Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Henry Berry Lowrie

I was at sea for nearly a month last November…on a ship…rocking…constantly. “Rocking” doesn’t really describe it well enough, so feel free to use (courtesy of thesaurus.com) teetering, wobbling, reeling, staggering, shaking, swaying, wavering, lurching, or weaving. Point being it sucked because it made reading and working on my great American novel damn near impossible. Which meant there was plenty of time for storytelling while enjoying a cigar and a drink. One of my colleagues happens to be of Native American descent (our third man disputed this to me later, claiming, “Hairiest Indian I’ve ever seen.” I may have doubted it myself—not for the same reason as the very un-pc comment—but I was in Lumberton, North Carolina a few years ago where I became acquainted with the Lumbee tribe). But I digress. This colleague had good tales to share. Sitting in a circle in a tiny cabin, heads low, turning shades of blue and green, we listened to stories you can't find in books. "All I tell you is oral tradition," he said taking a swig of his drink, adding, "Let the ghosts dance." I took a puff on my cheap Black and Mild cigar sat back and smiled within: this person is a character. He repeatedly used the term “American Indian” which I asked him about, "Hell, you're a native American Dave." He continued on, speaking of ceremonial customs, peace pipes, visions, etc., with spirited delivery and passion for his heritage but whenever he mentioned the name Henry Berry Lowrie, his voice rose up even more. And so did my curiosity. Being unfamiliar with the legend of Lowrie, I listened closely jotting down notes here and there.

When we finally returned to land and once again had access to the Internet (the seagulls have a nice bandwidth free zone out there), I typed in Lowrie and jumped back. The guy on the boat has a strong resemblance to the 19th century outlaw. And the tales? It's unfair, I know, to build up all this stuff I’ve heard and yet not deliver the stories, but many of the yarns spun that seasick evening are available online. Plus, I'm not sure what will become of my hand-scratched notes. Perhaps my fictional Cash Laramie will meet up with the Lumbee legend. Until then here's the Wikipedia article with said photo. And for those of you who like old newspaper articles, here's the October 7, 1871 NY Times with quite a fascinating look at his gang and their "misdeeds."

Additional links:

Legends of North Carolina

The Museum of the Native American Resource Center

Henry Berry Lowrie - Lumbee Regional Development Association, Inc

17 comments:

Anton Gully said...

Great story and an interesting character. Not your typical stereotyped western outlaw at all.

David Cranmer said...

There are so many true life heroes, bandits, and villains that make their movie counterparts pale in comparison. The Marshal Bass Reeves, to me, is still waiting for his proper movie treatment and finally take his place alongside Wyatt Earp.

RReynolds said...

You live the life old man. Cheers.

Charles Gramlich said...

A character indeed. You gotta love such.

Leah J. Utas said...

I could feel the ship rock. Lowrie sounds most interesting.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, he certainly sounded like a spirited outlaw. The old Times article was entertaining.

--Diane

Barbara Martin said...

Now I understand why I felt 'seasick' whenever I wondered what you were doing.

I don't think there were ever any stereotypical western outlaws, but writers made them that way.

David Cranmer said...

RReynolds, And so do you sir. When will that autobiography be published? Or are there to many blondes and redheads whose names will have to be changed to protect the guilty? :)

Charles, They are the spice of life whether we agree with them or not.

Leah, And the boat rocked when I hit the hotel. Strange sensation of waking up and the whole room moving for a good 90 seconds or so.

Diane, Glad you're like me and enjoy old articles.

Barbara, Be prepared. I have photos coming. And absolutely right on history. The truth is far more intriguing.

Dave King said...

I don't envy you your month of rocking, but I do know what you mean: we recently had two rough days on a cruise liner including being hit by a freak wave - but a month...? Nah!

Stupendous story, though.

Chris said...

The Marshal Bass Reeves, to me, is still waiting for his proper movie treatment and finally take his place alongside Wyatt Earp.

Amen to that, absolutely!

I'm half Ojibwa on my Dad's side, and I'm about as hairy as they come. Tell your friend this, and if he denies it give me his address so I can show up with my family tree and a shaver so he can properly address my back, thank you very much.

I'm more likely to identify as "Indian" than "Native American" as well. That's not that uncommon, at least out here anyway.

Sarah Laurence said...

Wow, I hadn’t realized it was a whole month. The time must have passed quickly in such excellent company. The oral tradition is usually forgotten in modern times. I loved how you weaved this tale, I felt like I was pitching aboard with you.

David Cranmer said...

Dave, I think I will take a break before I volunteer for any further Captain Nemo assignments.

Chris, Yeah, I was debating whether to put that comment in the post but it was said and added to the spice of that evening. I'm not sure I will work with that individual again but I certainly will pass on your offer. :)

And the whole Indian vs Native American is new to me and quite interesting.

David Cranmer said...

Sarah, you just slipped in while I was leaving a comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

And that month felt like six easily.

Barrie said...

David, what an interesting life you lead!

David Cranmer said...

Trust me that there is a lot of standing around.

Heath said...

Great story. I've only met two full-on American Indians in my life, and both of them referred to themselves that way-- beyond the individual tribes they were part of, that is. I suppose PC doesn't count for much when you live on a reservation.

Thomas Pluck said...

Interesting bit of history, I hope you help immortalize it in your tales.