Saturday, October 27, 2007

James Little-Nose Johnson

Thanks to James Little-Nose Johnson, I am one lucky drunk who lay down in the snow beside the road but didn't die, so it is a bitter damn shame that he himself died and froze beside the road a few years later, when he had stopped to pick up a road-kill porcupine, and was himself the victim of a hit and run driver.

He did have a little nose, and he joked that he had a little Johnson too, , but he was well over six feet tall, and Little-Nose was a family name. He told me he was a part-time lineman for Niagra-Mohawk, and a part time Indian : an Algonquin from North Ontario. He was also a mostly home-schooled anthropologist and a full time student of the animal kingdom, especially of beavers and porcupines, and was always on the look-out for porcupine quills . He he lived in a small mobile trailer which is now my main residence.
He was, routinely assigned to a relief crews restoring power after storm damage throughout the state, and he generally parked his trailer at K.O.A. camp grounds and on reservations, if he was working near one. . He always made himself doubly welcome on the reservations with a gift of porcupine quills from the North Country, since most reservations
then still had at least a few quill artists, and most are not within the boreal forest where porcupines can range feeding on spruce buds. He found plenty of prickly road-kill during his regular course of work, but he also made late night patrols in order to find fresh
kill before it had been thorughly mashed by traffic, or before other seekers had picked the corpse clean. Early winter was good for road- quilling, because of the small scale migrations of porcupines converging on certain talus caves where dozens will sometimes winter together, somehow compounding their body heat without impaling one another.
The area surrounding Lake Bonaparte has several such communal denning places: notably the Devil's Crack, which is not far from the place L.J. found me stuck to the shoulder of the road that night, like a porky which had already been dequilled by a passer by.

William (dabone) Warren

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