Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Navajo Nation

This summer's excursion began on July 29 early in the morning. As opposed to past years, I had company every day in the form of my good friend, Mr. Pooh, who is running for President. He tells me to announce that he has over 16 votes committed as the result of our cross-country walk. I think he has a few more than that but ... who is really counting now? Visit

Pooh and I had some interesting conversations along the way. And, you should have heard us singing "Side by Side" as we walked down the highway.

A new friend, Laura Schubert, offered us a ride to Chambers from Snowflake Arizona one day when the two of us were helping to get the Huethers ready to move from the Shady Corners RV Park. It was an 80-mile lift up the road and I could not pass up saving 3 days of walking and a visit with an energetic school teacher and good-deed doer.

Laura let us off at the Navajo exit. Mr. Pooh and I spent a couple hours on the south side of the Interstate at the gas station and convenience mart there. I decided we should start the walk - for astrological purposes - at 10:15. So, I visited with the cashier Teresa and got her to supply me with garbage bags to help clean up the truck parking lot. Interestingly, the dumpster was already overflowing when I tried to deposit extra bags full of trash. I have come to realize that there is job security in highway cleanup.

A little after 10, we passed through Chambers which is little more than a few houses and an abandoned gas station north of Interstate 40 on US Highway 191. It was just a bit eerie starting out in such territory.

I also must say that when I walk through an Indian reservation I have some trepidation. People have told me to beware and I have had my own wonderments. But like most every place I have walked, I have only had the best of experiences in traveling through the Cheyenne Reservation two years ago and this year marching across the Navajo Reservation.

People are people everywhere. And my experience of the Navajo Nation was overwhelmingly positive. There was one minor exception I will relate in another blog.

We passed a few miles along the highway. Skies were partly cloudy, the road clear and the scenery was desert with only a very rare tree to complement the sparse grass and sagebrush. Before long a young Indian woman and brother stopped and then carried us to a turn in the road at Many Ruins. The young man was returning from an AA meeting and seemed to want to do a good deed. We happily accepted.

The walk continued on to Klagetoh where we were greeted on the edge of town by a radiant woman named Dorothy who jumped out of her van and took up conversation. Dorothy grew up on the reservation but lives in Minnesota and was visiting her parents - the Begays. She had to know what we were up to while bestowing a number of treats and water upon us.

I made a photo-op out of the occasion and got Sam the Flag and Pooh the President into the picture with Dorothy and her family.

Later on while I was visiting with LaMonte Smith at the nearby convenience mart, Dorothy reappeared with an offering of spaghetti and garlic bread. Dorothy was one of the brightest light so the whole trip. (If you ever read this, Dorothy, send me a note.)

Mr. Smith was a real talker and bent my ear for quite a while before we walked on. Pooh and I had again gone but a few miles when offered a ride of several miles to Ganado. A family of five with Montana connections who lived in Klagetoh (they were also part of the Begay clan) lifted us up the road and then turned back to drive home. I assumed they lived in Ganado and was much surprised when they turned to retrace miles to their home. 

This happened another time when a young woman spotted us early in the morning when rising from night's rest on the side of the highway between Mountain View and Kemmerer Wyoming. Trittany had just gotten off work on a 13-hour shift as nurse at the medical facility in Kemmerer. She was returning to Robertson - an hour away - but stopped to invite us for a ride back to Kemmerer for which she retraced her travels 30 or so miles. Then she turned again to the south. Trittany would be back on duty in just a few hours. She told me that she only needed three hours of sleep each day. That makes her extraordinary in a number of ways.

Back to my Navajo Nation sojourn: The Begays pointed out a park near the highway where we could rest for the night. Well, it wasn't much of park. A few trees standing next to a "wash." There are a lot washes in that country. A wash being an area which spurts and floods a bit when rain collects and has no river or stream to run into. Otherwise washes are patches of sand and dirt with maybe some trees and bushes making for some extra greenery.

Pooh and I rested next to the few trees and walked on when the sun came up in the morning. We marched with the flag until reaching an intersection a few miles up the road. There we met Wilbur Smith, a "cousin" of LaMonte who works for the Highway Department and offered a ride to take us a few miles up the road.

Wilbur did most of the talking and we surveyed the desert heading northward. Fifteen or twenty miles later, Wilbur turned off the main highway and bid us Good Travels.

We walked on to and through Chinle. I was hoping to find a stream or gully, or somewhere do cool my feet. Just a shade tree amidst the buildings in the desert town. 

I eventually noticed the Liberty Fellowship on the way out of town. I thought, "At least I can rest on the shadow side of this little church."

Eventually, Terry Jones appeared and slowly opened to a conversation. Before long, he brought out a bucket of water for my feet. And later, a couple of hot dogs. 

Terry is not the Fellowship minister but rather caretaker. I learned a bit about him and the Fellowship he has helped put together. He also told me about a Revival which was to be held up the road. I didn't get the details, but said I would be on the lookout as I traveled northward.

Before the day was out, other Revivalers found me resting again on the side of the road. Paulette and Albert drove me to their Revival (a different one - it seems they are fairly common on the Navajo Reservation). Sorry, no Revival photos.

I had never been to a Revival of any kind before. It was a Navajo Christian long, loud episode under a large tent. Maybe 60 people participated in what was apparently a common occurrence. 

Christian Rock from a three-man group began the affair which was followed by one speaker after another as well as testimonials. I even got up and shared a few words about my march through Navajoland. 

I kept hearing that food would be coming before long. But, it seemed to get put off and put off because of the order and length of service.

I was at a disadvantage - not knowing a word of Navajo. Some of the service was translated intermittently. But, the final hurrahs did not occur until 11:30 pm after starting around 7:00.

I was not very hungry by then, but decided to have a few beans and start walking again. By the time I passed through the line, all the beans were gone. So, ate a bit of rice and had a cookie.

Then, I made my Adieus. I was invited to rest on the property. But, I figured one spot on the desert was as good as any. The night was young and needed quiet and space.

We hiked on - laden with food and bottled drinks given by new friends - for a few miles along a dirt track next to highway. The moon was full and it was good to be back with Pooh on the road.

What did I learn from the Revival? 
* There are good people everywhere - or at least trying to be good.
We have opportunities to practice. And, I get to be on the receiving end of things when I go walking. That was not my intention, but it has been my good fortune along the way.
* Church people - whoever they are - like to carry on about God wanting this and that and having a special place for them. But, we all have a place now and always will. Old friend, Bill Modes, used to say, "We are living in eternal life right now!"

The next day, I woke up near Many Farms and walked slowly around Round Rock. It was a long stretch but I got to see many sides of the natural monument and walk through a bit of the Black Mesa. I had imagined hiking through part of Monument Valley. Round Rock turned out to be a good substitute.

I had a number of helpers that day. Carissa and Whistle stopped (photo) in mid-afternoon and gifted me with water and a sandwich. A little later, I was "shocked" when ice water in a bottle was handed to me by a couple of women in a local taxi for medical services. What a deal!
After walking most of the day, I made it to the town of Round Rock AZ. It barely deserves the name compared to the earlier spots on the road in the Navajo Reservation. After a short ride which I will tell in another installment, I walked past the small enclave of little more than houses with a school. I passed another tent set up for a Revival which was about to begin.

I decided one Revival might last me for years and walked onward. Of a sudden, a small pickup stopped. A woman named Adella invited me to sit in the back of her vehicle as she drove toward Blanding Utah with her two grandchildren in front. 

From walking three miles an hours, all of a sudden Pooh and I were watching Round Rock, the desert floor, and the rest of the world race past us. My appreciation - at least for the moment - for vehicular travel was increased. It was also grand to see the desert and rock formations pass by in full relief.

It seems Pooh and I swept through the Navajo Reservation in a flash. Time is one of those variable affairs.

What does not change in my experience - is people ready and wanting to lend a hand. Would that we recognized that and knew better how to make use of all those helping hands.

Thanks to all my friends here and there and especially in Navajo Nation.

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