We didn't get a chance to go out for a shoot this week. Too many projects going on, not the least of which is the continuing chore of cleaning up after the windstorm. Since I'm doing it all by hand I'll probably be out there with the old chainsaw for the rest of my life. There will be tons of slash which needs to be gathered and burned. Then there is the blocking and splitting. I must be a simple minded soul because I really love it. These blow down boys are really tricky and getting them all the way down without killing myself is a challenge.Chainsaws can be a nasty business.
So, I thought I would go back in time and pick a day from our winter trip to recount.
The day is March 24,2009 and Koty and I have set out to explore the Navajo Nation back roads.
NAVAJO SHEEP HERDING DOG AT WORK
We come across a small herd of sheep with dogs working the herd keeping them away from the road. The dogs look like mutts but boy do they know their job. It's really a beautiful thing to watch. It's like a delicate dance. I couldn't resist pulling over and trying to catch some of the performance.
I was barely getting started when this old pickup pulls up and parks on the other side of the road. The man in the truck just watches me. I'm thinking this is maybe the herd owner and he isn't too keen on me messing with his sheep. I stopped what I was doing and just waited. Pretty quick the truck made a u-turn and pulled up beside me.
The man inside introduced himself as Jack the owner of the sheep.
I sort of have this gift, talent, whatever that allows me to draw people out and engage them in interesting conversation. This was to be one of those times.
I learned quite a bit from Jack. The most astonishing thing to me is that the Navajo do not resent the whites, at least not the tourists. Apparently, there is still some racism felt with the local whites. I learned Native Americans are very patriotic. The Navajo have a vast pride for their part in WWII (Navajo Code Talkers). I learned that life is tough on the reservation. Most must drive to Gouldings, where there is a public well, to get their drinking water. In most places the well water is just too saline for anything other than washing. It has to be hauled for the livestock as well.
I learned that the elders are quite concerned that the younger generation are turning their backs on Navajo customs and culture. I find this a travesty as well. There is so much of Native American culture that is light years ahead of western whites. But, these customs and cultures are still practiced by many of the older tribal members. They still use peyote and conjure visions. I learned that the medicine man still has a revered place. Most of all I learned the Navajo are a gracious people.
Jack and I probably talked for an hour. I didn't get many photographs of his dogs working as they moved out of range whilst we talked. I didn't mind. The conversation was fascinating and every bit as colorful as the landscapes. Before he left Jack told me of a road to take where the landscapes were "good". The images are representative of that landscape.
Jack pointed out his place and gave me a standing invitation. If I ever get back to Monument Valley, and surely hope I do, I will go visit Jack at his ranch and learn more.
If you have never visited this enchanted place you really should. Mother Nature quite dramatically shows how two-faced she can be. And, nowhere does she show those two faces more profoundly than in this desert. On the one hand she serves up a beauty that will make your heart break. On the other she delivers the harshest of living conditions. Cold in winter, blazing hot in summer and red dust storms that will drive a sane man crazy. A truly amazing place!