Neewa the wonder dog and.., p.11
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       Neewa the Wonder Dog and the Ghost Hunters, p.11

           John Cerutti
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  When I stop talking, I ask if anyone has any questions.

  One person wants to know, “Where did you get the book on Shoshone Language? What is the name of the book?”

  “I don’t know,” I say, “but I will ask my Dad and we will give the information to Marvin to give to you.”

  A boy asks, “What is that sticking out of her mouth?”

  Having forgotten the part about her teeth, I explain how distemper caused her to lose some of her teeth. I tell everyone that Neewa lost many of her teeth in the middle of the jaw. And that is the place where her tongue falls out the side of her mouth.

  A little girl asks, “Do you know Neewa has a spirit?” Everyone laughs.

  I answer, “No, I don’t know she has a spirit.”

  An awkward silence hangs over the room for a moment.

  With no other questions, everyone applauds. All the kids have already gotten up and begun calling and petting Neewa.

  The presentation is over and it seems to have gone well. I finished the story in about ten minutes.

  I wonder if anyone knows that I want to be a writer, I think to myself.

  I can feel the cool air as Neewa and I wait by the door to be picked up by Dad and Jackie.

  Marvin hurries from an office on the first floor and comes over to thank me. “Thanks for coming and speaking Christina. That was great! I am so glad you came. I have been so very busy with all my projects, school and the meetings.” He runs off directing someone to do something as he turns the corner and swaggers out of sight.

  Mrs. Bats, my History teacher, comes over to Neewa and me as we wait at the front door.

  She says, “You gave a very good presentation. Would you like to give the same presentation in History class tomorrow?”

  I answer, “I don’t know if they will let me bring Neewa to school.”

  Mrs. Bats laughs and says, “Without Neewa will be fine.”

  As Dad and Jackie pull up to the front door I say, “Good-bye, Mrs. Bats.”

  “See you, Christina,” she replies.

  I get in the car and we drive off.

  “Christina, how did it go?” Dad asks.

  Annoyed to have to talk any more, “It went fine Dad, I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to go home, take a hot shower, and go to bed.”

  “I just want to be left alone,” I tell him one more time hoping this will be the end of the conversation.

  “One funny thing did happen. A little girl asked me, ’Did I know Neewa has a spirit?’”

  Dad replies, “Yeah, that is a funny question. What did you say?”

  I said, “No, I didn’t know Neewa has a spirit.”

  Looking at Neewa, both Dad and I ask her at the same time, “Neewa, do you have a spirit?”

  Neewa looks at me, tilts her head with her tongue hanging out, and then barks, “Roooof.”


  Chapter 16 - The Pumpkin Pies

  Our family is making plans for the holiday. This will be my first Thanksgiving with Neewa.

  Dad wants us to visit our friends Manny and Margaret for the weekend. They live about four hours from here. I like the idea of going there for the holiday because Manny and Margaret are so much fun.

  Manny is a member of the Gosh Ute Nation and he works for the government with my Dad. He and Margaret visited us a few times and stayed overnight at our house.

  Manny, Margaret, Dad, Jackie and I have done all kinds of neat stuff together. We went on a roller coaster called Speed The Ride, which goes seventy miles per hour. It’s at the Nascar Café and is one of the fastest and highest roller coasters in the world.

  Another time Manny took us to a water park called the Wild Island Adventure. It has water slides, wave pools, and all kinds of fun rides.

  Manny likes to have fun and that’s why I like him. One time we went to this swimming club in town. Even though you had to be a member to get in, Manny got us in. We had a blast in the pools, water slides, and sprinklers.

  Another time we went to a big barbeque with Manny. We played softball and met lots of people from where Dad works. He laughs all the time.

  Grandma and Grandpa want us to come home to New Jersey for the holiday. But it is too far and costs too much money to go back East.

  This year we will go home around New Years to see everyone, maybe. I want to go home for good. I miss everyone so much, especially my friends.

  Tomorrow we will be leaving for Manny’s Thanksgiving dinner. His home is about two hundred miles from here.

  Dad and I are sitting at the kitchen table. “Can you and Jackie make pumpkin pies to bring to the holiday dinner?”

  “Yeah Dad, I’ll make them,” Jackie yells from the other room.

  I answer, “I’ll help Jackie.”

  Actually, I want to trick Jackie into making the pies, while I just hang out and watch movies on my laptop.

  We all decide that making three pumpkin pies will be enough. As soon as Jackie gets started, I will slip away without anyone noticing. They will no even have a clue that I am gone.

  Dad is preparing dinner.

  Neewa is staying under the kitchen table watching, observing everything that is happening. Neewa likes to smell all the foods being prepared and cooked. She licks her lips and stares at us cooking as we move the stuff from the frig to stove to table. If anything drops on the floor? She is there to clean up.

  I help Jackie measure out the ingredients for the pies. The pies we are bringing are made from real fresh pumpkin. Dad saves the Halloween pumpkin, doesn’t even make a Jack-o-lantern anymore, so he can use the pumpkin to make soup, bread, and especially pumpkin pie.

  Each pie is made with three-quarters cup sugar, one teaspoon cinnamon, half teaspoon salt, half teaspoon ginger, quarter teaspoon cloves, two eggs, two cups mashed pumpkin and one and a half cups of milk.

  The first step in the process is to cook the Halloween pumpkin that we saved since October. I begin by boiling two quarts of water on the stove. After cleaning out the pumpkin seeds and innards I cut the round orangey squash into cubes. Then I boil it for thirty minutes or until it is soft. Next I let the pumpkin cool, so I can peel and mash it.

  I add the other ingredients to the mashed pumpkin and put everything into a big bowl for later.

  After that I begin to make the pie crust dough. The dough is easy, just three-quarters cup of shortening, half teaspoon salt, one teaspoon milk, quarter cup hot water and two cups of flour for each crust.

  Mix it all together and knead the dough for five minutes. I let the dough sit in the bowl for a little while, as I get out the wax paper and prepare the surface of the counter.

  Now I roll the dough out into three big flat pieces for the pie crusts.

  Jackie puts each piece of dough in a nine-inch round pie plate and cuts away the excess dough at the edges.

  We are almost done as I pour the filling with the mashed pumpkin and ingredients into the dough-lined pie plates.

  Pinch the dough around the edges, and put the pies into the oven to bake at three hundred fifty degrees for twenty-five minutes.

  It doesn’t take long for the pies to smell up the entire house. Pumpkin pie smells are everywhere. Yummy. Finally we are done.

  “Whew, I’m tired, I’m going to lay down,” At last I can disappear into my room.

  Those are the best smelling pumpkin pies I’ve ever made. They are made the old-fashioned way from fresh pumpkin cooked in a big pot and mashed by hand. Even the dough for the crust is homemade.

  The pies look and smell so good, way better than the frozen pumpkin pies from the freezer section of the grocery store.

  It sure would have been a lot easier to get the frozen ones.

  Dad takes the fresh pies from the oven and places them on the counter to cool.

  After dinner we all want to go shopping for additional supplies for tomorrow’s trip. Jackie and I are going to a couple of stores to pick up some things.
We drive along the side streets avoiding the main highway as Dad talks about the trip.

  Dad remarks, “We’re going to Manny’s house on his reserve. There are only about ninety people living on this one.”

  “Christina, read me the directions.” He hands me a paper with scribbling on it.

  As I’m about to read the directions he got from Manny … Dad interrupts.

  “The trip is going to take all day. Manny wasn’t sure of the name of one of the roads. He said there would be a sign,” Dad recalls.

  We have never made this trip before. I’m looking forward to going on a new adventure.

  I also want to see my friends Manny and Margaret because I have lots of fun with them.

  Dad tells me that their Indian reserve is different from the one near our home. For one thing, it’s in the middle of nowhere and far from any town. All of the land around it is government-owned, cattle ranches, or desert. The land doesn’t grow anything but sagebrush, cactus, and some desert grasses because it hardly ever rains. It’s so dry you can’t grow corn or hay or anything.

  He says the land is so barren, it barely supports the cattle they raise on it. Once or twice a week the ranchers have to bring hay to the cattle so they don’t starve. Dad says one head of cattle needs five acres of desert to survive for just one year.

  There are no businesses near the reserve where we are going. A combination general store and gas station is about three miles away. And there aren’t any doctors or hospitals for over a hundred miles.

  The people out there have very little income. What they do make comes from ranching and government subsidies. Young families and older people are the only ones that live there anymore because most of the middle-aged people have left for better jobs in the cities.

  They have a one-room schoolhouse for kindergarten to eighth grade. After that the kids go far away to high schools where you sleep there for months. I don’t ever want to do that. It's bad enough I am away from everyone back home and Mom too. At least I have Dad and Jackie.

  Dad says some of the houses on the reserve are made of railroad ties and some have no electricity or even bathrooms. Those people prefer to live without that stuff cause that's the way it was when they grew up. Usually the outhouses are located about twenty feet from the homes. The Indian word for outhouse is “gwida-gahni”.

  From what Dad has heard it has been a difficult year for this reserve. There were three bad accidents this past year. Two were car accidents, rollovers someone said. And the other one was a young girl drowned at the swimming hole. Dad was told that a total of three people died. Some say it was bad spirits that killed them.

  My Dad shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head. “It's tragic. Something needs to be done. That’s more than three percent of the population in one year. If that continues, this reserve will be a ghost town in a few decades.”

  Our town is very different from where Manny lives. We have an interstate highway and a railroad going right through the middle of our town. There are lots of stores, gas stations, and businesses.

  There is an ambulance squad, hospital, lots of doctors, and even a newspaper.

  Income around here is mostly from tourism, fishing, hunting, and lots of people just passing through on their way to California or East. Dad says our town makes money from hotels, casinos, and special bars like Rosie’s, Toni’s, and Sue’s.

  We also have the county seat and that means lots of government offices and schools. It has the county fairgrounds, an airport, and a community college too.

  On the outskirts of town there is cattle and sheep ranching, even mining.

  The reserve we live near has just one home made of railroad ties. Most of the homes are newer conventional homes with three bedrooms and two baths and electricity.

  Yet tragedy still strikes our reserve, too. I remember one day not too long ago a Tribal Councilman’s wife went off the road, rolled her truck, and died. Some of Dad’s friends at work whispered stories about what cause of the accident.

  I remember when Dad heard about it he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Some say it is the evil spirits around here.”

  Chapter 17 - Neewa’s Spirit Flew

  It’s late when we arrive back home after shopping. As I walk in the door Neewa jumps up on me to give her welcome home kisses and get scratches. This is not unusual. She always does this. Neewa misses me when I leave home without her. She does not like to be left out of any trips and she is always excited to see me when I return home.

  Her tail is hitting the wall, thud, thud, thud. She jumps around and wags her tail continuously until I reach down to stroke her. I pet her and put my jacket on the hook near the door.

  Jackie screams, “Dad, the pies are gone!”

  As I look around for the thieves, I see no sign of anyone in the house. No door is broken and no window smashed in.

  Dad comes bursting into the house and runs over to Jackie. “What happened? Are you all right?”

  “Look at this, Dad. The pies are gone!” Jackie investigates the scene. “Empty pie plates are all over the kitchen floor!”

  Dad and Jackie stand frozen looking at each other, perplexed.

  Neewa looks different, a little funny. As I inspect her more closely I can see a small orange stain on the white fur above her black lips. I look at Neewa again, closer this time. There’s another blemish on the top of her paw between her toes. And as I look down the hall, I see fresh paw prints.

  I’m frowning and my hands are on my hips. “It was not thieves.”

  “Oh boy,” Jackie exclaims, “she ate all three pies and she didn’t even leave us one.”

  “I can’t believe you did this, Neewa. You ate all of our pies. How did you get up on the counter?”

  I hide my laugh, as I know Jackie and Dad are disappointed, but I burst out laughing anyway, “Ha Ha Ha, Neewa, how did you get the pies? You would have had to fly through the air to get up on the counter?”

  I can hear Dad yell, “Bad girl, bad Neewa, go lay down.”

  Neewa’s tail and ears drop down, but I don’t think she knows what she did wrong. I look at the aluminum pie plates scattered around the kitchen.

  I’m very disappointed. I want to cry. We have nothing to bring to the dinner tomorrow. And all that work was for nothing. Well almost nothing. Neewa had a good feast.

  Jackie is running to the door, pulling Neewa outside by the collar. “Oh boy, you are going to be sick.”

  Dad sighs, “Make sure you get the chain on her Jackie, we don’t want her to get lost before the trip tomorrow.”

  Dad exclaims, “Hey look, I left the digital camera on the counter. The motion detector started the camera when Neewa climbed up and ate the pies.”

  I joke, trying to lighten up the situation a little. “Maybe we will see her floating up onto the counter like a ghost.”

  Jackie laughs as she comes back in the door, “Ha, ha, she didn’t climb up on the counter, she flew up like a bird.”

  We all laugh and then go back to cleaning up her mess.

  All of a sudden Dad is running out the door.

  “What’s the matter? Where are you going?” I yell to him as I sway back and forth and hang out the door.

  His words are muffled as he closes the van door and drives off. “I’ll check the camera when I get back. You guys wait here.”

  In just fifteen minutes he’s back at the house with two brown bags of groceries.

  “Dad, where did you go? What in the world did you buy?” I ask him as he walks in the door.

  Unpacking he declares, “I drove to the supermarket, ran in and got three frozen nine-inch pie crusts and six cans of pumpkin. Okay everyone, we are going to make three more pies tonight.”

  I sigh, “Tonight?”

  “You guys get out the bowls,” he directs us as he turns on the oven.

  Jackie and I pitch in. I get out the bowls while Jackie gathers the rest of the ingredients that we already have.

  Before I know it, we measur
e and mix the batter for three pies, pour them into the store-bought pie shells, and pop them into the oven.

  It isn’t long before the house is filled with the smell of pumpkin pies, again. About thirty minutes later, we have three pies. But this time I put them right into the refrigerator.

  I frown, looking out the window at Neewa. “Neewa, we are letting the pies cool down in the refrigerator this time.”

  Neewa is still outside and probably will be till morning. I hope she’s feeling better by then.

  We’re all relieved to have pumpkin pies to bring on our trip. Everything seems better now.

  Chapter 18 - The Desert

  I wake up early Thanksgiving morning and help Dad finish packing the car. We are ready to leave. Neewa is the last one to get in. She is so excited and jumps around the back seat like a jumping bean.

  Off we drive with plenty of time to get there for dinner, at least that is the plan. During the first part of the trip we approach the beautiful Ruby Mountains. Deep in its canyons are quaking aspen trees, leaves quivering in the breeze. The leaves reflect the sun and twinkle like flashlights against the shadowy canyon walls.

  The ruby red glow of the mountains is incredible. As we are passing through the gap on the only road that cuts through this range of mountains, blue skies hang above, not a cloud to be seen.

  Soon after passing through the mountains we are on a flat highway, with neither a hill nor a valley before us. It's peaceful out here, amidst endless vistas packed with faded green sagebrush, tan desert sands, and dried gray grasses.

  As usual the prairie dogs continue to run in front of our van, as though they are playing a game of tag.

  Dad yells at a prairie dog as it runs out in front of us, “Watch out, get out of my way.” He motions with his hand to get them out of the way.

  The prairie dog scurries across the road as we pass over him. We wait to feel a bump or hear a knock. Timidly, we look out the rear window anticipating the carnage? Miraculously, he’s not lying squashed on the road.

  “How did he do that? I thought for sure I hit him?” Dad mumbles, perplexed at the animal’s reasoning.

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