Richard Grosvenor’s father had secured a job at the mines southwest of Ishpeming by withholding the fact that his mother was a Rice Bay Chippewa from down on the northwest corner of Lake Michigan. His bottom lip swerving downward and out in perfect coordination with a suppressed beer belch, he told Richard that he didn’t have to withhold the fact that he’d been a lumberjack in order to get the mining job, which entailed raking steer manure from nearby farms into thin even layers so that the sun and wind could dry out the chunks. When it was too wet to dry the manure, which was most of the time on Lake Superior’s south shore, Richard’s dad traveled with a foreman in a company pickup truck, then trotted bucketloads of dry manure to the explosives-men at blasting sites around the south side of the mountain. It was by virtue of this initial job at the Black Mountain Mine that Richard’s father been given the nickname Shit Boy.

Whenever his foreman was busy talking to one of the fellas about the job at hand or where he’d nailed his latest big pike in one of the nearby fishing holes that hadn’t yet been rendered acrid and lifeless by runoff from the mine, Shit Boy scrutinized the quantity, tightness, and quality of the mix of dynamite, manure, and fuse that the explosives men used to fill their bore holes in the mountainsides,. He paid close attention to the hydraulic and electrical hookups that stretched from blast site to blast site, and he observed and memorized the language and the visual signals that the blasters and the foremen gave one another. Eventually Richard’s father worked his way up from Shit Boy to Flagman to Explosives Technician’s Assistant. “An’ hell, if I’da gone ta college, I’da been up there in da tower wit’ dem bosses,” he’d slur, with a wave of his hand passing precariously over the top of his amber-filled glass. During these weekend wind-downs the only other thing he ever waved at was the moose head mount behind the corner table at Montie’s Pub, and his knuckles often came precariously close to the big, twisted antlers dangling down from the wall.

“I did pretty good for myself,” he would tell his oldest child, swaying backward with the full force of another suppressed belch and the beer-induced dizziness he fell back upon to try to forget the close calls of the past week on the job, or the strings of injuries and deaths that allowed quick learners like him to move up the job ladder. “I become a full explosives technician. Took da tests and ever’ting. Hell, I only graduated eighth grade!” This, of course, had been an accomplishment, in a mining town where the sons of immigrants rarely attended more than elementary school before taking jobs in the mines, and Indians rarely got jobs anywhere.

Richard’s mother was the daughter of one of the Italian immigrant miners who had trained Shit Boy to work with explosives. Richard’s young father had taken to spending his precious free time accompanying her to sunny blueberry patches in scrubby rubble clearings around the mine sites. She picked the abundant fruits with her long brown arms exposed downward from the shoulders of her light summer sundresses, and she smiled and laughed at his jokes. She baked a good blueberry pie, too. Shit Boy brought venison, rabbits, and fish for the girl’s mother to cook. These things probably contributed to the acceleration of his on-the-job training among the immigrants who’d escaped from mining jobs in their nations of origin, only to live and work in mining and lumber mill towns wedged between Lakes Michigan and Superior.

Dark and boisterous Italians were outcasts among the fair, Protestant northern Europeans who had cleared the vast forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the nothingness that became miles of marginal, overgrazed hills and potato fields. So, it was a natural match for Richard’s parents to find one another. He married up, into acceptance and whiteness; and she married familiarity in the form of brownness, Catholicism, and men with dangerous jobs.

Richard was the oldest child in his family, the only boy in four children. He grew up watching his parents and his older relatives and his friends’ parents toil with little progress in a world of rusted cars, company stores, and shingle-sided thin frame houses. He watched streams and creeks grow lifeless and leachate-caked as the mining companies polluted the surface water with runoff. Even the job foremen found it harder and harder to find a big pike or a cache of small brook trout, and, as time passed, more and more stories surfaced about tumors found on the largest of the predator fish that had once been Anishinaabe staples.

Richard’s parents had told him it was their dream to send him up to the mining technology school over in the Keweenaw Peninsula, so that the boy could get his college certificate in engineering. Then he wouldn’t have to work with dynamite or with heavy equipment, dodging landslides in deep canyons and tunnels or on cliff-side two-tracks in blinding snows. His family had attended too many funerals over the years. Richard came to understand that he was his family’s hope. He saved up his earnings during summers of throwing bales for local farmers during the hay season, and he received a partial scholarship to the college. He didn’t much care for the responsibility of being his family’s link to better times, but Richard knew enough about lean times to take his opportunities seriously.

“Just don’t let nobody know yer father’s a goddam indyun, and y’ll do all right,” his father had told him. Identity didn’t seem to be much of a problem, though. There weren’t too many Indians kicking around up at the mining technology school, so Richard was able to keep a low profile. He knew enough to try to pass himself off as Italian, like his mother. There were a couple of Chippewa and Potawatomi girls from Baraga working in the shops and cleaning house for the instructors’ wives, but Richard went out of his way to stay away from them. He even avoided Ardis, who swept the floors at the candy store and had a smile that made Richard stop and stare. Richard wanted to buy paper sugar-dots by the sheet, just so he could watch her count them out. But he knew better, and he saved his pennies to put gas in the old Ford sedan his father had given him for his two-hour drive home on weekends, “Just so yer mom c’n see that ye’re ok an’ we can make sure ya got clean underwears.” Richard wanted to tell his father about Ardis during those weekends, but he chose not to. He’d been programmed to accept his father’s status as a second-class citizen, as Shit Boy.

After his father died, Richard left Black Mountain Mine to take a job at the Morenci Mine, down on the southern border of Arizona. Resource extraction was winding down in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the Arizona desert was, at that time, friendlier to open-pit mining. After several years Richard and his wife retired in nearby Bisbee, Arizona, a quaint wild-west former mining town with mineral and gem shops. His sons became lawyers, and one became a local magistrate judge. Richard’s father’s ethnic identity was never discussed with his children, and persisted solely in Richard’s fading memories of cold, northern days and nights and cultural apartheid.

At some point Richard’s sister, Eleanor, wrote him that the Rice Bay Band of Ojibwe had obtained federal recognition and had established a casino in a small portable building on an isolated stretch of U.S. Highway 2, with the intent of siphoning off some of the summer tourist traffic. Seeking to swell its ranks for political clout and to secure federal funding, the tribe had not established a blood-quantum requirement for membership enrollment. In an effort to overcome northern Michigan’s permanent post-industrial economic slump, Eleanor had registered herself and her own children for tribal benefits, and it looked as though her grandchildren would qualify as well. If he met the enrollment deadline, Richard might receive a small annual senior citizen stipend from the tiny tribe, and his heirs might someday earn benefits, were the tribe’s financial endeavors to succeed.

Now, Richard never really felt like he’d been a member of the Rice Bay Chippewa tribe, because pushing away from that identity had been essential to his family’s survival. When he thought about being an Indian, he thought about his father’s fear of acknowledgment and the strain of dissociating from dangerous workdays in the mine. Richard thought about stunningly beautiful Ardis and how he’d forced himself to stay away from the candy store. He thought about how amiable Ardis had been, the sparkle in her eyes, and the breadth of her smile. Richard contemplated his father’s weekends of self-loathing under the shaggy moose mount, and how, until his death, some of the oldest retired miners still referred to his father as “Shit Boy,” even if only in jest. And Richard decided that, maybe his father would want him to enroll and take the senior stipend, to somehow make up for his father’s own young journey into a lifetime of dangers that included dynamite and self-contempt, far from the north shore of Lake Michigan, where Rice Bay had once embraced his Anishinaabe relatives. If he were alive, Richard’s father might have thought that acknowledgment-via-stipend would make up for the years he’d put himself down in front of his own children, or make up for the stunningly beautiful Indian girl his son might meet and never dare marry.

Richard Grosvenor was his father’s son, and he’d somehow found identity under that mounted moose head, where his father coped with his exhaustion and hypervigilance. So, Richard found his way to the back room of the public library in Bisbee, Arizona, where the computers were kept, and he did the genealogical research that linked him to the grandmother, Marie Pinay Grosvenor, whom he’d never known, because Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula worked hard and died young. He acquired the appropriate documents, and he mailed in the appropriate paperwork and tried to reconcile himself with the notion that it was appropriate to still be an Indian. Thereafter, Richard used his annual “Indian”payments” to pay his green fees at the Bisbee Municipal Golf Course, where he found a bit of irrigated foliage and enough moisture to remind him of his Upper Peninsula boyhood. And he did not feel guilty. He only wished he could have his father there beside him, to tell him how much he loved and respected him.