The Story of Corn
I had a pal I met with the Lemon Haired Lady. Gray Antelope was the traditional
medicine man for the Santa Clara Pueblo in Northern New Mexico.
Lemon Haired Lady is a hair dresser and a gorgeous type who's been a pal since
God was a young man. So, when she said she'd met a wonderful person, I was
ready to meet him.
Northern New Mexico is a real country place in the winter time when the roads
can turn to ankle deep adobe, the ground might be hard or it might be shovel
I followed the Indian directions right to his door and we were greeted first by
the pack of dogs, then with the hospitality that traditional Indians can
summon. I wandered the area quietly. In winter people in New Mexico are more
open than in the summer when there are too many people; it's too much work to
know who is wandering about. Also winter is the time when one can talk about
the other world without disturbing Coyote, something one doesn't do lightly.
Antelope and Grey Rabbit, his running pal, were just back from driving the
pottery circuit, a six thousand mile drive in Rabbit's motor home, always a
source of many jokes. Antelope was known as a man who would gamble. I, as a
reformed card shark, know that Indian gamblers are intense, and holy men who
gamble are often winners.
That trip to the res defined my relationship with Antelope, as I said when he
offered me some survival corn. I had no land to plant it and in this lifetime I
would miss owning land. I was in an apartment in Denver recovering from yet
another bad marriage. He too found marriage a hard row to hoe.
After that, two or three times a year I would slip away to Santa Clara and
visit with my friend and teacher. Antelope taught a gentle way of dealing with
this and other worlds. He taught the necessity of prayer and the coming
together in brotherhood with all peoples, something I was having a hard time
with. He helped with seeing and intention, an area where I needed to cross and
recross. Looking back on his example of dealing with White People, I remember
he showed great restraint. His people were dying of contact with the Las Alamos
Labs as they spewed their toxic waste off into Indian Country. Cancer rates and
birth defects abound in Indian Country; almost every res has sinister
government pollution going on.
He had been a heavy equipment operator at the Labs and had been asked by the
elders to retire and practice his medicine in the Pueblo. What he found was
death of the old ways there and few people willing to listen to his way of
dealing with the world. His son was murdered in a barroom brawl and there was
one daughter who was close to him. His father was very old and very ill but
very wonderful too. Antelope spent a great deal of time with his dad.
Antelope grew corn sometimes around his home; other years were not right for
corn. His life was centered around corn. Corn and rain are the components to
life in the Southwest to the Indian People who live in the old way.
Pottery was another way of getting by and Antelope was an accomplished potter.
His owl looks me in the eye as I work.
All these elements and his teaching of peace with decisive action have stayed
with me in a world where peace is unwelcome.
Antelope died shortly after his father; lung cancer took him. I mourned the
loss of the circle of men and women who prayed for peace but know they are in
One day shortly after buying our home in Simla, my wife's friend from Wyoming
gave us some corn seed that her father had gained from an Indian gambler named
Antelope years before. The Indian had found the corn in a cave.
Antelope and George Abid, a traditional Ojibwa, had talked of their visit to
the cave. I had taken the cave to be a metaphor for the emerging place or some
other intellectual B.S. my cityfied mind would come up with. Never would there
be a cave with seed in it. Our minds are wonderful.
Our friends mother had grown the corn for many years before her death; we
received a small handful.
We planted at the right time and we had twelve strong plants. It is a strange
corn: lavender, orange blue, red and yellow. A small eared corn. The ears are
like the parent ears to all the corn that came later. Antelope's home grown
ears of corn were huge red ears. He also had blue corn he'd plant but I was
never in New Mexico in time for the Blue corn.
I have never before seen the corn with yellow, red, lavender and blue corn on
the same ears.
I am no farmer, just a man wanting his family to live so I cannot say I have
gone farther than to plant the corn and grow more seed to share with friends. I
look to others to go farther with this legacy.