on the very same Red cover, is Fidel Castro -- whose essay, "In Praise
of Learning," speaks to the vigorous efforts and substantial gains of Cuban
revolutionary educational endeavour.
I've always liked Fidel. Much. And Argosy magazine helped that, for sure, at
the very outset.
I can still, quite easily and proficiently, set a Number Four Victor
Double-Spring with my bare hands over my knee. Of the two hundred, I have
one left and it hangs here on my office wall. The other day, I took it off
and demonstrated to my youngest  daughter Josie's special friend, a
frequent hunter and sometime trapper in his mid-twenties. He was genuinely
impressed -- had never seen that done before by anyone.
And only two very dark mornings ago -- out on my daily junket in the
snow-covered and cold far up wilds in the still-dark pre-dawn -- I spooked
a mountain lion from the trail-side brush only 20 feet from me. There was
no wind and I conjecture that he heard me and our Shelty coming down the
trail and thought, hopefully, that I was an attractive mule deer. Thus he
waited. When he realized abruptly that I was only Me -- a non-yummy Regular
in those parts -- he cut and ran noisily down a slope for a hundred feet
or so. But then, in the buddy fashion of the always friendly coyotes we so
frequently see, he then followed us parallel-wise for a good while. I never,
I should add, take along a firearm [of which I have several] on these wild,
And now and then -- very rarely -- I come across an issue of that November
1957 Argosy. I've just this morn picked up one on E-Bay where, naturally
enough, I'm known as Redhunterbear.
In the Wilds - And Solidarity
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear] Micmac / St Francis Abenaki / St Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunterbear]
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]
When you cut to the bone and cut away the college degrees, academic and
other titles, published books and articles, ours is essentially a working
class and Indian family. We consistently join unions -- and we always
support them with the greatest vigor.
It's critical to always keep fighting -- and to always remember that, if one
lives with grace, he/she should be prepared to die with grace.
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