Arkansas Film FestivalWorking for a small weekly newspaper meant I wore several hats. From one day to the next I never knew who I would meet where. We had a receptionist who also set type, our publisher covered most of the night meetings and I did the rest, whatever that might be.
This day was peaceful and calm, but how long would it remain that way? Inside the neat little house lived a Chiricahua Apache. Standing on the porch my Cherokee blood beat a challenge. Blood being blood I readied myself for a battle of words. What was he doing in Fayetteville, Arkansas? How would he relate to me and my questions?
All I knew going in was he was running a business wherein he would translate and tape all the dying Indian languages. I was there to interview him about that business, how it started, who might be assisting him. You know what? That interview, interesting as it was, lasted perhaps fifteen minutes. It was an important quest and one not many could accomplish.
A small man looked up at me when he opened the door. I’m six feet tall so I dwarfed him, something I was accustomed to but had not expected here. He knew I was coming and smiled warmly when I introduced myself.
We sat in the small room and it took a moment for me to begin. My curiosity was not so much about his work, though I thought it extremely important, as it was his history. For years history had been my main interest. I took all the information about his business, which took very little time, then asked him about his heritage.
I had asked the right question, for his demeanor changed and he became more a proud Apache who sat before me. Body language says so much about all of us. Our happiness, fears, desperations, the sadness we’ve experienced, the hurt of someone’s words. This made it very important what subjects I brought up and how.
For in our history lay a brutal war, the takeover of his country by us. We call it Imminent Domain and that’s okay cause everybody does it. Not only that Tribe versus tribe had their share of wars. But hey, other folks we’ve fought with are now our friends. That’s th way the world works.
Al Houser was the first baby born after the Apaches were released from imprisonment at Ft. Sill. They are known as the Fort Sill Apaches. Al has a brother, also known as Al, who is a famous sculptor whose work is exhibited around the world.
This small, soft spoken man with his Apache history behind him fought in WW II as only a warrior would. The same country that had imprisoned his people called and Houser answered. In the Air Force he learned to fly and became the pilot of a B-24 Liberator. He and his ten-man crew were soon singled out for an elite, top-secret strike force.
In the peacefulness of his Arkansas home I sense the echo of war drums behind his words, envision brilliant scrawls of battle paint across his sharp cheekbones and broad forehead. See a warrior mounted on his horse, riding hard and shouting into the night.
“They called us the Lone Wolf Raider. We were like the stealth bomber is now. They painted our plane gray all over, even the tires. No names or numbers showed anywhere..”
I’m pulled into his story as he speaks, gesturing with his hands. “We flew using radar and had only black and white photos taken during daylight hours to navigate by. Sometimes the missions would last ten to twelve hours, leaving us barely enough fuel to get home.”
This Chiricahua Apache did well by his ancestors during the big war receiving two Distinguished Service Crosses, three Air Medals and three Presidential Citations. After thirty-five missions over the skies of Germany, he came home.
The remainder of this exceptional man’s story is in my book, Wandering In The Shadows of Time which will be re-released soon by Oghma Creative Media. It chronicles my return to Arkansas, what I felt and some of the stories I found hiding in the wilderness of the beautiful Ozarks. The video shot in connection with that book is available in the link posted at the beginning of this story.