Photo by Deer Roberts © 2011
By Deer Roberts
Artist/writer, worked in publishing as a managing editor for several years. She inched her way to a BA in Art from Siena Heights University, Adrian, MI, in 2002 while raising 5 wonderful adults as a single mother. She currently contributes from the Ramah, NM area.
on’t get me wrong. Life here certainly isn’t idyllic. My daughter informs me Cibola County is the poorest in these continental United States (funny, I thought that of the county closest to downtown El Paso, as per the 2000 census). Don’t know if the claim is true, but there sure are a lot of poor here. Funny thing about the poor though, they sure know how to take care of one another. As a kid living just off the Pasquotank Sound in North Carolina, I remember when my dad had done a favor for a Puerto Rican man with a family there. He returned, in kind, a sack of potatoes. When my mom opened the sack, every last potato was rotten. Her take on it was to turn to us kids (there were eight of us on an enlisted man’s pay), preserving the dignity involved and mandate us never to tell a soul. “These folks obviously chased the potato truck,” she said. “They’ve given us the best they had and all they had to eat. You are never to tell a soul.” Then she summarily dumped the sack. Forgive me, Mom. I think it’s a great story. At any rate, we are a community of Navajo, Zuni, gay, lesbian, off-gridders, Mormons, and comfortably-retired Anglos. If there are more I’ve yet to find, forgive me again. The Navajo, I hear, are split between the traditionalists and the Christians. My impression is the Christians suspect the traditionalists of superstitious beliefs. They may be right, or not. Across the road from me is a very old Navajo man who has lived on his property since he was a kid. His home is a hogan with no running water. There are no electrical lines running to his property. Some within the Navajo community, I’ve been told, hold superstitious beliefs about him. All I know is that this man took care of his mother in that home until her death. In a country that is hostage to nursing homes (the latest studies say it is three times cheaper to take care of the elderly at home than in a nursing home), I hold the man in reverence. He loved and cared for his mother to the end . . . and he is no spring chicken . . . and that hogan of his is sure simple. On the other hand, he seems to know when
someone local is having a party and just shows up. Laughs and giggles through the whole evening. Hearsay says he loves music and photography. Three times when I have come home from grocery shopping, he has been waiting for me on his horse atop the mesa adjoining his property. First time he said “Baer” to me, I ran to my neighbor and asked if he knew Navajo. “No,” he said. But I knew he knew more than I did. So I dragged him along. “Baer,” repeated the old Navajo. We both looked quizzically at one another. Suddenly it registered! Beer! How the heck that fellow knew I had picked up a six-pack I’ll never know. But he did. I gave him four of the six. He wanted to know where the rest were. My conscience wouldn’t let me give him more. “That’s all there is,” I said. He didn’t believe me, but acquiesced. Something similar has happened on all three occasions I picked up beer while house sitting, before my retreat here. Don’t know how he knows. On the other hand, he seems to be immune to hard liquor or wine. Never asked. Since I’ve relocated here I hear he thinks I am a reincarnation of the man who used to live here and died, come back to life. He’s been undercover where I am concerned lately, except for the time he paced up and down on the road in front of my house. Perhaps he was trying to get a good look and decide. So far he seems to think it best to stay away. Makes me sad. I really like him. Wish I could know him better, but suspect learning Navajo is a bit beyond my bilingual capabilities. more later . . . p.s. Found someone to act as an interpreter today and to ask permission for this article. He invited me into his hogan . . . something he never would have done if he thought me a reincarnation. Also of note, I found out not only did B.J. take care of his mother, but he also nursed his aunt through to the other side. The Navajo community built him a whole new hogan when the care was done for each. Good neighbors.
The free community magazine from Gallup, NM.