Hearing Voices from NPR®
142 Solidod: An Apache Original
Host: Larry Massett of Hearing Voices
Airs week of: 2012-09-26
“Solidod” (52:00 mp3):
The Life and Times of Solidod, the last remaining member of her village of Mescalero Apache who lived on the edge of Death Valley. HV editor Larry Massett helped our friend Solidad publish her new e-book, An Apache Original: The Life and Times of Solidod.
Larry composed and performed the piano music in this radio hour.
Solidod is in her 80s and tells about 300 years of her life stories in the book. Here’s an excerpt from Larry’s…
When I first met Solidod she was living alone in a tiny room in a rather depressing subsidized-income apartment complex in Florida. She herself was anything but depressing, though. A few minutes after we met she showed me the little knife she carries with her in her buckskin purse. “But Solidod,” I said, “that’s kind of a dangerous knife, isn’t it?” I said- meaning, dangerous for an 80-year woman. “Yeah, it’s sharp,” she laughed, “but it would be better if it was rusty. So the cut would get infected in case I stab somebody.”
Wow, tough lady. Tough, but also funny, curious, brimming with energy, and a world-class storyteller. As she told me about the adventures of her life I realized she’s been everywhere and done just about everything: horse-trainer, bodyguard, trans-Atlantic sailor, carpenter, gardener, artist, you name it. And she’s busy. She spends her days zipping around town selling the t-shirts she paints and the jewelry she makes, checking on old friends and chatting up new ones. Most people her age seem to be winding down; Solidod’s just getting started…
Here’s a few paragraphs from chapter one:
An Apache Original: The Life And Times Of Solidod
As the eagle soars high above the early dawn, he looks down on the barren boulders that surround most of the mesa. He spots a jackrabbit and a quail. Which way to go? Big is better, but quail is tastier. As he screams and dives on the quail an Indian man is coming out of his wickiup. That’s the original mobile home. It’s like a brush harbor only smaller. Sort of like a pup tent made out of brush.
The man walks to the edge of the mesa. It is sunrise. Going to be another one of Mother Nature’s beautiful days. He sprinkles pollen to the four winds and bows his head, thanking the spirits for all his blessings. He is thinking of his family. He wonders what they are going to do for food since the government did not come through- again.
When there is very little food the Apache do not have babies. The women do not flow in hard times. This baby coming is a big surprise because it will be the only one for many moons. It is his daughter’s baby. She has waited for four years for this. It will be soon now. Her father and her husband are very concerned.
The father watches the sky because he always does. He always gets up to meet the dawn. He blesses his life and the life of his family. He has a little pick at the back of his mind that tells him something is really not quite right…
Solidod did a lot of sailing. The chapter titles chart her travels:
- Loxahatchee, Florida
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- San Salador
- Disney World
- St. Thomas Virgin Islands, and…
We had been under sail all the way so we didn’t realize that the batteries were dead. We didn’t know they were old and would not hold a charge. We came upon a mountain sticking up out of the ocean. No beach or nothing just a big-assed mountain. Of course as soon as it got between us and the wind we were done for. We dropped the sail and then we had no steering. We saw a cut in the mountain and a harbor there. We let her drift toward the cut, we were headed for that big-assed mountain so what are going to do? No wind, no batteries. So I said lets get the oars out of the lifeboat and use ‘em to get to the dock. The captain said you can’t do that, you might puncture your ribs. Well, they might get punctured anyways so let’s try it. I got on the bow and the captain got on the stern. We paddled this yacht into the harbor. There was a little man waving us off, we kept coming, he kept waving, we kept coming, now he’s waving a gun. We’re trying to tell him our boat is broken. He’s yelling, we’re yelling, and don’t forget the gun. Them some guys came alongside in a launch and took our line and took us to another dock. The captain told them our batteries were dead. They said they would take them and get them charged. We thought we would never see them again, but what else could we do? They took them.
We went for a walk. Trying to get our land legs back. You know how they say you’d walk a mile for a camel, well, we walked about a mile and we saw a real camel. We also saw people living in caves. I saw a woman sweeping out in front of one. Birds were singing everywhere. There were all kinds of beautiful flowers. We got to the center of a park. They were having Cinco de Mayo, the Fifth of May. There was music, singing, and dancing. There were vendors with trinkets and food. I told the captain they must have know we were coming and were having a party for us.
We found out the next morning why the little man was so upset, there was an ocean liner berthed there. We would have been squashed to bits. We went over to thank him. He got all red in the face when we kidded him about his big gun.
The battery guys came back. One of them spoke English and he told the captain that the batteries were old and would not take a full charge. We got twelve new batteries. Six for now, six for backup.
The guys wanted to take us for a tour of their town. OK. Does everybody drive on the wrong side and go hell-bent for everywhere? We went whipping round the mountains up and round the hair-raising curves, with the guys laughing. And talking all the way. Then whipping down the mountain and round the hair-raising curves. The next morning they asked us if we would like to see the phenomenon. We said yes, so here we went whipping up the mountain again. We went till the road ran out and then we walked about a quarter of a mile. There was a small cottage. There was a kid sitting outside on a rock. The guys said to give the kid a little money, so we did. A little lady came out of the house and asked us to come in. This human being had a great big head, and one eye was on top of its head and its nose was where its ear ought to be. It made noises, it had a little bitty round mouth. It had a tiny body with a big head. The lady said it was twenty-five years old. She said they wanted to destroy it but she wouldn’t let them because it was God’s phenomenon. The captain couldn’t stand it so we went outside to wait. I didn’t want to look at it much but the guys were nice to us and they thought it was something special. I didn’t mind leaving there. Next the guys took us to see a lady who made goat cheese. She made us some coffee, she put some goat milk in it. UHH! I didn’t mind leaving there either.
When we got back down the mountain we met some more guys. They told our guides to bring us to their houses. In the islands the houses are built like terracing. They do not have streets, just steps and sidewalks. If you ask where so and so lives, he will say so many steps up and to the left or right at the red or blue door. We went seventeen steps up and to the green door. The house was spotless. They have an open-air patio inside the house. There was a young man there who wanted to play his guitar for us. He played and sang. It was beautiful. He wanted to go to America with us. The captain said no. We did not want to be responsible for anyone else.
Then they took us to a bar. We were ready to be back on the ground. When we went in the guys told the bartender it was all right for me to be there. We were Americans. The ladies there were not allowed in the bar. They had us trying all kinds of strange things to eat. One thing I remember was a thing like a shrimp. They ate them legs and all. When it came to the squid I said thanks but no thanks.
When we got the batteries back we took the guys for a day sail. They didn’t seem to know that a sailboat heels over when it is really up in the wind. They had brought us some of the food they eat and we were all on deck. The little guys puffed up like roosters when the captain let them take the helm. The boat heeled over and the food and the plates went flying around the deck. They looked at us like they didn’t know what was happening. Then they understood and we all had a good laugh. We cleaned up the mess. One of the guys was stuck on me. That’s what the captain said. I think he just wanted to go to America. He played a guitar and sang. The music had a strange sound to me. We did stay in the Canary Islands ten days. When we walked we saw a lot of big condos. On the balconies there were big canary cages. Every bird was trying to outsing the other one…
Photos of Solidod Woods by Jake Warga: