Willy Fisher the medicine man healed me one time. I was very young, and I was so sick that I wasn't expected to survive, from what I'm told. My dad went to get Willy Fisher, and Willy Fisher came and stayed with me all night. I can still remember his words in the morning. He said, "People are going to remember you." And that's the last I heard of Willy Fisher.
When I was growing up here, I was known as Jackrabbit. One of the elders who used to see me running everywhere, he's the one who named me Jackrabbit. Back in the early '60s, I was a mean little boy. I beat up the principal, and so they sent me to school in Vegas. I spent half of my life in Vegas, and I was very active. At two or three o'clock in the morning, I'd run the streets. Get up early in the morning and go to school, then do my soccer or boxing practice, whatever I had to do that day.
Track was my thing. I went to junior college on a track scholarship. I got offered about 18 different scholarships. I was a 4:10 miler. Back then that was superfast.
I came back here in the '80s, early '90s, and I really didn't know what was going on at the time with that plant. I used to live down there right next door to Vernon Lee, and I could smell rotten eggs and stuff like that when the wind blew just right.
After I moved back, I started getting headaches. Up to then, never had nothing wrong in my life. They examined me, found out I had thyroid problems, and that I was having mini-strokes, constantly. So I'm on pills for that. I have a heart condition too.
We think it's from the plant, but we can't prove it. That's a hard thing to prove. But like I said, I lost my sister, my dad. I'm losing a cousin--he's only got about three years to live, they say. A week ago, my brothers Russell and Calvin, they both went into the hospital, maybe TK** days apart. It's strange how they're both in the hospital now.
Most people I knew are gone now. I don't know how, but I just don't see anybody anymore. It's tough. But you got to survive for the little kids. Try to make it a better place for them. (Interviewed July 19, 2012)
Photo by Ami Vitale/Panos Pictures