Saturday, February 13, 2010

Memories of George

Edward S. Curtis photo of a Blood Horseman from American Memories Website

Yesterday while cruising through the American Memories Website from the Library of Congress, I was looking at some Edward Curtis pictures of Indians and it brought back the memory of a special man I knew in the Big Horn Basin when I was young(er).

George hung around the bar that was attached to a restaurant where I was waiting tables when my kids were little.  One day George looked up at me and said, "How come you are always so nice to me?  I'm just a drunken old Indian."  I was aghast and told George I thought he was really pretty special.

He opened up a little to me after that and  I found out that for years he had worked on a ranch where the lady of the house was a special mentor to George.  It was hinted to me that George's wife had kicked him out for his booze habits and this lady, Helen, had gotten him to quit drinking.  George was on that ranch many, many years and then Helen died in her fifty's.  George just fell pieces without her, even though he stayed working on the ranch.

I asked him what tribe he was from and he told me he was  a Blood Indian; and said "I bet you haven't even heard of them."  Well I had, they are related to the Blackfeet tribe but are located north of the Canadian border.  He was surprised I knew of them.
Call on All Sides, Blood Woman, by Edward S. Curtis

This was the time period when Iran was holding hostages from our Embassy (Jimmy Carter was President) and they had just been released when Ronald Reagan became President.  It was always on the television and the hostages were telling how rough it had been.  George snorted quietly into his beer one time and said, "The North Koreans held me for three years and I was beat every damn day of it."  End of discussion on his part and he never mentioned it again.  He was a Korean War Hero but you'd never had known it from him.

He led a sad lonely life, apart from his family and mostly apart from any friends.  Today I am sure it would have been recognized he probably had severe post traumatic stress syndrome and treatment would have been available. He died not too many years after this.  He had quiet dignity about him and was always kind and very soft-spoken. I never saw him angry except for the comment on his Korean war prisoner experience and you could tell it made him angry.

I am glad I knew George.  May you be in the hunting grounds with your Blood relatives and finally at peace.

Three Bulls, Blood Brave by Edward S. Curtis
I think they are a very handsome tribe and look at the beautiful clothing!

At tremendous personal cost, Edward S. Curtis published 20 volumes of "North American Indians".  It was his life work and without his dedication to the project, many of the visual images we have of our Native Americans would have vanished along with them.  We owe this man a deep debt.

You can view the enitre Edward Curtis collection Here:


  1. Very interesting..sometimes you just have to listen and a whole story comes forth:)

  2. George was a nice man but I always felt sad for him.

  3. Thanks for sharing the story and for the link.