Sacred Texts  Native American  Navajo  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Spider Woman, by Gladys A. Reichard, [1934], at

p. 244



Ordinarily the afternoon of the third day is given over to entertainment of some kind. It may be curative clowning, as when the Black Ears act foolish and toss into the air such patients as come for aid. They perform rarely, but Marie told me they would dance their Mud Dance today. Horse races and other field sports are the most common diversions, although there may even be a Girls' Dance. The guests appear with their accustomed regularity at the cooking shade about twelve o’clock. With their usual precision they eat too, heartily, but somewhat more hastily than usual. The young huskies omit their second table, and before long the place looks comparatively deserted. I announce that I am going to Ganado, and White-Haired-Woman persuades me to take her and a bunch of her friends to the celebration at Water-in-the-Ground opposite the trading-post. There is to be a dedication of a new day school and a community assembly hall. It is hardly out of my way and I consent, but I am only loading up when Marie, looking hurt, mentions imploringly that they wanted to go, too.

"I did not know it," I apologize, "and I have already promised these women. I will run them over. You get your crowd together, and I'll come back for you."

I do so, and we land at the community house with all the

p. 245

women and children Jonathan can hold to find Maria Antonia and the fourteen-year-old boy there, too. Someone brought them in a wagon. There is a huge temporary dining-shade, for no celebration would be understood by the Navajo if food were absent. The reason the young blades bolted our food is that they do not want to insult their hosts by neglecting this feast in any way. Since it is run by the Government, there is a census of men, women, and children fed, and it reads 2,500. As we wait for the mess-shade to disgorge its visitors, many doubly replete, Marie whispers to me confidentially in a voice of deep indignation, "I found my pet lamb over here."

Surprised but amused, I ask, "But how did it get here?"

"That old woman brought it with her. She just took it from our shade. If we hadn't come here I would never have got it back."

"It is lucky we did, isn't it?" I reply rhetorically, as I dismiss the incident in my interest in the rug exhibit.

I see an old friend of mine who used to be my interpreter. He is busy organizing a dance he intends to put on after the speeches. As he opens a door of the community house, I notice his troupe is wearing shirts which are imitations of the buckskin shirts of the Plains Indians. Their heads are gay and heavy with feather bonnets. Thinking, "Et tu, Brute!" I turn to Marie. "I am going to Ganado. I know what this entertainment will be like, and tonight there will be only the Girls' Dance. I will be back early Monday to take my grandmother home," I promise, confirming a previous somewhat noncommittal agreement.

"All right," she smiles, and I am off.

Less than a mile from Water-in-the-Ground I leave behind the hot sand blown on to sticky sweating skin, the thick

p. 246

aimless crowds and the monotony of three days of ceremony. Traffic is heavy today on our road and I meet six cars and trucks altogether, all bound for the celebration. This number in fifteen miles does not make me feel at all cramped, and I drive on thinking thoughts to the rhythm of the motor. I have covered about six miles, and I have noticed no living thing in sight since I loose-herded our sheep, which were crossing the road several miles back. I hear, as if directly under my wheels, an insistent, plaintive, slightly aggrieved "Wä hä hä!" Penetrating it is, startling, even ghostlike. I have been buzzing along thoughtless of my driving; I had supposed I was automatic about it years ere this. "Could I have heedlessly run over a lamb?" I think as I jam on the brakes and come to a dead stop some feet from where I heard the cry.

I look back, see nothing dead, dying, or rolling in the road. I even get out to inspect more thoroughly. There is nothing. At the moment I try to convince myself there cannot possibly be ghosts, I think of Marie's rescue of her lamb and turn to the rear seat. As I lift up a tarpaulin which has taken an elevated position I exclaim, "Oh! Are you here?" and Marie's lamb answers piercingly, "Wä hä hä!"

All alone as I am, I burst into a series of hearty chuckles which follow one another in ever more rapid and deepening succession. What to do with a lamb? By this time my mind has passed the mouse-trap stage. My next thought is, "What would Marie do?" Simple enough—she'd take it along. So will I. The ranch I am visiting for the week-end is full of live things—what is one more? A bit of alfalfa and a pan of water in a vacant turkey-pen—what more does a lamb need?

Next: Chapter XXXII: Tragedy