The transformation of Hobo Joe.

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Life was much simpler for Hobo Joe back in 1968; his family lived in the country and had very little contact with the rest of the reservation. His life pretty much revolved around the Jerome tiospaye (extended family): his mom, her three sisters, an uncle, first cousins and other close relatives. They pretty much followed the kinship system of their Dakota ancestors. This caring, supportive, family unit, made his life predictable, his future was predictable, and he didn't have a care in the world.

Back then most ndn lived in log cabins, shacks, or older frame homes that would be deemed unlivable today. When he was four years old Hobo Joe's home burnt down (future blog) and they camped out in a tent in the woods all summer until another log cabin was built.

Their log cabin was small; it was about 30' x 30' square. A closet was against the northwest corner on the west wall, next to it was his mom's sewing machine, next to that was his mom's dresser, next to her dresser, in the southwest corner, was his mom's bed. Next to his mom's bed, along the south wall, on a shelf, was one of those old radios that needed a huge battery and a wire connected to an antenna on the roof to work. Next to the radio was a stand with a washbasin, which was next to the door. Along the east wall, on the other side of the door was the woodbin. Next to the woodbin was a kerosene-cooking stove. There was an open space next to the cooking stove, which the boys used to climb up to the loft on a ladder that was nailed to the wall. Him and his brothers slept up in the loft on mattresses on the floor. On the other side of the open space was a cupboard. On north side was another dresser, which was against another bed that the girls slept on. And, that was the extent of the furniture in our one room log cabin. Due to loft becoming extremely warm in the summer the boys slept outside, either in a tent, or an old junked out station wagon. 

Later the wood stove that kept them warm in the winter was replaced by a fuel oil stove with a bad regulator that needed be constantly monitored so it wouldn't flood and start the house on fire. A wood burning cook stove with an oven, which enable his mom to bake bread, replaced the kerosene-cooking stove, a gas stove eventually replaced this stove. With the gas stove his mom was able to bake bread without having turn the dough around so it would cook evenly like she had to do when she baked using the wood burning cooking stove, and with the purchase of a fuel old stove Hobo Joe didn't have to saw, split, and haul wood into the house anymore.   

During the winter, they spent hours playing on the lake below our house once it froze. With makeshifts sleds (car hoods and other pieces of metal, wood, or whatever they could get our hands on they were able to fashion in sleds) they slid down every hill within a couple of mile radius. And of course, they built the usual snow forts, tunnels and other stuff. In the summer, they swam in the lake and they hiked all over Crow Hill. They knew every inch of those hills, they knew where all the berry bushes were located, where all the rabbit trails were, they even found a long-lost cemetery that was long over run by bushes and trees. As a result of all this physical activity they were lean, sunburnt, with boundless energy, and they as healthy as a horse. They very seldom became ill.   

After Hobo Joe graduated from 8th grade he enrolled in Benson County Agriculture and Training School (BCATS) at Maddock, ND because there wasn't any high school on the reservation. He would catch the bus on Sunday afternoon and return on 5:00 o'clock Friday evenings. During his first year at Maddock the first HUD homes were built and distributed to families living in the country. His aunt received one as well as several of his neighbors, but his family didn't. It wasn't until many years later that he found out the reason they didn't get a new HUD house was because his mom was married to a Wisicu (Whiteman).

With his cousins and neighbors living in new HUD homes and with him spending 5 days a week in Maddock in a boarding school with all its modern conveniences, it began to dawn on him that they were dirt poor. In Maddock, he experienced running water, indoor toilets, electrical lights, a heating system not dependent on wood, and his Caucasians classmates all had nice homes. As a result, he began to spend more time in Fort Totten at his aunt Alvina's home during the weekends simply because her home had electricity and a TV. On Fridays, after getting off the bus at home he would walk to his aunt's home in Fort Totten a distance of 5 miles. Except he would take a short cut, through the hills and trees and across an open field to reached Fort Totten. He walked it so many times, regardless of the season, that he actually formed a path through the woods.

One Friday evening when he got off the bus he noticed his old dog Spot didn't great him. He walked down the hill with my suitcase, entered the log cabin and was shocked to see that most of the furniture was gone. After the initial shock wore off he noticed a note up against the kerosene lamp. On the note was written, "Hobojoe, we moved to the Fort. We will come get you by seven."

Although only 15 years old he realized a momentous event had occurred in his young life, that his life was never going to be the same.  (He folded up the note and put it his billfold. He carried it around with him for about a dozen years until he lost his billfold.) He then looked around the room, trying to imprint the image of the room in his mind to make sure he would always remember it. Years later, and even now, when he dreams of his youth and the home he grew up in it's this log cabin that's in his dreams not the HUD homes they lived in once they moved to Fort Totten. 

His mom eventually came after him and they went to their new home in Fort Totten. He couldn't believe his eyes when he walked into their new HUD home, the rooms were spacious, the floors were made of tile, there was running water, most importantly, his mom had managed to acquire a used he couldn't believe it. A house with all the modern conveniences was a huge for when his family from there log cabin in the country. Other changes were not so positive.

For it was the move from the country, into Fort Totten that transformed Hobo Joe from a shy, respectful, country boy, into a worthless, trouble-making, wild Rez boy.  Prior to moving to Fort Totten, he mainly hung around with his cousins and due to living in the country they pretty much stayed out of trouble. Long story short, in the three years from the time he moved to Fort Totten to when he turned 18 years old he'd appeared before the Juvenile Judge at least 17 times.

Specially, what transformed Hobo Joe from a shy country boy who followed the Dakota values his mom instilled in him; honesty, courage, and helping others, into a worthless ndn boy was his circle of friends grew. His new friends; to put it honestly were juvenile delinquents. Around them, he began to forget the Dakota values he was raised with, instead, he became skilled at dodging the truth, he had no respect for anything or anyone, and he thought he was smarter than everyone.

As the years went by he became a hard-core alcoholic, he wrecked dozens of cars, rolled over 5 times, often stole and hocked anything of value, and he was a terrible person. The more awful his behavior became, the prouder he was of it. This lifestyle eventually ended when he was 31 years old, but not before lot damage had already been done to his reputation, to his spirit, and to his physical body.

The second, older, Hobo Joe would continue be a trouble maker for about 15 years when another major event occurred, he was in a horrible car accident, which resulted in a broken back that left him paralyzed from the waist down (another future blog). In a wheel chair, he was force to go back to school and this eventually led to the emergences of Dr. Longie. 

What helped the change that led to Dr. Longie come about was this; even in the darkest, wildest, times of his life he remembered his mom's Dakota teachings. She taught him honesty, courage, to never give up, and to have respect, and have compassion for others. And, he remembered she had such high expectations of him. Many times, she would either tell him, or tell others, that he was going to finish school, that he was going to get a job, that he was not going to be like all the other worthless men on the reservation, that he was going to make something out of his life. Eventually, his memories of his mom's high expectations of him begin to really bother him. Those memories, along with experiencing horrible, four day hangovers, being tired of waking up sick and tired, and not having any money, all those things eventually led to committing himself into a veteran hospital for alcohol treatment for the 3rd time and he hasn't touched a drop of alcohol since.

As hard as it was to become and stay sober it was even harder for him to change his belief that he was smarter than everyone, that rules are made for other people, and that all religions are false. However, he had a family he loved dearly, he enjoyed having money, a new car and the respect of family and friends, so Hobo Joe begin to merge into a person who eventually became Dr. Longie. Dr. Longie is a much nicer person than Hobo Joe, he is responsible and in some cases hard working. He has also returned the Dakota values his mom taught him and has a solid, private, relationship with Wakan Tanka that guides him every day and in everything he does. 

There are times when Dr. Longie misses the lifestyle of the irresponsible, don't-give-a-sh-t attitude of Hobo Joe, those times that were so fun and exciting until he was forced to grow up. However, as much as he misses the "freedom" of those Hobo Joe years he realizes he has come too far, he has too many responsibilities, most importantly, he knows his mom in Spirit World is proud of Dr. Longie, so he will continue being Dr. Longie except every now and then he will allow himself to slip back into being Hobo Joe and have a little fun with those around him. 

To sum it up, when he lived in the country his name, "Hobo Joe" was spoken a smile and maybe some teasing, after he moved to Fort Totten, more often than not, when his name was spoken, it was spoken with scorn, contempt and anger. 

And that my friends, is how the transformation of Hobo Joe came about. 



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Erich Longie published on May 9, 2016 12:09 AM.

The Blizzard of 1966 was the previous entry in this blog.

A Son Who's Gone, But Is Always With Me is the next entry in this blog.

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