Canyon Friends

A scraggly Navajo fellow wandered into my campsite on the rim of Canyon de Chelly.  I was reading when he arrived.  He was drunk.  He learned I was from New York and was impressed, and I couldn’t shake him.  His friend Dave joined us.   They immediately pulled out their identification papers, as if to comfort me.  It didn’t comfort me.  Dave showed me his prisoner identification card, which was split in half and taped together.  He got out a couple months ago.  Dave was less drunk, and he explained that they had taken some peyote.  They passed an Evian bottle between them, filled with a mixture of vodka and peyote, so they claimed.  Alcohol is illegal inside the Navajo nation.  They invited themselves to sit down with me.  I was nervous. I tried to insinuate that they should leave, making reference to my desire to get back to my reading.  This only made Dave interested in my book, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.  He read the jacket slowly.  The scraggly man explained that his son had just graduated from high school.  He then began to cry.  His son was disappointed in him because they never go fishing together.  Because the father is too drunk.  Because the son had to buy him a hamburger the other night at 11 pm because he had no money.  I didn’t know how to respond.  Thankfully Dave interrupted: what does “threeving” mean?  He meant thriving, a word he read in the last sentence of the book jacket:  “a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.”  I didn’t want to respond.  Better to comfort a drunk man twice your age or explain why you’re reading a book about the white man killing Indians to an Indian ex-con?  I swatted a bug.  The conversation was dropped.  They tried to teach me how to say “bug” in Navajo.  It’s something like “Cho-si” but I mispronounced it.  The way I said it, it sounded like a dirty word.  They laughed and tried to teach me a couple other words, “thank you” and “friend.”  They laughed at my pronunciation some more.  Dave told a bad joke, a pun.  He started reading my book again, flipping it open to random pages.  He seemed to like it.  I told him he could have it, I was only 8 pages in.  He said no.  I said it was a gift.  He said he didn’t have time to read it.  If he wouldn’t read it, I’d keep it, but if he would read it, I wanted him to have it.  He tucked it into his shirt.  One passage he read was about a skull.  He told me there was a skull in the canyon, from maybe 1736.  It still has sideburns.  It’s surrounded by cave paintings.  They could take me to it, it was a full moon, we could see.  I was not about to go hunt a skull in a canyon in the dark with a couple of drunk guys.  Dave just got out, remember?  Maybe I would be the skull.  I had to wake up early, I told them, had to get on the road. Dave went off to the bathroom.  The scraggly man remembered his son, his son’s disappointment.  He teared up again.  He asked me for wisdom.  I dodged.  Dave was taking too long in the bathroom.  The scraggly man asked me to get him out of this place.  Drive him to LA, to Flagstaff at least.  Dave came back.  Let’s go to the skull in the morning, he suggested.  Get some beers and head down into the canyon at 10 AM.  Then I could drive them to Flagstaff.  They were drunk and wouldn’t let me say no.  I agreed to meet them at 10 at the campsite.  Dave asked me to hold on to his sunglasses and the book until the morning.  He didn’t want to lose them.  Fine.  They left.  I woke up at 6 AM and packed my campsite.  I left the glasses on the table.  And the book with a note.  I wasn’t about to Indian give actual Indians.  Then I sped off, stopped for gas and coffee, and drove to Flagstaff by myself.  `


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5 Responses to “Canyon Friends”

  1. Chance St. John Says:

    I understand but am disappointed you didn’t bring them to Flagstaff. If you had anything to fear from them you would have found out that night. Maintain faith in humanity! Whenever I see a hitchhiker I pick them up and think of Phoenix. When are you headed to LA?

  2. JRW Says:

    What was the pun?

    • sampackard Says:

      The Lone Ranger and Tonto walk into a bar. The barkeep yells “No Indians allowed in my bar.” They step out. Tonto says “Let’s go.” The Lone Ranger says “Hold on, I’ll go in and get us some drinks.” Tonto says “I don’t want to wait out here, it’s cold.” The Lone Ranger tells him to go jog in place between their two horses. Tonto goes. The Lone Ranger enters the bar, orders some drinks. A man walks in, asks “Whose horses are tied outside this bar?” The Lone Ranger says “Those are my horses.” Then the man says “You left your Injun running!”

  3. Cell Phone Photo Review! « Sam's America Blog Says:

    […] left New Mexico and went west.  With some delay (see earlier blog posts) I got to California.  I locked my keys in my car at a rest stop in Chiriaco […]

  4. dooley Says:

    this is incredible.

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