Stories from the Navajo Reservation
When I was ten we moved to Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo reservation.
Within walking distance from my home was the mouth of Canyon De Chelly
(Canyon De Chelly has numerous famous ruins of Indian cliff dwellings).
photos go to:
We, my family and I, had many outings and picnics along the upper rim
of the canyon. I found it more and more frightening to get close to the
canyon rim and look down. There was no radio or TV so instant news was
very rare, and most news was by phone or word of mouth. So when news spread
it had a frightening impact. On day the news spread, like a wild fire
through the community of two hundred, that a woman had fallen from the
canyon rim and was killed. It was eventually shown that she had committed
suicide but my young imagination had already gone wild and I had an even
greater fear of falling from the canyon.
If you drive along the sandy canyon floor for several miles you will come
to a rock several hundred feet in diameter that rises like a skyscraper
straight up some eight or nine hundred feet (for a photo go to http://www.nps.gov/cach/
) This rock formation is called spider rock. This name comes from a Navajo
legend that spider woman lived on top of this rock. If you look down onto
spider rock from the canyon rim you can see many white rocks or something
white that is said to be the bones of bad little children. Children were
told that if they misbehaved spider woman would come and get them and
take them up on spider rock to eat.
One day my father and I were in the canyon around spider rock. When we
found a place that was used by the Navajo to climb up to the top of the
canyon rim, Dad wanted to try it, but I was not too "keen" on
the idea. I didn’t want to look like a chicken in front of my dad
so I agreed to go along. At first it was mostly just a lot of work and
mostly a matter of climbing over large boulders, but as we got higher
and higher, one hundred, then two hundred, and three hundred feet I began
to get sick to my stomach with growing fear.
Then we reached a place where the only way up was to pull yourself up
to a ledge with a rope that was permanently there for that purpose. My
muscles were already screaming for me to stop this nonsense. To try and
go back down was impossible and you could see the rim just about one hundred
or two hundred feet above you. So with a lot of perseverance and helping
from my dad I pulled myself up to the ledge. Once there, my brain really
screamed foul. It became apparent that we had no choice but to go along
a narrow ledge which was only about a foot and a half wide and about fifteen
feet long, with a seven hundred foot drop straight down.
After a long time looking, and hoping for a better way out, my dad said
he would go first if I would follow right behind him. So with my stomach
churning like a washing machine and tears forming in my eyes I agreed.
Then with every ounce of courage I could muster and facing the rock wall
so I would not look down we slid our way to the other side and collapsed
on the landing thanking God we had made it.
Return to top