We all go through life facing a variety of expectations. We wonder what the next steps are and what path to follow
to reach our goals. Sometimes they are self-imposed expectations, other times they come from family and
friends. What we all ultimately confront, no matter our station in life, are pressures imposed on us by society.
Joseph Raymond Bracamontes, Juaneno Indian, my father, faced many expectations – some good, some bad. He
had many nicknames: Jody, Rugged Bates, Blackjack, among others. In his youth, there was much conflict with
the white world, its culture and rules. Not long ago he told me his feelings on the subject of attending school.
“I had no desire to learn to read, write or go to school. I never wore shoes until I was 14 or 15 years old. I loved to
hunt with my dogs. They would run on each side of the rabbit and eventually close in and bring it back to me. My
father would skin it and we would eat it for dinner. The truant officer knew where to find me, in the orange groves
hunting or fishing by the river. I hated school. That is probably why I failed and why I socked my teacher on the
cheek in the 5th grade.”
Many people expected him to fail in life. Maybe even he saw himself as failing, then he rushed to join the military.
Oddly, he became a military policeman. After leaving the military he became a truck driver in Los Angeles in the
early 1950’s. In 1963 he had back surgery. The doctors told him not to expect to go back to driving a semi-truck or
ever lift anything over 25 or 30 pounds. He was strong and beat the odds. He continued to drive a truck and hand
stacked 100-pound sacks of potatoes for a long time. But no matter how tough Rugged Bates was, he stopped
driving after he turned 70 years old when he had surgery to replace a hip. We all expected this to be the end
because he hated to sit still. But, by the time he reached 75 years old, he was once again driving a truck 30 hours
As he gets older, some family, friends, and society at large might expect him to lie down and die already. Don’t
hold your breath. He talked about that the other day. “I want to live to be one hundred. I hope I can. I’m sure I can, if
I stay healthy.”
Nobody had such great expectations for Jody, Rugged Bates or Blackjack, as he was called in the barrio, at work,
and by friends and family. And more importantly, nobody expected him to tell me not to go to the Vietnam War, but
instead to go to East Los Angeles College and get an education. Nobody expected a man whose land had been
taken a way from him, by a government who still to this day does not recognize his tribe, who was forced into their
schools, thought he would lay a path for others to follow.
So, the torch must pass to future generations. Go to school, go to college, expect to do great things. Not because
people expect you to, but because the path has already been blazed for you. All that’s needed is for you to
continue with your own life and create new footsteps, making new paths never traveled by us. Changing the world
a day at a time, a step at a time, one by one, a path of peace, a path unintentionally made by only a humble man
who never thought he would eventually plant the seeds of great expectations. My father is that person, Joseph
Raymond “Jody” “Rugged Bates” “Blackjack” Bracamontes.
Paving the road for future generations