Old Man Bedonie from Navajo Mountain was packing on the years, his square chin dusted with a speckled gray beard, but his hair was still as black as coal. He looked north toward Utah and thought of his children. They had gone different ways far from this mountain, the origin of the Navajo Twin Heroes, Monster Slayer and Child Born for Water.
These two twins were Navajo deities born of White Shell Woman and also of the Sun, who grew up to an age where they wanted to know who their father was and they wanted to see him. When they were 14 or so, their mother prepared them. She made them run at dawn and sent them on travels here and there to learn about their land and people, and also about certain plants and sacred places.
They had mystical powers that enabled them to travel on a rainbow, which rests now in Dinetah—Navajoland—as Rainbow Bridge. They used to ride that rainbow to where they needed to go. Now, the place where Rainbow Bridge sits is a sacred spot at the foot of Navajo Mountain on the north side by Lake Powell. It is a hard place to get to, and so is Navajo Mountain, high and remote.
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The Twin Heroes went on many journeys and though they travelled far off and were gone a long time, they always managed to come home to Navajo Mountain, the place some Navajos call the Head of the Earth.
Old Man Bedonie’s family grew up there and as time went by the children all moved away to far off places. One son moved way up north to Utah. Old Man Bedonie’s son had married one of those Beligana—white girls—from Salt Lake and his son had said they were going to be married forever. They had five kids, and his son’s family always seemed to be doing well.
The grandkids came to spend time on Navajo Mountain at the old family place when they were small. They would be running around the place, chasing after the sheep, finding out what a summer sing was, and having to have to cut and haul wood. They learned to grow corn through dry farming.
One day, without warning, Old Man Bedonie’s son called from Salt Lake. He told his father that his wife had run away with his best friend, a white guy who lived near them.
Some months later, he called and said she took the kids and house, too. And she made it hard for him to see his own kids, so his son was all alone now. That was a few years ago.
Bedonie’s grandkids never came back after that.
When things like this happen, the stepfather—if he is not Native—wants to wipe out any memory of the Native side of life, so the kids are not allowed to come back or visit and their minds are scrubbed of that identity as a Native person even though they look like one. Native identity somehow gets rubbed out of them. This is what happened.
Old Man Bedonie thought about each of those kids from time to time. He looked at the screen door and it was silent now. It used to bang open and shut as those kids ran in and out and now those little ones were lost to him. They were being raised as Beliganas. He sat down and thought of all their names and remembered the names he gave them—each one named after a sheep. He thought about how they used to run and play and he missed the noise. He had held each one when they were small and he wondered if they will remember this old beat up place or try to forget they ever came here?
He sometimes thought of them growing up without knowing who they were, just having spent a little time on Navajo Mountain. He remembered they liked to ride the horses and he had to hide the bridles and halters to keep them off the horses. They would ride them all the time, sometimes barely hanging on by the tail. The black and the painted one; one slow horse and the other fast.
Now the horses were old and had not been ridden in a long time. They just kind of stood around now and slept and ate, moving slowly when they moved. Bedonie guessed the horses were kind of like him.
Bedonie went about his work around the house looking north every once in a while, as if he could see them—but they were not there. It got to be 10 or 12 years since the kids had been around the place.
His son from Teec Nos Pos came with his children and they stayed a few days and brought life back to the place, fixing up the corral and hauling hay from Cortez.
One day, it was getting on toward evening and as he was sitting at the table having a cup of Navajo tea he heard the screen door open and then it closed slowly. He turned around and saw a young woman of maybe 20 years old.
She said, “Hi, Grandpa.”
Before he could say anything, the other children came to the sound of her voice. Her long-lost cousins came in and saw her from the other room. They grabbed her and pulled her away with them. He didn’t get a chance to talk to her. Her cousins, her brothers and sisters in the Navajo Way of speaking, took her in as if she had just gone since yesterday and he could hear the talk and the laughter as they sat and visited.
The old man just sat down and remembered a little girl with light brown hair. He remembered she wrestled a goat to the ground long ago trying to ride him and the goat kept throwing her down. Now, after all these years, she had made her way back here to this place far from anywhere and she was home.
He sat there and laughed and then smiled to himself as he went to the door. He threw out his tea and looked at the stars. Bedonie thought it is good to have my grandchildren home together.
Old Man Bedonie went outside to sit and his eyes were drawn to movement in the corral. Even the old horses had a lively step to their gait, he noticed, and he thought I guess I am not the only one who missed her.
Johnny Rustywire is Folded Rocks Clan People on his mother’s side, and born for Tsinahbiltnii, the Mountain People Clan on his father’s side. He comes from Toadlena-Two Gray Hills, New Mexico, where the mountain is cracked and the water flows. He is a father of six and grandfather of 12. He attended Indian boarding schools and grew up on the Navajo Reservation, and has been married to the same woman for 40 years, a Ute from Fort Duchesne, Utah.