”I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”
I haven’t had time or spirit to write much, since 10 days ago, December 17, at 2:15am, someone special to me, that was loved, cherished and adored by the DX family (and countless other people), passed. To me at least, the saying above perfectly sums up the man I’m about to speak of, below.
Wayne Leo Ducheneax I, the patriarch of this family and father to Zach, my cowboy, lost his year-long battle with cancer that day. With his family by his side he passed quietly, and peacefully.
There’ve been a lot of tears along this battle, many shed since that day, and tears flow as I write this, but that’s not what this is about. He’d want us to go on living, and revel in our charmed life. Because “this too shall pass”.
Instead, this is about a highly principled man. A man who loved, first and foremost his wife,
his children, his grandkids (surrogate or not), his friends and family,
and the Native People he worked so hard to serve in Indian country, not just here on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation but throughout Indian Country.
He was a two-time tribal chairman, and a one-term president of the NCAI (National Congress of American Indians). He met with congressmen, senators and the like. The accomplishments of a man who didn’t graduate high school are too numerous to list, and while I’m sure he’s proud of them, that’s not what this is about either.
Wayne was a marine, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, a friend, a rancher and horseman. He was one of the wisest, most educated people I’ve ever come in contact with. He used to keep a little notebook in his shirt pocket and when he’d come across a word he didn’t know, via reading or the television, he’d write it down, look it up and learn it. He was an AVID reader, and read everything from History to Lonesome Dove.
He became a surrogate grandfather and father figure to many, and friend to our ranch interns and even people who’d come visit for the weekend. He was Wayne, Poppy, or Mr. D to so many. He was loved far and wide and always had a kind word, or a bit of advice to give, and everyone he liked was always welcome at his home anytime. He’d have had all seven of his children live with him if he’d have had his way!
There was always a smile and “Hello there” for me in the morning, and sometimes, admittedly, I’d put off my chores and ask him a question I knew he’d take hours to answer- usually something about the old days, Indian Law, or something about a treaty that had been broken by the US government or even about Indian Sovereignty, and he’d spout case law, and treaty dates like people spout curse words.
He loved hereford cattle and at one time had a registered herd.
An avid team roper and champion heeler, he loved horses. He is responsible for the herd of horses here at the ranch today, their kind dispositions, willing attitude and bloodlines. While some trace back to old school runners such as Jet Smooth and Jet Deck, he would attribute the disposition and attitude to the bloodlines that he “discovered” in his early years–Sniper Buck and Dandy Fly–and that serve as the foundation to this day. If it were not for his love of horses, I’d have no Gumpy, or Dino.
It seems to me to be only yesterday I was welcomed into his family with open arms.
It seems to me to be only yesterday when he was helping me do chores one cold winter (he hated the cold), and I’d get a driving lesson in either the tractor or the pickup.
It seems to me to be only yesterday when we had to go get our cows from the neighbor’s after a New Year’s blizzard. He drove the cake pickup, with his son Bud on the four-wheeler, while Nukie and I rode miles that day, through chest deep drifts, with Jake at our heels, gathering the cows to bring them home. I heard he was proud of me that day.
It seems to me to be only yesterday that he was telling me he was out of Nook Books, so I’d ask him what he wanted, and he usually knew – if not, I’d pick something and he would read it.
It seems to me to be only yesterday when I got a word of advice about making a heel shot on my then, colt, Dino, during a beautiful July 4th branding.
It seems to me to be only yesterday that even when he felt bad, he tried his hardest to smile and wave “good morning” to me when I’d pop into his home to grab a bite of breakfast, or say hello before I started chores.
It seems to me to be only yesterday, I’d arrive home from a barrel race and he’d ask how I’d done and if there was video to watch.
He loved me even though I am a “god-damned Republican”. Hehe! We had so many conversations about politics, life, horses, starting colts, riding with Buck, the breeding program and countless other subjects too numerous to list. He was smart, and wise and kind and thoughtful – even if he was a Yellow-Dog Democrat. He was like that with people – he loved them for who they are.
The erie feeling I got walking into that empty house the past two months when he was in the hospital and Granny was at his side has still not passed; though it’s getting better.
His chair being empty and the TV being off for those months, was hard to process. But it’s getting easier.
The hole left in the family will never completely close, but in his words, “this too shall pass”. Life will go on, and we’ll keep marching forward, clinging to the memories, the good times, and each other. He’d want us not to wallow in our sorrow, but to go forward, smiling, in principled thought, knowing that we were loved and that he lived a good, full life.
Rest in Peace kind sir, your legacy lives on.
Wayne Leo Ducheneaux I, September 25, 1936 – December 17, 2012