Dad rocked this one out. I think the Coen Bros should do this as a scene in one of their movies. Pretty awesome.

     I was staring at the mole in the middle of her forehead.  Pauline Whitesinger , Navajo elder and leader of the Big Mountain Defense League  stood  in front of me holding a rifle.  It was a .227 varmint gun, I believed, and maybe I was the varmint.

For months now , this summer of 77 I had been driving a rented red Ford F100 pickup.  Rented long term from Flagstaff’s own Babbitt Ford.  Rented by the NHIRC; Navajo Hopi Indian Relocation Commission.  Our job was to move Indians impacted by the Federal Court ruling in San Francisco of Judge Walsh.  A huge area,  hundreds of thousands of acres of high country desert in the north quarter of Arizona had been cut in half by a zig zaggy border line, an area that previously had been available to both tribes to use; to graze, grow crops and settle.  Thousands of Navajos, some having lived on this land for 5 or more generations were being pressed to move out.

My job was to inventory buildings and improvements of each family required to move; those that found themselves on the wrong side of the line.  I was an appraiser’s aid.  I walked off cornfields and noted  steel or juniper fence poles and how many strands of wire.  I measured sheep and cow and horse corrals to figure their worth , by the size and quality of construction.  I counted basketball poles and sweat houses, toilets and storage sheds.  I wrapped my long tape around many hogans and stone houses, noting their roof designs , windows and flooring.

I had been around old weather beaten WWII vets who understood but would not speak English.  I’d been offered coffee and kool  aid.  I’d ridden in their vehicles and mine as we reached remote summer cabins or abandoned corn fields-reverted- I called them; 5 acres of fenced rabbit bush and grasses.  But this was different.

My boss had taken me on a small plane flight above the Former Joint Use Area..FJUA.  There had been demonstrations outside our offices in downtown Flagstaff.  Threats had been made.  Field workers, Navajos themselves, had been cursed and driven out of the Big Mountain area.  Teesto—no problem.  White Cone, Pinyon—no problem.  Low Mt. and Coalmine chapters—no problem.  Hard Rock… that was the Place.  Germans had come to herd sheep to show their support,.  Reporters wrote of the 2nd Long Walk.  Public opinion was against us..’Genocide’ they called it.  We were going to scout this ‘hot area’ by Cessna.  Only after returning to Pulliam Field airport did I notice that Dave, my boss had placed a bullet proof vest under his butt on the seat.  “Protect the family jewels from rifle fire,” he said apologizing that he only had one vest.

Near a big deep sandy canyon was Pauline’s place.  We saw it, down below, with many trucks parked nearby.

I was being sent into her camp to ask to inventory her ‘ improvements.’  If I could appraise her stuff, many other families would fall in line.  I was a point man, expendable.

Fortuitously, I had gotten the flu the day before.  I left the motel in Tsaile that July morning sweating even with the air con on.  I was feverish and light headed as I drove the dirt roads to northern Hard Rock chapter on an empty stomach with water bottle in hand.  I drove up toward the parked trucks surrounding the dirt covered hogan and peaked roof stone house.  “Nice stuff,”  I thought as I waited in my vehicle for a minute or two to show respect.  A woman in strong brown leather shoes walked out of the house.  She was dressed in dark blue velveteen blouse and dress with several petticoats underneath.  She was not sweating as she stood near my truck .  I walked over almost swaying in my fever and noticed she carried a gun.  It was cradled in her arms and pointed away from me.

“A good sign,” I thought.  “ Boy am I hot.  Boy Howdy, look at that mole on her face.  She’s a good looking traditional woman”.  I was running on inside my head when she stopped it with..

“How would your family feel if you were dead?”

“Well,”  I began.  “My brother who is an Army Ranger would be fire hot angry.”  Going on I continued “My sister?  Well, maybe she wouldn’t care so much.”  Deciding to roll out the whole family, since Pauline asked, “My mother would cry and cry again, swearing at whoever ended my life.”
Finishing I concluded, “My father, a military man, retired but still straight up and down- he would close his lips and hold my mother.  My wife would shake her head, looking down thinking of the 2 fatherless children, bite her lips and perhaps say ‘ Karma’.  The children would have no idea.”

I looked at her and smiled, so sick now I couldn’t prevent the weaving back and forth of my body standing so close to this woman whose anger had dissipated and had a perplexed look on her face.  She turned around abruptly and walked away.  Stopping she turned-

“No appraisal!  Go away!”

“OK, “ I responded sliding into my red Babbitt Ford and drove on to the trading post where I really needed a cold cold bottle of coke.


Wayne in front of the NHIRC headquarters.

I was staring at the mole… by Wayne Gramzinski

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