"What he said made me think twice," says Louis. "I started looking at myself, and I said, 'This job in the mines can't be for me.' I knew that pretty soon people would be asking, 'How's Gary Louis?' and the answer would be, 'Gary who?' "
Louis was aware that Mills had been a Marine lieutenant when he ran in the Olympics. So last May, Gary presented himself front and center at the Albuquerque enlistment center. He says he responded well to the discipline and found he hadn't lost his speed either. During the last week of recruit training at Camp Pendleton, he set a camp record for running three miles in combat boots.
"I've thought a lot about why Indian athletes don't go on," he says. "There's Jim Thorpe and Billy Mills, period. Indians make a name for themselves in high school and the next thing you know they're pumping gas. I joined the Marines to start all over again. Right now I'm hoping and praying to stay serious about running and shoot for the 1984 Olympics."
And indeed, Louis may have the most auspicious prospects among a group of runners whose futures don't always include even hopes and prayers. "I know I never worked very hard in high school," he says, "and I still came out the top contender. But I don't like to get my hopes up too high. In a race, some people always seem to know I'm going to win. I'm the one who doubts that."