Indian Culture Cut Deep Into Rocks

“When I was a kid we would run all around here, climbing the ladders, jumping off the rocks.”

Simon is guiding me through a Pueblo settlement north of Santa Fe more than 800 years in the making.

“Yes, this was our home.”

His voice is strong but wrestles at times in finding the right word to communicate what he is trying to tell us. His long black hair is woven into a braided tail and hangs from beneath a mesh baseball cap. He is genuine, he is proud.

Our walk is unstructured as if he is doing this for the first time – but he is not. His words, rather, are genuine and unscripted. A life of living and absorbing history cuts you free from talking points.

As we walk across the mesa he recounts of how hundreds of people lived in the communal area, building two-story adobe structures accessible to the upper floors by ladders.

“This was for whenever danger came you would pull up you ladders,” he said.

The ground is a barren and dry. An open area surrounded by stones that once housed fresh water is now barren and overgrown. His ancestors dug the retention area out of the surface of the rock allowing for the water to remain clear and drinkable.

We climb down a wooden ladder into a small hole dug out from the surface of the rock. The floor rests ten feet below the surface, the air noticeably cooler.

Back up on the mesa we look out across the valley. Trees, rocks, and brush populate the grounds.

“There is the volcano the created this land,” he said, his arm pointing to tall conical structure miles off into the distance. The image ominously looks over the valley.

“We farmed below and lived up here. This was our home.”

Simon lead us down the face of the cliff to the homes cut from the face of rock where his ancestors spent their winters. Following his footsteps, we work our way down a hand carved aquifer that also served as stairs as his ancestors moved back and forth.

Pointing up he shows us pictographs etched into the walls. Animals, men, and nature are celebrated. The carvings date back hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas. Simon’s ancestors did not need to be discovered.

The caves, created by stone on stone, are small, but spacious. The ceilings darkened from the soot of fire inside during the winter months.

“The rock walls retained the heat from the sun helping make the rooms warmer,” he said. “In the summer months they would return to the cooler mesa village.”

We continue to climb down the cliff – something I never would have imagined doing earlier that day. But somehow I never felt in danger. There was something there, something bigger than me watching over us.

Standing at the bottom and looking up I understand the world is not always what we are told. And for Simon, his is one of great depth and honor.

-30-

 

 

Vision Is Not Always What You See

While leaving a hotel located on the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico, the  doorman mentions a blind man needing a lift across town.

I look back to see a  neatly dressed young man with a small hat sitting on top of his raven black hair. A white cane rests against him.

“He’s good people,” he said. “Just dealt a tough hand in life.”

After helping the young man close his seatbelt, we are driving down the road.

He’s upbeat and talkative. His white cane rests between his legs.

Then, as if he can hear unspoken questions dancing in my head, he offers his story.

“The bullet entered my head right here,” he said.

Pulling his dark sunglasses down, he points to a small scar near his left eye socket.

“The bullet exited over here,” he said pointing to a small indentation on the right side of his temple. The skin is white and discolored.

“They had to cut my optic nerves to save my life.”

His white cane shifts as I turn onto the highway.

“I was nine years old. I came home from school one day and found a 9-millimeter handgun hidden under my bed. My older brother put it there.”

“I released the clip but didn’t think about a bullet being in the chamber.”

I don’t know what to say. Silence fills the car.

“You’ll turn left at the blue self-storage,” he said as we approached an intersection.

He mentions the day before was his 29th birthday. I wish him happy birthday.

“I’ve been blind for 20-years now,” he said. His words are as flat as if commenting on the weather.

As we drive down the road he mentions landmarks for me to watch for. His sense of time and place are remarkable.

The doorman would later tell me about taking the young man home on back roads.

“He could still tell me how to get him home. He just knows.”

I ask the young man how he got to the hotel earlier in the day.

“I walked,” he said. The words hang for a moment. “Someone picked me up near the Walmart.”

He then reaches down into his pocket and hands me a small object.

“Here, take this.”

I look down at his gift. Attached to a small red carabiner, an item used by mountain climbers, is a small black crucifix. Jesus hangs from the cross.

“I want you to have it,” he said.

I try to encourage him to keep the gift but finally accept not wanting to be disrespectful. The symbolism does not escape me. Both are symbols of safety, items men place their faith to protect them from danger.

We pull up to his home – the description uncanny. I help him unbuckle his seatbelt and he gets out. With his white cane he pecks across the overgrown yard where two old abandoned cars rest.

Pulling away I look down at the gift knowing, once again, God is at work.

-30-

img_4578

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batman, a Playboy Bunny, and me.

At fifteen years of age I met my childhood hero.

The black magic marker moved across the underside of my skateboard.

“Best of Bat Luck,” said the handwritten words.

Adam West handed the pen back to his agent. Reaching out he shook my hand.

“Thank you young man,” he said. “That was something else.”

Our teenage years are filled with odd experiences – many time a result of finding ourselves. My particular journey occurred over thousands of hours riding a skateboard. And one day that led me to meet Batman.

While lots of my friends were at football practice or spending time hitting the books, I could be found figuring out how to make a small wooden plank flip over or ride up the side of a vertical wall. Misspent youth, maybe, but a growing experience all the same.

One night the competitive skateboard team I was riding for was performing at an annual auto show in large convention center. We shared the ticket with Patty McGuire, former Playboy Playmate of Year, and Adam West and the Batmobile. We, of course were a distant third item on the night’s playbill.

There were a half-dozen of us in a corner of the auto show – a small space carved out between new car auto exhibits. At each end were wooden ramps along with an open space to do freestyle tricks.

All around us the auto companies were unveiling new models. Lights, turning tables with cars and scantily models. For a teenage boy this was the thing dreams were made of. Throw in Playboy Bunny and the Batmobile and I figured my life was peaking on that cold January night.

Throughout the night the announcer called out upcoming show times for both our skateboard demonstrations sandwiched between those for our better-known costars.

One night as the event wound down I was hanging around after the rest of the team’s parents had picked them up. While I was working on a kick flip, a man leans over the red velvet ropes.

“Hey son,” he says. “My client was wanting to see the show. Think if I bring him over you could do some of that skating for him?”

“Sure,” I said and went back to my skateboard.

Minutes later the man returns – only this time with Adam West.

I’ll never forget how cool Bruce Wayne looked, his checkered sport coat casually tossed over his shoulder. He reached out and gave me his best Bat Handshake.

As a kid my mother drew a Batman logo on the back of a white towel. She told me I’d run around the house for hours fighting imaginary villains as Batman. Little did I know a dozen years I would be standing face-to-face with the real thing.

I did about a 5-minute show but honestly I don’t remember a thing. That happens when you are star-struck.

When I finished, Batman smiled and asked his agent for a pen.

To this day the black ink has never dried in my heart.

-30-

Batman Adam West Life Magazine.jpg