John says they didn’t have much money and were happy. He and his brother spent mornings and afternoons engaged in chores, including trapping small game.
John kept a trapline that he would set in the evening and then check in the morning for muskrats or opossum—whatever critter could be enticed into the lair.
John had a keen eye and learned how to use a rifle, pistol and shotgun. The men hunted for game and the women raised gardens and canned fruits and vegetables.
John’s household included his mother and father, older brother Ben, younger brother Butch (born 10 years after John), grandmother, and Unci.
Unci (Lakota for grandmother) was Rosy Red Top, wife of Young Bad Wound. Uncle Ben shows me a framed photograph of the Lakota couple in their youth: Young Bad Wound wears an eagle feather head dress and Unci wears a dress laden with dentalium shell. Her black hair is parted in the middle and braided.
By the time Unci came to live with John’s family her hair had turned white. She spent the summers camped outside the house, uncomfortable being cooped inside. When colder temperatures arrived, Unci returned indoors, helping with chores, cooking and cleaning.
She preferred her blanket roll, which she would unroll for sleeping and then bundle for sitting. She never, ever sat in a chair, John says.
And she didn’t speak English, which helped sow the seeds for John’s knowledge of the Lakota language.
[Photo of the 1875 Lakota delegation. The website American Tribes lists the bottom row (seated, from left) as Iron Horse, American Horse, Bad Wound, wife of Bad Wound and Black Bear. From http://www.american-tribes.com/Articles/ART/1875LakotaDelegation.htm%5D