The Hitchhiker Diaries, Part VI
By Cindy Yurth
CHINLE, Jan. 9, 2014
The Navajo and the Shalako
When I was a teenager, I went to school in Fort Wingate. On the weekends, I sometimes hitchhiked home to Church Rock.
One time I was walking along the frontage road trying to get back to school. It was getting dark, and no one was picking me up, so I started running. I would run until I got tired, and then walk.
All of a sudden I could make out a real tall shape coming toward me. It was running fast. I had never seen one before, but I knew exactly what it was: a Zuni shalako.
The thing was running right towards me. I didn't know what to do. I looked around for a place to hide, but there was only sagebrush.
When the shalako got close to me, it suddenly took off to the north, into the sagebrush.
You know how, sometimes, when you're really scared, you pretend not to be, to make yourself feel less scared? That's what I did.
I started running after it. I was yelling, "Hey Shalako! Come back here! I'm not afraid of you! I have my own medicine!"
I was tripping over the rocks and sagebrush, but the Shalako could run right through them. It ran faster than any human could run. I watched it until it disappeared into the hills. Then I started running toward Fort Wingate again. Finally, somebody picked me up. I was still shaking. They probably thought I was drunk.
After that, I watched my life carefully. I didn't know why a Zuni god would appear to a Navajo. I thought it must mean something; be a lesson of some kind.
But that was years ago, and nothing like that ever happened to me again.
The Warrior Priestesses
If I could have afforded college, I would have been an archeologist. But I never went. So I just kind of do it on my own.
I live in a place with lots of Anasazi ruins. When no one's looking, I go out there and dig around.
Sometimes I find new ruins. Sometimes I tell Historical Preservation, and sometimes I just keep them to myself.
You know, us Navajos, we're not supposed to go to the ruins. So I don't usually tell people I do this. It's my big secret. But you're a bilagáana, so I know you won't care.
One day I was digging around this little ruin, and I found a couple of graves. They were both women, tall for Anasazis. They were dressed all in white buckskin, with beautiful belts and necklaces. They were beautiful. Well, you could tell they were beautiful when they were alive.
I just looked at them for a long time. I called them my warrior priestesses. Then I said a prayer and buried them back to how they were before.
I know this sounds weird, but I visit them sometimes. I feel like they watch over me.
Maybe the reason you picked me up is because of them. My warrior priestess guardians.
The Intervention Horse
One time I went to a ceremony and started drinking. I didn't stop for two years.
One day my son came up to me and said, "Dad, if you don't stop drinking, I'm taking all your stuff."
I said, "Go ahead! Take it! There's my saddles over there. There's my spurs. You might as well take the horse too."
At that time, I had a real good horse, a beautiful little gray pony.
One day my son came to me again. He said, "Dad, I can't get that pony to come to me, no matter how I call him. He just hangs his head and stands there."
I went out to the pasture with my son, and watched him call. My pony just stood there and shook his head. I said, "No, you don't call him like that. You have to be gentle, like this."
I called my pony. He pricked up his ears, put up his head, and came running to me. My good horse, he had been waiting for me all this time.
I started to cry.
I had let down my wife, I had let down my kids. Half the time I couldn't even remember all my kids' names.
But there was something about letting down my horse that I just couldn't stand.
The next week I checked myself into rehab.