Last of the Jewish Mohicans
Sitting Down was one angry Indian. Not in the least because everyone who identified him as an Indian wanted him to format their hard drive. And he’d constantly have to say, “No. Not that kind of Indian.”
“Well, what kind?”
“The other kind. “
“What, Cable TV?”
“No. Buffalos. WigWams.”
“Thought those were TeePees.”
“Some were. Some weren’t.”
“See, you’re too tense.”
“Is that supposed to be a joke?”
It would go like that, sometimes worse. And it really pissed him off. Sitting Down was a full blood Native American, or N/A. The trouble was every time he put it down on a form it would be rejected.
“You have to be something, sir.”
“Then you just put that down on the form.”
It would go on like that for hours. Especially if the associate on the other end of the satellite was Indian.
“Me. Too,” he’d say.
“No. Not that kind of Indian…!”
Sitting Down wanted to take the Bureau of Indian Affairs and lock it in a bureau. And burn it down. Who would have ever thought that the Government of the United States wouldn’t be as good as its word. But every goddamn thing it ever promised, it would just forget or make lame excuses by next election. It would pretend it was someone else’s problem. It would lie, cheat and steal. Even Comanches wouldn’t do that!
How did they lose their tribal lands to the Mormons?! Mormons for Chrissakes! And now the fleshpots of Vegas poured silver dollars into the coffers of the Utah Church. Schools closed in Henderson, ski-condos went up in Park City.
The Mormons were the first white people many of his tribe, the Bonnevilles, had ever seen. They had come to the shores of the Great Salt Lake in wagons. And set about to fish. One of them stood up in the wagon. The Natives were greatly impressed, both by how wrong he was, and by the conviction and salesmanship with which he said it:
“This is the place,” he said.
“What place?” said the Indians.
“This must be the sea.”
“Not even close,” said the nearest Indian.
The Natives were highly impressed by his bearing and stuff. They could see he was a serious man. When his horses spooked and dumped him in the sea, he splashed with dignity. He rolled over, floated on his back, and tried to look as if he meant to do it.
He stuck a finger in his mouth and saluted the sky. He examined his finger.
“It’s salty,” he said.
“That’s why we call it the Salty Sea, numbnuts,” said the Indians.
Of course this was said in their language and the Mormons had a clue, not, as to what they were snickering about. They just thought they were uncouth Indians.
“Native Americans, and let’s get that straight.” Sitting Down’s Great Great Grandfather strode forward, chest out, hips tucked in.
“We were here first,” he said firmly, with a short theatrical gesture.
Morton The Mormon sat up, sinking his butt firmly in the mud. He, too, made theatrical, opening his arms wide in a gesture of universal peace.
“We bring you good news about Jesus.”
“Oh, fuck! Not again!”
Of course he said that in dialect but the Mormons and the Mor moms seemed to get the drift. Sitting Down had an eye for the Mor moms, that’s for sure. “They are the white goddess incarnate,” he said. Now this was an obvious attempt to try to nail a couple and some of the guys bought into it, probably thinking the same thing. You know, get them on a horse, all bouncy, bouncy. Take ‘em out to the butte for sunset and mushrooms and before you know it… What, what was he going on about? Oh. Jesus. The Mormon had launched into a full yaba or something. ‘Jesus this, and God that, and ‘He’ told me this, right from his all-knowing person!’
Sitting Down’s great great grandfather was rightly disgusted. Seemed like every fucking Frontier Scout had news about Jesus. Except for Jim Bridger. He was alright. Now this…clueless branch of some Eastern Cult Yobos was here to take up the chant. Jesus, didn’t they ever have to do any work back there!? Where’d they get all this time to go on about Jesus? They must be very rich.
“What can I do for you?” said the Indian.
The Native American thought process went something like that. They had seen a few exploring parties pass though. And it was always the same. Shooting their rifles, pissing on the trees, and asking where all the women were. And sooner or later, mostly after a few drinks, they’d start to go on about Jesus. And just to be conversational he’d nod at the story and start to tell them about The God of the Sun and the Goddess of That Butte Over There, but they didn’t even pretend to care. They had their story all worked out with picture books and relics and somebody they tortured to death on a silver cross to show how fierce they were. They’d just keep yammering, yammering… and some would, like, go hoppy crazy and flop around on the ground and things. It was fucking ridiculous, he thought. He got so disgusted he didn’t even bother to tell them about Stinky, the Coyote God. Or Flem, the God of Small Puddles.
But the Mormons weren’t all that bad. For a white race they weren’t particularly smelly, and with their straight blond hair, were easy to comb for lice. And these guys didn’t drink that crazy water and shoot at things that moved like your normal white man. One or two days a week they left you completely alone and went into their main buildings for mysterious rites. This gave the Natives the chance to schedule their pilferage and was a great comfort to them. And they laughed at the thought that these Yabos would settle right next to a salt sea. They thought the Mormons would die out or move on. Early Native Americans had no concept for skiing.
Sitting Down’s tribe would come down from the mountains in spring and loll on the soft verdant meadow at what would become the corner of Charleston and Las Vegas Boulevard South. The runoff from the mountains would form burbling springs of pure cool cloud water, teaming with brook trout and gamboling herons, and empty into what now is the 3rd Street Storm Channel and Black Water Reclamation Inlet.
And the young women of the tribe would troll the stream bank for johns and drunks to roll. No. No. That came much later.
The first outsiders they saw in many thousands of moons were a swarthy people from the south. You could spot them a mile away. And the noise! And the singing. And shouting and yelling at kids. Wow! Any sort of game in the next five contiguous valleys headed for the hills. The N/A’s had their sacred rites and pep rallies where they would really cut loose. But the goddamn Mexicans were noisy all the time.
And the Mormons came down from the north like a pack of albino crickets. Most think locusts are bad and they are. Nobody was ever happy to see a locust. But crickets are worse. Almost as bad as Mormons with that clicking and clacking about Jesus… Jesus Jesus Jesus! For Chrissake, just build a church and get on with it. Keep it inside. Don’t scare the horses or game.
Now what the Natives had “sold” to the Mexicans, the Mexicans started to build things on it. Like right in the meadow. Like permanent things. Like on the best grass. They were clueless, alright. The natives tried to point that out. But they just shooed them away like they were children. The natives didn’t like this much and occasionally there was a burning ember that miraculously sailed through a window. But mostly the Indians weren’t interested in violence. There was plenty of land. If your neighbor bothered you, you just moved on.
But this was the meadow. The most beautiful spot in the valley. And the only place you could live in the heat of the summer, spring and most of fall. And little by little the Mormons took over. Of course the Mormons weren’t allowed by their faith to have any fun. And the Indians and the Mexicans weren’t above cutting up now and then. And therein lay the seeds of our destruction.
The Mexicans brought their firewater, a magical potion from ‘Queezl, the Cactus God’, passed down by his son, the demi-god, ‘Huh?’, to humans, for their enlightenment. After a bit of encouragement, various god-gifts were passed over. The Natives, for their part, gave the gift from ‘Waaawaaa the God of The Little Mushrooms Found Under a Pinion and ‘Minty Fresh’. Of course, that’s much shorter in Native dialect. And “Waaawaaa” may have been his name or the sound of his song to a lovely she-owl he met while savoring said tasty mushrooms.
In either case, while the two sides were yucking it up, the Mormons were steely-eyed sober. And looking on with much Christian disgust. There were drunken brawls and rapes and murders. There were Christmas parties that got entirely out of hand. And the savages had practically no regard for the Sabbath. Why if you left it to them, they’d drink right through that holy day too. And pretty much, they did.
The Mormon elders would rotate a wife or two, then sit and ponder. Such a nice place, but such hinky neighbors. They thought and pondered. Then a little poke at an odd wife or two. Even the evens; wives two and four. And ponder some more… What to do about the mess?
Well, they noticed, as one does when one is sober, if ever one should find himself thus, that not drinking drinks, and especially not buying them, keeps a man level-headed and in sole possession of his wallet, and thus his fortune and future. This was especially evident when all the other folks in the bar were begging for another drink and slobbering on your boots. In fact, with the four wives in rapid rotation plus the occasional cousin or two the Mormons had no need of the other thing guys go to bars for. Pussy. Since network sports had not yet been invented, say by two hundred years, there was no reason for a Mormon to go to a bar at all.
Except for maybe a couple. And this will rapidly occur to you if you are not one of the patrons rolling on the floor in vomit. They’d lend guys a drink. When you’re feeling better and better, that’s no time to stop. Especially on the frontier. So you ask your friends to loan you the price of a drink. And if they’re your friends, your true friends that would hang around with someone like you, chances are they’re as drunk as you are or better. And that slobbering face around your knees, mumbling incoherence, is asking for a drink from you! In peering through the haze, your glance might fall on a tall, upstanding stranger. A guy who, in two hundred years, could pass for one of those Security Swat Guards at the Pompei Casino.
The Mormons thought it would be a good idea if, let’s just say everything that they didn’t do, which was fun, they charged for. This is a weird morphing of both Jewish and Catholic theology, guilt and avarice. Entire socio-politico-economico treatises have been written on this. Or maybe could be.
The Mormons and Mor moms needed some source of revenue and not being really any part of any good old religion and, so, having no really kick-ass religious relics to sell, looked around for something else. And looked down and figured out they were standing on it. Yep, all they had to do was take it from the Indians. Look at them, dancing out their mushrooms! That wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
They took the land. They needed something that wasn’t all that dynamic, that would just lie there and bring in revenue without them having to do too much. Because, let’s face it, without coffee they wouldn’t be that alert.