Saturday, September 2, 2017

Chrissy's Lemonade

Chrissy’s Lemonade
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
things.

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
home.

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
last year.

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
for lemonade.

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,
"Yes".

"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
him.

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
she liked.

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
her.

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
things.

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
you.

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

Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes
There is a woman, she is from up North, she
speaks in the lilting way of those from Rocky
Boy, Fort Peck, Standing Rock. I am not sure what
she is maybe Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa, Cree
maybe...she told me once but I have forgotten...
when she talks her voice is like crushed velvet,
soft and inviting and her laughter falls like
heavy rain soaking your every pore...it sounds as
it comes from the soul...

I have known her for sometime...when she was a
youngster...then a teenager and then a bright
young woman...I know her mother and sometimes I
wonder about her father...

She talks about him how he took care of her,
protected her and spoke to her about the way she
should live... he passed away a couple of years
ago...alone. Her mother having left him years
ago...her mother once said she married him
because she wanted a powerful man in her
life...but he beat her and she got tired of it
and left him after many years...

This young lady has long black hair and eyes that
shine even at nite and they smile when she speaks
to you. I see her every now and then...

I went with her on a trip where we talked about
the things of work and day to day living...

She dances, women's traditional at pow wows
dressed in white buckskin and she moves like a
branch in the wind...softly and with a step that
has been learned from hours of practice....she
has two boys and they are her life...they make
her complete...

She works hard everyday and cares for her
children and is married to gruff young man and
sometimes I wondered how they got together but it
is not my place to ask why...but she is....she
loves him..

He goes about and checks on her every day...where
is she...what is she doing...who did she go
with....he says.....sometimes he drops by and
visits her...bringing gifts and presents...and
sometimes stays for hours....

I saw her the other day like I have in days
past...in town getting out of the truck...she
moved ever so slowly...her body aching it looked
like...and sometimes she comes in and her bright
eyes covered by dark glasses hiding the light
from her blue eyes...

Sometimes there is a limp in her walk...and she
moves gingerly...taking the day slow and smiles
and talks...she has the gift of talking about
anything and everything...oh, I fell she
says....and there under her arm are the dark
lines of fingers....some never will go away they
stay for months...they tell their own story...

She is here today...and yet she has been gone for
many days...twisted her shoulder...falling from a
horse...but she will dance traditional for July
4th...

He brought her new buckskin leggings...she showed
them to all...

She is a natural beauty...tall and fair...with
long black hair and dark brown eyes and a soul
that shines on her children...they are everything
to her.... She has a smile that is radiant..but
it seems her eye brows are sometimes
swollen....retaining water she says...and yet I
can hear her father...just as she would say... he
was a tall large man...from Northern Montana...he
always treated her well...and took care of her...
if he were here he would take care of me she
would say and nothing more...and she talks about
him so....

She loves this man she married and the other day I
asked her why...she looked at me closely...I
looked into her eyes and in there spoke to the
person inside.....you are young and have a long
life ahead of you...maybe you should get rid of
him...and she was quiet...and then said...

I am going to dance at the pow wow this week
end...and I will wear these new buckskin
leggings...and look at the beadwork...it is so
nice...and looking at her I could see that under
her dark glasses she had blue eyes...so her life
goes on...time after time...day after day...and
though the world waits at the edge of the dance
arena she will dance in the way she has lived and
it will go on....and on...

Somewhere in her soul...she lives free...and it
is a place...where she goes to her little world
but her children can't get there....they see it
all...she is there just a little ways
away...smiling and laughing with her blue
eyes...and there is nothing else to say ...

She has blue eyes... rustywire

Native Born

Native Born
There was a small white envelope waiting for me when I got home,
it reminded me of some work I had done two years ago on some land
matters that ended up in federal court. It was a subpeona, it said be here
at this time and don't be late or else bad things will happen to you. So I
went, it was a long day, not that day but the day before trying to catch
up on some things, so I worked late till 4 in the morning, went to get
some sleep for couple of hours and got up real late...what did the paper
say....8 and don't be late, well it was about 9 when I got there.

The federal court building is a magnificent granite ediface, marble and
granite, the court room was all mahogany, quiet and stately.

I sat there waiting while the preliminaries were done and it is one of those
cases that is going to go a couple of days...those lawyer types dressed
in pristine white shirts, and black suits waved me over...we will probably
need you tomorrow they said...but since you are a witness you will
have to wait just outside, don't wander off we might need you, so don't go
anywhere. I wentoutside and stood in the hallway. It was a large hallway
white marble walls, cold and quiet.

A couple of people from the tribe were there, it involves them and the
work I did for them...I stood there with them, all dressed to kill with
white starched shirts, a blue tie for me and a suit, one that I like that fits
comfortable and so I stood there with them. We talked about fishing, and
a little about the snow of late. Them two from the tribe dressed just as I,
holding up those white marble walls....

The hallway began to fill little by little people of different shapes, colors,
from nations like Iran, China, Sweden, Thailand, Mexico and a lot more,
just down the hall. I walked down there and saw a sign, a paper on a door.
It said, Citizenship ceremony at 1:00, assemble here.

We stood there and watched them as people kept coming slowly, with
children, grandmas, an Hassidic Jew with a feathered hat, an Indian woman
in a sarong, Iranian women wrapped head to toe. The went into the room and
spilled out into the hallway.

The court room where we were in, was off to the side, the lawyers inside
took a break, one of the ones for the government came over and stood with
us three natives in the center of the hallway. I had heard he was Native but
not for sure so I sort of asked him from where he came, he told me he was
Seneca Cayuga and spoke to us of his people. There were just us four Natives
standing there, quietly talking and looking down the hall at all those people just
over there.

It is a naturalization ceremony, they are to be sworn in as citizens. We all
looked at each other, and without saying a word walked over to the door and
joined the masses standing there...these people from all over the world....
wanting to be American.

I am not sure who said it, but one of us did. Maybe we should join them
and get sworn in. We all started to laugh. The people there looked at us,
those four making noise...wondering what country we were from...we
looked at them closely and wondered how it would be...so the break was
over the case resumed....

I stood there for a minute and watched those waiting to become American
and they looked at me.....I thought about it and after being told they did
not need me to testify until tomorrow I wandered over there into that
room and stood there and watched them, 90 there were all together....they
raised their hand and swore to be American. It felt strange to stand there
and listen to them, a Native American out of place. I stood next to a man
from India, he asked me, Where are you from? I told him, I am born for
Bitahni, the Folded Arms People, and that my father is Tsinalbiiltnii, the
Mountain People, that I come from Dinetah, and some would say I was
Navajo, a Native American...he looked at me and we just smiled at each
other....he said are you here with someone...no I said just taking a look
around...he said you come from a great country...and walked away....

I stood there and thought, I guess I am an American and after listening to
those folks talk about where why we are here. I am tired, I have put in a
long day, and sleep won't find me quite yet. I have been thinking about
some things and one of them is that sometimes I get restless, I am not
sure why. I find that I want to go home sometimes, to the reservation, and
to stay there, but in reality I know that I can't do that.

It is kind of funny I was in the room watching a ceremony celebrating
citizenship and yet I felt I did not have a place there, they were doing
something I never had to go through and no where were native people
and that once this was all our land mentioned. But then they made a journey
to come to a new land, and it was a hard one for them, having come
from far off with a dream and having overcome difficulties to get to this
time and place...it made me think I guess I am glad I am an American,
and a Native....then I left to find me a burger and a Coke.....rustywire

The Field

The Field

In Toadlena, the place where I come from, there is a field not too far
off from the house; it isn't exactly all green in color and it really isn't
flat, but it is just a little ways off… just across the wash.

There were two horses, Smoky was a smoke gray horse we had. He sure was
feisty if you didn't handle him right, like when we rode him to the
trading post he would get spooked and the next thing you knew he took off.
He used to take off at a full gallop and then next thing you knew were going
pass the trading post hanging on for dear life with my sister hanging onto my
pants trying not to fall off. The old folks waiting for the mail outside on
the steps would just laugh. That was the kind of horse we had.

We also had a Blackie, a big black stallion, but gentle and easy going.
We used to ride him bareback and he was a good horse, but sure was slow.
Going to get the mail took all day cuz he would sort of just eat his way to
the trading post from home, going from plant to plant. When we finally got
there he liked to stand by himself. We did not have to tie him up, he just
stood there and waited for us by the door. I used to look at him standing
there and he would always be looking at the old barn next to the trading post,
it was the trader's. The old trader had a few bales of hay there to sell and you
could see the  loose bales laying on the ground. Old Blackie used to stand
there and look that way. He was sort of old and the fence was too high.
Everyone once in a while we used to sneak over there and grab a handful
of hay and give it him. Anyway, these two horses used to be in a small corral
not too far from the house.

My dad and grandpa used to use those old time yokes and use a plow you
steered by hand. The field was across the wash and you see that wash is
pretty steep. There is nice stream at the bottom which always had water in it
and there was pond right there. We had put some good flat rocks across the
stream so you could walk across to the other side. The trail to the field was
well worn. I liked it and didn't like it at the same time. It was nice to
walk in that pond, but usually we had to get water in buckets to carry to the
field to water the plants there.

That old plow was used to make rows for planting and with corn we used
to stand behind my dad and follow him with a bag with a few kernels in our
hand. We would plant them in the side of the furrow and had to be sure we
didn't bury them too deep or too shallow. When you are small it takes a
couple of years to get the hang of it, but you finally learn. When you do this
you can see the trees growing at the edge of the field and you learn how
every bush, every plant looks, because you stand there all day. At midday
we would go home and eat and it was pretty good.

My dad used to tell my aunts to help, so they could get an equal share
of the corn on e it was all grown, but we usually didn't see them around
when it was planting time. I can see still my father with the horse reigns
around his neck making the rows, doing that takes a lot of time, but somehow
it got done.

The pond at the bottom of the wash had two old buckets by it and we would
have to take those buckets and dip them in the water and carry them up to
the field. We used to pour two buckets of water on each each plant. When
you are small you think about the steps you take to carry the water, I
remember it took about 300 steps to get the the field, I still remember each one.

My foot prints are still there somewhere. That is what you call dry farming,
when you had to water each plant twice a week. It was something we all did,
everyone in the family.

My sister during this time of the year sure liked going to the Christian
Reformed Church for bible learning during this time every year, but
after the growing season was over she wouldn't go anywhere but stay home.
I kind of  think she did that so she wouldn't have to carry water.

One of the things that is good about it is you see those corn stalks
grown and just before it is time to pick the corn, my dad used to take us out
there and cut off a stalk at the root level and open it up for us. We used to
chew on this part and it was sweet, like sugar cane. It sure was good.

My Grandma (Shimasani') and Mom (Shima') used to go out and gather the
corn pollen dusting eat plant top, I can still she the deerskin pouches they
would carry and how they were all yellow colored inside. I remember my
grandmother, putting corn pollen on my head and on my tongue and
blessing me. It is called Hozhogo Nahasdlii', the Navajo Blessing Way,
a prayer that you can Walk in Beauty all the rest of your days. My mother
used to do the same with us kids. That pollen came from our field, our work
and was a part of our life. I still have those pouches and they are still yellow.
It is our way of life even now that I am far from home. This is what I remember
about that field just across the wash not too far, just over there. I can see it from
here, yes that is it, in Toadlena, where the mountain is cracked and the
water flows from there....rustywire

Boarding School on a Winter Night

Boarding School on a Winter Night
It is snowing outside, it reminds me of a night long ago. It was this
time of year….

The Indian Club used to meet in the boarding school dining room. The
girl's dorm was on the west side and the boy's dorm was to the North.
Flag Bordertown dorm, these buildings were light blue green in color
and stood in the forest, the tall pine trees hanging their shaggy limbs
and the crystal snow falling in clumps to the ground, showering those
who walked between the buildings with wind blown snow that would make
you catch your breath from the cold.

It is evening, and the lights are on and but the whole scene is blue
and there is no night, but reflected light of white of the snow. In
the midst of this quietness there is a sound coming from the dining
room, the chairs and tables moved out of the way and in the window. I
find myself walking from my wing where I stay on the boy's side down to
the dining room. The air is clean, fresh and I can feel it as I
breathe. I find myself on the walkway going down the hill to the dining
room, I can hear the sound of a drum beating and the sound of one of
the dorm attendants, who heads the Indian club.

In the large windows I can see the movement of Navajo boys and girls
swaying back and forth dancing to his voice. They are dressed in fine
clothes, satins, velvet, silver and moccasins. As I step into the room,
I see the other kids standing on the edges of the room watching those
ten or so that are out there dancing. They are getting ready for the
annual Christmas program and are making their final run before their
performance tomorrow. I see them, those with names like Keems, Sloan,
Acothley, Whitehat, Tom, Benally, Hoskie from places like Gray
Mountain, Skeleton Mesa, the Gap, Leupp, Selba Delkai, Coppermine,
Kaibeto and Shonto. As they move about they shine in a way that is far
removed from these four walls, from this school on the edge of town.
They are lifted from here to the mesas, flat lands and cedars of home.

In time, they have learned at the hands of this man who is singing and
they move about with grace and unity. Their steps together moving
satin dresses rustling in gold, green, blue and red, with velveteen
shirts and a shawl. The young men are dressed in white pants with red
velveteen shirts and they are all adorned with concho belts, turquoise
beads and silver. The light catches their movement and they float on
the words of a song. I find myself standing just inside the door, and
the room is quiet, as those of us far from home in boarding school see
how these our friends dance. I miss home and think about my parents and
the old folks and long summer days where I stood with the sheep and
quietly I find myself at peace. These kids, are all like me, so far
from home, and as I watch them dance I find some happiness in the song
and movement. As I look about the room there are many here and we seem
to be thinking all the same thing. It feels good to be here, to know
that this is a part of me, that I am Navajo and these words come and
take me home. It is good to be who I am and as I watch this song come
to an end. Sometimes boarding school was not so good but other times I
remember that some things we shared were good and helped us remember
who we are and this was one of those times....it was just Indian Club
on a boarding school on a cold winter night. rustywire

Turkey Day

Turkey Day

The sound of silversmiths working in a sweatshop making Indian jewelry
brought together young kids from different reservations. Each day was
filled with work turning out rings, bracelets, squash blossoms and
more. They worked together singing Indian songs from their work
benches, and during breaks played basketball outside. As time went by
shared more than their time there but also when the day was done, time
with one another.

When you are far from home, a long ways from the rez, you seek out
others like you, it doesn't matter their tribe, just that they are
natives and share a kinship in the way they were raised and like many
people like to laugh and play ball together.

Three of them were newly married less than a year and lived not too far
from one another. Turkey day was coming and so decided to get together
to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was small affair, just the three couples;
they were a mixed up group, far from their own reservations. In the
midst of them were an Omaha, a Hopi, Ute, Navajo and Sioux all far from
home married less than a year. Their apartments were small in this
college town and so they decided to have their first Thanksgiving
together.

David and Gretchen were just married that summer, she was a little
taller than he was, she stood 5'10" and he was 5'8". It was the time of
clogs; those shoes that had thick soles; some were an inch others grew
to 8 inches or so. David worked the silver and Gretchen buffed the
jewelry. When they came to work, she was taller, but one day he walked
in and stood nest to her and they were the same height. Looking down he
had on those cloggy shoes, an inch or two added. A few days later
Gretchen came in and she had on the same size shoes. On the following
payday, David was seen walking around with shoes that were three inches
high and so he stood taller than she did. Well, Gretchen came in with
shoes that made her taller still.

A week later, the boss came in and wondered why all the silversmiths
were standing not too far from the door to the shop. He was told we are
just waiting for a little bit for David and Gretchen. They came in and
stood there, their shoes had soles 6-inch soles. They had stilts on,
and had a hard time walking. There were thirty of us there and we all
laughed and they did not say a thing but went to work. It was the Sioux
girl, Gretchen who got to cook the turkey for us.

Curtis and Maxine had just had a little girl, Marie. Curtis was easy
going he came from Macy, Nebraska, Omaha country and his wife was from
Second Mesa. He was a good silversmith, his work was clean and he neat.
I learned a lot about patience from him. He never got mad but took any
problems out on the basketball court, he was quick and agile and a good
ball player. We spent a lot of lunches outside playing ball with the
chintzy hoop we used. There is a lot to be said for Indian basketball,
it is a game that tests skill, stamina, endurance, teamwork and is
having a good time. All the things that seem to bother you float away
in the wind when you play ball and life in the city is bearable
afterwards. Sometimes the group would get together and sing, Bobo, a
Crow brought a base drum and we learned to make drumsticks and sing
those old pow wow songs and every once in a while a 49er to stir things
up.

My first born was on the way and so when Turkey day came my wife, Merl
was in the hospital my son born the day before, so I made the salad and
told Curtis when I got downstairs that Merl was at the hospital, but he
already knew, Maxine had already visited her there seeing the baby boy
we had. I went in and we waited for David and it got toward noon. They
finally got there and we were hungry. The table was ready, and
everything was layed out. Gretchen brought in the turkey and set it
down. Maxine helped her and got a knife to carve it. It looked really
good, the juices were just on the skin, it made it look moist and you
could smell it. Ah, nothing like turkey at Thanksgiving.
She put it on the table and we said a simple prayer and then Curtis cut
the turkey. He reached over and picked up the knife and began to cut it
like they show in Betty Crocker's CookBook along the bottom of the
breast. He was having a hard time, it wouldn't cut. He tried to cut it
but it wouldn't cut. He looked at Gretchen, who sat there quietly
watching him. He peeled the skin back and said, I think this bird is
still frozen. Gretchen said I put it in the oven three hours ago and it
should be done. Maxine said, did you thaw it out last night all the
way? Gretchen said, I didn't know you had to do that. Being so far from
home and not having really cooked before she was still learning. We
laughed a good one and she started to cry, but we told her it was ok.

We called all over town and found one restaurant that was open and so
we had chicken for Thanksgiving, but it was good one and when we see
each other every once in a while we laugh about it. This was our turkey
day.

Melvin from Hooshtah

Melvin Comes from Hooshtah...Rabbit Brush

Got to thinking about a friend of mine, if he would let me say that
about him. He is an easy going kind of guy and I run into him every
once in a while. I am not sure what tribe he is, his mother is from Fort Defiance
and his father is from somewhere up North. I really never thought to ask
him, but I know he might be Shoshone, or Cheyenne, maybe
even Crow. I just know he is an Indian. His hair is kind of going gray
and his face is wrinkled but there is always a friendly way about him.

When I see him he always has a kind word and I mean every time I hear
from him. Sometimes I ask him if he needs a ride here or there and he
tells me, "No  I got to keep these legs moving or they get stiff." He rarely
accepts a ride, except when it is really cold outside.

He took me to his place, a one room affair in one of those motels along the
Old Highway 66 in Gallup. He likes it not having much, but he is always on
the move. He showed me pictures thumbtacked to the wall. They show a young
man, strong, straight back and dressed in Army green. There are few
other pictures of his unit and group picture of his Army buddies.

He told me casually that he is the only one left. He never really talks about
his time there, he is a Vietnam vet. I think that it is that way with many
Indian folks who went.

He showed me a newaletter he gets and from time to time I see him in
camo green at the pow wows around. He carries the flag and to him he
stands just like he did in the pictures I saw. He doesn't say much, he is a
quiet man. He wanders around during the day, taking odd jobs here and
there. He likes it that way. Sometimes in the evening when I am in town
I see him on the street, standing with a group of skins joking and
laughing.

When he sees me he comes over talks with me, he has face that is rough
looking but has an easy smile. It is that way with us. I have never seen him
brag, or talk about his service time and he doesn't really want to. It was
just something that happened and is a part of life and so he went. He goes
about life quietly, even now and finds the best part of each day, it is like
he holds a secret and those around can not touch him.

He spends a lot of time on the streets mixing with those that are
there. To look at him you wouldn't know it that he was Army Airborne,
served two tours in Vietnam, was wounded and came home to live a life
without fanfare.

We seem to share a kinship and it ok with us. I suspect that maybe by chance
he will take a moment to reflect on his time there. He is just Melvin, Army
Airborne. I suspect he has a family somewhere who may think about him.
He is doing fine, he is o.k., he may drink a little too much once in a while
but his heart is good and I guess that is about the best you can say about a
man. We know a little about each other, he is friend of mine. I sometimes
worry about him being alone but he seems to prefer that life, no attachments
and just lives day to day. Sometimes I think it is hard but then again, he said
to me I shouldn't be here I got lucky so I take one day at a time and see what
the next dawn will bring. I asked him about where came from Hooshtah
Rabbit Brush and he said that is where I was raised he turned and looked
over his shoulder remember that place and then said, that was a long time
ago and everyone has gone that I knew there...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Those Kids Who Wander Around...

Sometime ago there was boy who used to ride is old bike all over the place and I used to see him every once in a while, it was the places that I saw him that surprised me.....we would go to Farmington to the movie and he would be there on his bike, and he would go to Shiprock and he would be at the store there...he would ride that bike through the rain, wind and go for miles just to go somewhere.
I used to talk to him and he was bright, a smart kid and he was never with anyone. I asked him how he got to town and he would just shake his head and shrug his shoulders never answering.
After a while I would see his mother and asked her if he could stay with us since they lived way out in the sticks and she said no. She is a distant relation who I never saw with her son, he just kind of wandered around on his own staying with his grandfather who was an old man. I saw his mother again and told her that her son was a pretty smart kid and sometimes he stays over to our place, it seemed like a lot of times.
He was an easy going kid with a nice smile and each time I tried to take him and rasie him, his mother resisted. After a while I let it go...I ran into him the other day and we talked for while and he told me when he was small no one wanted him. He is full grown. I told him I wanted him to be my son but his mother said no. He told me you should have tried harder.
We sat for a long while and he grew up alone making IT to Portland and ended up on the streets there and had a hard time. He told me his mother did not want him but wanted his social security and thought that was what we wanted it. I told him that I explained to her that I would raise you as my own with any support from her or any money so I was not interested in any money but I did not know what the situation was.
He told me he had a hard life. He is a truck driver now driving between Arizona and North Dakota and has three kids. I said I know you are doing well now and are a good father. There are some things I regret and one of them is not being able to raise him as my own son. He looked at me and said, I thought no one wanted me. I said that is not true. You will always have a place here I told him. He was needing to talk to someone and we talked for some time and then he left. I can still see him riding that bike on them reservation roads as a kid, he rode a long ways to make a life for himself.
Later on in the day my grandson asked me to pick him at school and so I did and he had a girl with him, I didn't know her but he told me her name was Joe. I said that is a crazy name for girl, he didn't say much after that.
When i got home that night I thought about this girl and just before bed i asked him about her. He said to me in passing...she is my sister. That took me by surprise when he said that, he said his father has other children and she is one of them. I know his father by name but have nothing to do with him as he has never been around and never provided anything for my grandson, he is a stranger to me. I
learned that my cousin had a daughter and she had a child for this guy and Joe is her daughter so she is related to us distantly and yet I didn't know her and that is why I wrote that I am think I know everything and sometimes find out something I should have known a long time ago Anyway my grandson told me Joe has lived in seven foster homes as she has grown up and he said she needs a place to stay. Well we talked about last night and it looks like we have a new member of our family joining us...I will not make the same mistake I made a long time ago and let a child go on their own again...so that is what is on my mind today...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hashtlish-Mud…

Hashtlish-Mud…

Haschtlish is a Navajo word, which means mud…it is also one of the groups of the original Navajo people we call clans who settled Dinetah-Navajoland, it tells us who are our relations Navajo groups through kinship that are related by birth through the eons of time as our people disbursed and settled over a large area in the Southwest. This clan relationship ties Navajos together so they know their relatives and distant relations, as we are all connected. We use to describe where we come from by birth, our origin as it were and identifies us as a people from a certain place and time.
We tell our children this so they will know their relationships to other of our people when they first meet, it is a form of introduction and so they know instantly distant relatives at their first meeting.

Now days when people talk of the Mud people it is seen as derogatory, a name for people with a shade of brown in their skin coloring, and yet for Navajos it is a part of us, as we use the names of striped rocks, colors and colorings of animals to describe where we come from in ancient times, so it is not a bad thing at all.

My grand daughter goes to school in a predominantly non indian community which is a mixture of checkerboard lands, indian and non indian scattered in 40 acre parcels across the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah. She attends a school within the boundaries of the reservation which is adjacent to the reservation headquarters, actually a stone throw away from the tribal offices there. The Utes are a minority in Utah with just 5000 souls if you count every single one of them and the rest of the area is predominantly non Indian in nature…in Navajo we refer to them as Beligaanas, in Ute they call them Americuchu and there are 40,000 of them there so they outnumber the natives by quite a bit.

By chance or by design take your pick, the native kids attend one school in the area that sits on the hill above the reservation community, so at this school the native kids outnumber the non indian kids by quite a bit. All the kids get along pretty good, but with this last election, Trump carried Utah by a wide margin, the natives for the most part did not vote for Trump so when he won it sent a shock wave through both communities and this was felt by everyone even the kids that go to school there.

My grand daughter got to school early to get breakfast as most kids eat before classes start, so when you come in the building you pass by the principals office and go onto the lunch room, this one morning there was a chair sitting out by the school office door and on it sat a red baseball hat…a Trump hat with the slogan Make America Great Again, no one was sitting around it or by it..it was in plain sight and everyone gave it a wide berth as they passed it to go eat. As the school day started the hat stayed where it was and no one removed it…some kids talked about throwing it in the trash but others primarily the non indian kids said it is hat of the newly elected president so it should stay where it was…in any case no one, no adult, no teacher, no school official or the principal removed the hat. The school staff is primarily non Indian and since no one removed the hat some kids thought maybe it was because the school staff had voted for Trump.

As the school day started it was as if something had come over the school and kids in each classroom it seems had to choose a side, those that were for removing the hat and those that wanted it to stay, this division was evident as it was along racial lines. Indian sided with Indians and White kids with White kids, and the seating in each class ended up with Indian kids sitting with Indian students and White kids with or by other White kids, a division occurred and it stayed this way all day as the Trump hat sat on the chair all day.

When lunch came the kids went to eat in the cafeteria and again Indian kids chose to sit with Indian kids and White kids with their own kind, since the native kids outnumbered the non Indian kids, the non natives sat around two tables and they ate that way with each group watching eat other. Normally the kids sit anywhere they want to but on this day they sat divided. When it came time to go to recess for lunch they went out side to the playing fields and again the groups were divided by race, with each group looking at each other murmuring.

One side of the other got to talking and they said things to each other like we should stick with our own kind, and that one side was better than the other, some of the people in each group were saying things like only Indians can come over here, and the other side said only Cowboys can play on this side. That is how it was when it started to rain, a slow drizzle and the kids sat in the rain and watched each other and pools of water formed and it got muddy. The white kids stood by the slide out of the mud and native kids were in it, someone called the natives mud people, and some kids said we are mud people because we are close to the land it is our land t and so it went some harsh words were exchanged and each side had its own area.

Some of the older kids could see what was happening and went to the teachers and some of the teachers said there was no problem and so some kids with cell phones called home and told their parents there was going to be trouble with the school because of the Trump hat. Some parents of the native kids decided to come to the school to see what was going on and left for the school. As this was going on, there was this one kid by the name of Homer.

Homer came in late, he came to school after lunch while everyone was at recess and he went to the playing field to go play; by chance Homer is not a native but a kid with reddish blonde hair whose parents work at the local gas station part time and they lived in a little trailer house surrounded by the indian community, so Homer had been raised there with the native kids. He grew up with them and was poor like them. When he got to the field the kids were divided, the non Indian kids were by the playground equipment and the native kids were playing on the open field near the mud.

Homer stood there and was wondering where he should go and one older native girl who knew Homer well since she had been invited to his birthday party not so long before all this happened called him over to the native kids and so he looked at both groups and went over to the native kids who were standing there and they said to him Homer you are now a member of the tribe.

Among those kids were actually several tribal groups, some Ute, some Navajo, some Pueblo, some Shoshone, some Arapaho and some Paiute, actually all kinds of Indians or parts of different native peoples. The girl who called him over was part Navajo and Ute and she said we have to adopt this child as a member of our tribe.

A tribe the kids formed among themselves on that playground in the rain, and so the native kids gathered around and said yes we have to make him an official part of us, and so they went to a mud puddle nearby and the girl reached down and took a handful of mud and told Homer to kneel down, he looked at the kids around him and knelt down, when he did that the girl raised her hand to the sky and said we who have made our own tribe of Indians here on this field do hereby adopt and name Homer a member of our tribe and so they rubbed mud on his forehead, and each native kid did the same and then they said we have to name him an Indian name so that he is known by that name from here on out.

One kid called out, let us name him White Belly and the kids laughed and said no that is not a good name and so someone else said let us call him Little Corn and the group said yes that is a good name for him and so they told him you are now known as Little Corn and he was named. Just then the school bell rang and recess was over and the kids ran inside to class.

That is how Homer became Little Corn on that playing field on checkerboard Indian lands by a group of native students.

There is a little more to the story as some parents showed up at the school some for Trump and some against and when school let out the kids went out to the parking lot where they were met by BIA police officers who were there just in case there was trouble by some of the parents but there was none, the hat was gone by then…it had disappeared….so it happened it happened that way when a red had appeared on school grounds that said Make America Great Again….this is the way it happened in so many words on day when a new tribe was formed to adopt an outsider into the indian community but in reality he had grown up with these kids and knew all of the from the first day of head start years ago…rustywire
I can hear the music now,

The strings of a violin start slowly.
I hear the words...
"Guys come to you
with lines that aren't true
and you pass them by..."

I am standing in our old wooden house
I have just finished washing my face and hands from the wash basin.
My hair is combed.

I wear a simple shirt and clean blue levis.
A mirror hangs on the wall above the wash basin.
I think I look pretty good for a rez boy from this out of the way place.
KWYK radio out of Farmington is playing on the transistor radio...
"I don't wear a diamond ring...

I don't even know a song to sing...."
I am in our old house.
I close my eyes
and dance slowly around the wooden floor
and out past the screen door.

The old sheep dog laying by the door
watches me coolly
as I dance across the yard,
jump the fence,
and head through the juniper trees.

"Let me try,
I don't even wear a diamond ring...
la,la, la, loving you...."

She is back from the Mormon placement program,
a black long haired beauty
getting off the bus from Brigham City.
She lives down the road.

She is fair,
and I know she is from around here.
Mmmm, time to get to know this one
What is her name?

"Listen to me....
la la la la loving you....
come on and take my hand...."

We get to know each other from checking the mail.
She walks up to the trading post for her parents
and I just happen to be standing there each time she comes up.

We start to talk.
She is here just for the summer.
I am a plain rez boy,
I help her family with hauling hay and water.
Her mother invites me to eat with them.

"You will see the things I said are true....
the way I am saying them to you...
listen to me...
la..la..la..la..la..loving you."

Their place is simple.
They have no electricity or running water.
Some would call them poor,
but we are all that way.
I have nothing to offer but myself.
I know where she comes from.

I know I am not like the white boys she knows from Utah.
She is a Navajo Girl.
She gives me life
and brings some things I had never known
to this out of the way place.
Her roots are in this land,
Her home is a hogan and sagebrush,
and though she tries to forget it,
in time these things always return,
and she is mine...

"All I know these things are true....
I love you...
I never saw a girl I needed in this world...
you are the one for me,
let me hold you in my arms..."

We stand next to each other,
and with a knowing look, she comes close to me.
There is an aura about her,
and I am a part of it.

We stand there on a dusty plain,
in sand,
sagebrush moving softly in the breeze,
and dance to this song:

"la..la..la..la..la..loving you"
There is nothing like it.
She is my everything,
taking my breath and life and my heart forever.
The song ends.

I am driving down the highway.
My mirror shows my face a little older.
I go on down the road,
wishing her well where ever she may be.
rustywire

Navajo Wedding Basket

My granddaughter asked me about what is going on with the things that are going on in the world today...there is talk about racism, war and hatred and she asked what about us, where do we fit in all this?

I thought about her question and saw the Navajo Wedding Basket on the wall and went over and took it down. I then sat on the floor and held the basket.and told her when this basket was made some women went out toward Blue Mountain...not too far from Shush Bi Jah....Bears Ears and went up into the high country looking for a certain kind of plant. The kind they use to make this basket. 

They had to pick it by hand, looking for each plant, walking a long long ways. The woman who made this her name was NakaiDineh. She told me that these kind of plants are harder to find now days so they have to go a long ways. They walked and walked taking some water and slowly one by one they gathered the plants they needed.

When you go to these high places you get tired and get a chance to rest and you get to see how large are country is, Dinetah, the place where we live. In this place they were looking at from horizon to horizon sits our home, you were there somewhere in it but you didn't know it. Their hard work was a blessing to you, because they were going to make this basket, strand by strand, starting from the center.  Here is the center of the basket, the beginning of life, just like how you started out, Can you feel the center? That is your beginning

It is like life. We all start from someplace and grow and all those around you want the best for you, your family, your mother, your father, your cousins and all your relations. We are all like that, we want the best for our children. They want you to have a good and happy life. So as they wove this basket strand by strand they looked for the strong plants, the tough ones and they are like people who are strong and tough who want good things for you. 

These people come and go and you want to be around those kind When you are small that is what we want for you to have, to know good people and these relations, friends and people in the community are the best people we know of, they are all around us...and so your life is woven into their life day by day, hour by hour and in this way as you keep that circle tight you get the best of life, of good thoughts...Hozhoji the Beautyway it is all around us.

There are times when things get dark and difficult...just like when the night is so thick you can not see anything but you know that daylight is coming. The dawn will find you so as you grew up all the people that matter to you are close to you. You know them by name You can trace their life here in this basket.

This basket is so well made it will hold water what we need for life.  So those things that matter to you are close. Many things will come to you that are not good. You have to avoid them. You have to step carefully where you go and sometimes it seems that all is lost but if you stick to what you have learne seeking goodness and light you will find your way.  In this way you have to be strong that is why Indian people have strong names in the native way….you a strong Navajo name. It is because you are part warrior girl. Your father is not around, where he is i don't know and sometimes this gets you down but the rest of us are around you and we have woven ourselves into your life just like this basket. 

You have been given a certain gift as a young Navajo girl and someday you will have children and you will want them to have the best in life so you will have to continue on and make it so.. This basket celebrates life it also represents your woman hood.

The red is for woman because they will endure hardship from child birth and some difficult times. It is a part of life..This is one of those times. What happens out there in the world is not always easy to understand but what you know is that we have to be kind to one another, to love and support each other, to go on together. Our people have endured much, suffered much and we will go on and you will too.

Don't let what happens affect you. Listen to what is in your heart, your soul and in your blood because we have survived. We go one through you. So remember you come from a strong people. When we put the basket on the shelf it is to help us remember these things. That is why good people you meet and get to know will weave themselves into your life time and time again. You want those kind of people around you, avoid the other kind. They represent strife and hardship. Look for the best and go for it. Make it a part of your life. Rustywire
Out On Navajo Mountain

Old Man Bedonie from Navajo Mountain stood there. He was an older man with a square chin and a speckled gray beard. His hair was still as black as coal and he looked North toward Utah and thought of his grandchildren.

His son had married one of those Beligana girls from Salt Lake and his son had said they were going to be married forever. They had five kids and of all his children he never had to worry about him. they always seemed be doing well. The kids came to spend time on Navajo Mountain with them when they were small, running around the place, chasing after the sheep finding out what a summer sing was and having to have to cut and haul wood. They learned to grow corn through dry farming and then one day his son called.

He told his father that his wife had run away with his best friend; after a little while more he called and said she took the kids and house too so he was all alone now. That was years ago. Those kids never came back after that.

Old Man Bedonie looked at the screen door and it was silent now. It used to bang open and shut as those kids ran in and out and now those little ones were lost to them. They were being raised as Beliganas (White People). He sat down and thought of all their names and remembered the names given them each one named after a sheep. He thought about how they used to run and play. He held each one when they were small and he thought will they remember this old beat up place or try to forget they ever came here.

He sometimes thought of them from time to time. They liked to ride the horses and he had to hide the bridles and halters to keep them off the horses sometimes riding but barely hanging on by the tail. The black and the painted one;.one slow horse and the other fast. They used to like to ride them all the time.

Now the horses were old and had not been ridden in a long time. They just kind of stood around now and slept and ate moving slowly. Ii guess just kind of like him. That was maybe ten or twelve years ago since those kids had been around the place.

Bedonie went about his work around the house looking north every once in a while as if he could see them way up there but they were not there.

His son from Teec Nos Pos (Place with a Circle of Trees) came with his children and they stayed a few days and brought life back to the place; fixing up the corral and hauling hay from Cortez.
It was getting on toward evening and as he was sitting at the table having a cup of Navajo Tea and then he heard the screen door open and then it closed slowly. He turned around and saw a young woman maybe 20 years old dahtsi (maybe) and she said, Hi Grandpa

Before he could say anything else the other children had heard her voice, her long lost cousins came in and saw her from the other room and grabbed her and took her in there. He didn't get a chance to talk to her. Her cousins, her brothers and sisters in the Navajo Way of speaking took her in as if she had just gone since yesterday and he could hear the talk and the laughter as they sat and spent time with each her.

The old man just sat down and remembered a little girl with light brown hair. He remembered she wrestled a goat to the ground long ago.trying to ride him and he kept throwing her down and now after all these years she had made her way back here to this place far from anywhere and she was home.

The old man just sat there and laughed and smiled to himself and went to the door and threw out his tea and looked at the stars. Bedonie thought it is good to have my grandchildren home together. They will go on and we will continue on and with that he sat outside and with he could see the corral that even the old horses had a lively step to their gait and he thought I guess I am not the only who missed her.....rustywire

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Across the Rez Line

Across the rez line…

I was just a rez joe…just to live my life on my own land..
But wanting that life the sits just right there
Across the rez line…

The wind is blowing..it always blows out here
I was the first born the son of my father
From that place just over there…a place with no name
I wanted to cross that line and go over there

But wondering how it will be for me…can I find what I am looking for there…
I can hear the howl of the wind…somehow the look of it is just plain
But I can’t get there from here…they don’t like me there and I have done nothing to them
I have done nothing to them and they look at me like I don’t belong…

What they have is not mine….you can’t have what we have…
You need credit…money and…you have to fit in and you my friend…just don’t
All I want is a taste of the life…here on the rez…to have it at home…

There is a wall there…you can’t see it…but it is there…no bricks…no fences…
It has always been there and you can walk through it but to stay out there you have to leave
All you know and love behind….your home is no longer your own…you have to leave it…
I just want to look around but they don’t want me there…they don’t have to say it…

They way they look says it all…I am wondering why in all these years are there none o f those
Who look like me living there…running a place…have a small business…enjoying life there…

You can come here but you can’t have what we have…their voices say…stay across that line…
Stay on the rez…you are fine over there…we can come and look at you…and I can see that wall
Across that rez line….just another rez skin looking for a better life..having to choose where to live…
And now I am an old man and still I can see that life across the line…does not include my or my own
They say it is here if you will leave that place behind…that place with no name…across the rez line…rustywire

Bus Stop

Bus Stop

He sat at the bus stop on the main drag; central and smiled at me as I stepped up to wait for city bus. He was quiet at first but looked unafraid to look people in the eye way out here in the big city. downtown Phoenix Arizona is pretty rough toward evening a lot of strange types move around the street, but he sat there. His features where finely chiseled, high cheekbones, narrow eyes that had laugh lines around the edges and his perfect teeth gleamed white in the
evening light.

He said, “Where are you from?”

“Shiprock” I said and he looked at me and smiled real big. “Nataani Nez” (the Navajo way of saying Shiprock) he said and went on, “Me, I come from Tuba City, down by Moenkopi Wash; went to school there in Tuba.”

He talked about the old trading post and dorm there, the way he used to play on the bluffs behind the school up near the water tank. He said somewhere there his initials are covered on there. He originally comes from the Gap, a slice in the red rocks where he spent his youth. born for the edge of the water people he said, his teeth were sure white.

He just sat there and said hey there to everyone who came up and smiled at them; some said hello back others just stared off into space. He talked to no one really. his hair had wisps of gray around his ears and it was kind of shaggy. He finished school back in ‘62 yeh’ daahh, he said and spent his time with the Union Pacific seeing the west from the rails; and saw the west coast hitch hiking from Washington to Mexico.

He was sort of an old guy. He sat there and told me all this and so I missed the bus to listen to
him. He was from around that way, the western side of the Navajo rez cuz when he spoke of snow he said yas like they say it, instead of how the Shiprock Navajos say zas.

A young Navajo girl came up with her book bag and sat down looking tired and worn out. He smiled at her and said, where are you from?

She looked at him and turned away. H just stood there and he said to no in particular, there was a girl one time from Carino Canyon, Salt Clan she was, she could really make me laugh, her hair was long like yours. You look like her he said. Her name was Ella Mae Benally, I left to go Wingate and never saw her no more…don't know what happened to hers.

The girl looked at him and said, Yahtahey, Shi Chei I am from Tohatchi, born for the Salt people. My mother is named Ella Becenti, she used to be Ella Mae Benally she is from Chichiltah by way of Carino Canyon.

He smiled really big and said when you see her tell her you saw Begushee Beye’. The young girl looked at him and he said, she used to call me “Little Cow Eyes” and he laughed remembering a time when he was young and full of life when his spirit ran free and there was gleam in his eyes as told her your mother was a good one. She wanted to be a dental technician and went to California on Relocation, maybe it was Oakland for school, and I think…anyway that is what someone said one time.

The young woman extended her hand and shook his hand. From far across the valleys of the desert they were for a minute standing within the Four Sacred Mountains, taking a break from the city life, hustle and bustle and remembered the smell of sage, and the taste of cool water and slight breeze over sandstone.

For just a little bit they were just three Navajo sharing a little bit of home. She got on her bus and waved at him as she left and then the handicap bus pulled up and they picked him up. He said he going back to his daughters place over in Mesa and that he sometimes took the bus to just sit there at that bus stop and visit with the people who came by and then he was gone.
rustywire

The Spring

The Spring

I stood with my grandson, I am an old man and we came to my spot on
this mountain top. I have been here many times and with me, all those
that have come before have taken a little of their vision and shared
it with me.

I can see far and it is pretty, clear across the valley and all the
places there. My sight is not so good but I know it looks the same, it
is beautiful.

My great grandson has helped me to this spot. I can not remember his
name, but he looks a little like me when I was his age. His body is
young and strong. He helped to stand tall and erect. I told him the
story of his fathers and how we had survived to bring him life. His
eyes are bright, wide and innocent. He listens patiently to the
rambling talk of an old man.

Look over there, that is the place I have spoken about, it is a
spring. There you will find fresh cold water. When you are thirsty you
can take a drink and wash yourself on a hot day. You can lie down next
to it on the grass, soft earth and enjoy the day.

He looked at me and said, I can't see it.

I can not see so clearly, but I know it is there. I tell him how it
sits against the mountain, how the earth is cracked there and a small
stream flows into a pool, somehow made through time. My vision is not
that good. I tell him how it has always looked.

There is nothing there, Shi Che' (honored grandfather) There is only a
road and an oil well.

Oh, yes, I remember. The tribe was having a hard time and so the need
for money was great, those were tough times.

Someone needed the water to put back into the earth to bring up oil
way down there, below. My spring is no more.

Where have we gone with these things my grandson, I am sorry it is not
here for you.

I didn't take care of it like I should have and now it is gone. I
can't remember all that was here, but yet some of these things are
gone.

Remember there was a time when it was there and that it refreshed us
so. I wish I could give you a drink.

How is it so that this water is gone forever. Who can take away water,
but yet it is so. The grass is gone and so is the quiet spot. I stand
here, and those behind me in the shadows, my fathers weep and so I
find myself standing with tears streaming down my cheeks. I feel old
and tired and my soul hungers for what was once ours. My heart cries
our a mourning song for the morning dove, the plants, the mountain
tobacco and the quiet times that are no more.
rustywire

Up on Red Lake Road

It was winter time and the rez roads were pretty wet
Muddy and slippery, one of them was Red Lake Road
Two Navajo cops were working swing shift
They worked the area around Fort Defiance
It was snowing, cold and wet, and they wore
Heavy coats the large green filled down type

A little girl called from the store and told the dispatcher
There is a friend of mine I am worried about
He hasn't been to school for a few days
His parents drink, and he lives up Red Lake Road
Can someone go up there and check on him
His name is Engelbert, he's about 8

The call was logged in and the dispatcher said
If someone gets a chance, go up there and take a look
The radio crackled, "If you want to get stuck, go on up there"
One of the officers said the road was too bad, too muddy
The kind if you go in you will have to work out
What is the call about?

A Welfare check, a friend of hers from school
Didn't come for a couple of days, the parents
She said they like to drink, but nothing else

Is he hurt?
No.
Well if she calls back ask her for a little more than that
The shift went on and cold snow fell
The lumbering white police panels moved around slow
The day was done and they went home.

Swing shift starts at 3 in the afternoon
It was about 6 when she called again,
Can someone go up and check on my friend
He lives on Red Lake Road,
He didn't come to school.

How old are you little girl?
About 9
Is something wrong with him?
No, he just hasn't been to school, he likes school lunch
They have nothing to eat at home, so he is always there

Can someone go and check on him, his name is Engelbert.
The dispatcher told her she would have one of the officers
If they had a chance go on up there.
She put it out to the three officers on duty
If you get a chance one of guys check on him, Ok?

The night wore on it was cold and wet, December it was
The pinons were heavy with snow and the wind was blowing
The red clay of Red Lake was slippery stuff
It was sticky and the road when it got wet became mud
Rutted and broken up, it was a rough ride even when dry
No one liked to go up there, only a few people stayed there
Way up North, more toward Navajo than Fort

At 9 o'clock there was a stiff breeze the wind picked up
Eugene Atcitty was working when the phone call came in
It was the little girl, Has anyone gone to Red Lake Road
Where are you calling from?
From the Seven to Eleven store in Fort.
Where do you live?
Blue Canyon, up Blue Canyon
The dispatcher calculated the distance.
You walked two miles to make this call through the snow?
Yes, I want someone to check on my friend, Engelbert.

The radio crackled and it was the dispatcher
The little girl called again about the boy on Red Lake Road
She told me she walked 2 miles to make the call
Where is she now?
At the Seven to Eleven Store.
I am headed that way.

Two units pulled in and the girl was wet and cold
She said, let' s go up there right now to Engelbert's.
What about you, where to you live?
On the way to there, but I have to show you where he lives
And so the two four-wheel drive units headed out
There lights lit up the falling snow.

Officer Atcitty was a Vietnam Vet and knew the area
He was from Fort Defiance, the other one was from
Navajo, he was Frank Henry a big boned tall guy.
He followed because he know one of them would get stuck
The headed out those three to where the pavement ended
Red Lake Road disappeared into the snow field
The went off road and started to slide, going off road
Taking the hillside through the pinons going North

The little girl said Engelbert was her friend
She looked out for him cuz he was small when he got on the bus
He was just a little rez kid who lived in a hogan
They went on and she said it is there, the place was dark
The pulled up to a pair of hogans and no one was home
Officer Henry got out and went to the door and it was padlocked
He could see the other one was slightly ajar and went over there
Atcitty was right behind him, there were no tracks in the snow
It was a wasted trip, Engelbert was not there, no one was

They knocked and no one answered they pushed open the door
And there they saw him, tied up and wearing only his shorts
No fire in the wood stove, it was cold and dark in there
They went to him, and felt him and he was cold but alive
He was tied up he said so he wouldn't run away
The flashlights cast a bright light on him and this what they saw

He was little boy lying on a cot tied by a rope to a post
His hands were bound and he was nearly naked
The room was cold enough they could see their breaths like clouds
He had burns on his arms and legs, from cigarettes
His arm was broken and he was near dead, pale and ashen
The cradled him in their arms and took him to the unit

They left one unit behind and headed out
EMTs met them on the way and away they went
Fort Defiance Indian Hospital, way past midnight
They all waited to see how he would be and he just layed there
If she had not called and had not kept bothering them he would be gone
But she wouldn't give up on her friend Engelbert

Those two big men went for smoke standing outside
If you looked closely you could see the tears in their eyes
Engelbert came around and this is what he said

I tried to be a good boy, my uncle didn't want me
I tried to eat what they gave me but it was old and cold
I got sick and they wanted to go to town.
The went for the wine, the night lights
My mother and her boyfriend they left me

My uncle tied me up so I wouldn't run away
He said he would be back and he went away
That was two days ago.
I want my Mom.
I want my Mom
That was all he said

That is the way it happened
I was there that night
And when Christmas comes
His face haunts me still

No matter what some people do to their kids
Even in the worst way
the children
they say
I want my Mom
I want my Mom

rustywire

Gathering by the Rio Grande

Sitting watching Sam. He is making a new set of
bussels to dance with. His hair is long, tied in
the back and is going nearly all gray. His craggy
face has laughing lines that melt the years away.
He is patiently wrapping the hackles, the tips of
the bussels, small feathers that go on last.
His outfit is near ready, and for him it is the
week before he can take off from work.

His wife, works as an LPN, she dances as well,
she comes from Washington, far from her native
home at Salish Kootenai. Her buckskin is white,
and covered with elk teeth, a prized possession
indeed, so hard to come by.

These two dance traditional, but Sam this year is
dancing fancy, a dance for young men. He has been
seen twisting and turning at strange places like
the parking lot, in the grocery store and at
work, getting the moves just right. It takes
practice to get them so that when you are fully
dressed you move like a bird in the wind,
floating and dropping and turning to dance in the
sky, hanging aloft. How elegant they look.

Sam is taking his grandchildren with them, they
are headed South, going to Albuquerque. They
seatsh waiting for them in the arena, there at
the Gathering of Nations.

Sometimes when he talks he talks about his life
at home near Carson City, where he comes from and
that many of the people he knew are gone from
there now. When he goes home is a stranger and in
some ways it is not home anymore. He has worked
and travelled many places and he calls Utah his
home now. He will be kicking back and retiring
next year and told me that he will stay where he
is at, as his children know the place and that is
their home now. Home is where you find it,
sometimes it is with the old ones, sometimes the
rez, and sometimes where your children are.

Sam, how do like going to Albuquerque? He looked
at me and got wistful. His gray eyes lit up and
he said, it makes me feel at home. I get to see
some friends, maybe family, maybe folks from home,
and then those other Indians I have gotten to
know over the years. I like to go and see them.
It is nice to see so many Indians in one place.

Isn't it too crowded. He smiled and said, No, you
just have to get there early, and when you get a
seat, you don't leave it. You bring your cooler,
food and stuff you need for the duration. It is
like camping out. My wife takes extra beads,
needles, scarves and shawls to share with those
that need it. We get to visit and I look forward
to it, so I am ready to go.

Sammaripa, that is his name. He will be there
dancing and his wife in her traditional buckskin.
They are good people and you can see the
excitement in their eyes. I can see Sam slowly
going across the parking lot, twisting and
turning, dipping and moving as if performing a
pantomine, but he is just practicing for those
few days where he will gather by the Rio Grande
with his friends and dance, and visit and feel
renewed again....

rustywire

It was just another enemy way

She stood a ways off, just beyond the firelight. The embers from the
bonfire lit up the sky and made the night gold on this bit of open
space among the sage.She glowed with the color of firelight, reds and gold giving her a
soft flow against the black night.

Summer Sing, the Nightway, where people travel for miles to gather on
a flat stretch of ground, to sing in a circle all night, and then to
dance the night away, to talk and to laugh. That is how it is done,
while a short distance away the healing ceremony goes on.

It was July and the nights were warm and pleasant. Folks gathered by
the firelight and when the songs raised up in the night caused the
ground to swell, the motion of dancers near the cedar fire swayed back
and forth.

Arriving with cousins, three of them; looking for chance to see some
old friends, relations and to hear the goings on around this area
known as Sanostee not too far South of Shiprock. Getting ready
earlier, meant a sweat, a quiet time to reflect and cleanse the mind
and body, to relax and feel the flow of the days' hardships melt away.
This is done alone in a small sweat made for one at the edge of the
forest, it is way of tradition.

Then to dress with clean clothes, a sign of respect to the family
where you will visit and spend the night, a pair of Wrangler Jeans,
some Dan Post boots, and a cotton shirt, western type. The old ones,
you know those clothes that are broken in from wear, the favorite
ones. You can really feel at ease in those clothes, they are soft and
supple. Comfort is the name of the game tonite.

Outside, an old beat up Chevy pulls up, baby blue, the Nez boys rush
in and say, What's the hold up and with a final look around, you take
off and away you go. Talking and laughing.

Eshkee, (Boy) You got cash money to pay for the dances?

Nah, he's got commodity cheese in his bag to cover it. (the Sing is a
woman's choice dance, and when you are asked you have to pay the lady
or else)

Do you think those girls from Bistai' will be there?

They don't have any good ones, that's a bad place. Nothing grows there
except rocks.

Maybe that one girl from there might come.

Oh, you mean the Towering House woman, she comes from Coyote Pass. I
remember her from a rodeo over there, a couple of months ago.

What is she called? I don't know her name.

You mean the one with long hair, down to her waist. Wears white boots.

Yeah, I think she is the one.

You mean that good looking one. She was with this one guy from Carino
Canyon, down by Gallup, big cowboy dude. I think she is still with
him, he had his arm around her.

Maybe, she will be there, think so?

Don't worry about it, she won't look at you.

She could be there you know.

Nay, ain't gonna happen, forget about it, think about the ribs and the
singing.

Baloney here is wanting some mutton ribs, the kind that are hot and
tasty and the grease runs down your arms.

It's Bedonie, not baloney, don't call me that.

That one girl, she was in (Totah-where the rivers meet)Farmington not
too long ago, he thinks to himself, she was at the store there with
her family and when she looked at him there was a certain look in her
eyes, yes I remember the way she looked. Maybe she might be there.

The rode on and took the dirt road cutting through the cedars, a
chizh-a-teen (narrow wood hauling road) the kind you have to know
where you are going to use. It was a bumpy ride and they travelled
through washes and bluffs, going slowly across big rocks and kept on
as the night fell.

In the distance, the flow of three bonfires lit up the sky and as the
drove into the Manygoats place, they could see that there were alot of
people already gathered there, trucks, cars and some wagons were
scattered all through the area. In the middle of it was the cha-oh
(large wooden shade house) where women were cooking and one could find
pop, cooked mutton, frybread, sweets and corn cooked in the ground,
sweet sweet corn. People were standing around their vehicles, and
children ran about playing with one another. On one side was the
ceremonial hogan where a second cha-oh sat for the immediate family
and visitors. It was crowded like how it is when you come out of a
movie house, people walking elbow to elbow. It was hard to see who all
was there, since the night was thick and the light from the bonfires
cast red shadows, a glow that flickered on the faces and bodies as
they walked by.

The four made their way to the food and found a plateful of ribs and
sat down on some rocks and ate. They joked and saw old friends and
family there. Across the way the center was open for a place to dance,
where woman asked the men and they stepped in time with one another.
The women's arm locked around the back of the man she danced with him
and his arm over her shoulder, a blanket or large rug covered them
both as they moved, There were many out there. He sat down and
finished off the ribs and the dogs were waiting for him to finish so
they could have a treat as well.

He stood up and saw his cousins had wandered off. He looked around to
see it he could see them. There she was. She stood a ways off, just
beyond the firelight. The embers from the bonfire lit up the sky and
made the night gold on this bit of open space among the sage.

She wore a white squaw dress, satin which hung down to the ground,
covering her dark brown mocassins fastened with a silver button that
gleamed in the firelight. Around her waist, she wore a large silver
concho belt, an old fashioned one, a family heirloom which covered as
red sash belt, the fringes hung down by her side. Her velvet blouse
was dark blue, shimmering in the light and when she turned she wore
two large turquoise beaded necklaces, with a string of orange coral
hanging down from her neck. Her long black hair was hanging loose and
free down her back and she held a pendelton blanket.


In that instant there was no one else there but just them two. She
moved in slow motion it seemed. She glowed with the color of
firelight, reds and gold giving her a soft flow against the black
night. She had soft eyes and yet her face was strong, as if she knew
this was her time and place. She was delicate, but yet moved with a
glow of Navajo women, who had come down through the centuries,
strength in her bones and yet soft at the same time. Her eyes were
dark and twinkled against the night, she was a sight.

He stepped toward her, and she moved the shawl, flicking him with it's
end. He was her choice to dance, and so they moved to the dirt floor
cut out of the sage. He looked into her eyes and thought, it is good
to be born here among these people, and I can hear that song they are
singing. How does it go. "On horseback I go, across mountains and
canyons I go, she waits for me there, she waits for me there. On
horseback I go, on horseback I go." It was just another Enemy Way Sing
on the Navajo Rez.
rustywire

Pow Wow at Fort Duchesne

The Pow Wow grounds sit off just the highway, the main thoroughfare
connecting Salt Lake City to Steamboat Colorado, it is a two laner, a
narrow road that runs through the rez. It has a large Pow Wow ground,
planted in grass this year and large shade arbor forms a semi-circle
around it with an opening on the east side where the flagpole sits. It
is a level area, and scattered around are campsites, where native
people and some visitors from around the world have come to take in
the Pow Wow this year. Just to the south of the Pow Wow circle are the
stew stands, temporary indian cafes set up to serve hamburgers,
lemonade, indian tacos, coffee and lost of fry bread.

On the North side of the Pow Wow arena there are many small shade
covers set up, where under them people have come to sell jewelry,
bones, hides, t-shirts, sandpaintings, pottery, and trinkets of all
sorts. Some camp next to their site with license plates from Montana,
New Mexico, Wyoming, Washington and Oklahoma. They have all their
goods layed out for anyone to come and see.

A young mother, a Ute woman brings her small child to the shade arbor
surrounding the Pow Wow circle. It is July and she has spent some
hours sewing a dance outfit for him. It is a small one, since he is a
year and half old. She never learned to dance herself, her family
never taught her, but she wants her son to know all about so she is
going to have him grow up in the way of Pow Wow traditions so he can
grow up to be a fancy dancer. She sets up the camping chairs in the
second row, and prepares to stay there all day. It is early afternoon,
the grand entry is at 7 tonight, but there will be intertribal dances,
where everyone who comes can get out there and shake a leg.

A drum group, River Cree from Enoch, Alberta, a small place west of
Edmonton in Canada gets here after driving 21 hours straight. They
find an open spot under the arbor to sing for the next four days.
There is room for fifteen drum groups to sing here. Word has spread
the prize money is going to be as high as $30,000 this year, so the
best dancers in Indian land are on the road to compete and dance. They
have to be here by 7 tonight for Grand Entry. The are coming with
names like Blackbird from Macy, Nebraska; Leaf from Standing Rock,
North Dakota, Denny from Rocky Boy, Montana and Largo from Coyote
Canyon. They will join the Windyboys, Sammaripas, Eaglechiefs,
Cesspooches, Blackhairs, and so many others who have come to dance and
see other wearing their new outfits and beadwork made over the long
winter. The River Cree boys go to the North side of the arbor and find
a good spot, they bring their chairs and set them up then they then go
to find an open stew stand to eat some frybread and a cool drink.

An extended cab Chevy truck with a horse trailer is parked next to a
stew stand on the East side, on the side of his shade covering it says
Silvereagle. A Navajo guy in a baseball cap is stepping out of the
horse trailer carrying flour for fry bread. He has an easy smile, his
name is Clinton Jim. He came with his wife, two sons and daughter and
they are serving frybread, mutton sandwiches, Navajo tacos, Navajo
burgers-a hamburger sitting in a piece of frybread served with green
chili. He comes from Eastern Navajo, a place called Crownpoint. This
is how he makes his living, he is headed to Taos next week, and then
to Dulce at Jicarilla Apache, then to Ohio for the Sac and Fox
celebration in the next month. He looks at you with a smile and asks
how you want your food and they make it fresh for you while you stand
there. There is line at his stand full of brown faces waiting for the
frybread.

Mexican Bob comes up and though he is 62, he hasn't gray hair on his
head and he has been hauling shade and setting up arbors for those
coming to camp. He has lived among the Utes for twenty years or more,
his face is golden brown from working a lifetime as a landscaper in
the local area, everyone knows him. He is thin, agile and moves like
someone half his age. His real name is Pete, he says someone named him
Mexican Bob a long time ago and the name stuck. He was born in Los
Angeles a long time ago, moved with his father to a mining town and
met his wife working as a migrant worker, and he came to this place
and now it is his home. He has son who is six years old that follows
him around closely, he wants to be just like his dad when he grows up
he says.

A young man, a new dancer makes his way around the arbor to families
setting up their chairs, putting in their water coolers and snacks for
the long day ahead. He is from Reno, and is learning to dance, can
someone help with how to tie a roach on, and he doesn't know how it
stays on top of his head so it doesn't fall off when he is going to
dance. A guy from Lapwai steps up and shows him to run his hair
through the top and to braid his hair to make it tight on his head. He
learns from someone who has been dancing a long time. He tells him
when you are ready come back to us and we will make sure everything on
your outfit is fastened on tight. You lose points for losing part of
your stuff when you dance and it is bad luck.

The announcer for the Pow Wow, the MC steps up to the mike and tells
everyone that Grand Entry is at 7, but that drum groups can gather in
fifteen minutes to sing an intertribal song to warm up their voices.
By the way he says, at the last Pow Wow someone lost their husband and
at the end of the Pow Wow no one claimed him. He says he brought him
along just in case his wife is here. Anyone that wants him can claim
him at Lost & Found. He would like someone to take him home, so he
won't have to take him back to Canada with him.


Let's see it's time to find a spot around this place to sit and watch.
Oh, yes, there is a place right behind the young mother. She is
sitting there in the shade, her son dressed to dance; he wears a
silver concho belt. I know it well since I made it for him. The drum
groups bring in their base drums and the sound of beating drums is
heard around the arena.

The MC sends out word and the drums gather in the center of the Pow
Wow arena, there are eight of them from many different places. They
set up their chairs all together. They are going to sing a song all
together, all eight drums. They sit down and in anticipation of what
is to happen the sound of eagle bone whistles resound throughout the
Pow Wow grounds. Dancers and singers run to the arena and a crowd
gathers to see these drums sing altogether. The arena fills with
dancers, young children, older women in traditional buckskins, young
men with large feather bustles making noise as they walk from their
bells ready to dance. Old men with their traditional outfits, grass
dancers and a lot of others who are not dressed who want to step into
the circle to take part in this beginning.

Just then the song starts and a the wail of the singers of all eight
drums sounds out.

WWWWHHHHAAAAAAAAAYZYYYYUHHHHH!

The song beings and the Fourth of July Pow Wow at Fort Duchesne
begins...

rustywire