"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Gary Farmer - Contrary Warrior

Saw Farmer Monday night (01 Jul 2013) on one of my favorite TV shows; A&E TV's Longmire (based on Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire mysteries and about Sheriff Walt Longmire of the fictional Absaroka County, in Wyomng).

In episode 6 of season 2, "Tell It Slant" (I'll get to that title in a moment),  Walt looks out his cabin window one morning, to see an Indian riding by, seated backwards on his pony and wearing a ceremonial  mask. The Indian greets the sheriff with “Sweet dreams, sheriff!  It’s a beautiful night to be born!” 

Walt's reaction is to radio in to the station.
 Walt: "Ruby, it's me. I think we may have a dead body.”
 Ruby: "Where?"
 Walt: "I have no idea."

So, who is that guy?  And why does Walt react that way?

On arrival at the station, being told of no reports (yet) of a body, and being asked, "Why?  Do you want there to be one?" ...
 Walt: "Think I got a tip -- sort of."
 Deputy: "You think?  From who?"
 Walt: "A heyoka."
 Deputy (snorting):
   "You mean the drunk guy who walks backwards around the square?
   "That one?"
 Other deputy: "Excuse me?'
 Walt: "Cheyenne man who lives in the area.  He's something of a"
 Deputy: "head case"
 Walt: " a Sacred ClownCheyenne call him 'Contrary Warrior'
   "he does the opposite of what you expect."
 Deputy: "Why?"
 Walt: "You see, the whole idea is to force people out of their comfort 
    zones;  make them examine their beliefs."
 Deputy: "That's annoying."
 Walt: "If I just heard him right, then we have a dead body somewhere."

Well, Walt did hear him right and a body is soon discovered. It turns out to be that of a local psychic who called herself Cassandra, and when they learn that her real name is Cynthia Two Rivers, Walt goes calling on her brother Aaron Two Rivers (Gary Farmer) who is in fact our Contrary Warrior.

Walt brings along a Cheyenne named Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phiilips) who is proprietor of The Red Pony tavern and cafe, an expert tracker, and is Walt's best friend.

Henry is somewhat less than impressed with Aaron's claim as Contrary Warrior, believing Aaron's visions to come from the bottom of a bottle rather than from any spirits on high.
 Henry: "The last real Contrary Warrior died in 1974."
 Walt: "And this would make Aaron?"
 Henry: "A pest -- with pretensions."

After an interview with Aaron that was inconclusive ...
 Henry: "You can never tell when he is telling the truth."
 Walt: "Well, he's just like everybody else, then. 
    "At least, he's up front about it."
 Henry: "Before I banned him from The Red Pony, Aaron Two Rivers
     used to drink his fill, and walk out the door backwards -- without 
     paying. His 'contrary' act is less charming than you think."

About that title ...

It's actually from an Emily Dickinson poem:

Tell All The Truth
  Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
  Success in circuit lies,
  Too bright for our infirm delight
  The truth's superb surprise;

  As lightning to the children eased
  With explanation kind,
  The truth must dazzle gradually
  Or every man be blind.

So, basically, tell the truth, but tell it gently. If you come right out with it, it could be too surprising. Better to break things to people in a roundabout way rather than just drop a truthbomb.   (~From episode guide on aetv.com)

A truthbomb is at the heart of the murder here.

"Longmire" has become one of the few television shows I make an effort not to miss. But, be warned;  if you're looking for slam-bang action from the "blow em up real good" school of movie making, this ain't it. It's more laid back and character driven. If you're patient and just let it sort of wash over you, I think you'll find it absorbing (as I have).

There's a a bit of coincidence in my seeing this episode when I did.

When I posted "Toughest Pawnee" ... (about actor Wes Studi) I may have accidentally started a series of these things about American Indian actors. The post resulted in an email from an Air Force buddy recommending the movie Smoke Signals (1998), about life on the reservation.

I got the DVD of "Smoke Signals", absolutely loved it, and posted "Big truck just went by. ...", about it and the actors in it (including Gary Farmer). A comment to that post recommended yet another movie, Powwow Highway (1989), which I ordered and got a little while ago, and finally watched just before seeing the "Longmire" episode above.

Gary Farmer strikes again ...
In "Powwow Highway", Indian activist Buddy Red Bow (played by A Martinez (Adolph Larrue Martinez) who has a recurring role on "Longmire" as lawyer Jacob Nighthorse) has to make an emergency trip from the reservation in Montana to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to bail out his sister who has been busted on drug charges...
A Martinez as Buddy Red Bow - from veevr.com

His best friend, Philbert Bono (Gary Farmer), has visions (like Aaron, but probably from another source) and feels the need to get ready for an important journey of his own, for which he needs a "war pony".
Gary Farmer  as  Philbert Bono
(from nativeamericanactors.tumblr.com)

Seeing an ad on TV from a local used-car hustler, his idea of a "war pony" is one of the rusting hulks on that dealer's lot.  He makes an offer to trade what's in his pocket (including what appears to be a large plastic-wrapped bundle of weed (most likely the source of his visions).
Philbert finds his "war pony" 
(from randallhassen.wordpress.com)

Learning of Philbert's "war pony", Buddy decides a meeting is in order ...
From amazon.com

Gary Farmer as Philbert, A Martinez as Buddy, and YES, that is Wes Studi in the black hat. Graham Greene is also in this movie. But, this is a year before "Dances With Wolves" and neither of them appear for more than a couple of minutes.

Buddy needs a ride to Santa Fe, and offers to pay Philbert for the gas.  So, off they go ...
On the road - from imcdb.org

Buddy is anxious to get to Santa Fe, suspecting that his sister's drug bust was an entrapment to get Buddy away from a Council meeting on the reservation where an important vote was coming up.

But, there are a lot of detours along the way as Buddy discovers (after being committed to this trip) that Philbert is on a spiritual quest of his own.

It doesn't help things much that Buddy is a hard-nosed rationalist, who is not put at ease by Philbert's absolute faith that things "are going to work out just fine. You'll see!".

This is kind of a journey of discovery for Buddy (and for the viewer), with Philbert as spiritual guide. 

As this movie was released 24 years before the "Longmire" episode above, Gary Farmer has proven to have been mostly a Contrary Warrior for over a generation now.

Find it and give it a look. Well worth the trip.
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