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Chinle -

Stores from the Navajo Reservation

The Wash

O.Frank
When I was ten we moved to Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo reservation. My father had gotten a Job with the U.S. Government. His job was to oversee the living quarters of a boarding school for Navajo school children. The Navajo parents were given a monthly check to send their children to Chinle to live and go to school.

Behind our small white frame house, on the reservation, there was a hill, that once climbed, gave way to a large barren field of scrub brush and large anthills. We, my sisters, friends, and I would spend hours playing on the anthills looking for garnets that the ants had mined from below the ground. We found many beautiful ruby red garnets and occasionally a green or white one.

On across this field it becomes apparent that the field was really a small mesa, and beyond that was a second mesa where the Presbyterian missionary lived and a small but nice "A" framed Presbyterian Church. This is where my family went to church on Sunday. There was also, some distance away, a small Catholic Church but my family never went there so I don’t remember anything about it.

Beyond this mesa was a large, at least it looked large to me, forest of cottonwood trees. This also was a wonderful place to play, climb trees, and other things that kids can do in the forest.

On the far edge of the cottonwood trees was the mouth of Canyon De Chelly, which we called the wash. The wash was mostly covered with long strips of sand that had been herded into these strips by the spring wash that flowed out of the canyon. The wash was hundreds of yards wide and had banks that were one to two feet high.

One day when I was playing in the wash, out towards the middle, I noted a small trickle of water coming towards me. It was moving so slowly that I could walk alongside it, which I did. This was amazing to me; this little three-inch wide stream of water making it’s way down the wash. As I walked along, following the stream, I was totally oblivious to any danger. Suddenly the stream started to rapidly get wider and deeper.

Within half a minute it was growing wider so fast that I was literally running with all I was worth toward the bank. By the time I reached the bank and looked back the wash was completely filled with a torrent of water growing deeper by the second. I then stood there on the bank in amazement looking out over a fast moving river, hundreds of yards wide, that just five minutes earlier was not there. I then realized that if I had been following the trickle on the other side I would have been swiped away with the sand and sticks in the wash.

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copyright 2005 O.Frank