I went to a sweat lodge up in Cold River in Charlemont, run by Philip Lightbear, who's Abanake and Wampanoag. He's a registered nurse and he put on a lodge there. I sang in this lodge. At the time, I was fifty-five years old. I hadn't sung since the first grade. My first grade teacher slammed her hand over my mouth and said "You're a listener, not a singer." I never sang again . . . As a result of Philip Lightbear's tutelage, I started to read more, and now I have probably fourteen hundred books by and about Indians. Some I bought for historical purposes, to show the different changes and attitudes of writers. But I also have a huge collection of current Native writers. This has been my reading for the past six or seven years; it's become a way of life for me. I read now with an entirely different approach. You know, I'd been a student of Law -- always read, took notes, remembered what I read. And I decided when I read Leslie Marmon Silko, Monaday, Frank Waters, LaFareg -- the historical novels -- McNichols -- the others, I didn't think like a student any more. I just read for the feeling behind the writing. I immersed myself in these writings and they changed my entire way of thinking. When I say I can't think chronologically I really can't. I think of time as a circle now. And the four directions and the sky and the earth.
It was while I was doing this reading, that I became friends with Peter d'Errico, who's a professor of at the University of Massachusetts [now retired] and we've teamed together on several legal cases. For example, we got the Massachusetts Wampanoag Nation fishing rights. We've worked with the Western Shoshones in Nevada on a land rights case, with the Lakota-Dakota Nation and chief pipe carrier, Arval Looking Horse who is out at Eagle Butte, Greengrass, South Dakota.
All this work is an outgrowth of a sweatlodge in Charlemont.
Raymond Yowell, Chief of the Western Shoshone Tribal Council invited Peter and me to come out. He took us all through Western Shoshone country, all the way up to Idaho, through all of Nevada. We were crossing central Nevada, U.S. Route 50 I think it was, 200 miles above the test zone. He pulled off this highway that's known as the loneliest highway in the country -- there's absolutely no dwellings or any commercial . . . nothing . . . no structures of any kind for 60 mile stretches. There's no, as we would say, signs of civilization, except for the hardtop road. We pulled off the road and went onto this dirt/gravel road, it went on for miles. It was so far in that we came across a herd of mustangs. They wouldn't leave the road, which really puzzled Raymond because they usually run when people approach them. We slowed down to a crawl and when we got close we saw that there were three mares standing around and there was a colt that had just been born. It was barely able to stand up. They stand up immediately after they're born so the colt had just been born. There were three mares. One was the mother and the other two were helping protect this little colt. A stallion actually charged the truck, it's unheard-of behavior. We finally just did a detour around them and kept going.
Raymond said he was gonna show us "an interesting place." Well the whole place was interesting. I mean, miles and miles and miles without human habitation. We came across a puddle, I'll never forget it. . . You know, I'm from Western Massachusetts -- you see a puddle, you roar through it and laugh, enjoy the splash. This puddle was about twenty feet wide, and maybe two inches deep. Raymond said, "Well this is as far as we can go," and he stopped the truck and he wouldn't drive through it. "You never know what's in there." I said, "Ok, he knows the country better . . ." I really think it was just because he was born in the desert and it just didn't . . . he balked at water in the road. Balked at it. We were where he wanted to go. We were in these rolling sand hills, twenty, thirty feet high, and gravel. There wasn't much vegetation. There was a lot of gravel; it looked like a gravel pit. We went around the side of one of these small hills and standing upright in front of us was this metal structure. We hadn't seen any . . . It looked like a water tower. It was about twenty feet high. "This is it," he said. We walked over to it. There was a plaque bolted or welded to the side of this thing, and the plaque read "Operation Faultless." Raymond explained that it was a three thousand foot deep, six feet in diameter hole that they had drilled. They had drilled starting on the proving ground which was 200 miles south. They'd started drilling these 3000 foot excavations, they believed there was a salt cap underneath the surface. They wanted to reach it and they ran into water on the first two or three. So by this time they were going about 50 miles apart, and they were about 150 to 200 miles from where they started. It was a steel casement that they sunk, and then they put in an atomic device and lowered it to the bottom, sealed it and detonated it. Raymond said that about a year later, this green gas escaped . . . We climbed to the top of this small hill, "Take a look . . ." You could see a perfect circle, which was a mile in diameter -- the earth had settled twenty feet, a year after they detonated the device. This green gas escaped from underground, killed farm animals that they buried, hid them away, and they evacuated a couple of towns that were way down range. The plaque on the tower had Oppenheimer's and the Admiral's name.
Bob Doyle was born, in 1937, at Northampton, Massachusetts. He attended public schools and graduated from Holy Cross College (1959), and obtained his law degree from Georgetown (1963). He served in the U.S. Navy from 1959 to 1961, mostly at the Pentagon on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations. He has practiced law in Northampton from 1963 to the present and has been active in Democratic politics ("it seems forever"). He lives in the foothills of the Berkshires. With his friend and colleague, Peter D'Errico, he has for the past decade represented, among others, traditional native peoples and nations. He is married to Poppy McCluskey and they have eight children.