'I Walk in Beauty... '

Johnny Rustywire

Hoskie woke up and could hear nothing and so he sat up. It was early, before light, still dark outside. He walked slowly to not make a lot of noise and could see that his wife was still sleeping and he decided to let her sleep.

She liked to sleep on an old air mattress, a $16 job he got in Farmington. She said she liked to sleep on it because the springs in their bed had sagged and so they slept in what seemed like a bowl.

He opened the door and went outside. He picked up the wash basin, took a few dips of water from the barrel and washed his face and head, feeling the cold water. If he hadn’t been awake, he was now.

He could see the dark of night against deep blues and violet of the early morning light, and there was just a hint of royal blue across the sky to the east.

In the silence he could hear the cat walking. Mosi, an old gray cat that hung around the house. She usually was awake when he got up and liked to follow him around.

He could see that his wife was too tired the night before to hang up the wash and had left it by the door. He took it and made his way through the sage to the clothesline. He thought he knew the path like the back of his hand but he still stumbled on a small rock. “Maybe I need to get some new batteries for the flashlight?,” Hoskie thought. He put the basket down and stood there and could hear nothing.

When it is early like that you can't see very far but you can hear everything. Across the way, Old Man Todea was up. Hoskie could hear the screen door creak and heard Todea chopping wood--not a lot, but just a few choice whacks to split some wood for the morning fire. The sparrows were singing their song.

He thought for a minute he could hear a blue jay, but not way out here at Beclabito. He hung up the clothes and put the basket away, and then grabbed a piece of biscuit and put a couple pieces of Spam on it and cut himself a third one and one more for the cat.

He grabbed a couple of peaches and swirled around the coffee from yesterday and drank himself some from the pot. His wife would say something to him if she saw him do that, but he thought “Why use a cup?”

He took some kindling and made a fire in the outside stove and put some water in a big pot and put in the cups and silverware they used the night before. It would help to have them cook for a little while, so that his wife wouldn't have to clean up.

The light was starting to come up; it was a brighter blue. You could see inside the house a little better. He stepped around quietly and got dressed with his work clothes. His wife was still sleeping. Her hair was a little gray. She had gone to bed stiff from the arthritis.

He remembered a girl a long time ago who could run like the wind. She would race him. He told her that when she ran her cheeks got all red and she looked like a chipmunk. She used to get a mad look on her face when he said that and she looked even more like a chipmunk. She would chase him around and hit him. She could run faster and swim better than him. One time when she got mad at him she almost drowned him down by the river, but that was a long time ago. Now it was harder for her to get around.

When she woke up, she would find the dishes were on the stove, and the water would be hot and she wouldn't have to do much to clean them up later when he was gone to work.

Hoskie grabbed his work gloves, his sandwich, and put that third piece of Spam in his mouth and walked out the door and then south to the main highway. It was still before dawn, but he knew this path well and could hear the crunch of the dirt as he walked.

On the horizon, the sun was trying to find Dawn Boy and Dawn Girl and they were racing along the horizon to meet him. The sky was clear and the air crisp. It was a good morning. Hoskie walked down the road wondering what the day would bring?

Beclabito is west of Shiprock, about 20 miles on toward Teec Nos Pos, and when Hoskie got to the highway he started walking east. The only ones driving were the big trucks hauling their oversized loads across the state line before the port of entry opened up. He could see their headlights in the distance and watch them as they came toward him and then went on past with a swoosh. He walked for a while and then an old blue Ford pickup pulled over.

It was Betty Begay from Teec. In the old days, they used to see each other at the Fair dances when Waylon Jennings and Buck Owens used to come to Shiprock during the Fair. She was older now and she asked him how he was doing? She was working at the BIA in Shiprock and had been there for a number of years. Her daughter was in the back seat sleeping while mother drove.

They didn't say much. Older Navajos don't talk a lot like white people It was enough she gave him a ride and he sat back and was glad for the lift.

She asked him how things were going over at NAPI, the Navajo Farm Co-op where he worked? It's a 10,000 acre farm that lies south of Farmington on the south side of the San Juan River.

He said they were planting potatoes and corn and there should be a lot if the water held up. There was not much water, so the irrigation water had to be stretched. She understood there might be some extra potatoes, and if there were the tribe sometimes let the locals go in and glean the fields for potatoes and corn.

This year, he said, he didn't think so.

It was a quiet ride and as they got to Shiprock; dawn had broken as he got off by the Nataani Nez lodge, and she drove off to the north.

He started to walk again and remembered Betty Begay. One time when she was young, after a dance they had both been stranded with a few others and they found an old abandoned hogan and spent a cold night on the floor all piled together trying to get warm. The next morning, they were walking home and looked like they had slept outside. Her hair went every which way that morning, but she got home. He laughed as he wondered if she ever told her daughter about that time.

Hoskie walked on and had walked through Shiprock before he got a ride with some kids who were on their way to Albuquerque. They were listening to some music...the song said..."My hips don't lie..." “Yahdahlah,” he thought, “what a crazy song.” He didn't say anything out loud and when they got to the west side of Farmington, he got off and started to walk south.

It was still pretty early, before seven, when some of the crew from the farm project saw him and picked him up. They stopped at the main office and filled up some water jugs. They got back in their truck to head out to the fields.

He signed in. It was not much pay, five something an hour, but it was work, and he was glad to have a job. The sun had come up and the air was clean and his mind was clear and he thought about the old days...

Hozhoji, Hozho...

I walk in beauty...let beauty find me this day...so that as I go about that I walk in beauty...that it finds me, that there is beauty before me, and that it follows me....that there is beauty to the left of me....to the right of me....that there is beauty above me and below me...and so it is a new day and I must find the beauty in it...hozhgo nahasdlii...hozhogo nahasdlii.

Johnny Rustywire is Folded Rocks Clan People on his mother’s side, and born for Tsinahbiltnii, the Mountain People Clan on his father’s side. He comes from Toadlena-Two Gray Hills, New Mexico, where the mountain is cracked and the water flows. He is a father of six and grandfather of 12. He attended Indian boarding schools and grew up on the Navajo Reservation, and has been married to the same woman for 40 years, a Ute from Fort Duchesne, Utah.

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Johnny, I enjoyed this story. You are right, washichu's DO talk too much about nothing many times I find! Ha! I appreciate this story in how it presents a simple life & enjoying the beauty that the Creator made in early morning hours. Too many have no idea what the colors of an early morning even are. It is a favorite time of the day I find just listening to those early morning sounds of nature & watch the sky unfold it's colors minute by minute. Keep up your good works & stories so many of different ages & times can relate to across Indian Country. May the Creator bless & protect you & those so special in your life my friend.
Two Bears Growling
derrico's picture
Thanks for this beautiful story! I got my start in so many ways at Shiprock, working for DNA in its beginnings, living in a house at the old helium plant, learning every day more and more about what it means to be a human being. I used to go walking in the wash near Beclabito and I rode a horse out and around. It threw me off one day when I was trying to get over to the green pond near the San Juan that I didn't know until later was tailings from a mine by the river. The horse knew better than me (horse sense) and I walked the rest of the way to the pond and all the way back home, where the horse was waiting for me. Thanks again for painting this picture of beauty.
laurel ferguson's picture
I used to get the same feeling riding, as a child, in the back of a pickup truck going into town. And when I get up in the morning, and when I go out the door, and when I come home at night. Johnny Rustywire, you are a storyteller for sure. More, please!
laurel ferguson