Part 4 of a sporadic saga. Part 5 is here
Bear Butte sits like an abandoned bus in the middle of the prairie. I could see it long before I could distinguish any thing else.
Mary had made it clear to me that Bear Butte is lele wakan, a very holy place, so as I approached I expected to feel…something. Maybe not an epiphany or a religious conversion, but something, the way you’re supposed to feel something when you walk into a church or a graveyard. Awe? Inspiration? Respect? All I could think was how out of place it looked, this huge butte in the middle of the prairie.
I drove on, Lowell George blasting from the tape deck.
I’ve been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet
Had my head stove in but I’m still on my feet…
And if you give me weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign…..*
I smiled a little at that. Show me a sign. Is that why I’m out here? Is there something I was meant to see? Have I already seen it, but I’m too numb to recognize it?
The look in her eyes at the instant she pulled the trigger, that was a sign. She wanted me to see that.
What does Mary want me to see?
I punched the “fast forward” button on the tape deck until I heard “Oh Atlanta” and I sang along until I found myself parked at the foot of Bear Butte, scrutinizing hand made jewelry under a blue awning.
The vendor was a young man, early twenties, short hair, ribbon shirt. He watched me casually as I moved along the table, waiting to see if any particular piece spoke to me. At the end of table were a dozen or so rings, arranged loosely on a black cloth. I leaned in for a closer look.
“You’re welcome to try them on.”
“The sizes aren’t marked. What happens if I can’t get it off?”
He reached over and picked a short, nasty looking knife off the table and ran a thumb across the edge.
“Oh we’ll get it off, all right.” He smiled. He had a contagious smile. How do people get teeth like that?
I grinned and picked up a ring that seemed to be my size. I saw his imprint, as the maker, on the inside. Then I noticed something else.
“This is a Zuni inlay.” I looked up at him. “You’re Zuni?”
“Navajo. My grandfather was Zuni.”
“You’re a long way from home, aren’t you?”
He pointed with his chin at my car and the mud spattered license plate.
“Looks like you’re farther from your home than I am from mine.”
“I don’t have a home.”
He seemed to hesitate at my response. I could tell he was thinking, trying to make up his mind about something. He got up and walked to my car, peering in the dusty windows. He came back and settled into his chair, watching me. I picked up a ring. It shimmered in my palm.
“I’ll take this one.”
“Don’t you want to try it first?”
“It’ll fit.” I had no idea if it would fit or not. There was a pair of simple earrings that I had stopped to look at three times. I saw Mary’s face, wrinkled in laughter as she chastised me for not knowing how to “pay attention.” I picked up the earrings.
“I’ll take these too.”
He put the earrings in a small plastic bag.
“All I have is a ten…”
“Okay. Thanks.” He took the ten and put it in his cash box. I smiled. It was fair.
“When you come down off the Butte, and you need something to do, look me up.” He handed me a plain business card that read “A. Beye, custom jewelry, Shiprock, Arizona.”
“There’s no phone number or anything.”
“Just ask around for me when you get there.”
I smiled to myself and gave him my name as we shook hands.
“What do you guys do for excitement down there, in Shiprock?” It was a lame question, I know, but he was offering me something, and I wanted to acknowledge that.
He smiled again, and again I marveled at his teeth.
“We piss off the helicopters.” He looked up at me, and started laughing. I could still see his grin in my rear view mirror as I started the climb up Bear Butte.
I never did make it to the top.
*“Willin” words and music copyright Lowell George