The Hundredth Meridianrnbv Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnNavajoland: IIrnW’c had gone barcK 25 ai’cls when I liadrna fcehng of the noods dissoK ing aroundrnus, and then we were hanging our toesrnoer a hare roek ledge at whieh the worldrndropped a\a. I’Vom 20 miles out BlaekrnMesa ajDpeared to float in spaee like arnlong dark eloud bisected h a pillar ofrndust rising half a mile into the desert sk.rnC’.eorgc \atehed me for some time beforernhe spoke. “‘Well'” “Magnificent,”” Irntold him.rnWt descended to a narrow ledge for arncloser look at the arch hundreds of feetrnbelow through whieh swallows passed almostrnquicker than the ee could folliw;rnsoiiiewhere the w ind-dow n call of arncan()n wren sounded. Then we beganrnto work along the cliff face after Shane,rnwho had disappeared. W’c found hinrrnten minutes later seated on an outcrop ofrnsandstone roek hugging his bare kneesrnwith his \Tists and wearing his caj^rnpulled oer his ees. When we sat besidernhim he |5u.shed back the cap and ga e mcrna challenging look. “What do ()u thinkrnof this countr?” Shane demanded.rn”Beautiful,” I said. “1 think it’s boring,”rnhe replied, and commenced staring intornthe enrp rean. Ck’orgc unwrapped a granolarnbar he had taken from the pack,rnbroke it in two pieces, and offeredrnmc one. “What are ()u looking at]'”rnhe asked the bo. ” h sheep,” Shane answered,rnwithout moing his ees.rn”\ here arc thc ? I don’t sec an’ sheep.”rnUsing fieldglasscs 1 scanned the plain belowrnfor sheep and f inalK found them, sornfar out as to be nearl- inisible. “Thatrngu,” Shane said darkly, “don’t knownothing.rnOtherwise he wouldn’t hacrntaken sheep where there ain’t no graze.”rn”\ here do ()u take them?” “Somewiierernwhere there’s sonrcthing for themrnto graze.” George pointed out for me hisrnmother-in-law’s ranch, directh ahead ofrnus and 1,500 feet liclow. It was a smallrnhouse and barn with a couple of big cottonwoodsrnfor shade. “Lena sas ou’ernhad a lot of snakes out here this summer.”rnShane nodded, and indicatedrnsomething apparenth far in the distance.rn”It’s the witchcrafters” doing,” he said.rn hen (k’orgc made no resptjnse to thisrnI asked, “\”liat witchcrafters?” “‘[‘hosernout there. ” I followed his cvtendcd indexrnfinger and made out a ranch adjacentrnto his grandmother’s ])ro|5ert.rn”Thc make the snakes come to us.” hirnthe ]5ast week he had killed three or fourrnhe had found in tlie house after finishingrnhis afternoon nap, all of them good sizedrnrattlers. When I mentioned that I amrnfond of .snakes, ccn rattlers, Shane toldrnme sternh that Naxajos arc not allowedrnto pick up, cat, or ecn look at a snakernwhen it is i^ossible to ignore one. crnstood finalh and began to traersc thernrimrock again, gazing down as we wentrninto the side eamons where hawks soaredrnon the thcrmals aboe the interlacingrntrails the deer had made on their wa tornwater. The deepest of the canons cutrnthrough the cliff into the cllow plain belowrnwhere it formed a crcxasse thatrnShane said was the home of a giant crabrnwho had lied there for man ears. .Allrnou saw was the huge claw reaching outrnof the ravine to grab a shec]X or a man.rnShane wanted to climb down and inestigaternthe crcxasse but Cicorge put hiinrnoff, saving that the countrv” was too flatrnand uninteresting, as well as too hot,rndown there. “I know something elsernou d enjo seeing,” he told mc suddenly.rn”That is, assuniiiigwcean hud it. I’vernnever seen it, nivself.”rnWe descended White Mesa on itsrngentler western edge following the curvingrnroad dow n to Kaibito, past men onrnhorseback movmg in and out among thernjuniper trees, women pushing shee]5rn(now as for the past 400 cars woman’srnwork in the land of the Navajos) on foot,rnand windmills revolving like silver pinwheelsrnabove the waterwclls wherernrights-holders loaded the big water cansrninto pickup trucks. As we drove Shanerntalked about his horses, and how untilrnthe livestock reduction |orogram was iniplcmcntedrnto reduce overgrazing on thernreservation the fann’lv had owned 400rnshec|), and how he wanted to live inrnPhoenix after he finished his summertimernwork, which was branding cittlernaround the reservation. North of thernmesa we came to a general store with arngas ]5uiiip outside it where two roads intersected.rnCeorge got out and asked directionsrnfrom an old Indian standing besiderna flatbed truck loaded w ith hav.rnIhc llosteen, or elder, rc]K”ated thernword “roo-un” several times slovvKrnaround the stalk he had been chewingrnbut finallv shook his head, so Georgerncalled Sliane from the ]5ickup to interpret.rnAt sight of the bov the old man’srnface assumed a warmer expression, thernskin around his eves wrinkling further inrna slow sniilc as he lislxaied to him speak.rnThen he answered bricflv in Navajo.rn”lie doesn’t know,” Shane translatedrnprondlv. “lie knows, all right,” Georgernsaid as he started the engine, “but herndoesn’t want to corrupt an innocent bovrnlike the Dude here.” W hen Lena wasrnpregnant vv itli Ghristo]5her she had askedrnher husband to suspend his archaeologicalrnexplorations until after the babv wasrnborn, “1 don’t know wliv aiivbodvwouldrnwant to live out here.” Shane observed.rn”It’s totallv boring.” Inside the store twornIndian bovs about 17 vears old were flirtingrnwith the prettv gid who managed thernvideo desk. Thev had some Lnglish andrnCicorge asked them if thev-would be willingrntf) guide us to the turnoff to InscriptionrnHouse Ruin, and direct us verballvrnfrom there. We followed the bovs mrntheir red sports ear on the iievvlv |3avcdrnroad that terminates at the Indian boardingrnschool at Nava|o Mountain, past thernnew medical center luiilt in total isolationrnin a juniper and cedar forest. Shanernwas iin|5resscd bv the car and wonderedrnaloud how the bov s had obtained such arnsplendid machine. Nobodv he said in hisrnfainilv would ever buv him a hisrngrandfather let him have the truck kcvsrnsometimes but onlv w hen he was drunk.rnTwo or three miles north of the store thernbovs turned onto a ]5avcd a]3ron fromrnwhich a rutted dirt road moved offrnamong low trce-coveicd hills. We pulledrnAUCJUST 199.S/49rnrnrn