Excerpts from some poignant published tales.
At first, things looked bleak for his recovery. To combat a bad infection, doctors amputated both his legs above the knees and slit his stomach to the chest so they could routinely clean him out. He was in a medically induced coma, was connected to breathing tubes and feeding tubes, had a fractured skull and lost part of his pelvis.
And, as I recently learned, lost most of his long-term memory.
“That’s probably one of the most frustrating things for him,” Graves said. “Most people look at him and they see his legs aren’t there and they think that’s his biggest limitation, and it’s not by a long shot. It’s the brain injury that plagues him a million times more.”
One boy asked if Yano ever tried to escape from Gila River War Relocation Center camp.
Yano chuckled, then responded seriously, “No, no.
“But do you know why? I would say we have a little bit more pride than to escape. Because if you escape, that’s not the right thing to do. You’re breaking the law, actually.”
But, he added, that doesn’t mean he never left the camp. Yano and a friend once sneaked out and hitchhiked to Phoenix to watch a cowboy movie and eat hot dogs. Then they hitchhiked back and sneaked back in.
Being an internee was a heavy blow to his spirit.
“I’m a citizen one time, born and raised here, put behind barbed wires, and then I’m not a citizen,” Yano says. “I’m nobody.”
Two little American Indian girls hid motionless in a cave, covered in brush as soldiers passed through Yosemite Valley.
Older members of their Yosemite tribe made a quick escape up a steep, rocky canyon, and the girls were temporarily left behind, told not to make a sound.
This was the mid-1800s during the era when armed soldiers marched into Yosemite Valley not as explorers, but as men out for blood. At the first, they burned villages and stores of acorns, meat and mushrooms. Later on, they patrolled, yet the fear of them remained.
One of those concealed girls, Louisa Tom, lived to be more than 100 years old. She never got over those early images. Into old age, when uniformed park rangers entered her village in Yosemite Valley, she would run and hide behind her cabin, recalls great-granddaughter-in-law Julia Parker, 86, who has worked in the Yosemite Indian museum for 54 years.
For many American Indians, the inspiration for Yosemite National Park did not start with flowery prose from John Muir or a romantic vision of Galen Clark in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias as its "first guardian." It began with murder and destruction.
For them, the story of Yosemite since the mid-1800s is tragedy and tears, yet resilient Native Americans have survived and still live in this mountain paradise.
Asude Doğan often thinks back to what her parents told her before she left Türkiye last fall: that she “needs to save her life.”
They meant financially, the 16-year-old explained—get a good education as a foreign exchange student in the U.S., find a good job, and live a good life. Tragically, their words took on a literal meaning Feb. 6 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Türkiye (Turkey) and Syria, killing thousands of people, including Doğan’s parents and her 11-year-old sister. Studying abroad in California had saved Doğan’s life.
When she feels down, Doğan thinks about her parents’ belief that she was exactly where she needed to be this year.
“They were right,” Doğan said. “So, keep going.”
Slowly and painfully, a mark of slavery is fading away.
Blood percolates on Arien Pauls’ chest as a laser removes a large tattoo of a rose, but it’s worth every pang. Every time the 27-year-old Fresno woman looks in the mirror, or someone calls her rose beautiful, it’s a tormenting reminder that she was once branded like cattle.
She received the mark in a garage at the direction of an abusive pimp. After it was done, she was made to pay for it by having sex with the man who gave it to her.
The rose represents the childhood home of the pimp, who saw himself as a “rose that grew from the concrete.” There were many thorns. He repeatedly beat Pauls severely, threatened to kill her family if she stopped selling her body for sex, and kept all the money she earned.
The discrimination her parents faced wasn’t gone by the time Aline Reed reached adulthood. She graduated from Edison High School in the 1970s, and just missed the forced busing of some Edison students to north Fresno schools, and north Fresno students to Edison. She remembers it being discussed and debated.
“I remember sitting in class and having this caravan of white parents and teachers – it felt like being in a zoo – checking us out to see how vicious we were and how violent,” she says. “And, you know, that does something to a kid, to know that other people don’t want to sit next to you.”
Michael Rodriguez sat in a Fresno rehabilitation hospital four years ago struggling to make the simplest of movements. Tears filled his eyes as he focused on trying to tap his feet beside patients who had suffered strokes and injuries from car accidents.
His devastating debilitation had come from something much different – a mosquito infected with West Nile virus.
The rare virus had taken the Clovis man from a peak of health and professional success to a fight for his life in August of 2014. Rodriguez only recalls flashes of a nearly month-long hospitalization at Stanford Medical Center and Clovis Community Medical Center.
The Rev. Mark Wallace thinks of coronavirus like tornadoes he once lived through in Oklahoma.
“One house and one car doesn’t get touched, and the next-door neighbor is devastated and loses it all,” Wallace said. “That is COVID-19 to me.”
He was the one hit hard this time after he and his wife Tammy Wallace tested positive for coronavirus last month. Tammy got a bad fever and recovered at home. Mark ended up in a Fresno hospital for a month – two of those weeks connected to a ventilator and fighting for his life while restrained on an intensive care unit bed.
The pain was so excruciating that he sometimes prayed God would let him die.
When she awoke, her view of flame-ridden hillsides were replaced by smoke like a thick fog. She couldn’t even see the apple trees growing in her backyard, let alone her usual beautiful view of the Ritter Range in the distance.
No longer sure where the fire was, she quickly packed her car, grabbing a few boxes and mementos, and left the afternoon of Sept. 6 after receiving about 15 notices to evacuate. She said her bruised arms made it hard to carry much.
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” she said of trying to pack up her life.
Concern crept back in as the 50-year-old neared his home and saw bulldozers had dug up buried electrical lines powering the water pump for his family’s well. But his home atop the hill remained intact.
“It’s a huge relief, of course,” Warner said, “but boy now I see the list of chores to get this well back up and running.”
Before that well went in, the family hauled barrels of water up the mountain.
Warner chose not to water a patch of golden flowers for his mom as planned so he could save the precious liquid still left in their water tank.
One small victory: Warner’s propane-powered fridge is still cold.
“I’ve still got ice cubes,” Warner said before pulling out a cigarette while looking at a mass of feathers strewn across his yard – all that remained of one of his chickens. A pile of unguarded eggs was nearby.
Hill said one of his dogs might have killed the bird, but thought his work feeding the chickens had gone pretty well overall. “If that’s only one chicken gone, that’s alright.”
Much of the 52 miles stretching above North Fork to their pack station burned in the Creek Fire. The devastation can feel endless on that winding road, still called the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway. Blackened sticks that were trees punctuate views of vast arid mountainsides in every direction, none more overwhelmingly altered than at Mile High Vista above Mammoth Pool.
A car charred in the Creek Fire and subsequently covered in graffiti still sits deserted along this long, lonesome road. Around another turn, a new sign that reads, “Be extra careful with fire,” seems superfluous.
As the sky grew darker and smokier Saturday afternoon, Brad Johnson feels embarrassed now to admit that he thought, “Let’s go fishing!”
“I had to use a headlight to tie the fly,” the 40-year-old said. It was 4 p.m. at Sadler Lake.
“The lake is covered in ash and the fly hit a scummy film of ash and immediately sunk,” Johnson said. “I did not catch any fish.”
The smoke didn’t feel like an imminent danger to the avid hiker at the time. Neither did the thunder he now knows was created by the massive Creek Fire. Not even when blackened chunks of wood started falling from the sky.
Johnson camped overnight and awoke to more ominous changes.
“I looked downslope and saw this black cloud. It looked like Mordor, it really did,” he said, referencing the evil wasteland from “The Lord of the Rings.”
“I don’t know what’s down there, but I don’t want to go down there,” he thought. “Whatever it is is not good.”