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"CAVESTAWO GRAY HILLS,” a re- questered many Navajo settlements of
mote Navajo Indian trad- dome-shaped huts, built of mud and logs; ing-post in New Mexico, thatch-roofed sheep-barns, large corrals of looks for all the world like a gnarled roots and brush; and like gems laid play-village of tiny squared deep in slumbrous colors, one would often
mud-cakes, built on a vast, come upon blanket weavers seated before undulating play-ground of sandhills, with a ponderous looms, upon which would be long, low strip of blue-paper mountains slid stretched blankets of brilliant scarlet and in behind it. And not until you get within black, or blue and white; and mingled with calling distance of the “Post” can you fully the chatter of the weavers or the calls of the determine its identity. In reality it is mud, children one could always hear the distant with a few small windows pierced in three musical tinkle of the sheep-bells, as the of its sides resembling port-holes, and a many herds wandered above and below on dirt roof, growing a veritable garden of the steep slopes of the mountain-sides. grass and weeds, out of which peeps the top This remote tinkle of bells was from the of a gray stone chimney. To the right of the first fascinating and alluring to me; so one main building stand two low adobe barns, morning, while roaming around the mounand to the left a long, flat sheep-shed, fray- tains, I decided to hunt out one of the roving off into a spindly corral.
ing bands and its keeper. For three hours As I came upon “Two Gray Hills" one I climbed over ledges, crawled through warm October afternoon, after two days of thickets, crossed innumerable mountain slow, thirsty travel across the desert from streams, toward that always far-away tinFarmington, Sel Ritchie, trader, received kle; but not until the noon-day sun threw me with the hearty hospitality so character- its shortest shadows did I discover that my istic of these remote merchants of the des- quest was an echo; that I had climbed the ert; and after I explained to him my great wrong side of the ravine! interest in the Indians and anxiety to see It was too late that day to resume the something of their life, he instantly invited search, but on the morrow, after a delightme to make his “Post” my head-quarters. ful night's sleep under the venerable roof of
What a remarkable vantage-point it was! a mighty pine grove, I found my will-o'-theSurrounding us and extending endlessly to wisp. the east lay the great gray desert, the sky. From my night's resting-place, in the cool line broken by freakish shapes of earth and morning shadows at the base of the long rock and the tumbled ruins of ancient Pue- steep slope, I could distinctly hear the silblo dwellings that bore strange tales of su- very ring of that elusive bell, from far above perstition and encounter; and hidden below where the morning sun shone and where the the gray levels, in the canyons and arroyos, dews sparkled. How I wished I could be were mysterious caves, poisonous springs, invisibly and silently placed amid that and enchanted pools, the site and scene of mountain pastoral, without disturbing the many Indian festivities and ceremonies. unconscious peacefulness of it all; could
And to the west of the “Post," not half absorb that vision of poetry without ina day's ride, stretched the Pine Ridge, an truding my commonplace self to disconcert imposing range of jagged mountains, the the herder, to frighten the sheep, and arouse home of many cold, sparkling brooks, the watchful dog! grassy uplands, shady groves of cotton- As I feared, my entrance upon the scene woods, fragrant pine forests, and great spoiled it all. But, thanks to my almost spreading groups of nut-laden piñon trees. noiseless approach, I was able first to get at Hidden amidst this abundance are se- least a glimpse of the life with all its charm.
Before a small fire, its thin, blue skein of very crude and unsuccessful attempts, and smoke floating upward on the light morn- was preparing my rope for the next one. ing air, kneeled a Navajo boy; he was when my captive made a run for the gate. about twelve years old, his bobbed hair The bar I knew was too high for the stiffhung down to his shoulders in a dense mass, legged burro to jump—but lo and behold! which was held back from his eyes with a he made a sort of running slide and rolled deep crimson "bandy” of silk tied around under it. I saw his trick quick enough to his head. He wore a faded blue blouse, make a ragged, awkward cast, and as luck belted in very low on the hips with a frayed would have it, my loop made fast to a kicksash. Tight trousers, split from the knee ing hind leg just as he rolled under the bar. down on the outside, a little the worse for This sudden success came as a surprise, wear, and a pair of smoke-tanned mocca- but the surprise that immediately followed sins completed his costume. Beside him, in had it “beaten a mile”-his trip-hammer a heap, lay his blanket of many colors, and kicks jerked the end of the rope out of my upon it his bow and quiver of arrows. On hand, and away he galloped, stiff-legged a long, slender spit he was roasting a piece and awkward like a calf, with my new of meat, which was eagerly watched by a big, hemp and horse-hair rope dangling and shaggy dog seated close at his side. Behind snapping after him. I watched him with this group and running at a slant up the disgust until he disappeared in a cloud of mouuntain-side were the sheep, busily feed- dust, my chief thought being a hope that no ing. The bell, even at so close range, sound- one had witnessed this “tenderfoot” preed soft and muffled, and I wondered that dicament; but no sooner had it flashed the sound could carry as far as I knew it did. through my mind than I heard behind me
But this fragment of unconscious beauty a shrill, boyish laugh, and, turning, whom lasted but a brief moment. My presence should I see, looking through one of the was discovered. The dog barked and larger openings, but my sheep-herder from bounded toward me, the boy jumped to his the mountains! I felt humiliated. I tried feet and gathered his blanket about him, to intercept his continued laughter with an the sheep ceased their quiet feeding and explanation, but he wouldn't listen, and disappeared into the thickets. The dog's suddenly left me and disappeared in the threatening behavior occupied my atten- big door of the “store.” tion for a few moments; meanwhile the Disgusted, I made a détour of the “Post" boy, my prize, had fled; and when the dog buildings, thinking perhaps that I might lodiscovered that he was left alone with me, cate the burro on the near-by sandhills; he turned and scampered likewise. but he had fled from sight, so I, too, strolled
For a long time I sat there and listened to into the store, determined to face out my the diminishing sound of the bell, until discomfiture. There were a number of Infinally, far up on the heights, I heard the dians inside, and when I entered they slow, uneven chime telling me that peace greeted me with broad, knowing grins and and quietude reigned once more. I hadn't started talking about me among themselves. courage to molest them again, so retraced I felt like a spanked child. The boy stood my tracks down the mountain, took my over behind the big chunk-stove, his black horse at one of the settlements at its base, eyes sparkling with delight. I smiled at and reached “Two Gray Hills” that even him, and he grinned back, disclosing two ing. Of course I related my experience to rows of handsome teeth that looked like Ritchie, and it apparently struck him as pearls against the mahogany-copper colbeing wholly to be expected. He related ored skin of his face, and his hair looked similar experiences of his own, and practi- blacker than ever. His shining eyes folcally discouraged me from ever trying to be- lowed every movement I made, and I percome in the least familiar with the Indians. ceived that he was intently looking at my
One morning, not long after, I was in the watch-fob, a miniature stirrup of silver. corral trying to rope an old, scraggly, moth- The older Indians, as they finished the eaten looking burro. I had caged my droll bargaining, departed one by one, and finally target, and resolved to practice a new throw there remained only the trader, the boy, upon it until I at least understood the and myself. Now was my chance! I asked method. I had made about half a dozen Ritchie to explain to the boy who I was and