factory going up in Las Vegas, hadrnstopped by; finally a slim and prctt’rnwoman named Bette—the journalistrnwho had broken tlie Big Boquillas Ranchrnstory that launched the payoff scandalrnthat forced Tribal Chairman Peter McDonaldrnfrom office—showed up, andrnLena brewed a pot of fresh coffee.rnGeorge had begun to refill the pack withrnthe items we needed for the trip when arnshabby brown Toyota sedan pulled in besidernthe trailer. “It’s Lena’s mom,” hernsaid around the bungee cord he held inrnhis teeth. “Don’t you have to be somewhere?”rn”What do you mean?” “Thernmother-in-law taboo.” In traditionalrnNavajo culture mother- and son-in-lawrnare not permitted each other’s company,rnor eyen yicinity, and they are not supposedrnto look at one another at all.rnGeorge laughed. “We like to kid eachrnother about that.”rnThe old lady entered from the littlernporch followed by a tall slender boy withrnvery long bare brown legs. She wasrndressed in traditional style, wearing thernmany-lavered skirt of pale gray silk, greenrnvelvet blouse (worn, as the men wear thernblack felt reservation hat, through thernhottest days of summer) pinned with arnlarge silver and coral brooch, and whiternleather moccasins. Lena came with thernbaby from the kitchen space to introducernus. Her mother had almost no Englishrnbut her manner was extremely gracious,rnand the boy, whose name was Shane,rnseemed friendly. She sat on the centerrncushion of the sofa, Lena taking a placernto her right and Shane to her left, andrncrooned to her grandson while shernstroked his head. The Navajo language isrnconsidered almost impossibly difficultrnfor outsiders to master; during WorldrnWar II American intelligence used Navajosrnspeaking in their native tongue as anrnalternative to code language. It is alsornsupposed to be unpleasant to listen to,rnbut as spoken by Lena and her mother itrnsounded soft and sibilant. George attemptedrnto learn Navajo after he andrnLena were married, but she always endedrnby laughing at him and after a timernhe quit trying. The boy Shane leanedrnacross his mother to speak to the baby,rnalso addressing him in Navajo. He hadrnbeen grinning all the time, displaying hisrnstrong white teeth more broadly until hisrndark Mongolian eyes almost disappearedrnbehind his round cheeks. He had on arnblack T-shirt with the legend “We arernthe Overlords” printed across the back,rnand from under the black beanie cap hisrnblack glossy hair fanned across his shoulders.rnLena’s mother had nine children,rnthe youngest of whom was ten v’cars oldrnwhile five were already married. Shernowned a house in the government developmentrnat Red Lake, in addition to thernranch at White Mesa where Shane hadrnspent the past nine days herding sheeprnand sleeping out on a high wooden scaffoldrnto be away from snakes. Georgernslapped him on the leg. “Good for you,rnDude,” he said. “Looking after sheep isrna big responsibility.” Shane gave mc arnsideways look, still grinning. Then hernstretched his long legs on the carpet,rnpulled the bill of his cap over his eyes,rnand leaned back in the cushions. “It’srnboring, man,” he said above folded arms.rn”Nine days without seeing nobody, withoutrnnobody to talk to, without no shower.”rnHe pushed the cap back from hisrneyes again and went on grinning at mc.rn”It doesn’t sound boring to me.”rnGeorge bent to lace his boots. “As a matterrnof fact, we’re getting ready to gornclimbing on White Mesa right now.”rnLena was carefully t ing Christopherrnonto the cradlcboard of a type used byrnNavajo mothers since the tribe’s nomadicrndays some hundreds of years ago. “Whyrndon’t you guys take him with you?” shernasked, glancing at her brother. “I thinkrnhe could probably do with a change.”rnWe stopped at the Yah-Ta-Ay, wherernbland impassive faces stared through thernstranger and floated past him with as littlernhuman recognition as if he were invisible,rnfor the mail, beer, and soft drinks. Itrnwas stocked to please a Westchesterrnhousewife, and the ‘ideo shop crowdedrnwith adolescent Naajos in bclagaanarndress picking through the latest Hollywoodrnfilms. Then we drove on to thernlandfill where George deposited a bag ofrntrash and Shane called my attention tornAvon Lady, a very old woman seated in arnfolding chair and huddled under blanketsrnin the hot sun while she sniffed fingernailrnpolish from a discarded bottle.rnAround her a man scavenged in arnpainstaking way from one pile of garbagernto another; Shane said he was looking forrncopper to trade for liquor at the bootlegger’s.rnTrash blew out of the dump, acrossrnthe road, and into the desert beyond it.rnGeorge said that Tuba City had been arnvery clean place before it started to grow,rnbut that nobody wanted to take the timernanymore to fill in over the garbage. “It’srninteresting that people who consider thernland to be sacred should be guilty ofrntrashing it this way, but it’s a real problemrnhere.”rnShane sat with his knees drawn up onrnthe foldaway seat in the back of the Datsunrnpickup’s cramped cab as we drocrnnorth on Highway 160 toward Red Lake.rnThe morning was clear and warm, butrnfilled with the same hard wind drivingrnunremittingly from the west. Ahead therntilted bulk of Black Mesa lifted away tornthe northeast, while in the northwestrnWhite Mesa gradually clarified itself inrnthe dusty desert light. Old womenrnshrouded in their long skirts and heavyrnblouses herded sheep on foot and onrnnoisy fourwhcclcrs; a hundred yardsrnfrom the highway men wcarmg blackrnhats and sunglasses struggled to raise arncanvas tent on the booming wind besiderna sign handlettered with the words REVIVALrnMEETING. George drove veryrnfast on the shoulder of the washboardedrnreservation road, the truck canted at anrnangle of nearly 1 ^ degrees and towing arnlong parachute of pale bentonite dust.rnAs we approached White Mesa he calledrnmy attention to the great buttressingrnarch outstanding from the cliff. Lena,rnwho grew up out here, had been taughtrnas a girl to a’oid arches. She is of the lastrngeneration to have been raised in the traditionalrnNaxajo life, including its ritualsrnand beliefs: without television, telephone,rnor radio; barefoot, lacking motorizedrntransport and store-bought groceriesrnwith the exception of a few cannedrngoods. “Everybody was poor,” Georgernsaid, “nobody knew what poverty was—rnnobody had so much as heard the word.rnOf course, there was always some guyrnaround with 4,000 head of sheep, butrnthen, next to him there was you, and e -rnerybodv else.” He turned abruptly fromrnthe clay road into a dusty trail runningrnstraight at the mesa, twisting amongrnthe juniper trees before it began to climbrnthe chalky walls where cliff swallowsrnswooped and darted into a sky thatrnappeared purple at the zenith.rnThe juniper forest crowded the road,rnthe dark boughs brushing the truck withrnan odorous rub, and presently clearingsrnappeared in it where people from thernsummer hogans had been cutting firewood.rnWhen George could maneuverrnno farther he halted at the crest of arnsteep sand dune and set the hand brake.rn”Wait until you see this,” he said. Hisrnvoice was almost a whisper. In silence wernunfolded ourselves from the truck, drankrnfrom the water bottles, shouldered thernpacks, and walked off in deep sandrnamong the stunted, twisted trees. crn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn