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Bull Creek Look Out

September 13, 2017

1978 Indian Mt L.O.

My friend Lloyd Yellowrobe fell at home, so now he’s in the hospital with fractured legs.  We’ve been talking about the old days when he was a kid and his parents had a lookout tower, Bull Creek L.O.  Lloyd said he thinks the name is cool.  Not in so many words.  Water was cool, he said, in the morning, when they first tapped the tank.

Lloyd said he remembers his dad had to lug a heavy communication device up the lookout ladder.  Heavy because of the batteries.  In those days dry-cell batteries were much larger than they are today.  His parents talked to Lame Deer from the tower, considerably farther than Busby, down a long dirt road.

His parents ordered food and water via radiophone from Lame Deer Forestry Department.  Workers delivered by truck to the lookout.  The regular US Forest Service doesn’t have the same jurisdiction as the BIA Forestry Department, headquartered in Lame Deer, Montana.

Ray Kresek, in his book Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, has a reasonably complete list of hundreds and hundreds of lookouts in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.  However, Mr. Kresek omitted the Yellowrobe’s Northern Cheyenne Bull Creek Tower.  Could be because of any of several reasons:  Reservation institutional memory tends to be short, just like the reduced life-span of Native Americans.  I’m guessing about the I.M. part, but I’m not guessing about the reduced life span of Natives.  That would be the subject of another post.  Lloyd and I talked about that.  Diabetes.  Car wrecks.  Shorter lives. Untold tragedy and sorrow.

I’ve visited two towers on the reservation and they were made of steel by the Chicago Aermotor Company, the same outfit that made many of the familiar stock-watering windmills scattered around Montana.  The Chicago A.M Co. structures were basically the same as other western fire lookout towers, only skinnier and more work for a youngster to climb.

A couple days ago Payne Yellowrobe, Lloyd’s son, phoned me with news about Lloyd’s accident that left him with a broken leg.  I’ve known Lloyd for almost 30 years, ever since we worked closely together at the Indian Health Clinic in Lame Deer in 1988 until I retired in 2005.  Well, I worked at Crow Agency for five years in there.

Anyway, Payne asked me to visit his father, so I did.  Turns out Lloyd broke both his legs and had to wait outdoors an hour and a half for his wife to return from Lame Deer.  Then Helen phoned an ambulance, his transportation to Billings, although he made a stop in Lame Deer, I’m guessing.

Lloyd and I talked about the usual things:  the old days, what we were up to now, and spiritual matters.  Specifically, Lloyd tried to make the nurse understand that the two sisters he was asking about were nuns.  He wanted the nuns to visit him while he was in the hospital.  Lloyd said he attends church regularly.

When I returned I heard a message from my own pastor, Mike Mulberry, who said a relative of Lloyd’s had asked him to get ahold of me to visit him.  Still later, his sister, Linda Brady, sent me a text requesting I visit Lloyd.  “Word gets around!” Lloyd said, with a wide grin.  Lloyd has dentures, but he wasn’t wearing him.  Made understanding him a bit more difficult.  The nurses had trouble, but I could tell they liked him.

Lloyd has given me many things over the years.  A star quilt, a Pendleton blanket, a rifle.  These are all traditional Indian gifts.  I have given Lloyd gifts also, but more importantly, I visited him.

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