Michael O’Brien was born in Ronan, Montana. His grandfather was an Irish immigrant who had married a Native American woman of Cherokee lineage in Oklahoma. Shortly after the marriage and to get away from the dust bowl the newly weds moved West to the Flathead reservation in Montana. Their only son, Patrick O’Brien, followed the family tradition and married one of the local beauties from the tribal school in St. Ignatius.
In due time Patrick and his wife also found a shanty and settled down in Ronan. In order to keep body and soul together he bought into to a truck-based business route selling bar snacks. Pickled eggs and sausages, pepperoni and mixed nuts were standard fare in bars and saloons without a meal menu or a kitchen. He would start on Monday driving west on what was then US Highway 99 from Missoula and stop in every town that had a bar. The western end of the route was Clayton, Washington just North of Deer Park on Highway 395. Getting back late Saturday night, he would spend Sunday evenings counting his inventory to figure out the week’s profit. Getting up early on Monday morning he would hit the road again. It wasn’t a glamorous business but it paid the rent with a little bit left over.
As the result and only beneficiary of this union, Michael O’Brien’s childhood was a serial mix of good and bad as might be expected for a quarter breed kid on the Flathead reservation.
When Michael graduated from High School with no chance for employment and no money for more education he enlisted in the Army. Home on leave after his first tour of duty in Iraq, his father took him to his favorite watering hole in Pablo for a beer. While celebrating his son’s safe return his father revealed that Michael had an older half sister somewhere in Washington State. He said the baby girl had been the product of one of his many overnight trips to Clayton on his bar snack route. He said he had paid for the birth but due to tribal differences and animosity hadn’t had any further contact. He said her given name was Edna. Michael told himself he needed to find this unknown sister. Writing Edna on a napkin he stuffed it in his back pocket.
After surviving his second tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan, Michael decided to not take any more chances. When he got a Good Conduct medal and an Honorable Discharge he headed for home. Looking for work was still a problem. His qualifications and experience consisted of how to wear a uniform and handle a weapon. When his unemployment finally ran out he decided to answer an ad in the weekly Ronan Times. The Lucky Seven Resort and Casino owned and operated by the Kalispell Tribe was hiring. The property was located in Airport Heights a suburb just west of Spokane, WA. Michael O’Brien got hired as a Uniformed Security Guard. His first assignment as a mobile perimeter guard included a civilian Humvee minus the armament. He promised himself that he would use his first free weekend to head for Clayton, WA to look for his half sister.
One of the fringe benefits of being employed at the Casino was working security for the main stage acts playing there on a seasonal basis. When Benny and the Banshees got there in October of Michael’s first year working the events, he was over the top with anticipation. Due to his childhood interest in Native Americanism tribal history he had followed their rapid rise to national attention in the wake of the grunge movement’s lava flow.
As the one and only Inland Empire’s Grunge Band the throwback Spokane Valley Native American garage/grunge group had achieved some notoriety. Their loud and proud shows featured Banshee screeching vocals, lead guitar work replaced by tribal flute, Irish Bagpipes for rhythm guitar and Tom-tom and rattles did the percussion work, all amplified. During the 90’s in an abortive attempt to rise once more they were popular for a couple of summer months at Powwows throughout the Northwest.
When the first Banshee show at Lucky Seven Casino was over, Michael O’Brien made sure he got one of their signature T-shirts with their logo on the front and back. Before returning to the road after one all-night rehearsal and a huge argument, the group had settled for a Native American swastika peace sign surround by a red white and blue circle for a logo.