It was the end of summer and in the next few weeks school was
starting. Some of the kids on the rez had to travel many miles away
to buy clothes for school. For some there was no money for such
There was this one Navajo woman, Chrissy's mother, and she lived a
couple of miles off the dirt road across a small arroyo (a canyon)
and lived amongst the cedars. Her man had left her some time ago for
the city lights and streets of Gallup, finding comfort in the taste
of Roma wine and Thunderbird.
She had two girls, Chrissy who was ten and Rowena, nine, who used to
play outside during the day and would help their mom chopping wood
for her and bringing in buckets of water. Their place was small but
warm and happy. Their mother had no work, but she could weave, and
there was loom with hand-spun wool sitting by it. The kids had
gathered the different plants with their mother over the summer and
she had showed them how to smash the small plants in boil a whole bag
full to make certain colors, warm browns, reds, and tans, and gray.
They watched as the men from the local area came to help shear the
sheep by hand, with sheep scissors and how Chrissy's mother cleaned
and washed the wool. There were big gunnysacks used to store them
away and worked on cleaning, carding and spinning the wool by hand
while sitting outside in the shade house, called a chaooh. As she did
Chrissy and her sister Rowena played around the small area of their
There was a corral and the sheep stayed there. The oldest girl and
her sister would take the sheep out everyday and knew all the small
mesas, and gullies and a long valley they would take the sheep up to
where they watered at s spring.
School was going to start soon and when they walked the four or so
miles to the trading post, the Chrissy looked at the posters on the
wall talking about registration for school, headstart and immunizations.
In one corner of the store was the post office really
just a cubbyhole with mail in it.
On the side of counter was a trashcan and she saw the trader's wife
throw a catalog away, an old Sears. She picked it up and took it home
carrying in a gunnysack they brought for food.
When Chrissy got home she stood it out and layer on the bed and
looked at all the pictures in there of new clothes, shoes, toys, and
toasters, and towels and many things they did not have.
She thought how would it be to have a shower way out here, to set up
a tub outside next to the house and have a shower curtain with brass
pipes to hold it up and there would be a room to wash in and throw
the big towels on the floor.
How would it be to have a big closet with all those shirts, pants and
sox of different colors. Chrissy marked the ones she wanted with an
X. She took a break every now and sneaked a spoonful of dry cocoa mix
from kitchen as a snack.
As school got nearer she realized there was not enough money to buy
any new clothes and her sister was going to get her old ones from
The missionaries from the different churches usually had clothes at
their churches but this year they did not go anywhere on Sundays
because it was too far. To get to church they had to take the sheep
out real early and bring them back in, get a dress on and then walk
the two miles to the dirt road and then walk to the small Indian
community where the churches were 8 miles away. They would walk
hoping someone would pick them up who was going that way.
One thing she couldn't understand was why people who went to
different churches didn't stop for them, but just drove past. Every
once in a while someone would stop and they would get a ride, but
sometimes they would go part way and then have to turn around and
walk back home. So they quit going. There were no church donated
clothes this year for them.
Chrissy just wondered about what they were going to wear, she needed
some shoes and was wearing thongs she got in Gallup last year. Her
tennis shoes were worn out. She had read a book about a how kids set
up lemonade stands to sell lemonade. She told her sister they were
going to sell lemonade by the road on Sunday's afternoons.
She found a box and searched everywhere for loose change, a few cents
here and there. When she went to the trading post, she asked the
trader's wife if she could sweep around the store, but she said no,
she didn't need any help.
She went outside and old Morris Natani, the mailman from Newcomb said
to her, "You can help me bring in the mail". He was a friendly old
man. He asked her why she trying to earn money.
Chrissy told him, "I have to buy lemonade to make a lemonade stand
so I can buy some school clothes".
He said, "Oh, I see..." She pointed back down the road to her place
and said, "We are going to put the lemonade stand by the bus stop way
up there". He looked that way and could see it.
The trader asked Chrissy how her mother was doing with the rug, she
had credit at the store as a down payment for the rug, and it was a
Two Gray Hills rug, with blocks and squares. It took a long time to
weave one of those, her mother would sit there all day and into the
night day after day weaving it one strand at a time. Chrissy said it
is more than halfway done. He said ok and gave her a candy, but she
traded it and her money for lemonade mix.
Old man Natani just watched this as it was going on looking up the
road at the place where the lemonade stand would go. He gave her a
ride in the mail truck, he was sort of the way people got back and
forth if they could see him, so they could ride to Newcomb and then
catch a ride to town.
Chrissy got home and put her lemonade away and brought empty plastic
jugs to the spring and filled them up carrying them back to the house
Sunday came, and she carried her water jugs to the dirt road and sat
there with her sister Rowena at the base of those two mesas some call
Two Gray Hills, and sat there with a sign that said lemonade 25 cents
a glass. It was early morning, and she waited for the first customers
to come up.
A family drove by, the Nez's and they stopped and asked her what she
was doing and when she told them they bought four cups. They said it
was first time they had seen a lemonade stand way out there at Two
Gray Hills. They were going to the chapter meeting, a community
meeting at Two Gray Hills. As she sat there she drew designs, rug
designs that she had seen done by her mother on notebook paper she
brought. She drew a bunch of designs.
Old Man Natani came by and said, "Let's go down to the chapter house
so you can have more people to sell to".
They left and went to the community building and she sat by the door
with her lemonade stand started to sell a few cups here and there.
The meeting was about the chapter getting a new water line in from
Toadlena, the work would have to be volunteer and many people were
there. Chrissy just sat there and drew her rug designs.
In the parking lot a car came with white people sitting in it with
California license plates and two kids with red hair got out and
walked over to her, while their parents were getting out. The parents
had red hair and were talking to some of the people gathered there.
She looked at them; it was unusual to see white people out here and
with red hair too. Their eyes were reddish brown. They asked her if
she was a real Indian girl, she looked at them and said,
"Do you want to buy some lemonade?"
They turned around and ran back to their parents who were coming over
with Old Man Natani. Their father had a kind face and said we will
buy four lemonades, and she fixed them up. They stood there and
watched her as she poured the lemonade from the gallon jugs into solo
paper cups. The father stood there and looked at her and saw the
notebook with pictures in it. He picked it up and turned the pages.
Chrissy hoped he would not take it with him.
Old man Natani, said, Chrissy's mother is a weaver, she makes Navajo
rugs with natural dyes, she is well known for her rugs. Since you are
looking for one you might want to talk with her.
The man with red hair asked her where her mother was and she said she
is at home. Can we go there he said to her, and she just looked at
She was going to say it was hard to get to, but Old man Natani said
it first. He said we will have to take you there. She didn't want to
go because she had lemonade still left but loaded up her stuff in Old
man Natani's truck and they all got in the back leaving the car at
the chapter house.
As they drove along the way, the kids talked to her about school,
where it was and they learned how far away it was. When they got to
the turn off, the road was really bumpy since they didn't have a car;
it was not used very much. The red headed family was surprised at how
far away it was. They were even more surprised to learn she walked
two miles one way to go to school each day.
When they got to the their place, her mother came out of the shade
house wondering who Old Man Natani had with him and if something had
happened to her girls. The family got out and Old man Natani said
they were looking to buy a rug, a genuine Two Gray Hills. Chrissy's
mother was embarrassed cuz she didn't have much to offer them, but
the went into the shade house to look at the rug on the loom. It was
three fourths done, and it was really nice, the design looked like
one of Chrissy's drawings. As the father talked with Chrissy's
mother, the children looked around and saw the catalog, and looked at
it seeing the X marks she had made by the girl's clothes. The
mother of the red head kids watched this as she said it was just some things
After some talking, the family that came went to the truck and talked
for a little bit, and then as Old man Natani helped Chrissy put away
here lemonade jugs, her mother asked her s she sold some. Chrissy's
mother was surprised to see she had six dollars in change from the
sale. She didn't tell her mother that she could have sold more, but
it was obvious why it did not happen, cuz the people came here with
They wanted the rug, and gave her mother a check, a down payment for
it so that she could pay her bill at the trading post and buy a few
Chrissy's mother was trying not to smile but it was there anyway. The
father turned to her and told her we are sorry we messed up your
lemonade sale today but I put a little something extra in this for
When they left, she wanted to see the check her mother got, and
wanted to know how much it was for. Her mother told her to get the
Sears catalog and they sat at the table with her sister Rowena and
she just smiled and laughed as she pulled out the order form and
filled it in with all the things Chrissy had put an X by and some
things for her sister and her mom too...rustywire