Posted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 2:45 pm Post subject: NOT FAR FROM TABLE MESA
Snow and Wind
November 3, 2009
The snow was falling as the young Navajo man started walking from Bonds and Bonds store
Across the old bridge in Shiprock. It was late afternoon and snow had come early to the rez.
Headed home for from up North, the day had started warm in Wyoming where he started out
Getting on the road and sticking a thumb out, hitchhiking back to the rez for a few days, with luck a hot meal at home in the cedars.
The day had gone well but a time in Monticello, a bordertown where how ones looks can decide if you ride or not, and as each car passed he walked on along the old highway and the clouds began to gather and the wind started to blow. He wrapped himself up against the cold and walked on toward Cortez taking in the blue colors of mountains in Colorado, Dibensa, in Navajo and he knew he was not far from home and finally a trucker from Texas stopped and give him ride on toward Four Corners and as the sun set he was in Shiprock.
Bonds and Bonds is an old store with a coffee counter where he got a cup and warmed up. Hoping in a way that some headed south would come in and he could hop in and get a ride on toward home just beyond the horizon to the South in the Chuska mountains. In the distance as he stepped out he could see the outline of Shiprock and so he headed on down the highway, Route 666.
It is narrow thin road the disappears into the southern sky, it looked like a worn out spider web, it just one stretched out piece of patched asphalt so cracked it was as is Spiderwoman herself had woven a web and dropped it across the land and left it there.
He walked on, wet and cold. No one was on the highway and as a truck came up from behind he could hear it before he saw it and it neared he stuck his thumb into the air, asking quietly and silently for a chance to get out of the night breeze as the dark clouds came from the west.
After a long walk it began to snow and he could see Table Mesa start to come up slowly step by step and he just kept walking step by step shifting his backpack from one shoulder to the other, but there was no ride as the night fell and it was a dark night.
Step by step, one foot in front of the other he walked, looking at the lonely strips of sage moving in the breeze and the snow started to fall. He looked back toward Shiprock and could not see anything, not a thing so he kept going and he started to think of home.
How would it be to be able to be there, to walk into the old house and hear the crackling of the wood stove and smell some stew and feel the warmth of being there, to be able to feel relaxed and to lay down on the iron spring bed, to rest…fur just a little bed in the old levi quilt…it would be so when he got there. He pulled up his collar and walked on step by step and thought the Old Man, his pa who would always smile at him and say, “Hey Eshkee”, it seemed no matter what he was always there and gave him with just a look all the things he needed and yet he gave him not much, but too know he was always s glad to see him.
He shook the cold from his shoulders, and looked up and saw that he was almost past Table Mesa, and on the East side of the road there were some big rocks, an old spring used to be there from the old days, from a time from way before he was born to his Chays’ grandfathers.time.
The snow was piling up and everything was white, but yet he was warm, it was as if was a summer day. It was the walking it had warmed him up and he could see that maybe he should find a place to rest for little bit until early morning and so he stepped away from the old road and walked to the big rocks and there found a cleft where two large rocks came together, out of the wind and the snow fell lightly on the ground and it was soft.
He turned his back to the snow, wrapping his coast up high around his head and sat against the rocks and found he was warm. He remembered that if the snow falls lightly it was like a blanket and could keep him warm and as he sat down he didn’t realize how tired he was, he slid to the ground and put the back pack in his lap and looked down the highway. It was late and there was no one coming or going and so he thought of home, of resting his head on his bed and leaned against the rocks and thought to rest his eyes.
He remembered at time when he was with Old Man and they had walked to the trading post to check the mail and talked about Old Man Turquoise.
He remember he asked his Grandpa, “That Old Man Turquoise tell me about him,”
Who do you mean?
That one old man we passed on the way to the trading post, over by Natani's place, down by the wash, just over that way. Eshkee motioned with his lips to the Northwest.
Eshkee's father, who everyone called "the Old Man", looked up and could see the low mountain rising to the West, from here at Two Gray Hills it went up hill to the trading post nestled in the foothills of Toadlena. He remembered the day not so long ago, when they had stepped aside to let Old Man Turquoise walk by them.
"Well, I said I would tell you about him", the Old Man said. He sat back from the small table where they were standing, just inside the Chao-summer shade arbor where he was working on something. His eyes
were old, sort of brown, wrinkled around the edges and his eyes looked as if they could see something a long ways off.
Old Man said let's go for a walk. They walked outside and to the South where the rocks rose to a ridge like a dinosaurs back running north to south, they climbed to a high point stepping through the sage brush.
It was after the First Frost, the time for Yei-Be-Ches, stories of coyotes and legends. The Summer Sings were over, s**** Dances some called them, where the Blessing Way was done to restore the spirit,
the body and to brings things back to harmony. As they made their way through the sage, they slowly climbed the red sand stone rocks to a place they knew very well, from this spot they had many talks, it overlooked the whole valley running from Toadlena to Two Gray Hills
The twin rocks were to the East nestled against the mountain, the road ran like a ribbon and the small houses and hogans dotted the valley below. It was from here they sat and looked over the valley. Though it was Fall, the day was warm one of the last few where it felt like summer.
Old Man sat down and Eshkee sat nearby, as the Old Man pointed to the wash that ran along the road connecting the mountain community of Toadlena to Two Gray Hills, running against the two mesas to the east, it ran all the way to the highway some sixteen miles to the East and way further North on the horizon was Table Mesa.
Do you see those mesas, the one to the North. Yes, Eshkee said, it was red, pink almost in the afternoon sun. There is a place on the mesa, where some gather at night, when it is dark sometimes when there is no moon.
Where is it at?
You can't see it right now but it is there, sometimes at night, late at night some say there is a fire that comes from a place there where the witches gather, the ones who follow the Dark side.
Have you been there before?
No, when I was younger I looked for it, but never did find it.
Who goes there?
It is the place where the Skinwalkers gather, where they meet and carry on with the sacrifices they make. They look like regular people, but they trade lives with each other, to belong to them you have to sacrifice someone to be with them. They are quiet about it, they don't tell anyone who they are. In our way there is a balance, between the Beautyway and the Evilway, these people have chosen to follow the dark side.
They can take your spirit, cause sickness, misfortune and witch those don't know it. They are like bad luck that follows you around.
Eshkee looked at the mesa, seeing every part of it, from it's flat top, to the large rocks that were cracked on everyside, there were many places one could hide on that mesa. He thought about where this
place they gathered could be.
Old Man said, A long time ago maybe it was before World War II, one dark night, when I was young, we had a gathering down by the Bain bridge place. There was Mrs. Watchman, the cook at the boarding
school, Mrs. Belone, Kee Mike, Wareen Natani and myself, those women weren't married then, they were single. We were all young.
We had gone down to eat, and to sing with the people gathered there.
You remember the Bainbridge place, it is small, with an open area, but that night the whole place around there was filled with wagons, and horses, people were camped there, some had come from Teec Nos Pos, some from Tohatchi, and some from off the Flat-Halgai it is called.
Anyway there was food, bonfires and dancing. In those days there not much liquour like there is now, it was very traditional. People had respect for the Navajo Way. We went down there and spent the evening, visiting with some of the old folks, the Benallys, Tellers, Deals, and some of the old folks who aren't here any more.
It was late when we left, when the stars were straight up, the Small Ring the comes up, when everyone takes a break. We decided to go home then. In those days we didn't have cars to we walked everywhere. People told us to be careful, since Skinwalkers were running around during that time of night. We laughed and headed out for home.
It was really dark, there was not moon at that time, we could not see very well. We knew the area so we knew where to walk through the sage, we had not kerosene lamp so we walked slowly and talked about who we saw that evening. It was just over there, he pointed to where the Bainbridges lived and motioned to the wash nearby. They had gone into the wash to go home since it ran back up the mountain to Toadlena. The sand was soft and easy to walk on.
They headed back, the five of them. It was the middle of the night and there was no light they walked together and through the wash and from behind they could hear the sound of pounding hooves, the sound of wild horses running in a pack, wild ones. They were running as if they were scared, crashing through the sage with not light, but running out of fear.
These few young men and women turned around and could not see them coming but could hear them as their feet smashed into the ground and knew that had to get out of the way. So they ran up the wash to a Comb Ridge, up on the rocks and waited to see what was coming and then there was nothing. Not a sound, and they tried to look at one another but it was so dark you could not see your hand in front of your face.
They sat and waited and nothing came, but they could hear a commotion from the place they had come from, and then they heard a gun shot and a wild animal cry out in pain, whincing and yelping and yet they saw nothing, but hear it all.
From that night long ago they all remembered that after a few days Old Man Turquoise was seen limping, his leg dragging after him, and it became known in the community that he was somehow hooked up with the Dark side of life and everyone in the community knew to be careful of him.
Many years later, when Eshkee has grown a little he saw the bridge to Two Gray Hills was washed out and everyone didn’t use that road for a long time, and so he rode down that by horseback along the wash and there found a foot trail he followed to an old Hogan, it was Old Man Turquoise’s place. He could see from the looks of it that it was in disrepair, and when he stopped to see if any was there.
He called outin Navajo if anyone was there, and the reply came faint Oshe’-Come in, so Eshkee when in and saw Old Man Turquoise was sick, he was just laying in bed alone.
He talked to him and learned that his children had not been back to see him for sometime, and so Eshkee clean up his place all the time wondering about what the hack he was dong there when he had been told t leave this old man alone, everyone knew that but he could not turn away from him and so he returned every few days to check on him but told no one that he ever did this, but did so and always felt uneasy about the place and after the old man started to move about he left him alone as he could make his own way.
Old Man Turquoise never said anything to him after than never saying anything to Eshkee when ever he saw him, so the boy thought that is just how it is. At first the thought the old man would say something, and he a little upset by it, but then he realized he had helped him because e wanted to do it for himself not for the old one and the reward was his own and he let it go at that. But he always wondered about what things Old Man Turquoise knew about the Dark side, but it was one of those things you will never know the answer to, so he let it go.
Eshkee had drifted off to sleep, he was in his bed at home, it was warm and he thought it was good to be home….when he was shaken awake by the touch of something that had grabbed him and in a flash he was awake. He was still there the snow and it was cold, he was stiff and the snow had covered him and brushed the snow away. In the distance he could see in the rocks of Table Mesa a distant fire and yet it seemed just a little ways away. Eshkee was so tired his legs moved like molasses as he stood up, he was groggy and his walk was stilted and slow. He walked in a haze to the distant fire, and as if n a dream found that he was in a place where it was warm and there was a bedroll placed there for him, and there was kneel down bread for him to eat, so he ate and fell asleep.
Eshkee woke up and he was sitting in a truck headed up the road to the junction where he just lived a short way and it was morning and the ground was all covered white. The truck stopped and he looked at the driver and it was Manygoats.
Are you okay, boy?
Yes, how did I get home.
You were walking by the side of the road by Table Mesa just before dawn in a daze, you almost walked into the road and could have got run over. I stopped and you were standing there with Old Man Turquoise, he said he found you and you almost froze last night. You should know better than that didn’t your father teach you anything.
Eshkee said, Where is Old Man Turquoise.
He said he was at a Yei-be-Che at Bistai area, not too far from Table Mesa and on the way found you. I don’t know how that old man found you he can’t hardly walk himself, but he was there and it was a good thing for you he was.
Eshkee got out and walked toward his place just a little ways through the cedars. It was a clear day and sun had come out and he looked way off toward Table Mesa and remembered the stories of Old Man Turquoise and was just glad to be home. So it went one time years ago just before Halloween…. rustywire
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