I Believe! Roswell, NM

Roswell, New Mexico, is out of the way by about 150 miles.  To visit means I have drive north then east, rather than continue southeast into Texas.  The site of the 1947 “alleged” UFO incident, however, is one of those places I want to see and figure is worth the extra driving.  Plus, it will allow me to collect a few souvenirs.

I Believe! Do you?

Getting there means driving mostly back country roads as there is no major interstate bisecting the town.  Desert, cattle and farmsteads dominate the landscape.   The air is crisp and fresh, and the horizon wide open.  I imagine that this is as good a sky as any to race unidentified flying saucers, alien or domestic.

My first order of business as I arrive in town is lunch.  After reviewing several options, I settle on Sonic Drive In.  As I pull in, I make believe that I am a food critic and justify the action of eating fast food with the fact that I have never eaten at this burger joint (though upon reflection wonder if my memory is a little sketchy).  I order a double hamburger and tater tots.  The cashier brings them right to my window, which makes me uncomfortable because I am unsure whether to tip or not.  I don’t, then feel guilty about not giving a dollar or two.

Mexican Food Aliens

There is not much to Roswell – a few bank buildings, gas stations, restaurants, alien-themed downtown area – and by the time I finish my last tot I decide that I will head south after a walk down Main Street.  The area is an odd collection of tourist shops and local businesses selling vacuum cleaners and stationery supplies.  Aliens, spacecrafts, and “I believe” sayings are painted on the sides of buildings, street lamps, and store windows.  The most ironic of these, in my mind, are little green men wearing ponchos and sombreros on the side of a Mexican restaurant.

The marquis attraction on Main Street is the Roswell International UFO Museum, housed in what used to be a movie theater.  A kitschy neon sign flashes from behind a glass window.  I walk in.  Two elderly men in jeans, faded white dress shirts and suspenders greet me as if I am walking into any normal museum, “Welcome!” they say.  The florescent lights flicker above the volunteer desk highlighting the faded army-green interior.

“How much for one person?” I ask.

“Five bucks” one man responds.

“That’s a bargain,” I comment pulling out my wallet.

“If you have any questions, we’re here to help,” the other man says as I enter the hallway.

Now, I don’t know what I was expecting to find in this museum – maybe a bunch of tacky, stuffed aliens, but I’m a little surprised by what’s inside.  Most exhibits are made up of photos, documents and newspaper clippings, some blown up for emphasis.  No alien fingers or stolen technology.  In fact, much of what is here proves the point that some spaceship was found in these parts and the government then tried to cover the event up.

Photocopies of newspaper articles report the incident and are posted next to others which claim no news outlets ever reported such things.  Then, as one might expect, there are volumes of “Top Secret” and “For Majic Eyes Only” government documents with lines and lines of blacked-out wording.  “Majestic 12” or “MJ12” is the top secret group that supposedly reported UFO incidents.  Their documents are stamped with “for Majic Eyes Only.”   They look something like this: “On the night of [black streak], Mr. [black streak] witnessed [black streak] [black streak].  [black streak] reported dogs barking.”

Visitation by Animatronic Beings

I’m not a patient person when it comes to news articles and “Classified” government documents, so I breeze through the front section in search of stuff I don’t have to read.  Towards the back of the building, I find something which brings a smile to my face (and those around me); an animatronic alien landing complete with spaceship and large black-eyed, leathery green aliens.  At certain times, the saucer lights up, spits out theatrical smoke and beeps and blurps, imitating a B-movie soundtrack.   A group of four or five aliens move their heads back and forth.  When this happens, everyone in the museum gathers around to take pictures and “Ooh and ahh.”  I snap numerous photos.  One kid jumps up and down, clapping in excitement.

Heading back towards the front of the museum, among documents and clippings of UFO visitations worldwide, I find the second exhibit which makes me smile.  Displayed behind large glass panels, an autopsy is brought to life.  A burnt alien lies naked on a stretcher while two men dressed in 1940s street and medical clothes examine the patient.  A short distance away a smaller alien is preserved in glass tubing and unidentified green liquid.  These are supposed recreations of an actual government autopsy reported in the documents we have just viewed.

Before I leave, I ask the docents a couple questions, “Can I visit the actual crash site?”

“No,” he responds.  “The crash site is on private land and not open to the public.  They don’t do tours either.”

“So then I have just one other question . . . why would the government work so hard to cover up alien visitations to our planet?”

“Well, imagine if you will what would happen to the worlds’ governments and the institutions of religion if our people knew that we are being visited by an alien race. Everything would dissolve and we would become citizens of earth, not any particular country.  Every religion would be challenged to explain this, and some might cease to exist.  It would be a very different world.”

His response makes sense, and I think about the possibility of government cover-ups and alien visitation for some time.

Crispy Alien

 

Just as I exit the museum doors, a freak rain storm pummels the area.  People duck for cover under awnings and inside storefronts.  I run a few doors down to a tourist shop.  The woman behind the counter, who looks Native American, points me to the case with small green figures and flying saucers.  I secure several trinkets.  The rain stops and I climb back into my Jeep.

As I drive south I consider my Roswell experience.  The town appears to be made up of salt-of-the-earth farmers and ranchers.  They are not hippie-dippy, New-Age folks who meditate and chant to the aliens (unless I missed that church), though I am sure they have their fair share of visitors of this type.  I have no doubt that something crashed in the desert not far from here . . . and that the government tried to cover it up through a campaign of confusion and misinformation.  I respect the notion that the people here are trying to preserve the past and keep the truth alive.

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Truth . . . or Consequences?

I stop in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for no other reason than the name.  I like how it sounds.  Strange, off beat, unusual.  The town, originally called Hot Springs, renamed itself in 1950 to win a television show contest.  On the show, contestants had two seconds to answer a “Truth,” hardly enough time to even think of a response, or play the “Consequences,” usually some zany stunt like ridging a unicycle or stacking household appliances atop one another using a crane.  It was a big hit in the 1950s and 60s.

Truth or Consequences Municipal Building

T or C, as it is commonly known, is located half way between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, on Interstate 25.  There is not much around except desert, low-lying mountains and military installations.  The town itself is small, still has dirt streets in some areas and has a barren, wind-swept feeling.  As I drive into town, I get the sense that more than one tumbleweed have rolled through these parts.

When I book my room at the Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa, the woman on the other side of the phone says, “Forget coming here!  You should play the lottery.  We just had a cancellation – something that never happens – there are no other rooms available anywhere in town for this weekend or next.”  When I try to explain to her the odds of winning the lottery and how I will save that $1 (though not really), she repeats, “You should play the lottery – you’re clearly having a good luck day.”

I arrive and immediately book a mineral tub soak and massage appointment.  The masseuse and I hit it of famously, and we spend the hour bantering back and forth about health, spirituality, and other new age topics.  Joy, her name which seems to fit, also teaches yoga and tells me how she ended up here on a road trip in the 1980s.  “Watch out if a house suddenly falls on you; it’s how it happened for me.”  Images of Oz run though my mind as she works my back.

As we engage in deeper conversation, Joy pulls out a card from a woman who “reads shaman stones.”

“I hate how everyone puts ‘shaman‘ in front of anything vaguely spiritual these days,” I think to myself, but I am intrigued.

“She’ll read your stones and tell you if you are on the right path,” Joy says.

“I could use a little of that,” I respond.

I get over the “Shaman” bit and call to book an appointment with her the next day.

T or C Reflection

That night I dine at Cafe BellaLuca, a modern Italian eatery a few blocks – walking distance – from the Sierra Grande.  Every table is full and the wait is close to 45 minutes.  “For a table?” I inquire in disbelief.  As a single diner, I am offered a seat at the bar, which overlooks the kitchen.  At first I baulk, not wanting to be on display in the adult high-chair section, but the location grows on me.  The chef chats me up as he prepares dishes for a birthday party, a group which takes up a very large table behind me.

I don’t recall the owner/chef’s name (or his owner-wife’s), but I highly recommend this place if you happen to be in T or C.  He flies in fresh seafood daily and prepares some of the most amazing Italian food I’ve had outside of New York City.  I order calamari, but someone else secured his last portion just moments before.  I watch the Chef make those small fried rings of delight and look for something else on the menu.  I settle on pesto pasta with chicken.  It melts in my mouth.  For climax, I take homemade tiramisu back to the hotel in a biodegradable “to go” container.  I eat it with my hands in bed.  Saliva and chocolate run down my cheek as I doze off for the night.

The next morning I wake early, take another soak, enjoy a nice breakfast on the veranda, then prepare myself for the shaman/medium lady.  I have no idea what to expect, or what I am supposed to reveal in my time with this woman.  As I drive to the address provided, using my trusty GPS, I conjure ideas in my head of what she looks like.  I settle on Mrs. Roper from TV’s Three’s Company with flowing floral dresses and wild, curly, supernatural hair.

As I pull into a trailer park just off River Road, where several neighborhood dogs bark indicating they know a stranger is near, I am greeted by Linda.  She is a woman in her fifties who resembles a grandmother more than anything else.  She seems a little nervous and greets me with a wide smile.  No flowing floral dress, no wild hair.  She is in plain clothes, which makes me a little more comfortable.  Linda welcomes me inside and offers a glass of water, where her two pug children race over to check me out.  One has an asthma attack on my shoe and the other appears so overwhelmed it grunts and sneezes all over itself for nearly five minutes.

“They’ll calm down,” Linda says to me, then continues to them, “Or they will be locked outside.”  On hearing this threat, both dogs stop, lift their eyebrows in what appears to be concern, then go back to grunting and wheezing.  She and I sit and the dogs find something more interesting outside to cough and bark about . . . a bug or tumbleweed perhaps.

Building Art, T or C

Linda gathers up two handfuls of assorted rocks, gems, and crystals and places them in my hands.  “Set your intention with the stones and then just drop them.”  I think about my journey, the health and healing I seek and then let the stones fall through my fingers like large drops of water.  They spread over the black leather tablecloth Linda uses for this purpose, some almost leaving the table completely.

“Very interesting,” she says examining the stones.  “You are close with both your parents, who are, I think, both still living.”   “Yes, yes, but they’re not like regular parents,” I say.  “I see that,” Linda says pointing to a smooth lump of turquoise and another lump of something dark green.  “They were kids themselves when you were young.  You’ve come a long way with both of them.  Good work.”

Linda continues, “How do I say this nicely . . . You have done a tremendous amount of work in getting rid of the old, huh, CRAP in your life,” she says pointing at a small lump of fool’s gold.  “But sometimes that shit sticks around because you dealt with it, but haven’t tossed it out completely.”  “Yes, that’s true!” I exclaim.  It is as if she knows my therapist and all the work I have done over the years.  “Now, what do you want to do with that crap?” she asks tapping the fool’s gold with a pen.  I think about this, look at her, smile, then pick it up and throw it across the room.  Linda cheers and the pugs chase the lump, grunting and coughing.  We spend the next three hours reviewing my life, journey, and next steps.  I toss several stones off the table and move several others to different areas.  It feels good.

After a reading of tarot cards, where Linda tells me I will soon meet a brown-eyed man (I’m still waiting), I say goodbye and climb back into my Jeep.  I exit the mobile home neighborhood, River Road, and the town of T or C.  I hit the interstate and think about the past 24 hours.  I mull over the idea that I have known all along that I am on the right path, especially in taking this road trip, but it is nice to meet people along the way who are there to help me heal.  And in the case of Linda, it is sometimes nice to hear from an external source – one maybe more connected to the divine than myself – that I am heading in the correct direction.

About an hour later, I get a call from my mother.  “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she says.  “I just bought another five pairs of shoes.”  I laugh, glad to have her – and her shoe obsession – in my life.

Whiteout in the White Sands National Monument

From space, the White Sands National Monument looks like someone spilled WhiteOut on the the New Mexico map.  Up close, the sand is as white as snow and unlike anything I have seen in this country.  Dunes, twenty to thirty feet high, carve the landscape for as far as the eye can see.  This quickly becomes one of my favorite – and most surprising – places.

White Sand Dunes are, um, White

I arrive in the late afternoon at the Ranger’s Station to register for a campsite.  There are only ten primitive sites in the entire park.  A friendly Asian woman staffs the desk.  As I register she smiles and says, “It’s very cool out there.  Oh, and tonight, it’s going to be cold!”  I think to myself that rangers are like news reporters: they like to give bad news with a grin on their face.

She runs through some rules before issuing my camping permit:

“No fires in the dunes.  Please bring plenty of water.”

“Carry in and carry out whatever you need.”

“There are no toilets out there, so bring your own toilet paper.”

“Most people who get lost do so because they set out after dark, so if something happens, just stay put for the night, then make your way back in the morning.”

“What cell phone carrier do you have?” she asks.

“AT&T,” I reply.

“It won’t work out there,” she says.  “If you have an emergency, go to campsite 2, they have Verizon.  Don’t go to 5 – they’re German and their phones don’t work here.”

“I’ll be just fine,” I smile back at her.

“I’m sure you will,” she say as she closes the registration book . . . with a smile.

Camp 2 Neighbors

At the Backcountry Camping parking lot I repack for the night.  The campsite is only a one-mile hike, so I take only minimal gear: tent, sleeping bag, food, water and toilet paper.  I leave the Thermarest Pad, assuming the dune field is soft enough for sleeping.  As I hike, I begin to sweat.  The weight I have gained eating too many burritos and fast food hamburgers feels like steel bars around my midsection.

Campsite 4 is sandwiched in between two 30-foot white sand dunes.  The sun is low in the horizon and colored clouds make an appearance just above the mountains to the West.  I set up quickly, grab my camera and climb up the hillock to watch the sunset reflect off the gypsum.

For dinner I prepare Backcountry Pantry Teriyaki Chicken and Rice followed by freeze-dried spumoni ice cream, which sticks to my teeth in an un-ice-cream fashion.  Exhausted, I check the time to see if it’s anywhere close to bedtime.  5:54 pm.  I scan the sky. It’s dark, midnight dark, maybe my watch is wrong.  I crawl into the tent to rest my eyes.  I dream about magical creatures with bells.

Middle of the night:  I wake, cold and stiff from the hard sand.  “It must be 3 in the morning,” I think to myself.  “Perfect for night writing!” – the long exposure photos I enjoy taking.  I unzip my tent and crawl into the cool desert air.  I shiver, rub my arms fast, then pull on every layer of clothing I have: two sweatshirts and a thin Spring jacket.

Evening in the Dunes

At the top of the drift, I see Holloman Air Force Base shining brightly in the distance.  I snap a few pictures, but it’s too cold so I slide back down the dune to my tent.  Maybe I can get a couple more hours of rest before the sun comes up.  I look at my cell phone.  I was completely wrong about the time.  9:53 pm.  Damn, it’s going to be a long night!

3:00 AM: A chorus of amphibians outside my tent.  Chirp, chirp, rouuuuu.  Chirp, chirp, rouuuuu.  I dream of toads dancing hand-in-hand in a circle around my campsite.  I unzip my tent and shine a light.  Nothing.  Silence.  I zip up and close my eyes.  Chirp, chirp, rouuuuu.  Their dancing resumes.  Maybe it’s a special ceremony.  Maybe I am the guest of honor.  Or perhaps the human sacrifice?  I snuggle into my sleeping bag.

5:00 AM: The amphibians have moved off in the distance – maybe onto another sacrifice.  I lay awake cursing the sand for jabbing my rib cage and thigh.  Turning on my back doesn’t help.  I unzip my tent and crawl into the freezing pre-dawn dunes.  The sky is changing color, ever so slightly.  What a wonderful time to snap photos!

I scramble to the top of the tallest sand pile.  “That would make a great shot,” I think to myself looking at the next dune.  I walk.  “That one has no footprints.”  I walk.  “That one is angled differently.”  I walk.  This goes on for some time and I chase the composition in my lens from dune to dune.  As the sun rises into the sky, I strip off one sweatshirt and tie it around my waist.

Time for breakfast!  Starving, sweaty and thirsty, I make my way back to my tent.  The dunes look different now.  Light changes their configuration.  The horizon is different too.  I walk.  And walk.

I don’t find my tent; it’s not where I placed it on the map in my mind.  The sand looks defiant now, angry.  I see one set of tracks leading in the opposite direction.  I compare my imprint – no match.  I follow them anyway.  Then, they fade away into the earth.

Dune Shadow Play

Next I find many tracks: bobcat, snake, barefoot person and hiking boot.  I mentally compare the night horizon with what I see in the distance now: a water tower, mountains, sand dunes.  Can’t figure it out.  I use my camera lens to scan.  I see four tents all set up in a row.  If I can make it there, I can trace the trail back to my tent.

Approaching, I see that they are not tents at all, but picnic shades.  No one here.  Dammit.  I curse the 275 square miles of white gypsum dunes that stand in between me, breakfast and hydration.  I climb again to scan the whiteout.  There I see my salvation: a trio several mounds away.   I practically fall down one hill and crawl up the next.  I come to a road – THE road – saved!  Except, I could be anywhere on a ten mile stretch.

I lunge towards the couple and their teenage daughter, whom I saw in my lens.

“Are you camping?” I ask, screaming “Help!” in my head.

“No,” they reply.  “Are you?”

“Yes, but I lost my tent.”

They laugh, looking at each other.  The daughter comments, “See mom and dad, we should have camped.  That’s how we get sunrise pictures of the dunes!”

“Did you get some good pictures?” she asks.

My mind races, “I’m completely fucking lost and first you laugh, then you ask if I got pictures?  Can’t you see I haven’t eaten anything this morning and have been without water?”  Then, I hear, “Yes, I got some great pictures” come out of my mouth.

“How long have you been lost?” the girl asks.

“Two days,” I lie, looking for a reaction.

Their eyes light up, “Two days?!”  There is the sympathy I seek.

“No, I’m joking.  Just since this morning.”

The group is of no help in figuring out where I am on the road or in the park.  They left their map in the car.

“Good luck!” they yell as I walk down yet another hill of white sand.

“Good luck?” I think to myself.  Good luck that I don’t find your car and have a sharp object in my pocket!

I strip off clothes and follow the road.  It doesn’t matter which direction I follow.  My stomach flip flops eating itself for sustenance.  I walk.  Then, a miracle.  My car!  Dusty – the amazing lesbian Jeep that has carried me thousands of miles.  True salvation!  Only, my keys are in the tent.  Dammit again!  But, at least I know where the tent is now.  Only a mile away.

Approaching my car, I hear “Gud mornink.”  A young couple is smoking by their black Ford 500, both dressed head-to-toe in black spandex.  I smile.

“Morning,” I reply.  These must be the Germans from Camp 5.

“Nice car,” I say.

“Ya, vee thought vee look like Men in Black,” they look at each other and laugh.

I nickname them Boris and Natasha.  I know they are not Russian, but the names seem to fit.  They are from Munich on a six-week US road trip.

“You must be from camp 5,” I say.

“Ya,” says Boris.

“Und yooo?” asks Natasha, blowing smoke over her shoulder.

“Camp 4, but I got lost this morning.”

They look at each other and laugh.  “How deed you git lost?  It’s only one-point-one miles to the camp,” Boris says with some authority.

“I was taking pictures of the dunes.”

“Oh, ya, vell, stay on da trail today!”  Boris says.

“Ya, on da trail,” Natasha adds for emphasis.

They puff on their cigarettes and laugh as I walk towards my breakfast in the sand.

Obviously, I find my way back to my tent, water and breakfast – freeze dried eggs and bacon.  After eating and hydrating, I consider my experience.  I determine it unwise to set out on foot without water, food, and car keys.  But, I also think that getting lost in the pursuit of such immense, otherworldly beauty is well worth the humiliation of a few snickering strangers!

The Fibitz Dune Tracks

The Fetish of Zuni

There is something different about the people of the Zuni Pueblo in northwest New Mexico.  I can feel it, but not yet define it, as I enter this American Indian Reservation, located immediately over the border from Arizona on State Road 53.  Physically, it reminds me of others to the north and west: Run down houses and trailer homes are scattered in haphazard fashion.  Old tires rest obscenely on roofs, holding something in place – the roof maybe?  Late model autos, many with cracked windows and missing bumpers, dart in and out of dirt driveways.  Zuni schoolchildren walk along beat up, dusty sidewalks.

”]Zuniland is the largest of the New Mexico Pueblos with close to 10,000 residents, most of whom are involved in the arts. Carving, painting, doll making, and zuni fetishes, the animal carvings known throughout the US and world, come instantly to my mind.  But there is more to the Zuni, a rich complexity, which feels just out of reach to pale face people like myself.

I arrive at the pueblo’s visitor’s center, a nondescript structure in a line of run down buildings.  Several Indians wave and smile from behind makeshift vendor stands on the opposite side of the parking lot.  I wave back, but walk in the front door of the building.  The man behind the counter is a friendly, talkative, uh, white man.

“Welcome,” he says.  “Where are you from?”

“New York,” I reply. “I wonder if you can suggest things to do on the reservation?”

“Sure.  The tribe encourages people to sign up for a tour.  They offer two options: one is of the old mission, the other adds a walking tour of the village.  They both leave at three.”

“May I take pictures?”

“Yes, but only at certain locations and only with a photo permit, which is $10.  If you want that I’ll run through the rules for you.”

After filling out the photo permit and paying $20 for it and the tour, I ask about religious ceremonies.

“Not much happening until Sha’lak’o on December 6.  If you’re in the area you should come by. It’s really amazing.

“What is it?”

“Sha’lak’o is when the men who are given spiritual authority over the tribe dance the kachinas.”

“Kachina, like the doll?”

“Yeah, kachina are dolls, but in the Zuni religion they represent something from the spiritual world.  Men get dressed in colorful costumes and masks to dance the kachinas during certain times of the year.  The dances are beautiful and must be executed perfectly. Otherwise, there may be no harvest that year.  Sha’lak’o is the winter solstice ceremony, which is one of the most important.”

The man behind the counter and I continue our conversation for some time.  I ask about Zuni masks.  “That’s an interesting question,” he says.  “You would never see a Zuni mask for sale. It represents the kachina and that would not work for the tribe.”  About alcohol: “This is a dry reservation, but the leaders grapple with that.  There are three roads into town, and there are package stores to the West and North.  Only the East doesn’t have one. That’s because the bordering town is mostly Mormon.”

Zuni Mission Detail

At 3 pm a beautiful young Zuni woman with a wide nose and long, straight black hair named Roberta invites me on the tour.  Her speech is particular, in that she pronounces everything properly, as if speaking textbook English.

“Would you like to ride with me or drive yourself?” she asks.  “You are the only person for the three o’clock tour.”  Her affect betrays no emotion, but also resembles that of a Tassajara monk.  I admire it.

“I’ll go with you.”

As we climb into a beat-up green van she asks, “Where are you from?”

“New York,” I reply. “Ever been?”

“I have never been anywhere outside of the pueblo except Albuquerque one time for an afternoon.”

Her response surprises me.

“But my father used to travel for the tribe all the time, and he has been to the Brooklyn Museum to see some art work we gave.”

“Does he still travel?”

“No.” She replies.  “He has religious obligations to the tribe now and cannot travel anywhere.”

On the way to the mission, no more than a five-minute drive, Roberta waves at people on the side of the road.  Neither she nor I use the van’s seat belts, which look like they have permanently buried themselves in the torn cloth seats.  When the slightly rusted van arrives outside the Spanish mission, originally built in 1650, Roberta says, “You can go take photography and I will wait here.”  There is a cold wind whipping through the dusty desert streets.  I exit the van to “take photography” of the exterior.  I notice several children watching me intently from an adjacent alleyway.

Zuni Pueblo with Corn Mesa

Roberta unlocks a chain securing the thick, old, wooden mission door.  As we enter, I ask about the significance of the building, “Does this still function as a church for the tribe?”  “It’s just a building now, not a church,” she says.  “We have murals in here, but nothing else happens.”  I get the sense that this is simply a way for the Zuni to make some extra cash.

Inside the main door, we are greeted by a large black and white sign: “Photography Forbidden by the tribe.  All paintings are Copy Righted.”  The murals, which are the main purpose of the tour, are amazing.  High up, near the stucco ceiling, are painted figures, spiritual beings, in colorful traditional dress and masks, dancing.  The four seasons are represented through a changing desert landscape.

“You have the four seasons here from the Spring and Summer on one side to the Fall and Winter on the other,” Roberta says then walks to the front of the church to sit down.  “If you have any questions, I will answer them now.”

“Is there religious significance to the figures?” I ask pointing at the mural.

“Women are not allowed to know about the religion of our people, so of course I do not know.”

Another surprising response, and I wonder to myself why the tribe would provide a female tour guide when women cannot answer questions about religion, especially because we are viewing religious artifacts.

Roberta and I chat in the old church.  It is a fascinating conversation from my perspective, and I try to engage her in my experience – my life – but get the feeling she is not interested.  At some point in the conversation – she is telling me about Zuni marriage practices – it hits me.  Here is a people who are protecting their culture and religion from outsiders.  They are not interested in knowing another way to live; they are trying to live like their ancestors.  It is almost the opposite of what I seek to do on this road trip.

Awonawilona - Zuni Sun God

“I will drive you on the walking tour if you would like,” Roberta says.  “Great!” I say.  We climb back into the green beast and drive through the village which surounds the mission.  “You can take photography if you like,” she says.

Before leaving, I buy Zuni Fetishes.  There are two stores on the main road that are Zuni owned. The other six are owned by whites or Arabs according to the man at the visitor’s center.  When I stop at Turquoise Village, I am barraged by Indians outside selling fetishes from their pockets.   A woman and man approach.  “Please sir, we are trying to get some food, will you buy these?” they plead, showing me an eagle and several wolves.  I buy the eagle then two more fetishes from the store.  When I exit, a deluge of people shove handfuls of fetishes in my direction, all smiling and inquiring, “Where are you from?”  It’s overwhelming. I climb back into my Jeep and head east on the main road.

Somewhere before Albuquerque, I settle on what’s different about the Zuni people from other reservations I have visited.  For lack of a better word: pride.  You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their speech.  While I may be surprised by some of the ways in which they live, they appear perfectly content with who they are in this world.  Although I don’t think the Zuni are pleased with history, I don’t feel like I am visiting a defeated people.