The First Hard Core


Simon Ortiz

Herb, me, Art, and Wiley
rode car pool together for a while.
Herb was from Houston
and most of his life since teenage,
he worked on the docks
and the oil rigs on the Gulf.
He was quite a talker.
One time he said - Oh Herb said
a lot of things but I remember this -
Hey chief, how come
you all out here don't have names
like regular Indians supposed to.
Simon. Art. Martinez. Wiley.
But Wiley is Okie too
so I guess that figures for him.
But I mean names like Straight Arrow,
Running Bear, Broken Bow, Sitting Bull,
stuff like that. Goldwater.
Goldwater? He ain't no Indian,
must be a Jew trick or something.
How come, chief, how come, huh?

I was just a teenager
when I went to work in the mills and mines,
and I didn't know how to answer him
so he'd believe me if he could.
I just said, I don't know.

Herb used to have an observation
which was the same as a rule
for him too I think.
We white people got our niggers
to look down on.
Mexicans here got you Indians
to look down on.
And you all got Navajos
to look down on,
but who the hell Navajos
got to look down on?

I couldn't figure out how to answer
that one either if it was a question at all.
I guess I wanted to tell him
we were working on land stolen from Ácoma
and that Martinez was a Navajo man
on whose land was discovered uranium
which gave us our jobs.
But I just said, I don't know.

That was when it was an election year.
Herb said, Who you gonna vote for,
chief? Kennedy?
Don't be fooled now.
Remember, just like Goldwater is a Jew
even if his name sounds Indian,
Kennedy is a rich Commie sympathizer.
Who you voting for, chief?

I was just a kid then as I said,
and I learned a lot from him actually
because Herb was the first hard core
I ever met personally.
But I didn't know how to answer him then.
I just felt powerless to answer.
I just said I didn't know.

From Woven Stone by Simon Ortiz, University of Arizona Press
© 1992 Simon Ortiz Buy Now

Books by Simon Ortiz

Woven Stone, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
Men on the Moon : Collected Short Stories, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
After and Before the Lightning , Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
Speaking for the Generations : Native Writers on Writing, Simon Ortiz (Editor), Univ. Arizona Press.
From Sand Creek : Rising in This Heart Which Is Our America, Simon Ortiz, Univ. Arizona Press.
The People Shall Continue, Simon Ortiz, Children's Book Press. (Library Binding)

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