Got warriors?

A quadriplegic horse gentler helps reservation boys through their dangerous teens

  • Daniel Addison, a Northern Arapaho teen, on Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation.

    Sarah Kariko
  • Copyright (c) 2009 by Lisa Jones. From the forthcoming book Broken by Lisa Jones, to be published by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., N.Y. Printed by permission.
  • Stanford Addison, quadriplegic healer, foreground, surrounded by his "outlaws."

    Sarah Kariko
  • Stanford Addison works a horse from his wheelchair.

    Sarah Kariko
  • Stanford Addison gets help stretching from Robert.

 

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I loved Daniel even though he wrote violent rap lyrics. A lot of the boys at Stanford's did this. His house sheltered a rotating cast of several boys. There were nephews and other relatives, plus kids the tribal justice and social service systems brought to Stanford to house and mentor.

What made Daniel unusual among his cousins and peers was that underneath the Goth clothes, underneath the part supermodel, part scarecrow presentation, underneath the rap lyrics, underneath all that, he was serious. More than serious; he was priestly. Other than his clothes and the pit bulls, he owned one thing: A DVD of the movie The Passion of the Christ, which he loaned out only with great hesitation.

Conversation:

Me: "Daniel, have you ever considered going for it as a Native American rapper, or using your looks to become a model and help your dad pay to get some decent fences around here?"

Daniel: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

Stanford, from his bed: "Hey, it ain't a bad thing to make some money, if it helps other people out."

Silence.

Daniel, Daniel. Kicked out of Wyoming Indian High School in the ninth grade for fighting, he'd spent the last two years flopping around his grandma Stella's house, which stood about 200 yards down the road from Stanford's, borrowing cigarettes, using the phone to talk for hours to a girl who lived 12 hours south in Pueblo, Colo. This presented a geographic challenge requiring the extraction of money and rides from not only his own grandmother, but his girlfriend's as well.

He could charm his grandma out of $20 in about 20 seconds.

"She talks all tough -- ‘I ain't giving that kid another penny!' " Stanford told me, "and then he comes in and sweet-talks her and she gives him 20 bucks! It's embarrassing."

Stella Addison was tough, but she'd borne nine children and now she was past 70. She was tired. Sometimes she had her grandkids and sundry relatives living in her house on a tight leash, badgering them to make pineapple upside-down cake and Spanish rice for dinner. Other times there was a brawl.

I didn't know what part Daniel played in the brawls at Stella's, but I never saw him implicated. He was quiet, a Goth priest out in the yard playing with his dogs, moving below the radar of conflict and loss.

But then things started to change.

One night, a guy Daniel knew named Luke came in and started picking a fight. Luke cuffed Daniel, danced around, delivering some stronger, more serious punches to his face. Daniel leaned out and decked him in the nose.

Luke was taken aback.

"Why'd you do that, Daniel?" he asked, hurt.

"Cuz, man, you hit me first!" said Daniel.

It went from there, until Stella waded into the middle of the fight and broke it up, yelling, "I'm gonna call the cops on you kids!" and then did so.

"She called the cops on me," Daniel told me later, his eyes lit up with triumph and affection and acceptance of the rightful order of things.

As the years went by, the teenage boys at Stan's house took on the appearance of a bunch of pirates, or rap stars from East L.A. Daniel even named one of his pit bulls Compton. The boys' clothes were black. They wore skullcaps and chains, and their hairdos were intricate combinations of shaved skin and corn rows braided close to their skulls. There was Daniel, who moved from his grandma's to Stanford's. There was his big brother Beau, who sometimes stayed and sometimes didn't. Daniel and a lot of the other boys liked rap; Beau listened only to traditional Native music. Left to their own devices, it seemed to me the boys would have become completely nocturnal.

But there were horses to be fed, and wood to be cut for the sweat lodges Stanford held twice a week. There were probation appointments to be met, and court appearances, and occasional stints in jail for breaching the peace or public intoxication. One of the sweetest boys told his high school teacher he was thinking about blowing up the school, which he later told me was good for a visit from an official from Homeland Security.

At first, I positioned myself a polite distance from these boys. And by polite I mean safe. But the house wasn't big enough for the distances I preferred. There was no way to dilute human contact here. And soon enough, I found these boys in their raven-colored clothes were vulnerable and sweet. I started hugging them and pulling their hair and loving them. I streaked Robert's hair blond for the second time in a year.

Stanford commanded an enormous amount of authority over them. If a group of horses escaped, he called Beau, if Beau was around. He was dazzling on a horse. He rode a stallion called Fabian, a big, rippling bay. Fabian's neck arched even though Beau didn't hold him back. He galloped at the slightest urging from Beau, who would turn his baseball cap around so the brim wouldn't catch the wind. Fabian liked to do his walking and trotting in complicated sideways or diagonal gaits. Beau glided sideways, loose-hipped and straight-backed, his body always centered exactly over the horse, never off-balance, never inclining to where it was just a moment before.

If a visitor needed to be smudged to receive spiritual protection, Stanford would call Daniel out of his roost at the back of the house and he would crouch with effortless teenage grace at the feet of the visitor, holding an eagle wing. His cousin Suzi would kneel next to him with a metal bowl with some burning cedar inside, and he would use the wing to buff the person with cedar smoke.

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