TATTERED TALES OF THE WESTERN CHRIST
Collected by Bradford Riley
These Tattered Tales were strung during Friday and Saturday of Easter 2002 -- March 29 and 30 -- just through the solo singing of three different people, woven together merely by whim and chance...but mostly love of the wonders of the cosmic dance.
As the images unfolded an ancient prophecy of Christ in the West was revealed. It suddenly became a revelation of Black Elk where two Eagle feathers and the ancient Ghost Dance connected itself to the Resurrected Christ that appeared to Native Americans in the West. Here stands a poetic Cinematic vision of how to bridge the West to the mysteries of the Christ Event.
A prospector comes upon the Saloon of an old Ghost Town in the West. He is parched and he sees a distant light. Naturally his tale is not to be believed. The old West Ghost Towns are silent now. As are the souls of the Native Americans and western settlers who died without understanding the great journey of the Westward Christ.
* * * * * * The Ghost Posse * * * * * *
Dedicated to Black Elk, John Neihardt, Squandered Americans of all races and of course Ambrose Bierce and all the Ghost Towns of the
wild, wild, west.
There are tales the miners don't tell ya,
When they hunted for gold out west.
But this one I heard,
From an electronic bird,
That nearly got lost with the rest.
A foggy night somewhere in a forgotten western Saloon,
A dive for lost rustlers.
'Deep Thinker' walks through the swingin doors and yells
To Black Br. who was standing at the bar just minding
His own business....
"In spite of that blunder or yours," He exclaims, "I may still
enjoy a good debate with you on any esoteric/exoteric
subject of your choice. Just make sure you pick one you
know something about."
With that, a hush falls over the place and the honky tonk piano
falls silent. Black Br. slowly turns around to face the stranger.
"Hold it right there, Pilgrim. I was just standin here sippin
my sassparilla (Actually it was a glass of Bailey's)
and you got the huevos to walk up here and try to slap leather
against the likes of me?"
"Hey Barkeep," sez the Br. "Pour my friend here a shot
Of that famous 'White Lightnin' of your'n....'cause as you
Can see, this dusty wrangler is in dire need of 'lightning up!"
"Now...back to you stranger...Mebbe you don't know who
Yer drawin' aginst".........(spit---ding)
"I'm Black Br. and I'm known from Dodge City all the way
down to the Pecos as the fastest draw around, PARTICULARLY
when it comes to shootn' the heels off them 'deep thinkers.'"
"So why don't you just toss down a couple of swigs of that
Montana Red Eye and grab one of them pretty little fillies
there on the stairs. It might calm that shaky hand of yorn..."
Deep thinker had to think about this. He recalled that poor
Feller down in Durango who had such an itchy trigger finger
that he went and shot himself in the foot.
So as 'DT' sat down on a stool with his elbow on his knee,
resting his thoughtful forehead in his hand, Black Br.
calmly turned back around and winked at that red headed
Hussy, Diamond Lil’ who had been ogling him from the end
Of the bar...and the tinny piano starts back up where
It left off in the middle of an out of tune version of 'Down Yonder.'
Lil was the sweetest transvestite to ever slide off a barstool.
Now the Dude who had been eye'n her, as her he thought she was,
Was a wrangler,
He'd a done wrestled some fillies to the floor,
In his time.
He'd done his share a ridin, ropin and brandin.
Humpin, thumpin an dumpin.
He had rode em wet and put ‘em up hard. Err.
Hmm, and there were rumors,
His pistooles were tight and hit leather pretty well.
But Bessie Lilyrue, formerly Buster...
(a bronco boy who got in touch with his feminine side)
Got inspired one night by the Ghost of Billy Wilder..
Billy came up to him in the dream for a close up...
I'm ready Mr. Demille
And Bessie, err Buster woke up with a lasso
Round his mid section and his pants round his ankles.
He was swinging away.
It was a mean trick the ladies had played on him.
Buster was gonna get even.
The gals all had a go at the Dude.
Now it was his turn.
Trouble was after the Dude had his eighth Bailey's
He found Bessie, long legged, tall and comely
In that sort of Calvin Klein kinda way.
Dude waltzes err kinda struts up to Bessie
Jus then the wrangler at the bar turned suddenly round
Chairs and stools scattered, the hair at the neck
Of the Dude rose as he spun....
An ancient desert prophet stood glazed at the door,
His hands was stretched out, not like he was drawin,
He wore some rag and one of his feet looked bloody,
A Camel outside the saloon started fussin and spittin
And a great cross
Bumped off the Camel and
Banged loudly behind the Prophet.
Women, that were women screamed.
Men all drew their revolvers.
The Bartender had his shotgun brought up to shoulder level.
The Prophet, lifted up his arms over his head.
He pulled from his head, some wiry thing,
Some Barbed wire that was stuck there.
The Prophet made a little whimper,
As a new trickle of blood flowed down his cheek like a....
...Like a droplet of blood usually does
He looked around him in a curious kind of way
At those half damsels, damsels, men and half men
Indeed, 'tis Sodom and Gomorrah at last I have found!
With newfound vigor on one of them round tables he jumped
And preceded to eloquently speak as no other prophet had.
Trouble was the creaky ole table had more than a squeak
Down came the prophet with that wiry old thing
When he came to, not a thing about himself he did recall
Took him a minute.... but then to the Bartender he did call
Hey Charlie, give me a swig will ya? Feels like I been parched
For a 1,000 years.
Now the first church of the western desert
Weren't exactly dry, it weren't no dry gulch.
Seems that the Prophet could take spring water
And turn into some heady mead, ain't no one ever tasted,
Cause no one knew the creed.
The prophet passed the bottle round to all the patrons
It had bite, it torched, and it softened and rolled down
Your throat like a dozen green lizards hissing, like
A hundred Angels all singin' and kissin’.
Somebody handed the Prophet a hat,
Another a vest,
One of the 'ladies' was moved to sit the Prophet down.
She kneeled before his barstool
Opened her bountiful blouse,
Loosened the knot in her hair,
It tumbled down long and golden all down over her shoulders,
Like a satin silken stair.
By the time the bottle was passed round to everyone,
There grew a glow that dimmed the lanterns.
It came from inside every one of them
Crazy cowpokes. They looked down at themselves,
Like they was sitting on a sleeping steer.
They was afraid to move, lest it wake up
Shoot em through the ceiling and send the sweet dream reeling.
Now the kneeling 'lady' took a whole bottle of
Champagne and poured it down the Prophets legs.
His weathered, worn and painful souls (soles) were
Washed, with the purrdiest mop a gold I ever sawd.
So sweet the sight, it was to me, I almost up and bawled.
No body laughed, they couldn't even grin.
They was so busy looking through their skin
Seeing how the glow billowed and flitted through
Their bones... As yet they hadn't found words to
Utter. Mostly it was just a whispered,
Ah, ah filled wanderin kinda' stutter.
The Dude took the blood dropped barbed wire and tossed it
Onto the Steer horns above the saloon entrance.
Bessie's make up started running, cause she was
Bawling, in the sweetest sort of way.
Now for his/her soul forever here with truth she wished to stay.
Oh, yes. Things were moving on tiptoe with grins,
And just like a greased axel, gun belts fell and clunked
To the floor from off the hips of them rough
Outdoor men. Who but a day before,
Woulda bit a nail in two, to cut you to the core.
" I thirst " the Prophet whispered... " I thirst"
And patted the lady on her golden shimmering shoulder.
She slowly, before the eyes a all of them,
Became a living fountain of loving, quenching light.
Her golden flowing hair, trickled and shimmering
Puddles of light spilled into the lap of the Prophet.
He bathed his hurting hands in her compassions flow,
The Lady oblivious, didn't know...
And the Prophet dipped his hands in the flowing glow again,
Lifted up the pool of golden, trickling compassions,
Some drained out of lines between his fingers,
More trickled out right through a couple a
holes in his palms.. While the lady below his knee,
Whispered, sweet smelling psalms.
But The Prophet managed to get some of that cooling compassion
To his wounded head.
There the Lady's compassion flowed and soothed his burning
Brows and cheeks.
His sweet, forgiving looks,
His loving smile,
Made us feel weak kneed and meek.
He rested with eyes closed for a moment.
Oh, I tell you, even the wind had hushed itself.
The tumbleweed stopped tumbling.
Human faces, all turned toward their innards,
Which were rapt in some sentiments that must a touched
Their hardened hearts, for they smiled like
Sweet babies in the grass, grass that was soft,
And Sun that was coming from their own selves..
The Prophet spoke.
This is what He said:
"Some Ghost Towns give up the ghost, with bitterness and death,
But Today we journey together, where the Ghosts of all the Ghost towns that
Ever were, have gathered like a bats cave nest.
To quench their endless thirst, I have gathered you to me.
Today we ride together, with camel and with horse,
To serve each ghostly town that's sunk in errors black remorse.
Our living Posse's I entrust to quench each and every ghostly thirst that
Ever died as parched as I.
Today we ride together, I need your love's overflow..
For you have all been sinners and have tasted loves true glow.
Today we ride the ghost dance and free the hindered tribes,
Of long lost loving Redmen who for your sins had died.
Today we lift the curses, heal the wounds and mend the scars. .
We shall travel through the rings of earth,
Past Saturn and heal the sting of mars.
Lead was in your pistols now gold is in their core,
The hollow points that bore the cross, will scar the flesh no more.
Today we ride together we will heal forgotten scars.
Shall we ride together, this night and day to come?
Till Saturn's deadly chains have dropped from each and everyone?"
Like children at a rodeo a wild hoot and holler was raised,
But I was still outside the door, alive and dumb amazed.
I was still outside the door; I saw them all inside...
I dare not cross the threshold for my ghost it yearned to ride.
Friends if ye have seen what I have seen this day,
When Beer and Bars and cowpokes were swept with him away,
Ye wouldn't wonder much, at what I'm about to say...
Sure enough I heeard a rustle, and looks behind me there,
The Town was full of Eagles feathers, drifting down in pairs.
Each landed softly, like a whispered word,
From Each feather, sprouted a forgotten Native Soul.
Squaws and Warriors, Chiefs and tribes,
So gray and crowded were their lot..
But out from the center; One Man serenely glides.
Now I ain't one to know too much but John it was I saw,
Not he who was beheaded, but Neihardt John of Black Elk,
Poet singer of the West,
Where ghostly tribes had parted to let his visage through,
John G. Neihardt approached like an honored guest they knew.
And just as near from me to you,
I heard his whispered song...
Like wind, like rustle, like thunder
So quiet it stole into my soul,
It echoed as I pondered it, so sweet and long
John G. Speaks:
"SEEK not for me within a tomb;
You shall not find me in the clay!
I pierce a little wall of gloom
To mingle with the Day!
I brothered with the things that pass,
Poor giddy Joy and puckered Grief;
I go to brother with the Grass
And with the sunning Leaf.
Not Death can sheathe me in a shroud;
A joy-sword whetted keen with pain,
I join the armies of the Cloud,
The Lightning and the Rain.
O subtle in the sap athrill,
Athletic in the glad uplift,
A portion of the Cosmic Will,
I pierce the planet-drift.
My God and I shall interknit
As rain and Ocean, breath and Air;
And O, the luring thought of it
Is prayer! "
John G. Neihardt
“Is prayer” my heart whispered in echo…
John G. walked slowly towards the swingin’ doors that hid the Crown,
The Man of thorns and barb'ed wire
With cowboy hat and Spirit of fire,
That sat inside, the western host,
Of that lost, once proud ghost town.
Neihardt whispered close behind me. I dared not move nor breathe.
Was I the last living being, prospecting in these parts?
Where 'tomic testing had killed the land,
Dusted with death and lefts its brand,
Of Satan fire from human hand...
That now would hear what no man can?
John whispered behind me again:
"LONGINGS to grow and be vaster,
Sap songs under the blue;
Hints of the Mighty Master
Making his dream come true.
Gaunt limbs winter-scarred, tragic,
Blind seeds under the mold.
Planning new marvels of magic
In scarlet and green and gold!
O passionate, panting, love-laden,
She is coming, she sings in the South--
The World's Bride--April the Maiden--
With the ghost of a rose for a mouth! "
John G. Neihardt
If I rushed inside the bar, cried “Mercy”... I'm sure He'd understand,
But I'd be dead for certain and no one would know what was planned.
I knew and I felt what John felt,
As he wandered and richly swore,
Of the mighty Initiate Black Elk,
Of the Christ and the Red Man's lore.
Oh, god such a lonely prophet, and he changed how we saw the west,
So few could see the message under Materialisms vest.
And I was a damned Prospector, searchin' for a little gold,
I may have died already and maybe I just wasn't told.
But John G. Whispers softly, his Spirit rite near my ear,
Oh God may I live, so the living too may hear!
"ONCE more the northbound Wonder
Brings back the goose and crane,
Prophetic Sons of Thunder,
Apostles of the Rain.
In many a battling river
The broken gorges boom;
Behold, the Mighty Giver
Emerges from the tomb!
Now robins chant the story
Of how the wintry sward
Is litten with the glory
Of the Angel of the Lord.
His countenance is lightning
And still His robe is snow,
As when the dawn was brightening
Two thousand years ago.
O who can be a stranger
To what has come to pass?
The Pity of the Manger
Is mighty in the grass!
Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet.
The giving Earth remembers,
And only men forget. "
John G. Neihardt
The first vision of the Risen One in the wide and wild West.
But early that summer when I came back from across the big water (1889) strange news had come from the west, and the people had been talking and talking about it. They were talking about it when I came home, and that was the first I had heard of it. This news came to the Ogalalas first of all, and I heard that it came to us from the Shoshones and Blue Clouds (Arapahoes). Some believed it and some did not believe. It was hard to believe; and when I first heard of it, I thought it was only foolish talk that somebody had started somewhere. This news said that out yonder in the west at a place near where the great mountains (The Sierras) stand before you come to the big water, there was a sacred man among Paiutes who had talked to the Great Spirit in a vision, and the Great Spirit had told him how to save the Indian peoples and make the Wasichus disappear and bring back all the bison and the people who were dead and how there would be a new earth. Before I came back, the people had got together to talk about this and they had sent three men, Good Thunder, Brave Bear and Yellow Breast, to see this sacred man with their own eyes and learn if the story about him was true. So these three men had made the long journey west, and in the fall after I came home, they returned to the Ogalalas with wonderful things to tell.
There was a big meeting at the head of White Clay Creek, not far from Pine Ridge, when they came back, but I did not go over there to hear, because I did not yet believe. I thought maybe it was only the despair that made people believe, just as a man who is starving may dream of plenty of everything good to eat.
I did not go over to the meeting, but I heard all they had to tell. These three men all said the same thing, and they were good men. They said that they traveled far until they came to a great flat valley2 near the last great mountains before the big water, and there they saw the Wanekia,3 who was the son of the Great Spirit, and they talked to him. Wasichus called him Jack Wilson, but his name was Wovoka. He told them that there was another world coming, just like a cloud. It would come in a whirlwind out of the west and would crush out everything on this world, which was old and dying. In that other world there was plenty of meat, just like old times; and in that world all the dead Indians were alive, and all the bison that had ever been killed were roaming around again.
This sacred man gave some sacred red paint and two eagle feathers to Good Thunder. The people must put this paint on their faces and they must dance a ghost dance that the sacred man taught to Good Thunder, Yellow Breast, and Brave Bear. If they did this, they could get on this other world when it came, and the Wasichus would not be able to get on, and so they would disappear. When he gave the two eagle feathers to Good Thunder, the sacred man said: "Receive these eagle feathers and behold them, for my father will cause these to bring your people back to him."
This was all that was heard the whole winter.
When I heard this about the red paint and the eagle feathers and about bringing the people back to the Great Spirit, it made me think hard.
Then it was spring (1890), and I heard that these men had all come back from the west and that they said it was all true. I did not go to this meeting either, but I heard the gossip that was everywhere now, and people said it was really the son of the Great Spirit who was out there; that when he came to the Wasichus a long time ago, they had killed him; but he was coming to the Indians this time, and there would not be any Wasichus in the new world that would come like a cloud in a whirlwind and crush out the old earth that was dying. This they said would happen after one more winter, when the grasses were appearing (1891).
I heard many wonderful things about the Wanekia that these men had seen and heard, and they were good men. He could make animals talk, and once while they were with him he made a spirit vision, and they all saw it. They saw a big water, and beyond it was a beautiful green land where all the Indians that had ever lived and the bison and the other animals were all coming home together. Then the Wanekia, they said, made the vision go out, because it was not yet time for this to happen. After another winter it would happen, when the grasses were appearing.
And once, they said, the Wanekia held out his hat for them to look into; and when they did this, all but one saw there the whole world and all that was wonderful. But that one could see only the inside of the hat, they said. Good Thunder himself told me that, with the power of the Wanekia, he had gone to a bison skin tepee; and there his son, who had been dead a long time, was living with his wife, and they had a long talk together.
This was not like my great vision, and I just went on working in the store. I was puzzled and did not know what to think.
Afterwhile I heard that north of Pine Ridge at the head of Cheyenne Creek, Kicking Bear had held the first ghost dance, and that people who danced had seen their dead relatives and talked to them. The next thing I heard was that they were dancing on Wounded Knee Creek just below Manderson.
I did not believe yet, but I wanted to find out things, because all this was sitting more and more strongly in my heart since my father died. Something seemed to tell me to go and see. For awhile I kept from going, but at last I could not any more. So I got on my horse and went to this ghost dance on Wounded Knee Creek below Manderson.
I was surprised, and could hardly believe what I saw; because so much of my vision seemed to be in it. The dancers, both women and men, were holding hands in a big circle, and in the center of the circle they had a tree painted red with most of its branches cut off and some dead leaves on it. This was exactly like the part of my vision where the holy tree was dying, and the circle of the men and women holding hands was like the sacred hoop that should have power to make the tree to bloom again. I saw too that the sacred articles the people had offered were scarlet, as in my vision, and all their faces were painted red. Also, they used the pipe and the eagle feathers. I sat there looking on and feeling sad. It all seemed to be from my great vision somehow and I had done nothing yet to make the tree to bloom.
Then all at once great happiness overcame me, and it all took hold of me right there. This was to remind me to get to work at once and help to bring my people back into the sacred hoop, that they might again walk the red road in a sacred manner pleasing to the Powers of the Universe that are One Power. I remembered how the spirits had taken me to the center of the earth and shown me the good things, and how my people should prosper. I remembered how the Six Grandfathers had told me that through their power I should make my people live and the holy tree should bloom. I believed my vision was coming true at last, and happiness overcame me.
When I went to the dance, I went only to see and to learn what the people believed; but now I was going to stay and use the power that had been given me. The dance was over for that day, but they would dance again next day, and I would dance with them.
© 2002 Bradford Riley
Bradford is an American with a Spiritual Scientific soul. He attended the Goetheanum and graduated with honors as a Speech Artist. He has written Off-Broadway plays; documentaries for HBO; performed, written and produced 13 plays that have opened in London, New York and Atlanta; is a Waldorf Teacher, poet and grandfather. His fondest play was the 8th Grade production and adaptation of "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner". He considers his greatest work to be a speech symphony of "The Seraphim" by E.B. Browning. He has taught Speech in Waldorf Schools to faculty members, lectured some and spoke for Eurythmy performances internationally. Bradford considers the "Ghost Posse" to have cinematic value.