Happy Birthday, Code Talker Joe!

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, Feb. 13, 2014

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I  just heard on NPR that this year marks G.I. Joe's 50th birthday, so of course I had to congratulate my G.I. Joe doll.

I have the Code Talker version, the one you can order from the Southwest Indian Foundation catalog. A friend gave him to me. It was sort of a joke, but hey, writing is a lonely profession, and you take your friends as you find them ... even molded in hard plastic.

The years have been kind to Code Talker Joe. He doesn't look a day over 20. But his voice (which I suspect is provided by a real Code Talker) sounds about 70. And if you look into his piercing brown eyes, you can see the effects of decades of untreated PTSD. It also comes out in his conversation.

The other evening I was working from home, battling a severe case of writer's block. Since Joe is a warrior, I enlisted his help.

"What do you think for the lede, Joe?" I asked. "Should I go with the quote, or more atmospheric?"

"Request mortar fire," replied Joe in Navajo Code. (You can tell what he's saying because it is translated into English by a much younger voice, possibly one of Joe's combat-induced alternate personalities.)

"That bad, huh?" I said. "OK, I'll start over."

Just then my husband burst in. When you work at home, nobody thinks you're really working, especially your spouse.

"Hon, I need your help with something," he said.

"I'm WORKING!" I snarled.

This was admittedly debatable, since I'd spent the last 10 minutes staring at a blank Word document. But you can't let spouses get in the habit of interrupting you every time the cat barfs or they can't decide what spices to put in the spaghetti sauce.

Hubby retreated.

"Suribachi secured," announced Joe.

"For the time being," I added.

A little later, the phone rang. I could see from the caller ID it was my friend who is constantly embroiled in some utterly predictable romantic disaster. I looked at my story. So far I had typed five words, and they were "By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi'Bureau." This day could hardly get less productive. I picked up the phone.

My friend started right in on her latest dating debacle. I muttered the requisite "Mm-hmm," "Really?" and "No way!" while staring at the screen and waiting for her to say something that might inspire my lede.

I decided to bring Joe in on the conversation.

"Request tank support," said Joe.

"Joe thinks you should ditch Ray," I told my friend.

"Who's Joe?" she asked. "Is he cute? I could use someone to help me get over Ray!"

"He's damaged goods," I replied, mentally adding, "Just your type."

After I hung up I asked Joe what he thought of my friend.

"Attack by machine gun," he said.

"I know, right?" I replied. "But that's a little harsh. Are you off your meds again?"

"Can I have her phone number?" asked Joe.

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