Dad - The Big Chief, by David Little Wolf - 12th July
Chief Little Wolf was not my father, but, he was my
though we had only 8 years together, he was more of
a father to me than even he knew.
all started back in 1948. I was in my room, reading
a comic book. My father called me into the living
room. Standing there with him was my stepmother, Louise,
my mother, Dorothy, my sister, Helen, and this big
guy who I didn't know. All my mom said was, "do
you want to come with us?". I could see this
brand new, tutone, Pontiac Chieftain parked in front
of the house. I answered my mom with this question,
"is that your car?" She said yes, and I
said let's go! Anything was better than the life I
was living with my father and step mother.
remember someone asking if they should pack my clothes,
the big guy said no!
mom sat me in the front seat, and, I'm told, I spent
the entire ride from Santa Ana, to San Fernando, stroking
the dashboard, saying, "what a car, what a car".
we got to the house in San Fernando, the big guy ordered
me out of the clothes I was wearing. He put me in
a robe, and took my clothes out to the incinerator,
and burned them, including the shoes. My mother got
me all freshened up in the bathtub, and we were off
to the store for new clothes.
use the above to illustrate the Chief's commitment.
He took over my care and welfare from the moment we
pulled away from my old life.
dad only forgot that commitment once. That comes later.
had no idea who "Big" Chief Little Wolf
was...............for about a week. I was(am) a huge
movie fan. Before the Chief came into my life, my
escape from reality was to spend all day Saturday,
and most of Sunday, at the movies. I had the faces
of every movie star in Hollywood, locked firmly in
Like I said, it was only about a week or so before
I understood who Chief was.
was really great about taking me with him, most everywhere
he went. The first place we went was the Hollywood
Legion Stadium. This was a very popular venue for
pro wrestling. We were there to work out. I already
had my wrestling tights by this time. I was nine and
ready to be impressed. My hopes were not let down.
"Iron" Mike Mazurki was there. I had seen
him in countless movies. Jay Silverheels, "Tonto"
in the Lone Ranger series came in to talk to Chief.
This big guy was "somebody", and I was all-of-a-sudden
living a dream that kept getting better. He actually
knew movie stars! And I got to meet them and shake
their hands............... how bad can that be? Andy
Devine came to the house one day. Andy Devine!!!!!
I could'nt take my eyes off of him..........Roy Rogers
sidekick!!! Pinch me, please!! And there were even
more..............Chief Thundercloud, Chief War Eagle.
you want to dance, you better be prepared to pay the
band. In other words, reality was about to set in.
A few weeks later, we were invited to friends for
a farewell dinner, as we were about to leave for the
East Coast. Mom and dads friends house was pretty
big, but so was the crowd. Mom sent my sister and
I to play with all the other kids....I balked(very
bad thing to do), Chief saw it, and heard it, and
took over. He told me to do something(can't remember
what), and I said........"my real dad would'nt
make me do that". Chief grabbed a fistfull of
my shirt, lifted me off the the ground, and into a
wall, and said...."I'm your father now,and you'll
do exactly what I tell you to do, understand?".
I assure you, I did.
next day, he felt so bad about chewing me out in front
of people, that he took me downtown and bought me
a brand new Schwinn bicycle. My first.
above is just another illustration of a man, unafraid
to apologise if he thought he'd wronged you.
He had an enormous heart, he loved life, he loved
his work, he loved me. I had no idea how much I loved
him, until I saw him after his stroke. Lying helpless,
with his eye taped open, his mouth all askew, slurring
his words, was more than I could take. The big guy
had taken a fall, a bad fall. This once powerhouse
of a man had been reduced to almost a child. All I
could do was cry for him. At that moment, I would
have done almost anything to restore him to his former
self. Up to this point, for the last couple of years,
I was going through my "hate Chief " phase.
Why ? You remember the commitment I said he broke?
Back in late '56, he kicked me out. 15 years old,
out and alone in a foreign country. No I.D., no passport,
no nothing. Not too long after my mother left for
Hawaii to recoup from a long illness, he took up with
the wife of his manager. My guess is that she gave
him the old "blood is thicker than water"
routine. Next thing you know.......I'm out on my ass.
was ill equipped to survive on the streets of Melbourne
with no safety net. I had nothing.......no money,
no place to live.
didn't realize that all I had to do was present myself
to the American Consulate, and I would have been on
my way back to the states. I also didn't realize what
trouble that would have caused for both Chief and
my mom. You do not abandon a minor child in a foreign
Chief had so much going for him....................all
those things some people try a lifetime to attain.
He had enormous commonsense, as opposed to school
learning. For a guy whose formal education lasted
for 3 or 4 years, he had a wonderful command of the
English language. He could talk to anyone, from the
lowest to the highest.
could eat lobster today, and be just as content having
a hamburger tomorrow.He understood what was good and
what was bad in showbusiness. He knew those things
instinctively. He earned and lost at least three fortunes.
Everytime he visited a children's hospital, hoping
to spread a little cheer, it always broke his heart.
He just couldn't understand why kids, whose lives
hadn't really begun, should be afflicted with such
horrible diseases. But, time after time, he kept going
back. Children's hospitals were not the only hospitals
on the Chief's list. Aussie veterans were important
to him also. None of those hospital visits had nothing
to do with publicity, he wanted to see those smiles
when he walked in. I'll never forget going to a veterans
hospital in Melbourne with him. When we left and were
in the parking lot, out of site of the vets and the
nursing staff, he began crying. It must have taken
him five minutes to compose himself. He felt those
men had served their country, and, somehow he hadn't.
He was in the U.S. Army during the war years. He was
a sergeant in the Provost Marshal's Office in the
Los Angeles District. As a military policeman, he
also taught unarmed combat to his fellow M.P's.
Army also allowed him to wrestle in the L.A. area,
if it didn't conflict with his duties. So, he had
it relatively easy...............and, it didn't hurt
that his Colonel was a big wrestling fan.
the war, my mother worked in a warplane factory, and
she was singing with the Paige Cavanaugh Trio a couple
of night a week. One of the girls she worked with
suggested going to the wrestling matches at the Civic
Auditorium. They did, and as the story goes, Chief
caught a glimpse of her, and had his opponent toss
him out of the ring, into her lap!! Certainly a unique
method for meeting a girl. They were married in 1946
in Salt Lake City.
wasn't a businessman, and he couldn't hold his liquor.
I'll wager you could travel over most of Australia,
and find people still living, who have a "Chief
Little Wolf at the pub" story. Neither of those
things makes him a bad guy, I think it makes him more
of the reasons he loved Australia so much was, he
did not encounter any racial bigotry aimed at him.
He could walk down any street, in any city, without
any "celebrity mania". He was treated with
respect everywhere in Australia. I can't say there
were zero encounters, but they were generally in good
humor. He was hit a lot with "you're not really
Big Chief Little Wolf", to which he would answer......."well,
if I'm not, I'm sure having a good time with his wife".
Women liked to approach him with "How",
which in the U.S. would be very derogatory to a Native
American. He was ready for them too. He'd get that
huge grin of his working, and reply........."I
know how, just tell me when!".
loved being entertained. Most entertainers do. He
liked all forms of the business. Movies, Musical Comedy,
Variety Shows(like those at the Tivoli) He liked the
beach. He always remarked how tan he was after a day
at the beach. That always got a big laugh.
had a pretty good palate too. He loved Italian food(and
I think that may be why some galah's in Melbourne
thought he was an Australian born Italian). He loved
Chinese food just as much. And German, Greek, Mexican,
the years, he had picked up bits and pieces of non-english
language, that served him well. We could walk into
a cafe owned by a Greek, Chief could greet him in
his own native language, and that instantly opened
dialogue, and, our assurance of a good meal. It never
failed. Whatever the owner's origins, Chief could
at least, say "hello, how are you?" In those
days of "New Australians", most Australians
weren't the slightest bit interested in learning a
few words of their new neighbors native tongue. So,
when Chief was able to, at least say "hello",
the recipient was thrilled. This was a big thing to
me. I could see the faces of these people change when
he spoke to them. It was amazing. I soon learned to
do it myself............with my dads help, of course.
taught me a lot more, most of which I didn't realize
I even knew until it came time to use that bit of
information, and where I'd learned it.
me, he was a real man. To a few generations of Aussies,
he's a myth, maybe even a legend. I suppose he was.
But, he wouldn't want either one of those titles.
He would be content knowing he brought some happiness
to the folks who'd paid their hard earned money to
see him, and that they got their moneys worth. Yeah,
he was a real man....................a real man of
he was my dad.
Chief Little Wolf
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