Agnes C. (Agnes Christina) Laut.

Through our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert online

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Online LibraryAgnes C. (Agnes Christina) LautThrough our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert → online text (page 9 of 19)
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kit; and I content myself with a little black-brown
basin at the same price, which Marie has used in her
own house as meal jar for ten years. As a memento
to me, she writes her name in the bottom.

Her house we ascended by ladder to a first roof,
where clucked a hen and chickens, and lay a litter of
new puppies. From this roof goes up a tier of stone
steps to a second roof. Off this roof is the door to
a third story room ; and a cleaner room I have never


seen in a white woman's house. The fireplace is in
one corner, the broom in the other, a window between
looking out of the precipice wall over such a view
as an eagle might scan. Baskets with corn and bowls
of food and jars of drinking water stand in niches in
the wall. The adobe floor is hard as cement, and
clean. All walls and the ceiling are whitewashed.
The place is spotless.

" Where do you sleep, Marie? " I ask.

" Downstairs ! You come out and stay a week
with me, mebbee, sometime."

And as she speaks, come up the stone stairs from
the room below, her father and brother, amazed to
know why a woman should be traveling alone through
Hopi and Moki and Navajo Land.

And all the other houses visited are clean as
Marie's. Is the fact testimony to Carlisle, or the
twin-towered church over there, or Marmon and
Pratt? I cannot answer; but this I do know, that
Acoma is as different from the other Hopi or Moki
mesas as Fifth Avenue is from the Bowery.

All the time I was in the houses, my little guide
had been waiting wistfully at the bottom of the
ladder; and the children uttered shouts of glee to see
me come down the ladder face out instead of back-
wards as the Acomas descend.

We descended from the Mesa by the sand-hills
instead of the rock steps, preceded by an escort of
romping children; but not a discourteous act took
place during all my visit. Could I say the same of
a three hours' visit amid the gamins of New York,


or London ? At the foot of the cliff, we shook hands
all round and said good-by; and when I looked back
up the valley, the children were still waving and
waving. If this be humble Indian life in its Simon
pure state, with all freedom from our rules of con-
duct, all I have to say is it is infinitely superior to the
hoodlum life of our cities and towns.

One point more: I asked Marie as I had asked
Mr. Marmon, " Do you think your people are Indi-
ans, or Aztecs?" and the answer came without a
moment's hesitation "Aztecs; we are not Indian
like Navajo and Apaches."

Opposite the Enchanted Mesa, I looked back.
My little guide was still gazing wistfully after us,
waving her shawl and holding tight to a coin which I
trust no old grimalkin pried out of her hand.




WHEN you leave the Enchanted Mesa at
Acoma, to follow the unbeaten trail on
through the National Forests, you may
take one of three courses; or all three courses if you
have time.

You may strike up into Zuni Land from Gallup.
Or you may go down in the White Mountains of
Arizona from Holbrook; and here it should be stated
that the White Mountains are one of the great un-
hunted game resorts of the Southwest. Some of the
best trout brooks of the West are to be found under
the snows of the Continental Divide. Deer and
bear and mountain cat are as plentiful as before the
coming of the white man and likely to remain so
many a day, for the region is one of the most rugged
and forbidding in the Western States. Add to the
clanger of sheer rock declivity, an almost desert-forest
growth dwarf juniper and cedar and giant cactus
interwoven in a snarl, armed with spikes to keep off
intruders and you can understand why some of
the most magnificent specimens of black-tail in the
world roam the peaks and mesas here undisturbed



by the hunter. Also, on your way into the White
Mountains, you may visit almost as wonderful pre-
historic dwellings as in the Frijoles of New Mexico,
or the Mesa Verde of Colorado. It is here you find
Montezuma's Castle and Montezuma's Well, the
former, a colossal community house built on a preci-
pice-face and reached only by ladders; the latter, a
huge prehistoric reservoir of unknown soundings;
both in almost as perfect repair as if abandoned yes-
terday, though both antedate all records and tradi-
tions so completely that even when white men came in
1540 the Spaniards had no remotest gleaning of their
prehistoric occupants. Also on your way into the
White Mountains, you may visit the second largest
natural bridge in the world, a bridge so huge that
quarter-section farms can be cultivated above the
central span.

Or you may skip the short trip out to Zufii off the
main traveled highway, and the long trip south
through the White Mountains two weeks at the
very shortest, and you should make it six and leave
Gallup, just at the State line of Arizona, drive north-
west across the Navajo Reserve and Moki Land to
the Coconino Forests and the Tusayan and the Kai-
bab, round the Grand Canon up towards the State
lines of California and Utah. If you can afford time
only for one of these three trips, take the last one;
for it leads you across the Painted Desert with all its
wonder and mystery and lure of color and light and
remoteness, with the tang of high, cool, lavender
blooming mesas set like islands of rock in shifting seas


of gaudy-colored sand, with the romance and the
adventure and the movement of the most picturesque
horsemen and herdsmen in America. It isn't
America at all! You know that as soon as you go
up over the first high mesa from the beaten highway
and drop down over into another world, a world of
shifting, shimmering distances and ocher-walled ram-
part rocks and sand ridges as red as any setting sun
you ever saw. It isn't America at all ! It's Arabia;
and the Bedouins of our Painted Desert are these
Navajo boys a red scarf binding back the hair,
the hair in a hard-knotted coil (not a braid), a red
plush, or brilliant scarlet, or bright green shirt, with
silver work belt, and khaki trousers or white cotton
pantaloons slit to the knee, and moccasins, with more
silver-work, and such silver bridles and harnessings as
would put an Arab's Damascus tinsel to the blush.
Go up to the top of one of the red sand knobs you
see these Navajo riders everywhere, coming out of
their hogan houses among the juniper groves, cross-
ing the yellow plain, scouring down the dry arroyo
beds, infinitesimal specks of color moving at swift
pace across these seas of sand. Or else you see
where at night and morning the water comes up
through the arroyo bed in pools of silver, receding
only during the heat of the day; and moving through
the juniper groves, out from the ocher rocks that
screen the desert like the wings of a theater, down
the panting sand bed of the dead river, trot vast
herds of sheep and goats, the young bleat bleating
till the air quivers driven by little Navajo girls on


horseback, born to the saddle, as the Canadian Cree
is born to the canoe.

If you can't go to Zuni Land and the White Moun-
tain Forest and the Painted Desert, then choose the
Painted Desert. It will give you all the sensations
of a trip to the Orient without the expense or dis-
comfort. Besides, you will learn that America has
her own Egypt and her own Arabia and her own
Persia in racial type and in handicraft and in an-
tiquity; and that fact is worth taking home with you.
Also, the end of the trip will drop you near your next
jumping-off place in the Coconino and Tusayan
Forests of the Grand Canon. And if the lure of the
antique still draws you, if you are still haunted by
that blatant and impudent lie (ignorance, like the big
drum, always speaks loudest when it is emptiest),
" that America lacks the picturesque and historic,"
believe me there are antiquities in the Painted Desert
of Arizona that antedate the antiquities of Egypt by
8,000 years. ' The more we study the prehistoric
ruins of America, " declared one of the leading ethno-
logical scholars of the world in the School of Archae-
ology at Rome, " the more undecided we become
whether the civilization of the Orient preceded that
of America, or that of America preceded the Orient."

For instance, on your way across the Painted
Desert, you can strike into Canon de Shay (spelled
Chelly) , and in one of the rock walls high above the
stream you will find a White House carved in high
arches and groined chambers from the solid stone, a
prehistoric dwelling where you could hide and lose a


dozen of our national White House. Who built the
aerial, hidden and secluded palace? What royal
barbaric race dwelt in it? What drove them out?
Neither history nor geology have scintilla of answer
to those questions. Your guess is as good as the
next; and you haven't to go all the way to Persia,
or the Red Sea, or Tibet, to do your guessing, but
only a day's drive from a continental route cost
for team and driver $14. In fact, you can go into
the Painted Desert with a well-planned trip of six
months; and at the end of your trip you will know, as
you could not at the beginning, that you have barely
entered the margin of the wonders in this Navajo

To strike into the Painted Desert, you can leave
the beaten highway at Gallup, or Holbrook, or Flag-
staff, or the Grand Canon; but to cross it, you should
enter at the extreme east and drive west, or enter
west and drive east. Local liverymen have drivers
who know the way from point to point; and the
charge, including driver, horses and hay, is from $6
to $7 a day. Better still, if you are used to horse-
back, go in with pack animals, which can be bought
outright at a very nominal price $25 to $40 for
ponies, $10 to $20 for burros; but in any case, take
along a white, or Indian, who knows the trails of the
vast Reserve, for water is as rare as radium and only
a local man knows the location of those pools where
you will be spending your nooning and camp for the
night. Camp in the Southwest at any other season
than the two rainy months July and August


does not necessitate a tent. You can spread your
blankets and night will stretch a sky as soft as the
velvet blue of a pansy for roof, and the stars will
swing down so close in the rare, clear Desert air that
you will think you can reach up a hand and pluck the
lights like jack-o'-lanterns. Because you are in the
Desert, don't delude yourself into thinking you'll not
need warm night covering. It may be as hot at mid-
day as a blast out of a furnace, though the heat is
never stifling; but the altitude of the various mesas
you will cross varies from 6,000 to 9,000 feet, and
the night will be as chilly as if you were camped in
the Canadian Northwest.

Up to the present, the Mission of St. Michael's,
Day's Ranch, and Mr. Hubbell's almost regal hospi-
tality, have been open to all comers crossing the Des-
ert open without cost or price. In fact, if you of-
fered money for the kindness you receive, it would be
regarded as an insult. It is a type of the old-time
baronial Spanish hospitality, when no door was
locked and every comer was welcomed to the festive
board, and if you expressed admiration for jewel, or
silver-work, or old mantilla, it was presented to you
by the lord of the manor with the simple and abso-
lutely sincere words, " It is yours," which scrubs
and bubs and dubs and scum and cockney were apt to
take greedily and literally, with no sense of the
noblesse oblige which binds recipient as it binds donor
to a code of honor not put in words. It is a type of
hospitality that has all but vanished from this sordid
earth; and it is a type, I am sorry to write, ill-suited


to an age when the Quantity travel quite as much as
the Quality. For instance, everyone who has crossed
the Painted Desert knows that Lorenzo Hubbell,
who is commonly called the King of Northern Ari-
zona, has yearly spent thousands, tens of thousands,
entertaining passing strangers, whom he has never
seen before and will never see again, who come un-
announced and stay unurged and depart reluctantly.
In the old days, when your Spanish grandee enter-
tained only his peers, this was well; but to-day
well, it may work out in Goldsmith's comedy,
where the two travelers mistake a mansion for an inn.
But where the arrivals come in relays of from one to
a dozen a month, and issue orders as to hot water and
breakfast and dinner and supper and depart tardily
as a dead-beat from a city lodging house and break
out in complaints and sometimes afterwards break
out in patronizing print, it is time for the Mission and
Day's Ranch and Mr. Hubbell's trading posts to
have kitchen quarters for such as they. In the old
days, Quality sat above the salt; Quantity sat below
it and slept in rushes spread on the floor. I would
respectfully offer a suggestion as to salting down
much of the freshness that weekly pesters the fine old
baronial hospitality of the Painted Desert. For in-
stance, there was the Berlin professor, who arrived
unwanted and unannounced after midnight, and
quietly informed his host that he didn't care to rise
for the family breakfast but would take his at such
an hour. There was the drummer who ordered the
daughter of the house " to hustle the fodder,"

A Navajo boy who is exceptionally handsome and


There was the lady who stayed unasked for three
weeks, then departed to write ridiculous caricatures
of the very roof that had sheltered her. There was
the Government man who calmly ordered his host to
have breakfast ready at three in the morning. His
host would not ask his colored help to rise at such an
hour and with his own hands prepared the breakfast,
when the guest looked lazily through the window and
seeing a storm brewing " thought he'd not mind going
after all."

" What? " demanded his entertainer. " You will
not go after you have roused me at three? You will
go; and you will go quick; and you will go this


The Painted Desert is bound to become as well
known to American travelers as Algiers and the
northern rim of the Sahara to the thousands of Euro-
pean tourists, who yearly flock south of the Mediter-
ranean. When that time comes, a different system
must prevail, so I would advise all visitors going into
the Navajo country to take their own food and camp
kit and horses, either rented from an outfitter at the
starting point, or bought outright. At St. Michael's
Mission, and Ganado, and the Three Mesas, and
Oraibi, you can pick up the necessary local guide.

We entered the Painted Desert by way of Gallup,
hiring driver and team locally. Motors are avail-
able for the first thirty miles of the trip, though out
of the question for the main 150 miles, owing to the
heavy sand, fine as flour ; but they happened to be out
of commission the day we wanted them.


The trail rises and rises from the sandy levels of
the railroad town till you are presently on the high
northern mesa among scrub juniper and cedar, in a
cool-scented, ozone atmosphere, as life-giving as any
frost air of the North. The yellow ocher rocks close
on each side in walled ramparts, and nestling in an
angle of rock you see a little fenced ranch house,
where they charge ten cents a glass for the privilege
of their spring. There is the same profusion of gor-
geous desert flowers, dyed in the very essence of the
sun, as you saw round the Enchanted Mesa globe
cactus and yellow poppies and wild geraniums and
little blue forget-me-nots and a rattlesnake flower
with a bloated bladder seed pod mottled as its proto-
type's skin. And the trail still climbs till you drop
sheer over the edge of the sky-line and see a new
world swimming below you in lakes of lilac light and
blue shadows blue shadows, sure sign of desert
land as Northern lights are of hyperborean realm.
It is the Painted Desert; and it isn't a flat sand plain
as you expected, but a world of rolling green and
purple and red hills receding from you in the waves
of a sea to the belted, misty mountains rising up sheer
in a sky wall. And it isn't a desolate, uninhabited
waste, as you expected. You round a ridge of yellow
rock, and three Zuni boys are loping along the trail
in front of you red headband, hair in a braid, red
sash, velvet trousers the most famous runners of
all Indian tribes in spite of their short, squat stature.
The Navajo trusts to his pony, and so is a slack
runner. Also, he is not so well nourished as the


Zuni or Hopi, and so has not as firm muscles and
strong lungs. These Zuni lads will set out from
Oraibi at daybreak, and run down to Holbrook,
eighty miles in a day. Or you hear the tinkle of a
bell, and see some little Navajo girl on horseback
driving her herd of sheep down to a drinking pool.
It all has a curiously Egyptian or Oriental effect. So
Rachel was watering her flocks when the Midianitish
herders drove her from the spring; and you see the
same rivalry for possession of the waterhole in our
own desert country as ancient record tells of that
other storied land.

The hay stacks, huge, tent-shaped tufa rocks to the
right of the road, mark the approach to St. Michael's
Mission. Where one great rock has splintered from
the main wall is a curious phenomenon noted by all
travelers a cow, head and horns, etched in perfect
outline against the face of the rock. The driver
tells you it is a trick of rain and stain, but a knowl-
edge of the tricks of lightning stamping pictures on
objects struck in an atmosphere heavily charged with
electricity suggests another explanation.

Then you have crossed the bridge and the red-
tiled roofs of St. Michael's loom above the hill, and
you drive up to an oblong, white, green-shuttered
building as silent as the grave St. Michael's Mis-
sion, where the Franciscans for seventeen years have
been holding the gateway to the Navajo Reserve.
Below the hill is a little square log shack, the mission
printing press. Behind, another shack, the post-
office ; and off beyond the hill, the ranch house of Mr.


and Mrs. Day, two of the best known characters on
the Arizona frontier. A mile down the arroyo is
the convent school, Miss Drexel's Mission for the
Indians; a fine, massive structure of brick and stone,
equal to any of the famous Jesuit and Ursuline schools
so famous in the history of Quebec.

And at this little mission, with its half-dozen build-
ings, is being lived over again the same heroic drama
that Father Vimont and Mother Mary of the Incar-
nation opened in New France three centuries ago;
only we are a little too close to this modern drama to
realize its fine quality of joyous self-abnegation and
practical religion. Also, the work of Miss Drexel's
missionaries promises to be more permanent than that
to the Hurons and Algonquins of Quebec. They are
not trying to turn Indians into white men and women
at this mission. They are leaving them Indians with
the leaven of a new grace working in their hearts.
The Navajos are to-day 22,000 strong, and on the
increase. The Hurons and Algonquins alive to-day,
you can almost count on your hands. Driven from
pillar to post, they were destroyed by the civilization
they had embraced; but the Navajos have a realm
perfectly adapted to sustain their herds and broad
enough for them to expand - 14,000,000 acres, in-
cluding Moki Land and against any white man's
greedy encroachment on that Reserve, Father Web-
ber, of the Franciscans, has set his face like adamant.
In two or three generations, we shall be putting up
monuments to these workers among the Navajos.


Meanwhile, we neither know nor care what they are

You enter the silent hallway and ring a gong. A
Navajo interpreter appears and tells you Father
Webber has gone to Rome, but Father Berrard will
be down; and when you meet the cowled Franciscan
in his rough, brown cassock, with sandal shoes, you
might shut your eyes and imagine yourself back in the
Quebec consistories of three centuries ago. There is
the same poverty, the same quiet devotion, the same
consecrated scholarship, the same study of race and
legend, as made the Jesuit missions famous all
through Europe of the Seventeenth Century. Why,
do you know, this Franciscan mission, with its three
priests and two lay helpers, is sustained on the small
sum of $1,000 a year; and out of his share of that,
Father Berrard has managed to buy a printing press
and issue a scholarly work on the Navajos, costing
him $1,500!

Next morning, when Mother Josephine, of Miss
Drexel's Mission School, drove us back to the Fran-
ciscan's house, we saw proofs of a second volume on
the Navajos, which Father Berrard is issuing; a com-
bined glossary and dictionary of information on tribal
customs and arts and crafts and legends and religion;
a work of which a French academician would be more
than proud. Then he shows us what will easily
prove the masterpiece of his life hundreds of draw-
ings, which, for the last ten years, he has been having
the medicine men of the Navajos make for their


legends, of all the authentic, known patterns of their
blankets and the meanings, of their baskets and what
they mean, and of the heavenly constellations, which
are much the same as ours except that the names are
those of the coyote and eagle and other desert crea-
tures instead of the Latin appellations. Lungren
and Burbank and Curtis and other artists, who have
passed this way, suggested the idea. Someone sent
Father Berrard folios of blank drawing boards.
Sepia made of coal dust and white chalk made of
gypsum suffice for pigments. With these he has had
the Indian medicine men make a series of drawings
that excels anything in the Smithsonian Institute of
Washington or the Field Museum of Chicago. For
instance, there is the map of the sky and of the milky
way with the four cardinal points marked in the
Navajo colors, white, blue, black and yellow, with
the legend drawn of the " great medicine man "
putting the stars in their places in the sky, when along
comes Coyote, steals the mystery bag of stars and
puff, with one breath he has mischievously sent the
divine sparks scattering helter-skelter all over the face
of heaven. There is the legend of " the spider
maid " teaching the Navajos to weave their wonder-
ful blankets, though the Hopi deny this and assert
that their women captured in war were the ones who
taught the Navajos the art of weaving. There is the
picture of the Navajo transmigration of souls up the
twelve degrees of a huge corn stalk, for all the world
like the Hindoo legend of a soul's travail up to life.
You must not forget how similar many of the Indian


drawings are to Oriental work. Then, there is the
picture of the supreme woman deity of the Navajos.
Does that recall any Mother of Life in Hindoo lore?
If all ethnologists and archaeologists had founded
their studies on the Indian's own account of himself,
rather than their own scrappy version of what the
Indian told them, we should have got somewhere in
our knowledge of the relationships of the human race.

Father Berrard's drawings in color of all known
patterns of Navajo blankets are a gold mine in
themselves, and would save the squandering by East-
ern buyers of thousands a year in faked Navajo
blankets. Wherever Father Berrard hears of a new
blanket pattern, thither he hies to get a drawing of
it; and on many a fool's errand his quest has taken
him. For instance, he once heard of a wonderful
blanket being displayed by a Flagstaff dealer, with
vegetable dyes of " green " in it. Dressing in dis-
guise, with overcoat collar turned up, the priest went
to examine the alleged wonder. It was a palpable
cheat manufactured in the East for the benefit of
gullible tourists.

" Where did your Indians get that vegetable
green?" Father Berrard asked the unsuspecting

" From frog ponds," answered the store man of a
region where water is scarce as hens' teeth.

Father Berrard has not yet finished his collection
of drawings, for the medicine men will reveal certain
secrets only when the moon and stars are in a certain
position; but he vows that when the book is finished


and when he has saved money enough to issue it, his

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Online LibraryAgnes C. (Agnes Christina) LautThrough our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert → online text (page 9 of 19)