Roxy “Coyote Boy” Gordon, writer-poet-songwriterPosted: January 16, 2011 Filed under: books, people, poetry, writing Leave a comment
This post is long overdue, because in some way I refuse to accept that the Coyote Boy is gone. His life was very intense, but surrounded by a calm circle, a powerful aura that honored the idea of one-of-a-kind. He was a writer, artist and singer-songwriter. Sometimes Breeds, Smaller Circles and other of his books can be found on ABE, the used book website
I’m reprinting two pieces by Roxy that give a feel for how he saw the world. Later, I’ll publish some of his poetry, which comes from the “Tough School” of poetry.
The West Texas Town of El Paso
by Roxy Gordon
[Edited by Judy Gordon]
This all starts in San Francisco, North Beach, hanging out with famous writers.
In those days I still wore western shirts, couldn’t buy one there. I decided it
was time to go home. We left in a little red Ford full of a dog, cats, two of
our friends and our new born baby. A big rent trailer on behind. Nobody but
me seemed willing to drive. We got lost in some town in Wyoming, middle of
the night. A policeman stopped us, looked into the car and couldn’t believe what
he saw. He figured the best thing to do was help us out of town. Before the sun
was up, I was seeing trees in the middle of the highway. We found Denver,
spent a day recovering and headed over Raton Pass. We made Texas, spent
some time building a fence, and decided to go back to San Francisco. We
stopped south of Santa Fe and had a conversation, decided Albuquerque, but
we couldn’t find anybody we knew there. Judy had never been to El Paso. I was
young and stupid, said let’s go.
We made El Paso middle of the afternoon, bought a newspaper and found a
trailerhouse for rent out on the river road. It was cheap. We moved in two
hours later. The bathroom overflowed. And we were right next to a railroad exchange.
Not good for sleeping.
Judy got a job in a printshop. She had learned typesetting in Austin, when she
worked for Bill Wittliff’s Encino Press. Wittliff wrote the screenplay for
Lonesome Dove. We decided to move out of that trailerhouse, found an ad in
the paper for a house on Blanchard. It was a big, beautiful house just across the
street from the University of Texas at El Paso. It was on a hill; from the side
porch, you could see Juarez and the Franklin Mountains. The old lady who
owned it was from Mexico. She could hardly speak English. She lived in a little
house out back. She spent most of her time in Mexico. She was gone when her
house was broken into. I called the cops and a kid came. He stationed me at the
front door to catch the burglar if the kid could run him out. Like a fool, I
actually stood there. Then Judy set herself on fire – blazing grease on the
Judy worked at the printshop and I changed my kid’s diapers. My first book,
Some Things I Did, arrived in the mail. It was published by Bill Wittliff. I set
it on top of the refrigerator. The little TV was on top of the refrigerator. We
watched Ed Sullivan.
My guitar amplifier picked up a radio station. We listened to that and watched
Gunsmoke on TV. One day I called Judy to the window to see a very tall, pretty
girl hitchhiking. She wore black leather shorts. She passed up several cars for a
guy on a motorcycle. One day, I walked across the street to UTEP. I went to the
student union, looked at the students. They looked like students I’d seen from UT
to California to Minnesota. They are all grandparents now. My friend, David
Phillips, called me to say he and his wife, Carol, were about to visit her mother in
El Paso. I drove down to try and find them, found David walking up the street
looking like Kris Kristofferson. Later, we went to Carol’s momma’s house. She
told me my writing informed her generation about what our generation was all
about. Carol and David divorced after that and Carol told me David and I were
too Texan for her to stand. Last I heard, she was in New York writing songs.
The freezeplugs rusted out on the Ford. I let it sit for a couple of days, then
fixed it with some kind of plastic goo. I got a job at an advertising agency,
writing print and TV. Judy got fired from her job because she mixed up pages
on a book. I walked to work in bright El Paso sunshine, got there every morning
for a meeting. Roy Chapman ran the agency. He’d been the host of a kids’ TV
show in El Paso. It was called Uncle Roy. He was not my idea of an uncle. He
was a mean old man, kept telling me to get out of my chair at the meeting so he
could sit down. My co-writer was a middle-age German who lived miles south
in Mexico, but spent the week in El Paso. The agency had two major accounts,
a bank in El Paso and Weaver Scopes. The German and I made up TV
commercials for the bank, had apples and oranges rolling around. I wrote a
piece for Weaver rifle scopes. Somebody rewrote it. Whoever did not
understand how scopes work. I had a fit. That may have been the beginning of
the end of my advertising career.
Judy and I drove the plastic-fixed Ford around El Paso. We saw pretty girls
walking on the streets. We saw cripples. We went to the dollar drive-in movie,
three for a dollar. Went to the A&W Root Beer Drive-in. We walked on El Paso
Street, had beggars after us. One afternoon a young woman tried to sell us her baby.
We left in the wounded Ford and headed north for Albuquerque. Marty Robbins,
I have been to the city of El Paso.
(Published by Coleman Chronicle & DV, 29 December, 1998.)
Why There Were So Many Presidents of the U.S. on The Fort Peck Reservation
by Roxy “First Coyote Boy” Gordon
(With thanks to Walley Cantrell, Edited by Judy Gordon]
About a hundred years ago, the white Bureau of Indian Affairs decided Indian kids
needed to go to what they called boarding school. Those kids, little kids and old,
were taken away from home to live nine months a year at boarding school.
The Indian agent would send his police to round-up all the kids and what some
of the parents did was round-up the kids and head for the hills. But the cops
would catch most and put them into a wagon to head for boarding school.
They deloused these kids and dressed them civilized, cut their hair and took
them off to learn white men’s ways.
One time a bunch of little boys got rounded-up at Fort Peck, Montana. Those
cops put them in a big room at the boarding school. The kids huddled up all
close together and didn’t know what to do.
After awhile, a big boy came by. He’d been at boarding school before. He
decided to play a joke on the little boys. The big boy said, “Listen, if you
don’t tell them your names, then they’ll let you loose and you can all go home.”
The little boys thought that was a good idea.
So the teachers took them into a big room and a man with a big book asked
them, “Tell me your names.” No little boy would say a word. They thought by
being quiet, then they could go on home.
But then the superintendent saw they wouldn’t say anymore, so he locked
the door and went looking for help. The superintendent found a priest and
asked them what they might do. Those little boys needed names. “At least,”
the priest said, “I can name a few.”
The priest said to the little boys, “I’m going to give you big time names. You
will never be ashamed.” “You,” he said, “you over there with the brown hair,
you are George Washington. You with the red shirt, you are Thomas Jefferson.
You with no front teeth, you are Teddy Roosevelt. And you the one with
worn-out cowboy boots, you are Abraham Lincoln. You with the green eyes,
you are Andrew Jackson. You by the window, you are John Adams.” The
priest went on and on.
The little boys didn’t know what to do. They were still named things like
Afraid Of His Tracks and Horse’s Ghost and Ground Squirrel and names like
that. But after they stayed a few years at the school, they got used to their new
names. And they kept on using those names all their lives.
So that’s why, 50 years later, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy
Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson and John Adams all lived up in
Montana on the Fort Peck Reservation.