My father became an apprentice to a Chippewa medicine man when I was about 11 years old. Over the next several years our family, especially my older brother David and I, became familiar with many of the philosophies, beliefs, and religious practices of this shaman, including sweat lodges, pipe ceremonies, vision quests and others customs. We lived in “West Mountain”, east of Payson, on 64 acres of land in a rental home.
Our days were filled playing army or some other game outside, exploring the pastures and chasing the cows around for fun. We had limited interactions with other people and families but did struggle for happiness together out in the sticks. It was a fascinating time, with some interesting and memorable characters- some of them very destructive- coming in and out of our lives. Also, as time went on, my father would disappear for days, weeks, and even longer as he would travel to Sedona Arizona or other destinations to learn desert survival, meditate, explore, etc., while he picked up work on the side. Over those few years, I saw my father’s absence and drifting influence and other negative influences on my family slowly tear it apart.
My brother and I went to several different schools; we were both getting into fights, but I was involved in far more as I was an easier target. Years of fighting with an older, stronger, bigger brother had made me relish the fist pounding and the channel to release my powder keg of emotions as I surprised adversaries with my ferocity. I built a reputation as a fighter everywhere I went. Home was even worse, David and I would nearly kill one another several times, I remember the house being completely destroyed inside, including the Christmas tree and anything else that dared to be nearby as bodies went flying and people or objects became collateral damage. One long-tem visitor’s influence on our family was particularly corrosive, fueling the anger violence, fear, and dysfunction in our home. I remember dragging my mom along the ground and out of the house through the back door by her hair, but I did it to save her from something worse at the time.
Our life at West Mountain is burned into my memory- almost three years that felt like an eternity in the twilight zone. It is a haunting memory, weighed down by sadness, anger, pain, and regret. It ended when my parents finally separated after almost 15 years together, with my mom and younger siblings moving back East to be with family, and David and I moving with our dad, initially to live in a tent and tipi in the back of a farm in American Fork. The plan was to have David and I follow our mom shortly thereafter, but due to financial and other hardships, it was never possible and my brother and I stayed with Dad, for as long as possible.