Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Jan. 6, 1960
January 6, 2010 | 2:00 pm
Story of Little Indian Boy's Broken Heart
(From the files of The Mirror News, Oct. 19, 1959.) The raging Angeles Forest fire claimed a second life today. Philip Chavez, 27, an Indian firefighter from Zuni, N.M., died in Glendale Sanitarium, where he was taken after being overcome by smoke on the fire line last night.
"My hobby," Danny Davey told me, "is saving the lives of Indians. Some people collect stamps. Some people make model airplanes. I try to save Indians.
"There's no gimmick to me," he added. "That's just what I do. I got the idea in World War II, when I was in South Pacific. I was in a real tough spot and I told God that if he'd save my life, I'd save other people's lives . . . "
Davey was calling from his home in Santa Ana.
"But that's just sort of to let you know what I do," he explained, "and how I happened to run into the wife of Philip Chavez.
"My friend, Pat Patterson, and I stopped in a little cafe in Gallup, New Mexico. We'd been delivering Christmas packages to the Hopis and the Navajos. This year we had 40 tons of gifts -- blankets, milk, wardrobe trunks, toys -- to deliver.
"It was two days after Christmas and I saw this sad Indian lady sitting across the counter from us so I started to talk to her . . .
"Well, when I started questioning her, she told me that her husband was one of the two Indians who were killed last October fighting the fire above La Canada. She works in Gallup now.
"Her trouble," Davey went on, "is with her son, who's three years old. The boy is dying. That's what the doctor tells her. And nobody can cure him. He just gets weaker and weaker."
Davey sighed. "The boy is dying from lonesomeness."
"From lonesomeness?" I said.
"That's what she said," he continued, "and I believe her. The boy has lost eight pounds since his father was killed.
"Then he gets excited. He saw his father leave to fight the fire in an airplane and he keeps expecting him to come back in one. Mrs. Chavez -- her first name is Ella -- keeps taking the boy to the doctor but nothing seems to help.
"On Christmas Day, she did what the doctor told her to. She took all her husband's pictures down and put them away where the boy couldn't see them. She hid everything that might remind him of his father.
"But even that," Davey added, "doesn't seem to help.
"I believe her story," he repeated. "She said the boy and his father were as close as any human beings could be. Other people in the cafe said it was true, too. That the little Indian boy was dying from a broken heart."
Something Might Help
I reminded Davey that the call was long distance, that he was spending a lot of money to tell me about it.
"That's all right," he answered. "I've got a regular job -- with United Parcel. I'll run up a bill a foot long if you'll write something that'll help."
"How," I said, "could I write something that'll help?"
"Well," he replied, "maybe some of the towns that the Indian firefighters saved from burning would do something for the little boy if they knew about it.
"Or," he added after a pause, "just by letting people know the suffering that's caused by these fires, maybe they'd be more careful."