Notes from Indian Country
Finding a friend at the Post OfficeIt was a part of my day to stop at the Post Office to pick up my business mail every morning including on Saturdays. I noticed one guy was always there about the same time every Saturday morning and after a bit we finally started to converse. He introduced himself as Chuck Lien and we made it a point to chat for a bit every Saturday and once in a while we even brought each other a cup of coffee to enjoy while we chatted. One day Chuck asked me if I knew a guy named Hobart Lone Hill. I told him that Hobart was one of my boyhood friends. Chuck told me Hobart had worked for him at Pete Lien and Sons for more than 20 years. It so happened that Hobart stopped by my house one day to check out the yard next to the barn that I wanted to grade and turn into an arena so my step daughters, both rodeo girls, could have a place to practice their barrel racing and pole bending. Hobart noticed the big boulders in the proposed arena and said he would try to borrow a bull dozer from his boss. The next day he asked his boss Chuck Lien about it and told him it was for his friend Tim Giago. Chuck lit up and said, “I know Tim.” And he told Hobart to go ahead and use his equipment to get the job done. The next Saturday Hobart showed up at my house with a dozer mounted on the back of a truck, unloaded the dozer and began clearing the rocks from the arena. The next day he was back with another truck loaded with sand and he spread it out across the new arena. Chuck refused to take any money for allowing Hobart to use his equipment and Hobart refused to take any money for doing the job. The main thing is the girls loved the arena and soon put it to good use. A short time later I got a call from an executive from U. S. West Phone Company asking me if I would consider joining an advisory board she was forming for the company. I agreed and a few days later I attended our first meeting and lo and behold there sitting at the table was my friend Chuck Lien. The board consisted of Chuck, Arlene Ham, Dave Billion, and a Mr. Grossenberger from Winner. The company flew us in a private plane to Sioux Falls for a meeting with the staff and management of their Sioux Falls office that week and on the flight home Chuck pulled a small bottle of Scotch from his coat pocket and we had a fare thee will nip. We all became pretty good friends and enjoyed our outings set up by the phone company.
I had recently located my newspaper business from the Pine Ridge Reservation because I needed a building large enough to hold a printing press. Chuck knew we were just getting our feet wet in the big city and he was always asking what he could do to help out. He even started putting help wanted ads in my newspaper because he wanted to recruit more Native Americans for his company. His was one of the very few businesses in Rapid City that had, for many years, hired Native Americans and with the likes of Hobart Lone Hill, he was convinced that they were some of the best workers he could find. Chuck passed away not too long ago and my friend Hobart Lone Hill, after working 35 years for Chuck, soon followed him on that journey to the Spirit World. Rapid City lost two great people and I lost two great friends. My wife always says there are some great people living in Rapid and she is so right.
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation and is the founder of the Native American Journalists Association. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. He can be reached at email@example.com
Note: Content copyright © Tim Giago
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