Neewa the wonder dog and.., p.12
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       Neewa the Wonder Dog and the Ghost Hunters, p.12

           John Cerutti
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  More than halfway to Manny’s, we drive into town where if you blink your eyes you may miss it. We are supposed to turn onto another road somewhere around here? The directions say turn west and we do. Clunk, bump, we are now on a dirt road. I can tell from Dad's reaction he doesn’t like this and he slows to a crawl.

  This is really interesting, there’s little difference between the surface of the road and the empty desert that surrounds us. The road is more like a twenty-foot trail carved by a bulldozer. Windswept sand blurs the edges on either side. I can barely see the road, it's more like a wide ditch in the middle of the desert.

  Desolate roads can be treacherous because they can disappear into the dunes. People vanish on trails like these. If a sign blows down, a driver might miss a turn and drive right out into the desert.

  To make matters worse he might go farther and farther, losing his sense of direction and get completely lost. That would be his last mistake. Once lost, he will never find his way back. Usually these unfortunate victims die slowly of thirst, or exposure, or both.

  Dad frowns as sand starts blowing. “I’m trying to follow this ditch of a road.”

  He shrugs his shoulders looking at Jackie in the front seat next to him.

  “It is getting more difficult to stay on it,” he says, “and the visibility has gone from bad to worse.”

  All of a sudden the wind starts blowing harder. Desert sand, dust, and dirt form a thick cloud in front of us. The storm is howling in the cracks of our van windows and doors making eerie sounds. Waves of sand are blowing across our windshield. I can barely see the road in front.

  There is nothing to guide us down this dirt trail. No electric lines or anything else we can follow to help us stay where we belong, on the road. There is nothing keeping us from wandering into the wasteland. The road itself is covered with sand from the frequent dust storms. One more thing, we haven’t seen another car on this road, not one.

  “We have to pull over and wait out this storm,” Dad declares.

  Dad takes out his map and looks for a better route. After several facial expressions, measuring distances, and looking at possible alternate routes, he looks straight ahead.

  “This is the only road on the map that will take us to Manny’s,” he declares. “The only other choice is to go way down south and then come back north over here.” He points to the map. “But that will take an extra three hours.”

  After a few minutes the wind dies down and visibility seems to improve as the sky turns western blue again.

  Jackie speaks first, “I vote we keep going.”

  I add, “I second that.”

  We drive on, more quiet and thoughtful than before.

  Chapter 19 - Horses

  Up ahead there is something on the side of the road. Neewa sees them, too. She is pacing from side to side in the back of the van.

  About a hundred feet in front of us are a herd of about ten horses. They don’t look like they belong here. Whose horses are they? Are we near a ranch? I don’t see any.

  The horses that make up this group are all different sizes and colors. Some are large, a few are small and one appears to be a donkey.

  As we drive closer, I see their long tails and manes are knotted, frayed, and have burrs stuck in them.

  The leader of the group is a black stallion, and he’s watching us and stirring to alert the herd. He’s beautiful with a gray patch across his right rear leg and another small swatch on his forehead. His long black tail hangs down to the ground. Half his mane hangs on either side of his muscular neck. The steed’s coat shines in the sunlight, revealing his powerful rippling body.

  I can tell he’s the leader because he put himself between his herd and us to protect them, turning sideways to block our view of his family.

  “Snort,” He violently blows air through his nose, signaling to the group.

  Neewa is getting more excited, jumping from seat to seat. She wants to run and play with them.

  “They are not dogs,” I tell her.

  She is making a high-pitched whinnying sound as if to say, “Let me out, let me out.”

  Jackie is getting trampled, and is quite annoyed with Neewa as she jumps from front seat to back, and then to the front again.

  “Let her out Dad, she has to go. I’m getting stomped,” she exclaims.

  Dad pulls onto the shoulder, stops the van, and opens the door. Neewa jumps out and runs up the road.

  Neewa is running right at the herd. I hope she knows what she’s doing.

  At that moment fear shoots from my brain down to my toes. The thought of Neewa running after them into the desert consumes me. It had never occurred to me until that second that I could lose her to them.

  “Dad, drive, drive, hurry up, catch her!” I cry out hitting the back of his seat with my hands.

  At that moment the herd spooks. Grunting a warning, the stallion and his family rumble into the desert. He follows his family, urging them into a full gallop toward the sand dunes.

  Neewa is following them, running from one side of the herd to the other. As quickly as the horses appeared in front of us, they go over the hill. Then Neewa disappears, gone into the miles and miles of sagebrush and sand.

  My heart drops out of my chest. Neewa is gone and I don’t know if I will ever see her again. I feel my stomach in my throat.

  Dad pulls over and I jump out.

  Jackie yells, “Call her before she gets too far!”

  “Neewa, Neewa, Neewa!” I yell, hoping she will hear me.

  Dad whistles his loudest two-finger whistle, “Whistle! Whistle.”

  I form my lips to whistle, but nothing comes out. I can’t whistle.

  “Listen, stop!” I shout.

  I never should have let her run out into the desert. She may never come back.

  We all start yelling, “Neewa come! Neewa! Neewa!”

  Again, we are silent. I listen for her to bark, or yelp, or something. Seconds pass like minutes. You can hear a pin drop.

  “I hear something.” I’m not sure what it is in the distance, is that her?

  I cry out, “It sounds like Neewa barking, I hear her.”

  I call out, “Neewa, Neewa!”

  I look at Dad, then Jackie. “I hear a jingling sound.”

  Jackie exclaims, “It’s more like a jingle ding, jingle ding.”

  That jingle ding sound is coming from Neewa’s charm, the one Chester put on her collar.

  At that moment Neewa’s head pops up out over the sand dune.

  She is sprinting for us. Sand kicks up into the air behind her as she makes her way up then down the soft sandy mounds. Then she jumps right up on me, pushing me backwards onto the ground. She licks my face and walks all over me.

  Jackie and Dad come to my rescue, picking me up off the ground by my arms.

  Neewa jumps up on me with her front paws stretching all the way up onto my shoulders while standing on her hind legs.

  She pushes off me and her paws hit the ground, she wags her tail.

  Hugging her, I stroke her neck and side and scratch her behind the ears.

  “I thought I lost you, Neewa,” I exclaim.

  “You came back,” Jacqueline exclaims as she cuddles her.

  She wags her tail, whines and lets out a “Yelp.”

  We all jump in the van and off we go.

  “They are wild horses and they run free in the desert. They belong to no one,” Dad speaks.

  “Where did they all come from? How do they live? What do they eat?”

  Dad answers my bombardment of questions, one after the other. “They live out in the desert and they eat whatever vegetation they can find. Many years ago wild horses were rounded up and shipped to slaughterhouses. Hundreds of thousands of them were killed. Some were kept for work horses on ranches.”

  Dad describes, “Wild horses lived all over North America, populating this continent before the Ice Age. They moved north across the Bering land bridge, and fanned out from Siberia to th
e rest of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and then became extinct here. When Europeans reintroduced horses to the Americas in the 16th century, some escaped and formed wild herds. By the 19th century, there were two million wild horses in America. Their major predators, such as the mountain lion, were all but wiped out, and for more than a century their biggest enemy has been man. Horse roundups and massacres went unchecked for decades until Wild Horse Annie came along.”

  Who was she?” Jackie asks.

  Dad replies, “She was an animal rights activist who led a campaign to stop the removal of wild horses from public lands. She helped pass legislation to stop using planes to capture wild horses and burros causing their death.”

  Chapter 20 - Antelope

  Another sand blizzard like that could come along at any moment. One more dust storm and we could vanish out here, never to be seen again. Left to die a torturous death, alone, in the desert. I tell ya, I don’t feel very safe out here. The visibility is so bad we can barely stay on this dirt road. Can you imagine trying to ask someone for directions?

  Ha-ha, There aren’t any other human beings out here. I’m glad our van is running good, at least right now it is.

  As we pass a mountain range, I read one of those Federal Park signs, “National Forest.”

  Dad wants to stretch, so we pull over to the side of the road. Neewa jumps out my door while our van is still rolling. She loves to run alongside us and dash off into the desert to chase some poor unsuspecting critter. There she goes again.

  As I get out and look around at the acres and acres of rolling dunes, I see four eyes staring motionless right at me. Two heads simultaneously follow me as I move around to the back of our van and open the trunk.

  “Look, look, shush,” I speak softly.

  I point up on the hill, “There, on that ridge to the right, they are watching us.”

  “Look,” Jackie whispers. “What are they?”

  “Are they gazelles?” I stare.

  I see two deer-like creatures. But they are not deer. Nowhere near as big. More like the White Tail we have back East, but White Tail Deer are not out here.

  I freeze. “Look at the dark pointed antlers and the color of their bodies. Their fur has different shades of beige, brown, and white around the neck and on their belly.”

  I question, “Their faces have a lot of white fur on them, but I don’t know what they are?”

  Dad whispers, “They’re antelope, I’ve only seen them in books. Wow, cool, I’ve always wanted to see one in the wild.”

  The two Pronghorn Antelope run for the hills. One stops at the top and looks directly at us, then turns and disappears over the ridge. In a few seconds they are gone, vanished.

  I’m glad Neewa didn’t see them, she would have chased them and never come back.

  We finish our rest stop and continue the voyage. For the next fifty miles, the only living things we see are prairie dogs and buzzards. No other sign of life.

  Finally I see a sign, “Indian Reserve 1 Mile.”

  It’s about three PM now and the trip has taken much longer than we planned.

  Turning onto the reserve, we slowly ramble over the ruts and bumps on the road. A plume of dust rises twenty feet above our van, enabling Manny and everyone else waiting for us to see us coming a mile away.

  As we get closer, I see maybe ten or eleven houses in a cluster in the valley. That’s it, that’s the whole population. Looking around, there’s not much happening here in the middle of nowhere. The place is isolated and boring, nothing much to do.

  Neewa is barking to be let out of the van. Dad slows down and Neewa slithers under his legs and jumps out the door. Off she gallops down the road in front of us, guiding the way. Occasionally looking back, she keeps the same distance between us, commanding the lead.

  Dad says it’s fine to let her run alongside the van. It’s good exercise. As long as she keeps her distance from the wheels, she won’t get hurt.

  All of a sudden she veers off into the brush having spotted her favorite prey. She chases an unsuspecting prairie dog into its burrow. The poor little creature has barely escaped her jaws. She barks at the entrance to its home. Then she usually paws and pulls away large quantities of dirt from the entrance to its burrow, scaring the heck out of the poor little thing. After that, she prances off triumphant, catching up with us in no time. Neewa just cannot resist chasing those little critters.

  When we arrive at Manny’s house, all of his neighbors and relatives come out to greet us. Most of them already know everything about us. The Indian grapevine is very comprehensive and connects all the reserves. Everybody knows what everyone else is doing.

  We’re all talking at the same time. Jokes are being told and questions asked about what’s going on up North. Mostly they ask about relatives and friends we know, well mostly Dad knows.

  I’m shy and I kind of hide behind Dad and play with Neewa. Nobody knows anything about Neewa yet. When they hear me call her, they immediately ask me all kinds of questions about her. I tell the whole story about how I got her and everything she has done. Everyone laughs when they hear about the disappearing pumpkin pies and how she had to fly onto the counter to get them.

  Jackie walks off with Manny’s daughter to play. Soon after that I notice Manny’s two sons leaving to go fishing.

  The most exciting thing to happen out here this month was when a nine-year-old took his Dad’s car for a ride. The father came running out of the house shouting, “Stop, stop!” Everyone came out of their houses to watch them go down the road. As he ran up alongside of the car his pants were falling down. He reached inside and shut the car off, stopping it cold. His kid thought it was funny and laughed. Since no one was hurt, everyone laughed.

  Out here, it’s an everyday occurrence to have cattle wander into someone’s yard. After drinking their fill down by the stream, they find their way to the nearest grass. No one notices much. They are just grazing on the grass in what they think is their pasture, not knowing they aren’t supposed to eat there. Manny says at least he won’t have to mow the lawn, which is funny cause Indians don’t mow lawns, wouldn’t even cross their minds.

  Cattle sometimes wander into the communal pastures, where the hay is grown as a cash crop. Those fields are off limits. Eventually the herd is chased back into the desert where the food is not plentiful, but free. Sooner or later they end up at the forbidden pasture where the grass is green and tender.

  Dinner is about to begin, as Jackie and I unpack some stuff. We put the pies in the kitchen and our bags in our room. We’ll be sleeping in Steve’s room, he’s Manny’s oldest son.

  Inside his room on the walls are pictures and posters. I recognize Geronimo over there and that diamond-shaped thingy is called a dream catcher. I think it protects you from nightmares or something. On the windows instead of curtains are Indian blankets tacked up on all four corners to keep the hot sun out.

  One old picture is of a group of Indians doing the Ghost Dance. Chief Wovoka began the Ghost Dance among the Piute Nation. Then it spread throughout most of the North American Nations around 1889. At the heart of the Ghost Dance movement was the prophet of peace, a man named Jack Wilson, known as Wovoka. Wilson, a Piute Indian, prophesied a peaceful end to White American expansion while preaching messages of clean living, an honest life, and cross-cultural cooperation. Perhaps the best-known fact about the Ghost Dance movement is the role it played in instigating the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. In this massacre one hundred fifty-three Lakota Sioux died. The Sioux’s variation on the Ghost Dance was different from Jack Wilson's original teachings. Settlers became afraid of the dance, thinking it was a war dance.

  The room has trophies from local rodeo events, as well as pictures from fishing trips and family gatherings. That one looks like a calf-roping trophy and the other one is a steer-wrestling award.

  Looks like the whole family goes to Pow Wows? There are pictures on the walls labeled Ely Pow Wow and Duck Valley Pow Wow. What is a Pow Wo
w anyway?

  “Dinnertime, dinner time,” Margaret rejoices as she strolls through the house smiling.

  Everyone runs to the table. We sit down in the big dining room, chairs shuffle, and slide on the floor. Spoons and forks clang as the plates are scooped up and food plopped down. Voices ring out, “Hey pass me that.” Arms reach out over the checkered tablecloth filled with bounty.

  Laughter, jokes and talking, then quiet, we say Grace. After which the feast begins with venison roast, corn, string beans, sweet potatoes, Mexican breads, and a big turkey too.

  As Thanksgiving dinner ends, the joking and talking continues with the clean up.

  Later on, I take a nap during the football game.

  After waking up, Neewa and I go out for a walk.

  The rest of the evening passes as we play games, nibble on leftovers, and chocolate cake. I love chocolate cake.

  Exhausted after the long day, I crawl into my sleeping bag. Dad and Jackie are already lying down and settling into a good night’s sleep in their bags on the floor.

  “Neewa, sleep on my feet and keep me warm.” I’m so tired.

  Chapter 21 - Fishing

  “Knock, knock, knock, wake up.” I sit up stunned and look at Dad.

  On the other side of the door is Manny, “Do you guys want to go fishing?”

  “Yeah, we want to go.” Dad rubs his eyes.

  In minutes I’m following Dad and Jackie out the door to get the fishing stuff we brought in the van. All of us are eager about going and Neewa senses our excitement.

  We start out in our van with Manny leading the way in his car. Our destination is the other side of the mountain about twenty minutes away near a small pond on the reserve.

  After the bumpy dusty ride we arrive, park our van, and get into Manny’s car.

  “Dad, why are we leaving our van way out here?” I am puzzled.

  Steve, sitting in the front seat, turns around. “We are going to fish our way up the stream to this pond. It will take about three hours. When we get here, we will be tired and hungry. Instead of walking all the way back to where we started, we can drive your van back to our car.”

  Manny drives us all back to the starting point on the stream, the sun is now up for almost an hour. With fishing gear in hand, we walk a narrow path to the water’s edge. There we all get ourselves organized and ready to go.

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