Thursday, August 10, 2017

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?
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


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