Havre Daily News
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - Vernon The Boy walked around the edge of his remaining walls and looked down at the smoldering ashes that used to be his home. Twenty-five years of accumulated possessions were lost within a matter of minutes.
It's been a long week for The Boy, whose house burned down Tuesday night.
“I haven't had any rest,” he said. “Concerned people have been visiting me and calling me.”
The Boy, a well-known local artist and part-time Stone Child College art instructor, lost all of his personal possessions, but he's more concerned about the things he can't easily replace: About 20 pieces of completed artwork were destroyed in the fire.
The work included portraits of former tribal chairmen that the Chippewa Cree Tribe has already paid him for. He also lost all of his art supplies.
He estimated the loss in artwork and supplies at $10,000. He doesn't have renter's insurance. Among some of his most precious possessions was an area of his house that he dedicated to his late wife, Faith, who died of cancer in February 1995 and his late son, Victor, who died 39 days later in a car accident. He had an oil painting of Faith he had given to her as a Valentine's Day gift, and a pastel painting of Victor.
The Boy found his house on fire after he returned home Tuesday evening after teaching an art class at Stone Child College.
“I opened up the front door and there was just smoke. I went inside of the house and opened the sliding glass door on the south side of my house to let the smoke out upstairs. Then when I got my breath back, I went down to the basement and opened two windows,” he said. “Maybe that wasn't the right thing to do. I don't know.”
The Boy, 60, said the ventilation from opening the windows and glass door probably caused the fire to spread.
Volunteer firefighter and fire prevention technician Theron Oats agreed.
The Boy said the power was out, and he saw sparks from the plywood subflooring near where his junction box used to be in his basement. He used a hose to spray the area. He thought he had stopped the fire.
Oats said The Boy called the Rocky Boy Police Department at 6:22 p.m. to report that he had put out a fire in his home.
“They asked him whether or not he wanted us to come out there, and he refused it at that time. He said he had put it out and wanted to contact (the Rocky Boy) housing (authority) in the morning,” Oats said today.
The Boy thought everything was under control until he went to a neighbor's to call police and make some other calls, and glanced out the window.
“I looked out the window and there was fire coming out of the basement window,” he said. “I thought, ‘I better get up there.'''
He ran through a side door on the west side of his home to try to save his computers and printer. He ran out of the house empty-handed, worried that he wouldn't have enough time to get back out.
The Fire Department arrived on the scene at 7 p.m.
Oats said that by the time the firefighters arrived, nothing could be salvaged.
“All of the windows were out,” he said. “You could tell that everything was a total loss. We couldn't have saved anything.”
“The ambulance was here and they hooked me up on some oxygen from all of the smoke I had breathed in,” The Boy said. “My lungs were sore from breathing in the smoke. But I told them that I was OK.”
The Boy said he's not sure how the fire started because he hasn't met with the fire marshal yet.
The tragedy hasn't kept The Boy's head down. He relished in the thought of another day and will continue to live his life “one day at a time.”
“I grew up poor so it doesn't matter if I'm poor again. It's just material things. Everything's replaceable. All I need is art supplies so I can get back on my feet again,” he said.