Tuesday, October 7, 2014 Comfort Inn Room 315 Socorro, New Mexico
So busy the last few days and so many lovely places we’ve seen and people with whom we’ve spoken.
Saturday we left Holbrook early in order to reach Canyon de Chelley early enough to take a tour of the canyon floor in the cool of the morning. Past a white stallion who wanted to cross the road but decided to go back among the shrubs to play hide and seek with us. He had a couple of other horses with him and later in the day we learned that these horses are NOT wild—they are owned by families and are branded but they run free range. Periodically, they are corraled and those branded get returned to owners and those not branded are destroyed. The horses are not ridden nor used for work. Motorized vehicles have made them just decorative fixtures on the landscape.
Arrived at the Canyon by 9:30 or so but got talking with the silversmith in the visitors’ center. His name is J. Ted Henry—we called him Mr Henry. He told us of living in the canyon with his family, going to school from the clifftop, since they diidn’t send busses to the floor. He was in boarding school and came home only on holidays—he was homesick. By high school he was attending the public school in Holbrook and again home only on holidays. He enrolled in a work study program there and worked with a silversmith. It was his first contact with Hispanic and white kids. He had fun. When he was finished he came home and started to work for a silversmith but eventually went our on his own. He has taught his brothers, nephews and sons and many of them also make jewelry etc.
There was a black and white picture of a Native woman holding a baby on a cradle board hanging over his work space. It hung from a nail by multiple strands of yarn. He said he grew up with it hanging in his home. On a visit to California with his wife his eye was caught by a coffee table book that had a black and white picture of the Canyon on the cover. He started to flip through the photos and nearly dropped the book when he came upon the picture of his mother with his baby brother. Two pages later he came upon a shot of his sister as a young girl standing in the doorway of their hogan! The book was a compilation of Ansel Adams’ photos of Native lands that eventually became National Parks or Monuments. AA had been commissioned by the government to take photos of the Native lands and the people living on them. Since that time, Mr Henry has sought out books with his mother’s photo. He has a stack of them. Not one cent to his mother or family. How much has the Adams’ estate and the publishers and authors of these books made on those photos???
At any rate, Mr Henry now makes pendants—on one side it a cutout of his design depicting his mother and brother in cradle board and on the other a patchwork of semiprecious stones and sterling silver stars in onyx representing Peliedes. He made one for each of us as we watched him work and talk and we perused his books. He gave us a copy of the photo under which is another photo of his mother, 40 years later, holding the book open and standing in the exact same location in the canyon. The original was taken in 1942, his brother had died by the time the new photo was taken and his mother lived to be 100 years old. He signed the card and said it was our certificate of authentication. What a wonderful experience and what a delightful man. I’ll have to add a photo of the necklace later.
Before we knew it the time had flown and it was 1:30. We had not yet arranged for a tour. The Thunderbird Lodge through which Bill and I had arranged a tour on the top of a large army truck has been renamed to the Sacred Spirit Lodge and no longer offers tours. So we chose the first listed Jeep tour, AZ Jeep Tours and arranged to meet the gentleman at the Sacred Spirit. He arrived, said his name was Deswood Yazzie and we could call him Des and we were off. If any of you EVER decide to go to this Canyon and take a Jeep tour—let me tell you—this man is a font of knowledge—turns out to be Mr Henry’s cousin. Des’ mother and Mr Henry’s father were brother and sister! Both Des and Mr Henry have hogans deep in the canyon though they both live “ up top” . We laughed, learned things, asked questions and bounced along the canyon floor absorbing the sights of fabulous cliffs and ruins. We also learned that about two years ago, one of those Army vehicles lost steering control on the top of a seven foot cliff. The driver could not keep from going over the edge, one person killed and several injured. Lawsuits all over the place. The Thunderbird closed and only recently reopened under new ownership. Scary.
After three hours we returned to the car and headed out of Chinle and on toward Gallup as the sun was setting over the city. To be continued………….