The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnNavajoland: IrnIn the American Southwest nothingrnlooks to be of a piece but the landscapernand the infinity of sky overhead. Thernvast frame of the earth and the geomorphicrnscheme that shaped it lie plainlyrnrevealed through a scrim of sparse vegetationrnso that a single landmark is sufficientrnto supply, organize, and integraternin the imagination a multitude of associatedrntopographic features enabling it tornreconstruct the sweeps of geologicalrnspace that both separate and connectrnthem. The southwestern landscape isrnnot only recognizably of a piece, it canrnbe held as such within the mind. ThernNavajo Reservation, home of the Dinehrn(meaning “Earth People”), comprises 26rnmillion acres located in three states betweenrnfour peaks rising from the fourrnpoints of the compass: Debentsa in thernLa Plata Mountains of Colorado, an elevationrnbetween Colorado’s Blanco Peakrnand Pelado in the Jemez Range in NewrnMexico, Mt. Taylor near present-dayrnGrants, New Mexico, and the San FranciscornMountains north of Flagstaff, Arizona;rnall of them believed by the Navajosrnto be formed of earth brought from thernunderworid by the Dinch and their elderrnbrothers, who in ancient times wore thernshapes of men, after their emergence intornthe upper one in the vicinity of thernmodern town of Silverton, Colorado.rnThe Papago Reservation is as lovely but,rnbeing much smaller, offers far less varietyrnof terrain and vegetation.rnAs the highway north from Flagstaffrndescended the forested benches thatrnpedestal the San Franciscos, the heat increasedrnwith the stony aridity of therncountry. Dust devils spun beside thernroad and a column of pink dust, incandescentrnin the afternoon sun and tallerrnthan Elijah’s whirlwind, rose thousandsrnof feet into a cyanic sky. At intervals arntrailer home appeared or a modest housernbuilt of cinderblock, each surrounded byrna brush corral and the sacred hogan builtrnas a representation of the cosmos, itsrndoor facing toward the rising sun. Somernof these hogans were no more than polesrncovered with dirt and resembling giganticrnanthills, others octagons of carefullyrnfitted planks and logs; a few were sheetedrnl^-i-‘^-L.. J “rnf ‘S . !rn-: ‘yt •rnrcsrnmrn• ‘ – • : – •rnwith tarpaper. Late model pickup trucksrnstood parked on the packed dirt aroundrnthe front doors, and beside every third orrnfourth house a satellite dish cupped itselfrnto the clairvoyant sky like a patient attentivernear. Few sheep and range cattle wanderedrnin this country the color of blood,rnhalf submerged in the pink drifting sandrnof its own pulverizing rock; a singlernpitiably starved horse stood along thernright-of-way with its penis extended,rnlooking near death. Where booths ofrnbrush and board painted with the wordrn”Jewelry” leaned against the fencelines,rnthe belagaana tourists (some studentsrnbelieve the word represents the Navajos’rnearly approximation of “American”) inrnplay clothes pawed among silver andrnturquoise trinkets under the deadpanrnfaces of the traditionally dressed hidianrnwomen. Tuba City had been describedrnto me as “the biggest Third Worid Cityrnin the Southwest” by someone who obviouslyrnhad never visited the place. Therntown was founded in the latter part ofrnthe 19th century by Mormon pioneersrninvited to the site by a Hopi from the villagernof Oraibi named Tuvi (meaningrnOutcast) who wished to make his ownrnsettlement at nearby Mocncopi securernagainst the Paiutes. It was originallyrncalled Koechaktewa (White Sands), butrnthe Mormons changed the name tornTuba City in honor of their good friendrnTuvi. Today Tuba City is a collectionrnof mobile homes arranged irregularlyrnamong the sand dunes along a four-lanernhighway with turnouts to the shoppingrncenters, gas stations, and nationally franehisedrneateries patronized by the hordesrnof Illinoisans, Californians, and Virginiansrnwho pass through every summer onrntheir way to visit the Grand Canyon,rnwhich appears in cross-section on thernWestern horizon. With 5,000 residents,rnTuba City is slightly larger than thernNavajo capital of Window Rock at thernopposite eastern end of the reservation.rnAt the Ya-Tah-Ay chain store close by therncity dump I placed a call to GeorgernHardeen for directions out to his trailerrnat the edge of town.rnGeorge Hardeen said, “I’m reallyrnhooked on this part of the country. Everybody’srnpoor here, nobody has anyrnmoney. And I like the isolation of thernres.” George had on hiking shorts andrnshoes, and his backpack lay on the carpetrnwith its contents spread around his feet.rnThe bay window in the side of the trailerrnfaced the Tuba City Airport’s single runwayrnwhere an incoming ambulancernplane had recently crashed after hittingrntwo horses (in Navajo “those that menrnlive by”) and decapitating one of them.rnGeorge said that the Navajos are uncooperativernin keeping their livestock offrnthe runway, but expert at shooting outrnthe landing lights along the strip. Beforernmoving onto the reservation to work forrnthe Navajo Times in Window Rock andrnlater for the Gallup Independent inrnGallup, New Mexico, he had been arnnewspaperman in Page, Arizona, whencernhe had migrated from a previous newspaperrnjob in Missoula, Montana. Byrnbirth he is a Connecticut Yankee. Hisrnparents came out from Connecticut forrnhis wedding in Tuba City and have notrnbeen back since: “on account of thernheat,” they say.rnIt was not, in late June, very hot yetrnbut a hard wind out of the stretched bluernsky beat against the tin skin of the trailer.rnWhile Lena Hardeen washed the breakfastrndishes her cousin, a tall keen-facedrnyoung Navajo, put aside the books hernhad been studying in preparation for hisrncollege examinations to sit at the diningrntable with the baby Christopher on hisrnlap. The framed photograph on the wallrnbehind him showed Annie Dodge Wannetka,rna Navajo statcswoman to whomrnPresident Kennedy awarded the CongressionalrnMedal of Freedom and forrnwhom Lena had worked as an intern.rnGeorge and I were trying to get away togetherrnon a hiking trip, but there hadrnbeen delays. Another of Lena’s relatives,rnalso a young man earning college moneyrnby working construction on a chocolaternJULY 1995/49rnrnrn