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Mendocino County Today: Sunday, June 1, 2014

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A UKIAH MAN was arrested Friday night after allegedly hitting two teens in a crosswalk near Taco Bell, the California Highway Patrol reported. According to the CHP, Jacob A. Norgard, 26, of Ukiah, was heading northbound on North State Street at a high rate of speed around 9:37 p.m. May 30 when he hit two pedestrians crossing the street at Bricarelli Drive. At least one of the teens, identified only as a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, were injured. According to witnesses, Norgard drove away from the scene and parked his vehicle, a 94 Ford Explorer, behind the business. He then began to walk away. Officers from the Ukiah Police Department responded to the scene and contacted Norgard, who was determined to be under the influence of alcohol. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI and for leaving the scene of an accident that caused injury. The victims were not identified and information on their conditions was not available.

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POINT ARENA'S Trevor Sanders, 45, has already paid dearly for his drunken rampage last Saturday. He's been suspended from his job and from coaching, and will probably lose his teaching job at Point Arena High School altogether.


A TEACHER AND COACH at Point Arena High School, and also a PA town councilman, Sanders was ostensibly celebrating his baseball team's win over Mendocino at a downtown PA bar by drinking himself nearly insensible. Contrary to the Press Democrat's account of what happened next, both the bartender and several patrons tried to stop Sanders from driving the one block to his home. But the coach did drive, did seem to deliberately smash into at least two parked vehicles, did nearly strike two pedestrians, and is now looking at a raft of charges, some of them felonies.

THE PD also speculated that Sanders, the married father of three children and a foster parent to a fourth, is in the process of separating from his wife.

SANDERS has many supporters. From all accounts he's very good at his work, but now the question is should the guy's entire life be destroyed at age 45 because of one crazed binge? Teetotalers and other undesirables will, of course, vote to destroy. Boonville's beloved community newspaper thinks he should be allowed to keep his teaching and coaching jobs because all this happened off-duty. The DA and the court will sort out the legals, and Sanders will suffer mightily there. But what good is there in making a pauper out of the man and his family while the justice system extracts its multiple pounds of flesh?

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“THE EMERGENCY REQUEST to temporarily increase flows through the Potter Valley tunnel during the last big rains was a great opportunity for Friends of the Eel to take the high road. It looked like they were supportive -- a one-time increase in diversion while excess flow was available under emergency drought conditions.

BUT THEN FRIENDS OF THE EEL and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), who had also voiced support during the initial conference call -- decided after the initial conference call not to sign off on an enhanced, temporary flow, hence the depleted storage at Lake Mendocino and, now, a summer-long ban by permit holders on withdrawals from the Lake Mendocino-fed Russian River. (Permit holders above Lake Mendocino are similarly prohibited.)

FRIENDS OF THE EEL say it was their concern about whether or not there really were available flows, and would they be properly ramped up and ramped down to avoid fish strandings, but that is a technical detail to work out. The 'acrimony' could have been avoided by approving the emergency increase in diversion subject to compliance with conditions designed to avoid the potential negative impacts -- then the diversion would have dictated by the ability to meet objective conditions -- not the ridiculous assertion, implied and stated, that the potential loss of a significant part of the economy along the Russian River did not qualify as an emergency.

BY DENYING A COMMONSENSE, short term fix, FOER and NMFS may have created a greater opportunity for a long term solution to the problem created by the “target storage curve” -- a faulty regulatory rule that often sets a standard that is impossible to meet. Every year in late spring during storm events, hundreds or thousands of cubic feet per second (cfs) of the Eel can be seen spilling unchecked over Cape Horn Dam at Van Arsdale Reservoir, but diversion through the tunnel at Potter Valley is limited to 50 cfs or less because the volume of water impounded behind Scott Dam in Lake Pillsbury (12 miles upstream) falls below the volume called for by the target storage curve. But the volume called for by the target storage curve can not possibly be met because the gates at the top of Scott Dam are open (to release high water flows) and therefore, the volume called for by the target storage curve is impossible to meet.

HOW ABOUT THIS? Why not tie the volume of water that can be diverted at Van Arsdale to the amount of water spilling over Cape Horn Dam, instead of an arbitrary volume that can not possibly be met at Lake Pillsbury, twelve miles upstream? Stated another way, if 5,000 cfs is spilling over Cape Horn Dam, and the minimum instream flow for the Eel is 125 cfs, why not increase the diversion from 45 cfs to 245 cfs and still allow 4,800 cfs to go down the Eel? Is there a better time than high flow to modestly increase the diversion?

AND A PORTION of the increased diversion could be dedicated to the Redwood Valley County Water District to resolve a chronic problem, although if the merger with RRFC&WCID (Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District, aka the “Flood Control District,” aka “the District”) goes through, that may solve Redwood's problem also.”

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FORTUNATELY for us, the AVA has a loyal and remarkably patient gang of subscribers, many of whom, especially those out of state, tend to receive their papers in clumps of three and four. San Francisco is a little better. This week a subscriber reported that "the May 28 AVA arrived BEFORE the May 21 AVA (the former on Friday, the latter on Saturday! Apparently, life has more mysteries than we know.” Life and the Post Office seem to run neck and neck in the mystery department.

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SaulAlinskyTHE FAMOUS COMMUNITY ORGANIZER, Saul Alinsky, threw fear into the hearts of the non-profits (and Democrats), of which there are a ton based in Ukiah, when he said he hated the War on Poverty because the class it benefitted most was the middle class who decided who got the money. Whatever money trickled down to the needy was almost an afterthought. He said the poor need political power, not cash, not First 5, for handy local example.

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AS WE KNOW, marijuana is a very large part of the Mendocino County economy. As we don't want to admit, keeping it illegal is good for our economy, in that pot employs lots of people, helps fund our police departments, and generally puts money into local businesses that otherwise would flounder and die.

BUT THE DAYS of illegality are numbered. Even the Republicans think pot laws are as wacky-making as loco weed. Just this week the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted in favor of blocking the federal government from interfering with states that permit sale of medical marijuana.

HERE IN CALIFORNIA, Senate Bill 1262, endorsed by the California Police Chiefs Association and the League of California Cities is medical marijuana-friendly and is now also endorsed by pot-industry groups such as Americans for Safe Access and California NORML.

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BOOKED, May 31, 2014

Bauer, Betts, DeVito, Hanover
Bauer, Betts, DeVito, Hanover

JESSICA BAUER, Ukiah. Shoplifting/Petty Theft, parole violation.

KEVIN BETTS, Ukiah. Meth and violation of probation

MATHEW DEVITO, Fort Bragg. Transportation of marijuana, revocation of probation

ROBERT HANOVER, Burglary, vehicle theft, receiving stolen property, unlicensed driving

Humphrey, Quick, Rocanella, Sandoval
Humphrey, Quick, Rocanella, Sandoval

TRAVIS HUMPHREY, Talmage. Drunk, interference with a police officer

ALLI QUICK, Santa Cruz. Drunk driving, child endangerment

MICHAEL ROCANELLA, Ukiah. Meth, revocation of probation

JUAN SANDOVAL, Ukiah. Revocation of probation

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INDECENT EXPOSURE -- An employee at the Ukiah Civic Center on Seminary Avenue reported at 6:42 p.m. Tuesday that a man was exposing his genitals in front of the building's entrance. An officer responded and determined that the man, identified as Carlos A. Ortega, 19, of Ukiah, was using the facility's wireless Internet service to view pornographic material on his tablet device and pleasure himself. He was arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure.

DOG NEARLY JUMPED FENCE -- Caller at the corner of North Bush Street and Walnut Avenue reported at 9 p.m. Tuesday that an aggressive dog almost jumped over a white picket fence at his residence. An officer responded and advised a resident at the house.

DUI ARREST -- Caller in the 200 block of East Perkins Street reported at 10:49 p.m. Tuesday that someone driving a dark blue Mazda pick-up truck was possibly drunk. An officer responded and arrested Miguel Zepeda, 54, of Orland, on suspicion of driving under the influence.

TRANSIENTS IN CREEK -- Caller at Big Lots on South Orchard Avenue reported at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday that transients were in the creek. An officer responded and the people left.

MAN ON SIDEWALK -- Caller in the 200 block of Clara Avenue reported at 10:19 a.m. Wednesday that a man was lying on the sidewalk. An officer responded and arrested a 54-year-old man for being drunk in public.

RAPE -- An officer responded to the 700 block of South State Street at 3:10 p.m. Wednesday and took a report of a rape.

DROPPED CASH TAKEN -- Caller in the 500 block of South State Street reported at 4:04 p.m. Wednesday that she dropped cash there and an older man in a gray van picked it up and left.

TRANSIENTS CAMPING -- Caller in the 1400 block of South State Street reported at 7:26 p.m. Wednesday that transients were camping near a gate. An officer responded and arrested a 36-year-old man for being drunk in public and a 42-year-old man for being under the influence of a controlled substance.

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In some summers there is so much fruit,

the peasants decide not to reap any more.

Not having reaped you, oh my days,

my nights, have I let the slow flames

of your lovely produce fall into ashes?


My nights, my days, you have borne so much!

All your branches have retained the gesture

of that long labor you are rising from:

my days, my nights. Oh my rustic friends!


I look for what was so good for you.

Oh my lovely, half-dead trees,

could some equal sweetness still

stroke your leaves, open your calyx?


Ah, no more fruit! But one last time

bloom in fruitless blossoming

without planning, without reckoning,

as useless as the powers of millenia.

--Rainer Maria Rilke

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by William J. Hughes


Cold & gray, about 40º, so not so, and no snow.

Casper could use some clean, white, freshly fallen to brighten up its harsh moonscape, nothing hiding nothing, all the junk open for viewing, stark’s reality, dry & windy, stopping by Lansing Field, home to the A Ball Casper Rockies ghosts? It looks A Ball, not exactly small, and not exactly big league. Nobody but the wind.

They call the wind Maria? Too good a name for it out here.

But the skies start to clear, north on I-25 to Buffalo.

Buttes, beauts, crusin’ at 80 MPH. I’m in some kind of Jeep variation.

There’s a mark on the map to the left — Hole In The Wall, below Barnum. Could it be? It must be? And Paul Newman recently. I tip my cap to his life’s generosity but no longer to Butch & The Kid. Too racially violent at the end.

Bright and dry, worn out “See The Dinosaur Bones” signs. Bighorn Mtns., brooding, pastel painted desert, painted faces, covered wagons, an emptiness filled the visions. Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo, ghost dancing in my jet black Jeep.

Buffalo, Wyoming, sun showers, a big sky rainbow like Arches Natl. arc; a town of a few thousand, with a stage coach, steam engine downtown, red bricked-up so the wind won’t blow it away.

Stopping for gas, wearing a Che T shirt and my black beret. Anybody got anything to say? Huh? Huh? I hope not, chicken, a little.

Close now. There’s Sheridan, Wyoming, then the border, then Montana, then Lodge Grass, then 1876, hot, June, the 7th Cavalry come to destroy the nomadic people.

Bighorn Mtns. Out to the left, west, the jaw of the Rockies, all that is Yellowstone and the Tetons beyond.

Storm clouds right on top of the Jeep top but everything staying away, acres of sunlight, shadows moving across the green and the brown and the gray layout of the endless land.

Sheridan, Ranchester, welcome to Montana. Stop. Get out, wind sweeping, hulked-up high prairie headlands. Continental divine.

Now you know, the 7th Cavalry and all other units under Terry & Gibbon & Crook are on the move, trying to arrive at the time and the place at which the United States Government will take final control of the Indian problem.

The Cheyenne, the Sioux, and the Arapaho, are of one mind; in the mind of Sitting Bull he’s had a vision/dream of soldiers falling into camp, dead, upside down…

It will start at the Rosebud, south of Little Bighorn.

I can see Lodge Grass on my map. Rt. 463 runs west and it looks like something attached to 463 runs east to Rosebud Battlefield S.P.

I want very much to avoid entering Little Bighorn from I-90 West. Come to it more as originally.

Lodge Grass is a Crow town, a battered sheet metal warehouse gas station, with some irrigation pipe laying, truck loading Crow guys telling me that to get to the Rosebud from there might take 4 wheel drive.

I don’t know or think my lesser Jeep qualifies. Anyway, I’m not going to find out.

These Crow guys, their immediate ancestors were Custer’s scouts. Fuck.

Pass over the Little Bighorn itself, running flush & lush & curvy. Fuck.

I guess I’m stuck with the interstate exit to Little Bighorn, low gray clouds with pastures of blue between, the clouds almost resting on the dry hills.

And their arrows blotted out the sun. A bit too Spartan but you get my continental drift.

There’s a little post office spot called Garryowen just before you exit for Little Bighorn; a spot by the river when Reno and his 200 + first made contact with 1500 + warriors. I’ll make a point of it as James Donovan so vividly did in his Terrible Glory.

Garryowen. Huh. Seems most appropriate, the flute and drum corps, boots & saddles, cavalry & infantry marching band, Irish uprising ditty.

The hills and the bluffs and the gullies and the ravines that are the battlefield start to form an undulating, corn colored, dry grass line to your right. You follow the line to the 212 exit.

And here’s a little typically American ditty for ya. There’s a KFC just before the entrance to one of America’s greatest landmarks. Nothing is sacred, nothing…

But turn right into the battlefield Natl. Park and all that is become s all that was, and remains, solemn & serious, quiet, the chill wind in the dry prairie grass. No trees, open to the winds.

The ranger at the lonely gate must be a Crow. He had those Asiatic land bridge eyes and eagle nose.

His immediate ancestors were here, June 1876. My ancestors were unloading in New York harbor? Worlds collide. Worlds decide.

Worlds fly. The other day I was in Sacramento. In a blink of a credit card, here, 1876,

the surrounding prairie so unused to change, moccasin prints in the grass.

Just pull in the lot at the blockhouse Visitors Center. I have the terrific visitors tour map from the gate.

Crazy Horse, Custer
Sitting Bull, Custer

Just stand out in the chilly wind. Get that sense, that deep sensitivity, that deep appreciation of being here, U.S. Citizen and all that it takes and gives. Genocide, Crazy Horse is much alive. Custer and his men. Sitting Bull.

It was late Sept. 1975, when I was first here. I remember the river, the cottonwoods still shimmering green, the Little Bighorn curving, full and clear.

A Little Of The Bighorn

You go there for Custer

And discover the river —

Unlike him

to it

You surrender

Now it’s raw, getting cold, stark & empty, the cottonwoods bare, the Little Bighorn somehow more distant than in ’75.

Take yer time. Narrow two lanes through the killing fields. It must be somethin’ in the summer season of RV’s on to Yellowstone.

But now, one car, mine. All mine to imagine, slowly, windows down, heater on.

Imagine the heat, the 7th Cavalry’s horses, tongues hangin’; the troopers, no shorts & pith helmets.

Stopping to examine some of the interpretive turnouts. But go on to Reno & Benteen where it begins & ends.

Silence, the cathedral earth. Some private property, horses on their own, grazing, paying little attention to another car they’ve become accustomed to. You know the horses are domestic so no sense of mustangs.

The narrow road lowers and rises, curves & contours, ravines & gullies. No place to set a line of sabers and have at the natives, like Sand Creek for one instance, natives and their 700 to 900 horses executed. Carjacking on a grand government scale. Wipe ‘em out.

“Come quick/and we can kill them all…” Native talk.

It starts down here at the end of the tour road on a loop parking lot.

Reno & Benteen & Custer, the 7th Cavalry, about 700 strong, moving west, this way.

This day is a magnificent glass into the past, as far as the human eye can see, storm warning clouds so low it seems like the prairie has risen to meet the sky.

Custer, Reno & Benteen, 700+, including Crow scouts and mule skinners.

Have to include Dustin Hoffman in his great ‘Little Big Man.’ “You go down there. General…”

From up here on this ridge above the dark cottonwoods and the dark river below you get an interpretive presentation of where Custer and the boys get their first glimpse of the cooking smoke rising up from the native encampment below. Something new to me.

Far off in the field glasses distance, the Crow’s Nest. After the steamboats drop off the troops (then including the Terry & Gibbon columns — 1,200 to 1,500 in all) on the banks of the Yellowstone, Custer comes southwest down Rosebud Creek to the Crow’s Nest. From out there, up there, his field glasses get the first glimpse of the smoke from the large village. Southwest down Rosebud Creek they come, Terry & Gibbon continuing west along the Yellowstone.

Hot like a mother-fucker.

A moment in time. I might choose this time; not the fight itself, but Custer coming, the native village rousing itself. Or meeting Emily Dickinson, my mentor. Think of it: she’s in Amherst while Custer is getting his. Makes your head spin.

Down from the Crow’s Nest the column advances. Several languages could have been spoken, immigrant recruits right off a boat, and Civil War veterans, like then young brevet General G. A. Custer.

Civil War hero like a mother-fucker: courageous & fearless beyond comprehension. I did a Purple Heart USMC in ‘Nam. Beyond comprehension, and Custer’s brother, Thomas Ward Custer. Wasn’t he awarded two Medals of Honor in the Civil War? He’s with the column.

Here they come, down on the flats now, Benteen with his battalion (150 to 200 men) back there with the slower pack train, scouting away from the rest of the column.

You can see it all from where I’m standing, above the Reno-Benteen trench line, the world around an open book, still nothing much to obscure the original view, buffalo prairie, “stretchin’ forever/taken me home…” Our dearly departed Dan Fogelberg.

Now the what ifs… As the 7th approaches the encampment Custer has already split his command. Benteen has already taken his command away. Custer now sends Reno’s 200 to strike the far end of the village across the Little Bighorn. Custer takes his 200 battalion to stay above the tribes and attack at the far end of the teepees. Ego and underestimating will get you every time.

Well, here we go, standing at the monument to Major Reno & Captain Benteen, the steady wind bare & cold. It feels good.

Hot, sabers rattling, canteens nearly empty, mixtures of uniforms, horses steaming, history to be making.

Reno heads down to the river.

I remember that Evan F. Connell’s ‘Son Of The Morning Star’ lost me right here.

Reno and his men splash across the shallow enough river.

1,500 to 2,000 very, for a long time since Columbus, pissed off Sioux, Cheyenne & Arapahos come out to greet the invaders.

Through this grass, through these trees, this river, this water. Can’t get down to it without a park ranger taking a shot at me (too many armed park rangers/speaking as a former semi-armed park ranger) but there it all is, right below you, nearly nothing over the years to disturb your view of those events.

Reno’s got to run, out-numbered like a mother-fucker.

But he gets a dismount in the cottonwoods along the river. Maybe he can form a line, hold them off. Maybe.

Meanwhile, Custer is going to make his way to the other side of the camp. Could happen. If?

James Donavan’s brilliance in his telling. If Reno can hold the line here in the cottonwoods maybe Custer gets down into the camp with his 200+, starts killing the women & children (a past successful & planned strategy). Maybe the warriors flip out and can’t deal with it. If Benteen comes up and joins Reno; now the tribes have got real problems.

But Reno can’t hold. Retreat like a mother-fucker, back across the Little Bighorn, 1,500 to 2,000 warriors on their ass.

Custer still has a chance to get into the camp. His long hair stands on end. He sends back a trooper with a desperate message: “Benteen. Come quick. Big village. Bring packs.”

By this time some of the 1,500 to 2,000 warriors have spotted Custer’s unit. Put the brakes on trying to catch Reno, wheel around and head up for the other threat. Crazy Horse is most likely with those warriors.

Sunlight shafts through the gray clouds. Back across the Little Bighorn, smack against I-90, is that post-office spot Garryowen. Again, appropriate, the marching song so familiar to cavalries & infantries. I’ll try it tomorrow to see how close I can get to the river and Reno.

Reno’s diggin’ in now, up on the higher ground, Benteen comin’ up, more or less stumbling into the fight. The rider from Custer has found him for the Custer note of “Come quick…”

Not quick enough. I’m walking the trench line path Reno’s & Benteen’s basically fingernailed & clawed out of the ground, ammo boxes and horses and saddles and mules for cover.

“Where’s Custer?” starting back towards the Visitors Center on the interpretive road, sun coming out enough to light up this corner of the prairie.

Stopped now above a ravine that descends to the river. Canteens need to be filled. Reno’s brave soldiers risk it all to go down there, and hopefully back, under hostile fire.

I’ve been parched in ‘Nam. I don’t know if I could, here, then. I did, I guess, back then, but so many moons upon suns ago. I don’t know if I could.

The brave soldiers are getting what a government intent/bent out of shape on genocide deserves. Them, the soldiers? Ask the Sioux. Where’s Custer? Weir Point. Weir’s company, about 40 to 50 troopers starts out from Reno’s position to try and make contact with Custer. The tribes say differently. Some of the natives have repeating rifles to the 7th’s breach loaders. Odds on to the Indians. Back goes Weir’s Co. to Reno & Benteen.

Where’s Custer? I’m moving towards him, past Sharpshooter Ridge, where the tribes can take aim at Reno & Benteen. Easy pickins.

The day starts to darkin’, cloud cover and coming on winter, but still dry and chilled.

George Armstrong Custer. Yellow Hair. Son Of The Morning Star, because he’d attack at dawn. I call him Son Of The Mourning Star. I have a poem of that title that I’ll share with you a little later, when Crazy Horse is clearly in the mix.

A little later is now. Custer’s troop, about 210, is cut off, Cheyenne & Sioux & Arapaho comin’ from all directions, chasin’, cornering, escaping, closing, retreating, scattering, reforming, the natives slowly but overwhelmingly closing the deal.

The Declaration Of Independence. The Revolutionary War. The Constitution. The Civil War. Sitting Bull’s Vision of Soldiers Falling Upside Down, Dead, Into Camp. 1876. Only 100 yrs. In the making, the undoing.

Forty some of Custer’s troopers make a break, out of the encircling ones the undoing has been done to. They make it as far as the ‘Deep Ravine.’ “Come quick/and we can kill them all…”

This is all news to me, even from James Donovan’s book. There’s a dirt path down to the ‘Deep Ravine,’ but for right now, Last Stand Hill. Every schoolboy’s every citizen’s…

Scattered white headstones like broken teeth in the wind dried grass. The 7th soldiers, within a dark iron fence, on a gentle slope, a gentle hill. A cemetery, and one large stone stump of a monument to Custer & them.

Of course it’s not all 7th soldiers. It’s been since 1975 for me. There are now headstone markers, a darker Cherokee red, with white lettering, commemorating the fallen, the defenders of their way of life.

Custer Natl. Battlefield is now Little Bighorn Natl. Battlefield. Better. But back home they’re building Plaza Vista, down around Marina del Rey L.A., over the burial bones of the local tribes. So, Custer has to do 1 lot more dying to cover the sins of the fathers & sons & grandsons. And as I re-write this, those swine at Yale’s ‘Skull & Bones’ may actually have Geronimo’s.

Take a walk, down the smooth natural path, marked with some more of those stumpy white headstones where the white men, to the Deep Ravine.

Poor souls. Do you know the Battle of the Crater at Civil War Petersburg, VA? Poor multiple Yankee souls down in a pit, with the rebs above pouring it into them.

Here, too, only on a much smaller scale, unless you were one of the pony soldiers down in the grassy ravine, the warriors above you.

Silence, but for the war cries and the gunfire and the snap of the bows & arrows. The skull thud of a tomahawk. The country moving west — destiny’s manifest.

Standing in the windy silence, trying to imagine an American motion picture that did physical & accurate justice to June, 25, 1876.

Nothing. Errol Flynn’s nonsense in ‘They Died With Their Boots On.’ Robert Shaw’s nonsense in his Custer nonsense. ‘Little Big Man’ gets some, but still way out of bounds, all buckskin and golden hair.

But here they keep on digging, poking, investigating, updating the continuous attempt at the exact events.

Updated. Now there is a memorial to the nomadic warriors, women & families who fought and died here to protect buffalo lives from the onslaught of Swedes & Danes & Irish & Scottish & English & German & Polish & Hungarian & Russian & Italian & Dutch & Norwegians & Greeks & U.S. Grant & Sherman & Sheridan.

The memorial is a circle, a hoop with of stacked stones, three wrought iron warriors and one wrought iron woman sending them off. You can see clear across the prairie to Canada straight through them.

Within the circle, inscriptions, wisdom & visions. A replication of Sitting Bull’s original vision from its original animal hide canvas.

What a ‘Terrible Glory’ for all concerned. ‘Winter Take Nothing,’ as Hemingway’s title implied. ‘To Have And To Have Not.’

Tomorrow I’ll do the Rosebud, where the action begins a few days before Little Bighorn.

Today is getting slate gray, cold but no snow. Gray, cold, sunlight enough for the Visitors Center before I leave for the day.

The Visitors Center is ghastly, much too 1950’s blockhouse/bunker, with 90% gift shop and 10% interpretive.

And the 10% is somewhat ghastly, too old, too compact, too unilluminated, and too cheesy, with some of those silly window framed dioramas of doll people doing battle on plastic killing fields, Custer stuff stuffed in an outdated glass case, and other native & soldier stuff limping along in another outdated glass case.

But what can you do when the Natl. Park Service has a budget of $40 and has never been mentioned, ever, in a national political campaign.

But, and I mean CAPITAL BUT, there is a large scale painting by a J.K. Ralston entitled ‘After The Battle.’

Holy mother of ‘After The Battle.” It’s a Hieronymus Bosch/Remington/Russell of right after Custer’s part of the 7th has been annihilated; the natives revelry, scalping & stripping, two native women preparing to insert the long needles into Custer’s ears so he’ll hear the cries of the women and children he’s murdered much clearer in the after life.

It’s all stunning in its obscurity until now. It’s all stunning in its natives cutting apart the bleach white corpses. Payback is a mother-fucker.

Stunning, but hung in an absurd spot, above a wide partition opening into a small conference room of folding chairs, with the saving grace of wide veranda windows to view the battlefield.

This ‘After The Battle’ deserves a prominent, eye level setting for all to see. This is how the west was won, one afternoon in June, 1876.

They have a movie. It’s shown on a TV screen in the gift shop. That sucks. I was at Horseshoe Bend in Alabama recently. That’s where Andy Jackson hacks up the Creeks. Their movie theatre has Wes Studi doing the narrative.

Somehow, there should be a theatre here (some federal dollars — books, parks, education, not bombs) with a Robert Redford or a Dustin Hoffman to cover this American telling.

And they can leave out the part at the end of this film about how both sides of the fight were patriots called to duty, thus we include them all.

Right, one side was intent on genocide, the other in avoiding the death camps.

There’s no way I can leave him out, walking away from the Visitors Center, down towards the white, headstone rows of the Natl. Cemetery here at Little Bighorn, stopping on the path, stepping off into the brittle grass. Crazy Horse.

In full life. No romance, no idol worship. Simply a man of his species. Pure breed, flesh of the flesh & blood. While New York & Boston are belching industrial smoke & ash, here is such as he.

Last year out at Ft. Robinson, western Nebraska. They killed Crazy Horse.

My white man’s burden is lessened a few rocks by the sight of him as he races by me in that hot summer’s dust.

That poem of him I mentioned before:


Son Of The Morning Star

Only the Sioux

Know where he’s

Allow me —

The Crazy Horse



Enough. A Jack London darkness, cold and uninviting.

A worn out, paint peeling, letters faded sign for the Western Motel in Hardin like the used up cafes and gas stations that haunt the modern way west.

I’d like a $50 night in a Western Motel, warm and HBO cozy against the Jack London night.

It’s the usual Area 51 franchise landing lights of KFC & Super 8 at the Hardin exit, but there among the behemoths, a small, maintained sign for the Western Motel. It exists, as the fuel tank light lights up. Nice that it’s referred to as fuel.

Nice lady at the front desk. Nice $53 for any nice room I want. November in Hardin, MT. Any room I want.

I want steak & eggs & sausage & bacon & grits & muffins & biscuits & spuds cooked over one of those Cheyenne cooking fires of June, 1976, but I’ll settle for DQ, with Crow attendants and Crow customers. Told you it was Area 51.

The motel room is a cave, safely inside, a mammal to the vast dinosaur world inside.

* * *


by Ben Crair

On December 13, 2006, the state of Florida botched the lethal injection of Angel Diaz. The execution team pushed IV catheters straight through the veins in both his arms and into the underlying tissue. As a result, Diaz, who was convicted of murder in 1986, required two full doses of the lethal drugs, and an execution scheduled to take only ten to 15 minutes lasted 34. It was one of the worst botches since states began using lethal injection in the 1980s, and Jeb Bush, then the governor of Florida, responded with a moratorium on executions.

Other states hardly heeded Diaz’s death at all. Since he died, states have continued to botch lethal injections: A recent study by Austin Sarat at Amherst College estimated that at least 7 percent of all lethal injections have been visibly botched. The most controversial was in Oklahoma this past April, when the state executed a convicted murderer and rapist named Clayton Lockett using a three-drug protocol, like most other death-penalty states. The execution team struggled for 51 minutes to find a vein for IV access, eventually aiming for the femoral vein deep in Lockett’s groin. Something went wrong: Oklahoma first said the vein had “blown,² then “exploded,² and eventually just “collapsed,” all of which would be unusual for the thick femoral vein if an IV had been inserted correctly. Whatever it was, the drugs saturated the surrounding tissue rather than flowing into his bloodstream. The director of corrections called off the execution, at which point the lethal injection became a life-saving operation. But it was too late for Lockett. Ten minutes later, and a full hour-and-forty-seven minutes after Lockett entered the death chamber, a doctor pronounced him dead.


Witnesses to the execution say Lockett writhed, clenched his teeth, and mumbled throughout the procedure. We won’t better understand what happened until Oklahoma releases an autopsy report some time this summer. But we do know what happened to Angel Diaz, who died under similar conditions. While the details of his execution have been known since 2006, The New Republic is publishing for the first time photographs of the injuries Diaz sustained from the lethal injection. I discovered the photographs in the case file of Ian Lightbourne, a Florida death-row inmate whose lawyers submitted them as evidence that lethal injection poses an unconstitutional risk of cruel and unusual punishment.

States adopted lethal injection in order to make the death penalty seem more peaceful, like an ordinary medical procedure. “No pain, no spasms, no smells or sounds — just sleep then death,” said Bill Wiseman, the Oklahoma state representative who led the first push for lethal injection in 1977. But even back then, Jay Chapman, the Oklahoma chief medical examiner who wrote the protocol, warned, in the words of The Daily Oklahoman, that “the major hazard of using lethal drugs in the execution of criminals is missing the vein in establishing an intravenous ‘pathway’ for the drugs.” That is what happened to Diaz and appears to be what happened to Lockett. A death-penalty method that was supposed to be less barbaric than its predecessors, it turns out, can still mutilate the human body. These photos, taken by a Florida medical examiner during the autopsy of Diaz’s body, are evidence of how.

The most common way states botch lethal injections is by subjecting prisoners to several needle pricks over a long period of time as they search for IV access. Prisoners are often overweight, inactive, and former drug users, and finding a vein can be difficult. In Diaz’s case, the execution team member — Florida never disclosed this person’s name or qualifications — did not struggle to locate veins in both forearms. However, this person, either unknowingly or wantonly, pushed the catheters through both veins and into subcutaneous soft tissue — an error that is known in medicine as “infiltration.” As a result, the drugs flowed between layers of soft tissue in Diaz’s arms rather than into his bloodstream.

This created large chemical burns. On the right arm, the burn zone was 12 by 5 inches, with numerous blisters (or “bullae,” as they're known medically) and a sloughing off of superficial skin. On the left arm, the burn zone was 11 by 7 inches. The blisters, according to the autopsy report, were filled with “watery pink-tinged fluid.” By the time the autopsy began, the medical examiner noted there had been “extensive skin slippage,” revealing white and pink subcutaneous skin.

“I’ve never seen anything like this from IV infiltration,” said Jonathan Groner, a professor of clinical surgery at the Ohio State University College of Medicine who has studied lethal injection, when I showed him the photos. Groner described the injuries as severe second-degree, or “deep partial thickness,” burns. “That is the kind of injury we see when a kid has fallen in a campfire or set his arm on fire,” Groner said. “My guess is someone who got this when alive would need skin grafts to heal.”

Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University who has studied lethal injection and testified extensively about the procedure, called the gray skin on Diaz's arms “hallmark discoloration from sodium thiopental” — the first drug in the three-drug protocol that was used to kill Diaz. The thiopental needs to be dissolved in a caustic alkaline solution before it’s administered: The solution will be diluted when it enters the bloodstream, but it can burn when it infiltrates living muscle or the fat of the arm. It is unclear the extent to which the thiopental solution continued to act on Diaz’s soft tissue after he passed away. What is certain is that thiopental was in his left arm for more than 30 minutes (and his right arm for a shorter length of time) between the first injection and the pronouncement of death. Tim Westveer, an inspector for the Florida Department of Legal Enforcement, observed Diaz's body from a distance of eight to ten feet immediately after the execution and noticed redness along Diaz's arms unlike any he had seen in prior executions.

The intended purpose of the thiopental was to make Diaz unconscious. Then the second drug, a paralyzing agent called pancuronium bromide, would shut down Diaz’s control of voluntary muscles. Finally, a third drug, potassium chloride, was supposed to stop his heart. According to an official state review of the execution, a member of the execution team noticed more resistance in the syringe than usual when he or she began to pump thiopental into Diaz’s left arm. This person was able to complete the dosage, and then began to administer pancuronium bromide through the same IV. The resistance grew, however, until the point where he or she could push the plunger no further. The execution team switched to the IV in Diaz’s right arm to complete the dosage of pancuronium bromide and then applied potassium chloride. When it failed to stop Diaz’s heart, the execution team administered another full cycle of the three-drug cocktail, switching back midway from his right arm to his left.

Drugs work differently subcutaneously than they do intravenously. “If thiopental infiltrates, it will not produce anesthesia,” said Heath. In previous botched executions, thiopental accidentally administered subcutaneously has failed to knock prisoners unconscious: A few months before Diaz's execution, Joseph Clark, a convicted murderer in Ohio, remained awake after receiving thiopental in a collapsed vein, and executioners had to find a new vein before restarting his execution. And thiopental is the most important drug in the execution, from the prisoner’s perspective: If it fails, he will be awake to feel the torturous effects of the other two drugs. The second drug, pancuronium bromide, paralyzes the prisoner, including his diaphragm and lungs: In clinical settings, patients must be put on ventilators to continue breathing. And pancuronium bromide, unlike thiopental, works even when it’s administered subcutaneously: “Infiltrated pancuronium still accumulates in the circulation in fully effective concentrations, and so the prisoner will become 'chemically locked in' over a period of ten to twenty minutes,” said Heath. The third drug, potassium chloride, is known to be painful intravenously. In order to cause cardiac arrest, a single large dose needs to hit the heart through the bloodstream — which we know didn’t happen in Diaz’s case.

In all likelihood, Diaz remained conscious as the drugs pooled in his arms and the pancuronium bromide began to paralyze him. Diaz would have become chemically locked in — that is, mentally aware but without control of any voluntary muscles — and he would have starved for air as his diaphragm shut down and he slowly suffocated. In the autopsy report, the medical examiner noted “bilateral venous jugular distention” — an abnormal swelling of both jugular veins in Diaz’s neck that could be a sign he struggled for air.

Witnesses to the execution reported Diaz moved throughout the procedure, suggesting he was awake and trying to overcome the onset of paralysis. Chris Tisch, a St. Petersburg Times reporter who witnessed the execution, wrote that Diaz immediately began grimacing and appeared to speak at the start (his words could not be heard by the witnesses because a glass window separates the death chamber from the viewing room). He repeatedly squinted his eyes and lifted his chin. Ten minutes into the execution — around the time he was expected to die — he turned his head to the right and began to cough. Sixteen minutes into the execution, he was still moving his mouth and chin. By the twenty-second minute, he appeared to have stopped moving — but then two minutes later his body “jolted,” according to Tisch, and his eyes opened more widely. At 6:34, a doctor checked Diaz’s vital signs. He or she left the execution chamber, returned a minute later, checked again, and at 6:36 an execution team member pronounced Diaz dead.

Tisch wrote in his notes that for several minutes Diaz’s mouth was “flexing like a fish out of water” — a sign he was struggling for air. Ron Word, an Associated Press reporter, also witnessed the execution. Afterwards, he wrote “It seemed like Angel Nieves Diaz would never die.”

The Florida Department of Corrections originally said that Diaz’s execution took longer than expected because he had liver problems that slowed the chemicals. But the autopsy showed that his liver was healthy. And doctors said even if Diaz did have liver problems, they would have sped up his death rather than slowed down his death.

Two days after Diaz died, Governor Bush put a moratorium on all Florida executions. He also assembled a panel of experts to review and revise Florida’s lethal injection protocol. This panel, which included doctors and state politicians, found that the execution team lacked appropriate training and that the team did not follow the proper protocols. However, it said “it is impossible for the Commission to reach a conclusion as to whether inmate Angel Diaz was in pain.” It made several recommendations to better train the execution team, reinforce the command structure, improve documentation, and monitor more closely the prisoner’s condition. It also recommended the “Florida Department of Corrections on an ongoing basis explore other more recently developed chemicals for use in a lethal injection execution with specific consideration and evaluation of the need of a paralytic drug like pancuronium bromide in an effort to make the lethal injection execution procedure less problematic.” In 2008, Florida’s new governor, Charlie Crist, lifted the moratorium on the death penalty. In a statement, the Florida Department of Corrections noted it had updated the execution protocol since Diaz's execution. “Carrying out the sentence of a court in a capital case is the Florida Department of Corrections’ most solemn duty, and the Department remains committed to doing everything it can to ensure a humane and dignified lethal injection process,” the statement read.

After a nationwide shortage in thiopental, Florida replaced the first drug in the three-drug cocktail with midazolam in 2013. Unlike thiopental, which is used in the clinical context to make patients deeply comatose before surgery, doctors typically use midazolam as a sedative to calm patients or to induce amnesia of surgery. Last October, Florida executed its first prisoner with midazolam, a convicted murderer and rapist named William Happ. The Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution wrote, “It appeared Happ remained conscious longer and made more body movements after losing consciousness than other people executed recently by lethal injection under the old formula.”

Oklahoma also executed Clayton Lockett using midazolam as the first drug — though the dosage was only a fifth of the amount Florida used for Happ. After the botch, Oklahoma said Lockett died from a heart attack. One cause might have been the potassium chloride, though that is unlikely if the drug was not entering his bloodstream. It could have been from something else, such as air entering his vein. It also could just be incorrect, as was Florida’s report of “liver problems” for Angel Diaz immediately after his execution.

After his death, Lockett’s body went to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy; then it was sent to Dallas for a second autopsy by an independent forensic pathologist. The results of these autopsies have not yet been released. Unlike Bush, who appointed an independent panel to review Diaz’s execution, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin ordered just Michael Thompson, the state commissioner of public safety, to investigate the Lockett execution and recommend changes to the state protocol.

It is important to note that a botched execution would not necessarily cause any physical injuries at all. One of the main concerns with lethal injection is the integrity of the drugs, especially since the shortage in thiopental sent states scrambling for untested replacements. Even if the drugs are administered perfectly through an IV, the prisoner would still suffer if the first drug does not knock him out. “How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in 1994, comparing the deaths of executed prisoners to the violent deaths of their victims. In some cases, though, it is the quietness of three-drug lethal injection, inflicted by the paralyzing drug that may have suffocated Angel Diaz, that is most cruel about it.

(Courtesy, The New Republic)

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