On December 12, 1923, Byron, an electrician, and Tillie, a schoolteacher, welcomed a young Indian brave to the world. The young brave spent most of his youth in the town of Mission on the Rosebud Indian reservation in South Dakota. He and the others on this particular reservation were members of what the federal government called the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The elders called it Sicangu. His father was one-quarter Sioux. His mother had no known Native American blood. Like his parents, the young brave spoke fluent English, but little to no native tongue. One day, the young brave was walking in Mission when he saw an Indian sitting on a bench. “He had long hair, wore a blanket, and could not speak English.” Most of the people he saw on the reservation were Americanized, although he pointed out that his friends in school included Alex Raincounter and Chris Yellow Robe, boys with Indian names.
In 1938, the 15-year-old brave met who would become his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Jo, not on the reservation as his parents had met, but at an Ella Fitzgerald concert. The young brave was surprised to learn that his sweetheart was three-eighths Cherokee Indian. In decades past, their love for each other would have caused controversy between the tribes. The different tribes would have forbidden them to be together as it was in the teenage tragedy song “Running Bear,” made famous by Johnny Preston in 1959 (one of the two singers on the recording who provided the “uga-uga” and other Indian war cries was the not-yet famous George Jones). In the song, Running Bear, a young Indian brave, was in love with an Indian maid named Little White Dove. Their tribes were separated by hatred as well as a mighty, raging river. The song ends with the Running Bear and Little White Dove swimming out to be together. After a passionate kiss, the two drowned in the swift current. “Now they’ll always be together in their happy hunting ground.” By the 1940s, the Sioux and Cherokee tribes were no longer at war, and on January 12, 1945, the young brave and Dorothy Jo married with the blessing of their families.
The young brave was always proud of his Indian heritage. He once said, “I’ve always bragged about being part Indian, because they are a people to be proud of. And the Sioux were the greatest warriors of them all. They’ve been called the greatest light cavalry in the history of man.” He quipped, “And I have never been on a horse without falling off.”