The Hitchhiker Diaries Part V - Catfish and the Klan

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, March 29, 2012

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F or your reading pleasure, more stories gleaned from the roadsides of the Navajo Nation.

The catfish hunters

One time I was visiting my cousins in Many Farms. They live just a short distance from the lake.

One day my cousin says, "Want to go catfish hunting?"

"You mean fishing," I say.

"No, hunting," he says. "Come on, let's go."

We put on our swim trunks and then our clothes over them, and went down to the lake. Once we were there, we stripped down to our swim trunks and I followed them out into the water.

There was a deep hole, about chest deep. The water was murky, but you could make out dark shapes swimming around towards the bottom.

My cousin started wiggling his fingers around in the water, like this. All of a sudden this big catfish comes up and swallows his whole hand! He punched his hand through its gills, like this, and pulled that fish out of the water. It was at least two feet long.

"You're crazy!" I said. "Those things have teeth!"

He laughed and showed his wrist. There were all these little scars where catfish had bitten him.

"You try it," he said.

"No thanks," I said. "I don't like catfish that much."

What? No, it's not a Native thing. They said they saw some white dudes doing it on "Animal Planet."

The Klan escapee

When I was young, I got a job working on oil rigs in Louisiana.

It was tough work and long hours, so you would live at the rig for a week and then you would get a week off. Sometimes on my weeks off, I would try to hitchhike back to the rez.

One time I got a ride with a white guy. He drove on a road I didn't know out in the woods close to the coast. After a while I started seeing a lot of cars parked on the side of the road. Guys were getting out of the cars and putting on white sheets and hoods.

The Ku Klux Klan!

My heart started pounding. I didn't know much about the Klan. I knew they hated zhiniies. I didn't know how they felt about Indians. Maybe they hated anyone who wasn't white.

I looked at my driver. He wasn't wearing a sheet. He was just looking straight ahead. I couldn't tell if he was going to drive straight through or if he was part of this bunch.

"It's OK," I said. "You can let me out here."

"Here?" he said.

"Yeah," I said. "It's OK."

He just pulled over right there and I walked right into the woods. I had no idea where I was going, I just wanted to get out of there.

It was starting to get dark and I was tripping over logs and things. Finally I came to another road. Or maybe it was the same road. I had no idea.

There were no cars on the road. I started walking. I had no idea if I was walking back to where the Klan was, or away from them. Finally a car came by. I stuck out my thumb and he picked me up. It was a white guy.

"Uh-oh," I thought. "Maybe he's going back to that place."

But I had no choice.

"Where ya headed?" he asked me.

"North," I said.

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