Take Good AIM

What sounded like a great idea – having two bands travelling together out west – didn’t turn out to be practical. We both hooked up with the Gary Van Zealand agency out of Madison, Wisconsin. Gary seemed to know every bar owner and concert promoter on the planet. We asked about the dual band tour. He said sure, no problem. However, when we got our itineraries from him neither band was ever near to the same city on the same date until an outdoor festival in San Jose, California on the Fourth of July. It was up to us to coordinate the tour with each other. We set up regular call points along the way to make sure neither was having troubles. The schedule also dashed any thoughts of my getting into Sandy Lindstrom’s knickers.

Dynasty would follow a route that took us through Eau Clare and Madison, Wisconsin on to Sioux Falls and Rapid City, South Dakota and then a 1400 mile drive through mountains and deserts to San Francisco about a week before the big concert. Gary also promised that he would set up more gigs in the Bay Area while we were on tour.

The Jerry Sheehan Express set out on a course that brought them through Minneapolis, Minnesota to Dubuque, Iowa City, and Des Moines, Iowa to Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, to Cheyenne, Wyoming and then the long stretch to San Francisco.

Our routes brought both bands through Salt Lake City, Utah, but six days apart from one another. We gave some thought to hanging around and waiting for them, but dismissed the idea of spending nearly a week in the Mormon capital of Latter Day Saints. There were no bars that anyone knew of, they probably didn’t even sell alcohol in their stupid state, and we weren’t into community barn building. Forget that notion, we’d push on and meet them in Frisco.

Our first tour stop was at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Clare, a campus mixer dance for incoming summer school students and freshmen getting a jump on their classes.

The next night found us playing the same sort of function at UW-Madison. The available tail was far greater at this dance, hundreds of beautiful college coeds away from home for the first time. They were in the mood to party and party they did. The beer flowed as did the lust. In the second set I spotted a cute dark-haired gal with pony tails. I sang “Love Me Two Times,” directly to her. She hung around the stage until break time waiting to talk to me.

“You’re really cute,” she said.

“You are gorgeous,” I complimented.

“Your band is great,” she said. “What are you doing afterwards?”

“No plans,” I replied. “We’re scheduled to play Platteville tomorrow night, but I’m free tonight.”

“Want to come to a party?” she flirted, brushing up against me with a boob.

“I certainly do. Where is it at?”

“Just off campus, we’ve got an apartment,” she replied. “I’ll show you the way. I’m Sylvia, Sylvia Goldman.”

“Armond Blackwater. Pleased to meet you, Sylvia Goldman.

We all walked with Sylvia and her roommates to the party at her crib that was going full bore when we got there. Kegs of beer, joints being passed everywhere, near naked chicks galore, this was my kind of party.

After a few drinks and many laughs Sylvia brought me up to her room. Clothes melted quickly away as we kissed and fondled each other. I was just about to slide into home when she stopped me saying, “No, not there. I don’t want to get pregnant. Come in through the back door. Do me in the ass.”

Say what? She wants me to fuck her in her ass? Did she just say that? What the hell, any port in a storm as sailor’s say?

Sure enough she rolled over and guided me into the back door. All of a sudden, Morrison’s version of Back Door Man took on new meaning. The old blues version penned by Willie Dixon was talking about the guy who would slide in the back door of the house to fuck the housewife as the husband walked out the front, thereby becoming a “back door man”.

“I am, a back door man

Yeah, I am, a back door man

The men don’t know

But the little girl understands.”

This little girl certainly did understand. I couldn’t tell if her shrieks were from pain or pleasure or a combination of the two. She seemed to be getting off from the back door action and it was fun for me, too. College girls!

In the morning, we pointed the van toward the southern Wisconsin town of Platteville and another extension of UW. The crowd was similar to Eau Claire with a smaller crowd and no party afterwards. I joked that we shouldn’t book that gig ever again.

Our next drive was a long one, all the way to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We played a club there from Tuesday through Saturday. I don’t remember the name of the club or the Sioux girl I fell in love with at first sight on our first night. I talked her up quite a bit, but she wasn’t easy and left before we finished. The saying “girls all get prettier at closing time” was well known long before it became a song and proved true on that night. I went off with a fat gal and had lots of fun with her.

The next day Ted introduced me to another infamous saying when he asked me, “How was your coyote date?”

“Coyote date? What’s that?” I asked.

“That’s when you wake up with your arm around a chick and you’d rather gnaw your own arm off than risk waking her.”

I laughed at that image so hard that Ted could tell that he’d struck a nerve. “No, I poked her awake,” I said. “She promised me that she’d be at the club every night.” She was my coyote date for the week.

On Sunday, we drove west to the small town of Rapid City, South Dakota where we were gigging at The Clock Tower Lounge. The club was really cool, a chrome testament to the Nuevo chic of the 1940’s.

I was happy to be among Sioux for the first time in my life. Even though they were Lakota, I felt a kinship with them. I got to know several of them quite well in a short time. They seemed like long lost relatives and maybe they were.

One Lakota (I won’t use his name out of fear for his safety) told me of a group forming down at the Pine Ridge Reservation to protect local Sioux from the GOON’s, who were Indians that were being paid by the US Government to keep other Indians in line and on the reservation. GOON stood for Guardians Of the Oglala Nation. Who it was that came up with that stupid name I don’t know, but others approved of the name, and no one lifted a finger to stop the use of the oddly appropriate name.

I rode down to Pine Ridge the next morning with my new Lakota friend to see their reservation for myself. The scene was indescribably depressing. My knew friend – ok, let’s call him Running Bear, though that was not his name – introduced me to several of the men organizing a group they called American Indian Movement, or AIM.

I met one woman who housed and fed 32 young Lakota whose parents had either been murdered, committed suicide, or drank themselves to death. She housed all of these kids in one small trailer. She was 42, but looked 82.

I talked with the leaders. Told them of life on the Red Cliff Reservation, which was better by a small degree than what I saw at Pine Ridge Reservation. They were distressed to hear that I was playing in a bar. They were trying to eliminate alcohol from their reservation. They saw booze and drugs as a large threat to their people. This would have been a good time to heed the advice of my elders.

The leaders also cautioned me about my own safety. Never go anywhere alone. Never go outside at night alone. Don’t trust the wasicu and never, ever trust a GOON. They explained that although there were less than 20,000 people in the area that the murder rate was eight times that of Detroit, which was known as the murder capital of America at that time. I was stunned by the numbers that they quoted and the seriousness of the situation they described.

“Do you have a gun?” I was asked.

“No,” I replied. Do I have a gun? I wasn’t planning on hunting during our tour. The thought of bringing a gun never occurred to me.

“Get one,” they advised. “Something small and easily concealed. We know a guy who can fix you up.”

I purchased a .380 Beretta automatic pistol from their guy. The weapon was small, easy to conceal, and looked to be of WWII vintage. I received three clips and a box of shells with the gun. I didn’t mention the purchase to my band mates, not wanting to freak them out. I carried the pistol the entire time that we were in Rapid City.

I also made a donation of $50 to the AIM group. They assured me that the money would be used for medical supplies and food for the children of Pine Ridge. There was no reason to doubt these sincere, honorable men.

My new friend then drove me to Wounded Knee where the US Army murdered over 300 Lakota women, children, and old people on December 29, 1890. The young men of the tribe were off hunting at the time of the massacre. The 7th Cavalry had finally exacted revenge for us wiping out Custer and his men. I could feel the spirits of my Sioux ancestors, felt their pain, and anguish coursing through my veins.

I related to Running Bear the story my grandmother told me. News of the massacre at Wounded Knee spread like a prairie fire, news that caused my grandmother’s tribe of Nakota to strike their encampment and move north into Canada during a blizzard to escape the murdering wasicu soldiers. They saw the blizzard as a blessing from the Great Waken Tanka that would hide their tracks.

“What I need you to understand,” Running Bear stated flatly, “is that they haven’t stopped killing us. The FBI has declared war on the Oglala Nation. Fucking J. Edgar Hoover won’t stop until we are all dead. They are still afraid of us, even now, 76 years later.”

We then rode down to the site in Montana where the tribes of Sioux, Cheyenne, and others came together for the Sun Dance ritual near the Little Big Horn River. On June 25th of 1876 Colonel George Armstrong Custer attacked what he thought was a small village of Sioux. In reality, he was leading his troop of 257 unfortunate men into the midst of over 3,000 Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. The battle is notoriously named Custer’s Last Stand. It had long before become a favourite touron destination. The tourons snapped pictures of each other in front of grave markers and the great obelisk that memorializes Custer and his men. They trod over graves and mugged for more pictures like some big joke had happened here. No respect for the dead. No respect for the meaning of the place.

I stood with eyes closed and witnessed the battle as if it was happening at that very moment. I saw the confusion amongst Army troops, smelled the gunpowder, heard the crackle of gunfire, and heard the whoops of Indians and futile cries of soldiers in their last moments on Earth.

Despite its trivialization by tourons, the junction of Powder Horn and Little Big Horn rivers remained a powerful place to visit. I left the area weak and shaken. I returned to Rapid City with a new understanding of my grandmother, father, and of myself.

Running Bear also told me of Custer’s last moments saying that Custer was not the last to die as is the common myth. Custer was easily identified by his flowing mane of golden hair. He said that the Lakota cut Custer’s genitals off. Why? Because the Sioux and Cheyenne believed that a person would arrive on “the other side” in the same condition as they left this world. Thus, Yellow Hair, as Custer was known to the Human Beings, arrived on the “other side” without genitalia. Can you imagine how embarrassed he must have been?

Running Bear explained that the practice of scalping an opponent originated with the wasicu authorities in Minnesota, “In the early 1800’s a bounty of $50 per Indian was promised to induce hunters to help deal with the Indian “problem”. Hunters brought Indian corpses to the State Capitol building in St. Paul. Before long so many bodies were being turned in that the smell of rotting corpses became overwhelming. The solution was to reduce the amount of Indian required to claim the bounty. The course black hair of Ojibwa and Sioux was unmistakable so the bounty hunters were encouraged to only bring in the scalps to claim their bloody reward.

“Of course, the Human Beings interpreted the scalping as intent to embarrass the dead Indian because he would be bald on the “other side”. The Human Beings picked up the practice from the murdering wasicu. The wasicu then pointed to our scalping of wasicu as evidence of the barbarity and savagery of the heathen Indians.”

Running Bear confirmed what my grandmother had told me about our tribe, the Lakota, Minneconjou, Hunkpapa, and Cheyenne were all descendants of the original version of the Nakota (sometimes spelled Nakoda) that started off the millennia as the early Indians known as the Stoney tribe. The Blackwater Tribe descended from the Bearspaw band of Stoney’s.

I heeded the advice of the AIM leaders that week. Although I did have a couple of opportunities to go home with wasicu girls, I declined their offers. I was definitely spooked by the stories from the AIM folks.

We had serious discrimination problems up at Red Cliff, but at least the white folks weren’t hunting us. Stationed in and near Pine Ridge reservations were hundreds of FBI agents to watch a few thousand Lakota Sioux. We later learned that the FBI infiltrated AIM with agents acting as Indians. There were only a few hundred reservation Indians involved with AIM and a handful of Breeds like me. The numbers would grow in the future, but the group was just forming when I passed through in June of 1968.