The T-Rex of Tsegi Canyon – 4

February 25, 2016  |  Fantasy  |  Share

Leland thanked them for their hospitality, agreed he’d follow up with Lois, and returned to his campsite to unfurl his bedroll and seek shelter from nippy evening breezes inside his small text. He left the flap open, and soon, Henry, who’d been slow in tearing himself away from the poodle, joined him, providing a warming bulk against Leland’s side.

In the morning, he was up early to wash in the creek, eat gloppy instant oatmeal, and travel on foot to two locations where he’d plan to comb the ground. This took about an hour, and then Leland swung round to the site where the little segisaurus had been found. Little was left buy hollowed out impressions and Leland did not spend much time at the site. Bob had been over the territory with a fine tooth comb.

Instead, Leland took his Explorer to the lodge. He got the last spot in the parking lot; the Monument was busy today. Inside the building, he was able to identify Lois by her nameplate. He waited a bit, thumbing through publications, for the full-cheeked, middle-aged Navajo lady at one of the counters to become free. She was busy helping clutches of tourists. When the area in front of her cleared, Leland walked over.

He greeted her politely in Navajo, and the woman’s cool brown eyes warmed. Leland didn’t envy her job, handling all the diverse folks who visited, with their giggling kids and sullen teenagers. Unhurriedly, he told her about his meeting with the Bitsues, and the information they’d provided about the Littletrees. He explained about his father, too, but she interrupted him, speaking in Navajo also. “Ah, I remember you. You’ve been coming here for years. I recall your father and mother, too. She spoke to me once, when I was selling my mother’s pottery outside the shop.”

He nodded, and waited. He knew he was on inspection, and privately he thanked his parents for instilling him with an appreciation for Navajo values. How contrary to contemporary society were their manners, and many younger Native kids parted ways with these traditional principles. He was pretty impatient in daily life, but here in Coconino County, Arizona, the old ways felt right.

Lois grabbed a pen and a piece of note paper and began sketching the route to the Littletree outfit. They lived in a remote part of the Canyon, but there was a good jeep track to follow.

“It’s good the monsoon hasn’t started yet,” Lois said gravely. Leland agreed. A heavy rain would have made travel there difficult if not impossible. They conversed a little more, and when a new wave of visitors made their noisy way into the building, Lois dismissed him politely.

Leland returned to his site, and then brought Henry over to the Bitsues and invited them to come with him. Both declined, citing their joints. He understood, for the track would be very bumpy. Betty offered to keep Henry with them, and Leland thanked her. He was sitting with the poodle already, looking contented. The day was promising to be warm, and the shade under the cottonwood trees would be better than sitting in a hot vehicle.

Arrangements made, Leland set out, glad he’d gassed up in Kayenta. He found the entrance to the road, and the next six miles were terrible, indeed. Jolting and bouncing along the dirt track (which often resembled a cattle trod) tested every feature on his van. At last, the road gave way to a clearing near Laguna Wash, and a group of neatly laid out hooghans. There were ramadas and sheep pens, and all the signs of a prospering family settlement. Leland pulled his Explorer next to a dusty pickup truck, cut the motor, and remained seated.

The sun was warm, but Leland drank from a water bottle and remained in place. A few minutes passed while he eyed the doors to the three octagonal buildings. Finally, a middle-aged woman emerged from one building. Leland exited the van, and instead of greeting the woman at once, he went to the back of the vehicle. Reaching in, after opening the doors, he retrieved a brown bag of groceries from Basha’s. He’d need to restock as a result, but that hardly mattered at the moment.

Lugging his sack, Leland walked up to the woman and engaged her in traditional Navajo greetings. She showed surprise, but listened intently. He took his time, introducing his meeting with the Bitsues and Lois, describing his father’s mission, and then came round to asking if he might be introduced to Mr. Littletree.

The woman smiled, but shook her head slightly. “That one has passed, but I can bring you to his brother. They were very close, so perhaps he may have the information you seek.”

Leland’s heart skipped a beat and he winged a prayer to Changing Woman even as he agreed politely. The woman introduced herself as one of the Littletree family and led him to the hooghan that was sited farthest back.

She went in first, speaking slowly and in a low voice to the two inhabitants. Leland followed her, still clutching the groceries. The man and woman were very elderly, perhaps in their 80s. They wore traditional dress. Mrs. Littletree was clad in a velvet shirt with a broomstick skirt, and had scuffed Keds on her feet. She wore two strands of beads, turquoise and coral, that would probably have made a collector faint. The old man’s pants were scuffed at the bottom, but he, too, wore a velvet shirt with silver button covers. He had a bandanna round his head. Leland knew at once he was a headman of some importance in the region.

At a nod from the younger woman, Leland introduced himself. She closed the door to the hooghan and Leland remained standing. They had kerosene lights inside the dwelling, which flickered occasionally. Carefully, Leland traced his involvement with Tsegi Canyon, his father and mother’s roles, and explained the connection to Floyd and Betty Bitsue. Her name evoked a nod from the couple. The old woman rose from her chair and came over to take the bag from Leland. “Sit here, my son,” she commanded in Navajo.

Hosteen Littletree exhibited interest in the bag’s contents. Carefully, they excavated the bag and the old man gave a sigh of satisfaction when two bags of candy emerged, one of peppermint twists and the other one contained butterscotch discs.

Leland pulled up the third chair at the table where the couple sat. He waited respectfully for them to complete their inspection of the sack; glad for the patience his parents instilled in him from an early age, he willingly repeated his story, careful not to show any signs of exasperation.


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