Monday, June 28, 2010
The Day the Music died in Indian Topeka
Over the years, my brothers and I would run across him at different events. He was a friendly guy and became a life-long friend. He was a cousin to one of our old friends Vernon Yazzie. Vernon went to the same school as us and we stayed at each others homes and this was how we would often run into Gary Cooper in our excursions into t-town. In revisionist history, they are called excursions.Vernon was one of those guys who died young.
Gary started a band and played in every honky-tonk in the area, sometimes twice. He must have made a decent living at it because he played right up until the bitter end, but truthfully our chosen hobby doesn’t’ pay the bills, so Gary did some roofing work with his dad in a day job. They had a house in North Topeka. We grew up on the reservation and he in the big city. Our paths crossed many times over the years, but as it happens in life, we rarely saw each other in the last few years because my focus changed to family and family type events. Gary never did marry and stayed close with the guitar.
The last time I saw Gary was the Potawatomi Gathering held here last year. He played up on the stage and I dropped by to see him and when I was leaving he said “I’m going to dedicate the next song to Gary Mitchell.” He did that to a lot of people beside me and it made us feel good for a second or two. He was in a wheel-chair and his health had steadily declined over the last few years, but he did what he liked until he couldn’t anymore. Around these parts there were few Indian bands, but there was a song-maker once, his name was Gary Cooper.