This was a very busy and different week for us. I guess we could call it our RV week because that is what took the majority of our time. We made a trip to Steamboat to install a new furnace and another trip to remove a leaking water heater. We will be going back to Steamboat this week to install the water heater. The Elders have had to go stay in Ganado since they have no water at their place. I am glad I am just the 'gopher' on these projects. I haven't the slightest idea of how all the stuff works. Owen knew a lot before we got this assignment, but he has also learned a lot more about RVs with having to do the hands-on repairs.
We took a ride over to Zuni to visit the senior missionaries there. They are going home in two weeks; and Owen wanted to see how they had winterized their 5th wheel trailer, so he would have an idea of what he needed to do for the Elders' RVs.
Another day Owen helped a couple of men get clay so they can make pots. We never realized how big of a process it is to make a pot. When you see one sitting on the store shelf, you don't realize all the time, patience, and effort that is behind it. They had to go over to the mountains by Keams Canyon. They dug the rocks out by using pry bars, hammers, and picks. The rocks were put in five-gallon buckets and carried down the mountain and dumped in the big barrels that were in the back of the truck. After they got the clay rock, one of the men said a prayer to thank Mother Earth for her gift of the clay. Then they all had to eat two pine needles so that now that sacred land is a part of them.
They will soak the rock in water until it dissolves; then it is strained through an old pair of denim pants (that have the legs tied shut). After it is strained, the clay is kneaded to make sure all the water is out of it. They roll some into coils and form a pot. A smooth rock is used to rub all the imperfections out of the pot which also polishes it. A design and paint is added. They make their own paints using burned squash seeds for black and red rock that has been crushed into a fine powder for the red. The pot is then put in a stove, covered with old pottery shards and sheep manure, and fired. After about three hours, the pot is done and removed from the stove. Hopefully, it will not have any cracks or imperfections and is ready to be sold. Some of them will sell for several hundred dollars and others for less. Even at several hundred dollars, they don't get much, if anything, for their time or labor.
When we went out for one of our appointments, his family was in the process of butchering a lamb. So we learned a whole lot about that process, too. Everything is used even the fat, intestines, stomach, and blood. The head is even roasted in a pit. They said that the eyes, tongue, brain, and meat on the head are all very tasty. We think we will just take their word for it! They are a very resourceful people and have learned to not let things go to waste.
Our District had made arrangements with the Curly family in Chinle to take us down in the bottom of Canyon de Chelly National Monument on Saturday. No one is allowed to go in there unless they have a guide or property owner with them. The Curlys own property down in the bottom, so we went to their place. Since this was a rare opportunity, we invited all the couple missionaries to go with. What a special experience. You don't really go down into a canyon. You are driving along and the canyon walls begin to rise around you. The Canyon de Chelly to the south is about 20 miles long with an adjoining Canyon del Muerto to the north of about the same length. There are several sites of dwelling ruins built by ancient Anasazi Indians between A.D. 350 to 1300. We didn't visit any of the ruins today. We drove in and out of the meandering river enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the red, sheer canyon walls and formations and the contrast between them and the green of the cottonwood trees and grass. We hiked up to a ledge on a mountain and saw petroglyphs and a few pictographs drawn by the ancient ones. We all met in the hogan and had Sis. Curly tell us what it was like growing up in the Canyon. She told of how they didn't have any sweets. They would sneak up on a bumblebee, smash it with their hands, and then eat the little bit of honey it contained. They did a lot of farming – raising peach and apple trees, squash, pumpkin, corn, and other crops.
When they would go on hunting trips, they would herd the deer into an entrapment. They didn't have guns or use bow and arrows. They had a bag filled with corn pollen. Someone would leap on the back of a deer, put the bag over its head, and smother it. This was to prevent the deer from dying from a puncture wound which was against their religion. Corn pollen is sacred to the Navajo people.
Today the families only live in the Canyon during the summer months when they are farming. The rest of the time they live in Chinle or surrounding areas.
She said that several scenes from various movies had been shot down in the Canyon. Some of the movie stars that have been to their property are John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Omar Shariff, and Johnny Depp.
We had planned on having a pot luck lunch while we were in the bottom, but it was just too windy, cold, and even started to rain a little. The zone leader called and made arrangements for us to use the church at Many Farms to have lunch. I don't think I was the only one who was glad for the change in plans, because by the time we got out of the Canyon and drove to Many Farms, the rain was really coming down.
As we were driving back to Lupton, it even turned to snow. It had snowed and had strong winds in Lupton while we were gone and the power was out. They said that the power had been out for nearly five hours. We got hit with a blizzard shortly after we got home. At 5:30 in the afternoon, our temperature was only 37 degrees. It has been blowing and cold all day today,too. I guess you could call it typical spring weather.
We continue to be amazed at the ingenuity of the Navajo people and their ability to survive. According to the Navajo beliefs, the coyote is a powerful being who has learned to adapt to human habitation. Like the coyote, the Navajo people have learned to adapt. They are a powerful and spiritual people, who believe in God, and have a strong spiritual tie with Mother Earth.