Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Fri 18 Nov 11 11:59
For more on the Antelope Dance, I visited Second Mesa in September of 2010 to research the book. I had been there previously several times, once to see a dance and another time to sit in on a meeting in the 1970s about the Black Mesa coal mine and its effect on the underground water supply. This last time a guide showed me around. I taped my impressions and then transcribed them when I got home. I took no photos of the houses, plaza or kivas, but I did photograph the route of the Antelope run which is in the book. Since the Hopis and their remote mesas are so old and retain a sense of tradition lacking almost anywhere else in this country, I thought it might interest readers to read those notes. They follow: Squat whitewashed buildings whose roofs are lined with collapsible chairs and vigas poking out ends of the buildings with the entrance from the north. A long street with well-tended buildings with a large, clean rectangular space. Ladders of antelope kiva visible to the north. Preparing for a Womans Dance next week. For womens rights. Everything is done here is community based. The orderliness of the main plaza where the dances are held is in start contrast to the disorder of the rest of the mesa. There is this shining white core, carefully tended, lying north and south, and the apparent haphazard quality of the rest of the mesa. Age as small as 4 years old, initiate the children into the clan way. Had dance this August. Protect ceremonies now. Long street, narrows to the north with some new construction using concrete in the more northerly and narrower section. A few women cross the plaza and pay no attention to me. Otherwise, besides my guide, the Mesa seems deserted at midday on a Friday. Kivas are at the end of the plazas. Five kivas, Antelope Kiva reconstructed in the 1980s and found the flooring of the original mission. The beams they took out from the floor came from the original mission. Three kivas at the end of the plaza. One to the right is the snake clan kiva (being reconstructed with the vigas sitting on top of the concrete foundation), in the middle is the antelope clan kiva with the ladder poking from the entrance in the top, one of the far side is the Mens Society Kiva. Women use the Antelope Kiva. Before the Antelope Dance, a race begins some three miles away in the desert, up a canyon and then the trail to the top, where the runners are greeted with shouts and prizes, all aimed at water. Race starts with sunrise, chant to each other to encourage, coming from the southwest the far mesa, three or four miles away, when they come closer can hear the bells they carry and the excitement builds. Come up and come into the kiva. Blessing of the prize in the kiva, symbolizes water. Antelope proceeds the snake dance. Corn meal from women scattered at the top of the mesa where the runners emerge from the trail. Plaza is about 75 yards long, maybe 20 wide. It is immaculate. Rest of village is a hodge podge. At end see two long ladders leading into Kivas and wooden logs waiting to be used.
didn't practice being married in class (thansen) Fri 18 Nov 11 21:38
I am another reader just showing up Philip. I got my copy Tuesday and have been reading in my little free time, over my supper! About 40% through and find the book just splendid. Thank you for this. So far the most thought provoking part for me has been the family background. Your account of the Ruess seniors and the world they came from and then that which they made to raise Everett and Waldo is striking. It doesn't seem to quite fit with common accounts of the early 20th Century but seems quite true to me. I had an aunt, actually an older half-sister of my father who left the mid-west in the mid 1920s for Los Angeles. I don't know that I have ever read an account of "California" that so well resonates with the family accounts, and her own, of what Aunt Edna found in her - to those left in the mid-west - exotic Southern California life. I also want to thank (gberg) for his post up there a ways on the bipolar issue.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 19 Nov 11 09:31
There was nightly bear feeding, with everyone in their cars watching, at Allegheny State Park in the 1960s. Not sure when they stopped it.
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Sat 19 Nov 11 10:49
Scott and Peter asked some questions above which I answered in a post which should have just preceded #51. I have asked David Gans if he received the post. It's possible I deleted it instead of posting it after the spellcheck. Hold on guys until I get an answer from David. My previous post was designed to augment what I found out about the Antelope Dance in a 1902 publication and with the current #51 I wanted to give you in my words of the moment the flavor of one of the most remote, exotic, and longest continually inhabited communities in the country. It is so remote that when I got in my VW camper to leave huge noises erupted from the engine, there was no cell phone reception, and I carefully nursed the vehicle many miles to Flagstaff and the nearest mechanic, only to begin a series of car problems that cut into my research time. On that same stretch of road with two burros and his two feet serving as transportation, Everett contended with the intense midday heat and was fortunately picked up by two youths in a Ford truck and given a ride to Flagstaff. Same road, different troubles, different time!
Frako Loden (frako) Sat 19 Nov 11 12:42
I scold my online students not to compose in the middle of a post but to copy and paste from a hard drive! I hope we can read that 1902 account of the Antelope Dance. I think your "Healing" chapter was the most moving. I loved reading people's condolences to Everett's parents, as well as evaluations of Everett's work by people like Stegner and Momaday. Most of all I loved the accounts of the parents' trip to the desert in June 1935 and Stella's farewell pilgrimage in 1948. It helped repair my own initial VERY dim view of a petulant little shit who would beat an innocent dog so hard that it would disappear into the wilderness, just like he himself did later.
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Sat 19 Nov 11 16:49
Well, David tells me I apparently did not complete the posting process, so here goes, although repetition really bores me. It will be new for you, however. On the existence of the Antelope Dance issue brought up by Scott Thybony, who by the way helped me with the book and is doing one of his own, I not only relied on what the guide, a Hopi who volunteered his services when I asked some questions, told me in September of 2010 but also the following two-volume book that I found in the anthropology library at UC Berkeley, "The Mishongnovi Ceremonies of the Snake and Antelope Fraternities," George A. Dorsey and H.R. Vo, Chicago, 1902. There were descriptions of the Antelope run and dance witnessed by the authors on Second Mesa in 1901 during the nine-day ceremony. I took a few notes from the volumes, but I don't have an actual account, such as Frako requested. I did read an account of the accompanying Snake Dance in a couple of other book, however. These accounts along with the description of Second Mesa offered above were left out of the narrative for the following reasons: it was a matter of pacing the story a bit faster at this point because Everett is covering some of the same ground that he traveled in previous years, and I needed to get to his disappearance more quickly, not only because the reader may be tiring of the journey, but also because I needed to stay within the 100,000-word limit stipulated in the contract. See what prosaic issues we authors also deal with? Peter wanted to know how Everett compared to Chris McCandless in Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild," or vice versa. McCandless was a lost soul from a priviledged background who cut off his ties to his family and, had he looked around more carefully, could have found a way to walk out of the Alaska bush, which was not really wilderness because of the road, bridge, and bus. There is no mystery; he died of starvation. Everett came from a middle-class family and was seeking beauty while staying in touch with his family though correspondence and returning home once a year. No one knows why or how he disappeared. The Escalante Desert was also not true wilderness. There was a road and it was grazed by cattle and sheep. Both young men adopted pseudonyms, at least for a time. Given Everett's greater intellect, artistic talents, promise, and innocence I found him more interesting than McCandless, who seemed like a spoiled child. There have been some questions about the bone's issue and DNA mixup of 2009. I think we first need to discuss Everett's disappearance in 1934 before we can take up his "resurrection," as I titled the last chapter that deals with events seventy-five years later. So maybe we can start with comments or questions on what readers think of his vanishing and then deal with the bones. Between these two bookends is the healing or grieving chapter, which I thought, as did a reader, was important because for whatever reasons, what Everett and McCandless did and the results it had involved a lot of grief for those who remained. That is a cost that should be considered by those youngsters who want to hit the road.
David Gans (tnf) Sat 19 Nov 11 17:10
Regarding the disappearance: what are the possible scenarios? If it was suicide, how did he achieve it? Jumped off a cliff? Jumped in a river? Wandered away from resources and started to death? If it wasn't suicide, what was it?
didn't practice being married in class (thansen) Sun 20 Nov 11 21:57
Philip, I have to apologize because I still have not finished the book but I am going to risk asking a question that you may answer in your conclusion. What do you think about Everett's Romanticism? Was it in him, was it in his time, or is it, to an extent at least, in *our* eyes looking back at the time?
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Mon 21 Nov 11 10:42
The scenarios for Everetts disappearance are the following: an accident, like falling off a cliff, being swept away in a flash flood, or sinking in quicksand, etc.; a combination of accident and suicide, like Everett consciously or unconsciously putting himself at risk with suicide on his mind; straightforward suicide; murdered by Anglo rustlers or Navajo Indians; drowned while attempting to swim the Colorado River in the low-water season of a low-water year; made it across the river and lived with the Navajos for the remainder of his life; made it across the river and lived elsewhere, there having been supposed sightings of him in Phoenix, South America, Florida, etc.; and the 2009 theory that he was bludgeoned to death by Ute Indians more than one hundred trail miles to the east in Chinle Wash. There may be more theories I either forgot to mention or am not aware of. No matter. No one knows for certain or posses documentation about how or why Everett Ruess disappeared. Some people cannot live with a mystery. I can. We ruin so much with our versions of the truth, that I find it refreshing to say there is no known ending to this story, other than the invented truth described in the last chapter of my book. That it was invented by a writer, a national magazine published by a nationally-known institution, and a batch of scientists and academics is a perfect fit for our time when we believe we know so much but actually know very little despite all the little electronic gadgets that hook us up to so-called knowledge. I will deal shortly with this invented truth.
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Mon 21 Nov 11 17:22
This post on the invented truth involved in the bones controversy and journalism and science gone awry is rather long because the issue is complex. As one participant in this discussion noted, it reads like a detective story. Various skeletons found throughout the years in the Arizona and Utah deserts were thought to be Everett's. None were. In the summer of 2008, seventy-five years after the Everett's disappearance, a Navajo found bones and artifacts in a crevice burial site on the reservation near Bluff, Utah, more than one hundred trail miles east of where Ruess and his burros were last seen in Davis Gulch. The story of the Indians grandfather seeing three Utes beat a young white man with two burros to death was passed down to the Navajo grandson who discovered the bones. It was given the status of an oral tradition, while, in fact, it was really an oral crime report subject to change over time to fit the conveniences of the moment. David Roberts, a contributing editor of National Geographic Adventure, was alerted. Roberts had written a story about Ruesss unexplained disappearance in the 1999 debut issue of the magazine. The Indian, Roberts, their friends, and a Navajo archeologist thought it was Ruesss remains in that narrow crevice. The FBI, local sheriff, and Navajo criminal investigators thought it was a Native American. The magazine editors and Roberts needed scientific confirmation. They contacted Family Tree DNA in Houston, Texas, which was conducting the tests for the National Geographic Societys Genographic Project, a huge effort to map humanitys genetic journey. The DNA on the hairbrush of Ruesss brother, who died in 2007, did not match the DNA from the remains. One problem, never stated in Roberts's article, was that there had been a one hundred percent DNA match between the hair sample and a laboratory technician, indicating contamination. But Family Tree determined a tooth was from a young male of European descent. That was considered partial confirmation. A facial reconstruction of the skeleton overlain by two Dorothea Lange photographs of Ruess and assembled by the computer program Photoshop at the University of Colorado seemingly matched. The tooths origin and the convergence of the two images convinced the magazine to go with the story by Roberts on the eve of its deadline for the April/May 2009 tenth anniversary issue. A paperback book with the best of Adventure articles over the last ten years containing the story was published a few months later. Two weeks after the magazine appeared on newsstands, National Geographic called a press conference to announce there had been an irrefutable DNA match between a bone and Everetts nieces and nephews. This test was also undertaken at the University of Colorado. Ken Krauter, the scientist in charge, said the physical and DNA evidence would hold up in any court in the country. A paper was readied for publication in a peer-review journal setting out all the facts that led to these conclusions. For anyone intimately familiar with the story of Ruess, there were both major and minor inconsistencies in the article. An example of the former was that Everetts two burros were found in starving condition in Davis Gulch and brought to a nearby village by searchers. Roberts patched these rough spots to make it appear there was a smooth narrative. His solution for the burro problem was to imply they didnt exist in Davis Gulch, but they were present in the Navajos yarn. A well-attended public forum in support of the find was held at the University of Utah by environmentalists, who hailed the resurrection of their wilderness hero. Roberts was the master of ceremonies. Serious questions arose when Everetts dental records were discovered in the University of Utah library. The dental work specified in the records was not visible in photographs of the recovered mandible. Roberts did not see the records until after his story appeared and then did not read them thoroughly. He questioned their authenticity. They were genuine. The forensic and DNA scientists at the University of Colorado had not been aware of the records, nor did they consider them when they were told of their existence. The DNA was all the evidence they and Roberts needed. Paul Leatherbury, a former Park Service archeologist, and Kevin Jones the Utah state archeologist, working separately, came up with the conclusion that the dental records did not match the jawbone found at the gravesite, thus invalidating the match of the Lange photos and the reconstructed facial bones, which had other problems. They believed the jawbone with the teeth worn down by a stone-ground diet belonged to a Native American. Still, the DNA seemed unassailable. Jones, who was taken to task by his superiors and viciously attacked for questioning the DNA results, took his concerns public on a state history website and in newspaper interviews. (He subsequently believed he lost his job because of his confrontational position on the authenticity of the bones.) The probing questions were enough for the Ruess family to quietly seek a third DNA analysis. First a commercial laboratory, then an academic laboratory, and now a military laboratory weighed in, all with different results. The Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, undertook the test without cost to the family because it would provide useful experience for determining the bones of soldiers found years hence in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. The laboratory announced on October 21 that the bones were not those of Everett Ruess and that the Colorado lab had been unable to duplicate their original results. The family said they would return the bones to the Navajo tribe for proper internment. In early December the National Geographic Society announced it was ceasing publication of Adventure because of declining ad revenues nine months after its tenth anniversary issue. These events raise disturbing questions. If human errors in the Texas lab and computer errors in Colorado were to blame, what about other DNA results? There was, the Colorado scientists said, an unanticipated weakness in the software given a 99.9% accuracy rating in tests. The same vulnerability was present in the overwhelming journalistic desire to make the bones fit Everett. Join journalism to science and the combination is daunting, even for the legal system. DNA evidence is rarely questioned in court, and few lawyers, juries, and judges are knowledgeable about its complexities. How many defendants in criminal cases, plaintiffs in civil cases, or people seeking to determine paternity or their genealogy would know about or be able to afford a second and even a third test? The last test was by one of the most credible laboratories in the country. That favor was not about to be extended to everyone. Scott has asked if the above paragraph, somewhat expanded contents in the last two pages of the book, have had any impact. I think they raise serious questions about the validity of DNA tests, but besides two lawyers indicating interest, I have heard nothing. For those readers of this discussion who are intensely interested in this issue, and the whole story of Everett that I have related here and in the book, all my papers on this subject and my work in journalism and twelve prior books that together span more than fifty years will eventually be available in Special Collections at the University of Utah library, along with Everett Ruess's and Wallace Stegner's papers and illustrations and those of other writers, artists, and photographers who have found the West a rich source of material for stories and images. I regret the length of this post, but the issue is complex and I come from a generation that venerates thoroughness.
Frako Loden (frako) Mon 21 Nov 11 17:30
I myself enjoyed reading a condensed version of what I'd read in more (and fascinating) detail in the book. But it troubles me that I can't put the faith in DNA testing that I used to.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 21 Nov 11 17:51
Thank you, Philip. I need to read <60> carefully later. All this stuff brings up a tangential question: What exactly is quicksand?
Andrew Alden (alden) Mon 21 Nov 11 19:30
I can answer that in a nutshell: it's wherever water rises into coarse granular soil, lifting the particles into partial or complete suspension and creating a slurry. The sandy streamcourses in the Southwestern canyons are excellent places for quicksand. And given the variability in each year's rainfall, you can never predict where quicksand will appear in a given year. A little more at <http://geology.about.com/od/geo_movies/a/aa_quicksand.htm> Philip, I'm still catching up as I read the book but I wanted to say it's a really good evocation of a young man's life and times, with emphasis on both words. As a former Congregationalist, Boy Scout, bicoastal kid, I'm finding this book a rich experience contemplating a life much like my own but exaggerated. I'm still in the part of the book where Everett is alive. It's intriguing to see how much my personal experience is something of a shared template, forged by the Transcendentalists and their fellow-travelers. Truly the past is, as Faulkner said, not even past. I applaud the way you approached Everett's story, judiciously but nonjudgmentally, allowing mystery to be mystery. Of course that's no surprise coming from the author of the "earthquake trilogy," a series I heartily recommend to those who enjoyed "Everett Reuss." (disclaimer: I've reviewed the series for geology.about.com.)
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Tue 22 Nov 11 16:01
Thanks for the technical description of quicksand. My guess, and I emphasize guess, has been quicksand. Although not approaching the status of a conclusion, and lacking any documentation, it's interesting how we tend to apply our personal experiences to unknowns, like how Everett disappeared. I guess quicksand for four reasons. 1. While hiking in the dry riverbed of the Mohave River near Barstow, I suddenly sunk up to my hips in quicksand. Still having strong legs and a quick response, I quickly extricated myself before my wife could help me. 2. The first ranchers who went out to search for Everett, who were familiar with the terrain, guessed quicksand. 3. If it was quicksand, that might account for why no remnants of Everett's body have been found. 4. Dorothea Lange's granddaughter, Dyanne Taylor, made a TV documentary of her search for Everett in the Escalante River Basin. It ran on the Turner channel. It rained and rained and rained, and the focus of the film became the attempt to get to Davis Gulch, which failed. In the film, she and a crew member jumped laughingly into quicksand. They didn't laugh for long. It was a struggle, caught on film, to extricate them, and in the process they were pulled out of their boots. I repeat: no one knows for certain how Ruess disappeared. I didn't want to tilt readers of the book in any one direction with what was only my guess, so it's not mentioned there. The only certainty is voiced on the first page, when a few of us became lost temporarily at night near Davis Gulch, and that was what must have been the loneliness of his demise. We had each other.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 22 Nov 11 18:45
> If it was quicksand, that might account for why no remnants of Everett's > body have been found. Does quicksand remain quicksand over time?
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 22 Nov 11 19:07
It's worth reading the wikipedia entry. Here's the relevant passage. "Someone stepping on it will start to sink. To move within the quicksand, a person or object must apply sufficient pressure on the compacted sand to re-introduce enough water to liquefy it. The forces required to do this are quite large: to remove a foot from quicksand at a speed of .01 m/s would require the same amount of force as "that needed to lift a medium-sized car." Because of the higher density of the quicksand, it would be impossible for a human or animal to completely sink in the quicksand, though natural hazards present around the quicksand would lead people to believe that quicksand is dangerous. In actuality the quicksand is harmless on its own, but because it greatly impedes human locomotion, the quicksand would allow harsher elements like solar radiation, dehydration, hypothermia or tides to harm a trapped person. The way to escape is to wiggle the legs." And then again, it's wikipedia.
Andrew Alden (alden) Tue 22 Nov 11 20:06
The key fact about quicksand, for me, is that it's essentially a dense thixotropic liquid. It's far too dense to let a human body sink in it. But if you're struggling with it, you can easily wear yourself out because it stiffens against your efforts. If somehow your head gets submerged, you can drown in quicksand but you shouldn't sink out of sight in it. My own favored explanation for Everett's death has my own historical bias. I think he set out for a high spot and lost his balance at some point, falling to his death. We know he gloried in these precarious settings. We can sense from his last letters that the stakes were heightened in his mind. We know that some of the most remote Anasazi ruins were high and hidden, promising that unalloyed experience of being the first man ever to set foot in them. We know the poor state of Everett's health. What makes it personal for me is my own experience rock climbing as a youth in the Explorer Scouts. I was drawn to heights as a way of challenging and enlivening myself. I was well supervised, but if I had gotten it into my mind that solo rock-climbing was the way to bliss, who knows where I'd be? The only trouble with that scenario is that Everett's body should have been exposed and discoverable. On the other hand, there was never a concerted, professional search for him.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 22 Nov 11 20:10
And there are scavengers.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 22 Nov 11 20:16
Great stuff, all of you. Thanks! Philip, are the materials in the University of Utah Library available to the public?
David Gans (tnf) Wed 23 Nov 11 08:29
Thanks for the links to your quicksand articles, <alden>. I enjoyed your hypothesis about quicksand in the movies. It might be interesting to make a list of other tropes that have vanishes from the culture that way.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 23 Nov 11 08:29
From Scott Thybony (captward) Wed 23 Nov 11 09:17
Just catching up on the discussion after returning from Utah. Good sketch of the bones controversy, and I agree with you on the implications. The legal community needs to pay attention. After the Comb Ridge fiasco, my thinking changed on the infallibility of DNA evidence. As for that Antelope Dance: Several years ago a traditional leader and tribal judge from First Mesa told me the Hopi do not have an Antelope Dance. A younger Hopi from Second Mesa, a kachina carver who is active in various ceremonies, confirmed this. Before leaving for Utah I had a conversation with a retired professor who co-authored the Hopi Dictionary. He told me the Hopi have specific words for each of their ceremonies, but don't have a word for Antelope Dance. It doesn't exist as a separate ceremony. The Antelope people participate with the Snake people in the Snake Dance, a multi-day ceremony, so the confusion may come from some people calling a portion of it the Antelope Dance. Either way, it's unlikely Everett participated in an actual ceremony. The kachina carver told me it would take many weeks of practice to learn the intricate dance steps and chants necessary to participate in one of the dances. Both Hopi believed they were having fun with him.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 23 Nov 11 11:34
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 23 Nov 11 12:15
In the end, one burning question consumes me - how did a guy who spent all of his time in the desert manage to get poison ivy so much? ;-) (And yes, I did read the note about how Ruess's family called poison oak poison ivy, but there isn't any poison oak in the desert either.)
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Wed 23 Nov 11 14:47
Thanks for all the research on quicksand. Along with increasing our knowledge, it helps to keep the mystery a mystery. I didn't want to lose that, and I see I haven't. The main point I was making, which someone picked up on, was how our personal experiences sway our opinions, which in my case, in terms of quicksand being the possible cause of Everett's death, may very well be wrong. Point proved. On poison ivy and poison oak, Everett was extremely allergic to both. My concept before undertaking the research on that issue, was poison ivy was confined to the East Coast where I contracted it as a youth and poison oak was on the West Coast where I came across it in later years. Again, personal experience. As the note on p. 27 states, which is where is more complex. I asked a ranger/naturalist in Zion National Park what they had where Everett had his worse case, and she said a western variety of poison ivy. It could be that in lower deserts neither plant grows. It's the urushoil content of a plant that counts. Can anyone elaborate?
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