Neewa the wonder dog and.., p.13
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       Neewa the Wonder Dog and the Ghost Hunters, p.13

           John Cerutti
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  We are standing in an oasis of green before swirling water with desert all around it. Before me is crystal clean water meandering slowly through the flatlands. In the distance is a mountain, a blue vein of bubbling white water raging down the middle. On one side are gray beige rock outcrops. On the other side of the stream has hundreds of meters of low-lying lime colored fertile farming pasture, surrounded by olive scrub pine and golden aspen trees shimmering in the dry breeze. Close to the stream are emerald stemmed cattails, and wildflowers nestled in swaying light brown grasses.

  Neewa runs downstream, sprinting at full gallop, splashing water all over. Exiting, she vanishes in the tall hay about to be harvested, then reappears on a small hill above stream and fields.

  We start out hiking at the widest section of the stream. That’s when I do something I’ve never done before. I wade through the chilling stream in sneakers and jeans. My body shivers as I adjust to the flowing tributary of frosty whirlpools and eddies.

  We begin casting our lines upstream. Using homemade flies called woolly worms, we cast ahead and let the bait drift in the calm water.

  As we walk, applying our fishing technique, the current lazily meanders around us, giving off cool breezes and glistening sunlight.

  Next we enter swift-moving white water running over rock stepping-stones. Cascading water fills a series of pools between the rocky cliffs growing narrower, rising before us. Each pond of calm, undisturbed, blue-green water empties with each passing moment. Carefully, I cast my line into the next swirling pool to tempt my prey.

  Silently I cast my bait and amble along the edge of this larger eddy. Standing at its shallow edge, I make multiple casts to lure my quarry. Gently I lift and lower my feet, careful not to disturb the pebbles that anchor the fine silt to the streambed.

  Neewa follows our every move, and then darts by our fishing party to lead the way. I throw a biscuit to her and she catches it, chews, and swallows it down in seconds.

  “Good girl,” I yank her close to me, but she pulls away.

  Gently she wades into the stream and laps at the foaming bubbles passing by. With her nose just above the surface, she tilts her head and stares into the water. Her white paws are visible against the dark dirt bottom. After a few moments she jumps out, shaking the beaded water from her ivory coat.

  We fish pool after bright, shimmering pool. Tired from the short night and long morning, I sit for a moment and stare into moving waterway.

  It’s continually changing, never the same. Flowing from the mountains through the desert to who knows where, or how far its long journey to the ocean.

  Dad and Jackie join me on the bank of the stream.

  Dad says, “Fishing on a reserve for non-Indians is pretty much against the law and punishable by death.”

  Dad asks Manny, “What ever happened to the last guys from the city that fished here?”

  Manny replies, “Oh they were hung up on a tree and gutted like deer, their dogs too.”

  Dad purposely did not bring his fishing pole. He already knows about the history of Whites stealing and taking just about everything from the Indians.

  Manny’s kids invited us to go fishing. Just us kids have fishing poles and that is supposed to be okay?

  We are fishing for native trout, really big ones, on Native American land. It’s fun fishing in this special place that Manny and his kids know. This land is sacred to them.

  Rest time is over and we continue up the canal.

  I become concerned about Neewa as I haven’t seen or heard from her in a while.

  To get a better vantage point, I climb to the top of the ravine and position myself facing away from the fishing party below. I am far enough away and above everyone, so I can yell for her without scaring the fish.

  Shouting out into the desert, “Neewa, Neewa, Neewa.”

  I wait for her to answer.

  Again I holler, “Neewa come, Neewa come,” but nothing yet.

  After a few minutes I hear her bark, and it isn’t long before she runs to me at full stride, stopping in front of me for a pat on the head. We are perched on a cliff looking down at the stream; both of us lean forward to gingerly gaze over the edge.

  Carefully we climb down past rocks and brush, returning to the stream.

  “You stay with us now Neewa, enough running off into the wilderness, no more,” I order.

  As I hike and fish, Manny and his kids tell us Indian legends. First Steve tells the story of “A Man and His Three Dogs.” It is about a wolf that tries to become a human being, pretty cool. Next Manny tells us the legend of “The White Trail In The Sky.” This story is about a bear that takes another bear’s prey, and then the bear follows the Milky Way in the sky. Very cool ending.

  We are in a narrow part of the stream. It is only about five or ten feet in width. Sheer canyon walls tower above us on both sides. Around us the steep, rocky cliffs allow a thin sliver of light down to the water’s edge.

  Slowly, one by one we wade into the freezing water. Waist high, I push tall reeds to either side as I pass through, slipping by the curtain-like wall of cattails anchored to the gravel bottom.

  Looking to either side of me, I stare at Indians naked from the waist up. Their long dark hair hangs down to their muscular shoulders. Handsome stoic profiles glide above the water like spirits suspended in time. They are at home here, like their fathers and their father’s fathers, moving effortlessly through the water as if propelled by magic. They don’t even look human.

  With chattering teeth Dad remarks, “Manny, I should have brought waders?”

  Manny replies looking at us, his expression serious, almost aghast, “Indians don’t wear waders.”

  As we reach the other side of the gorge the stream widens again. The rock walls open up allowing the warming sun on my face and arms. The narrow grotto behind us, we walk on smooth stone banks surrounded by grasses with jagged rock just beyond.

  I look up and see Neewa staring over the edge spying on us. I didn’t even hear her sneak away.

  Balanced on the rim of the gorge she barks, “Roof, roof, roof.”

  “Shush,” I whisper. “Good girl, Neewa.”

  After watching us for a while, she turns and vanishes.

  From down here by the stream, the sheer rock walls rise over me like skyscrapers. I jerk backward and look up wobbling, the rock appearing to be right over my head.

  A tiny ribbon of water tumbles downward. The little waterfall cascades down smashing against the rocks. Glistening in the sunlight, the droplets glide toward me in slow motion, splashing on and around my feet, then trickle into the stream.

  We have caught a half dozen Speckled Trout and finally reach the last pond. I have no desire to fish anymore, although everyone else is trying to catch just one more.

  After some shouting back and forth we decide we are hungry, tired, and ready to leave. I’m so relieved as I walk straight to our van. It looks like a million bucks sitting there, right where we left it a few hours ago. This is a lot better than walking all the way back to where we started.

  My clothes are dripping wet, I’m cold, starving, and tired. Finally, we are at the end of our fishing trip. I drip-dry for a while as I pack my stuff. I’m thinking about being warm and dry and having something to eat.

  Just then Neewa comes running at full gallop and circles me, thumping my shins with her wagging tail, begging to be petted.

  Steve is cleaning fish at the water’s edge. Neewa and I sit and watch.

  “Speckled Trout don’t have scales, no need to scale them,” Steve instructs.

  Neewa ogles Steve as he gathers the fish we caught today. She is begging for a taste and of course her tongue is hanging out the side. Both of us stare at Steve as he takes his hunting knife and cuts the chin of the lower jaw of each fish, creating a V-shaped flap that hangs down. Next he cuts an incision along the soft white belly from the bottom fin up to the mouth, just below the flap he just cut. With the belly opened up, the guts, stomach, and
everything are exposed. Like an artist painting a picture, he clasps the hanging skin flap under the jaw in his fingers and yanks toward the tail.

  “Crackle, crunch, squish,” out comes the jaw, throat, gills, intestines, stomach and everything inside, in one big clump of guts.

  Tossing the innards toward the center of the pond he says, “Gutted, done, the turtles will eat that.”

  Smiling proudly he dips the limp carcass in the water, “Shake it around under the water and this fish is ready for the frying pan.”

  Steve cleans and rinses each of the fish caught, rubbing out any blood or other remains stuck inside. Turning to me as I hold a plastic bag open, he puts the cleaned fish in one by one, saving one in his hand.

  Looking at Neewa he asks, “Hey, what is that pink thing hanging out of her mouth?”

  I reply, “That’s her tongue. She lost some teeth when she had distemper as a puppy. Now her tongue hangs out the gap left by the missing teeth.”

  Steve cuts a little piece of sushi filet off the fish and throws it at her. Neewa catches it in her mouth and swallows it down in one gulp. I doubt if she even chewed it at all. She stares at him for more, but we get up and head for the van.

  We all gather around, packing up everything. Dad, Manny, and Steve are guessing the weight of each fish. The rest of us are talking about where each fish was caught and who caught it.

  My clothes are wet, and when a cloud blocks the sun, I start to shiver. I rummage through the trunk for my sweatshirt and coat and put them on over the top of my wet stuff.

  That’s when I heard it. It came out of nowhere. Clear as a church bell on a Sunday morning.

  Chapter 22 - Bang, A Shot Rang Out

  “Bang!” A single shot rang out, one bullet hit the dirt sending a mini-mushroom cloud of dust into the air about fifty feet away from me. “Bang,” The sound echoes off the mountains and returns. I stop, frozen, the world around me seems to stand still. Looking at everyone, their faces are blank with strange contorted expressions. Manny and his sons scramble to my side of the van and take cover. Not knowing what else to do, each of us stoops down to hide.

  Steve is mad. “What was that, Dad?”

  Manny shrugs, “It came from up on that ridge. I guess it’s one of the old timers letting us know we are being watched. Guess he sent us a warning shot, doesn’t like strangers poking around.”

  Steve sarcastically replies, “A warning shot?”

  “Yeah, you know, fishing on the reserve is for Indians only,” Manny answers.

  “Dad you know John didn’t fish, he just came along to watch us have fun,” Steve reasons.

  Manny replies, “I know that. But the old timer doesn’t know that. I’ll talk to him. Next time no shooting.”

  Steve sighs, “Ok Dad, but I wish you’d have talked to him before we went fishing.”

  Manny and Steve look at each other and chuckle. We all laugh, although it is a nervous giggle from me as we jump in the van and drive away.

  Down the road is a general store where we can get something to eat. It’s the only store around for twenty miles. We arrive after a short ride over a pothole-riddled side road.

  The general store is also the gas station, hardware, feed, grocery, and liquor store, as well as the U.S. post office. Most of us get egg sandwiches and milk or coffee at the counter.

  Something is weird here. It’s only 11:00 AM and there are two boys drinking beer. I don’t know what the drinking age is here, but they are definitely not old enough. They look like they could be in middle school.

  Neewa runs through the store looking around for something to eat. Animals, especially dogs, are treated differently out here. They are allowed to run through stores and people don’t mind, they even like it. Already she is being petted by the cook and welcomed into the kitchen. She disappears, no doubt they have both made new friends.

  At the other end of the store is one of the local ranchers getting supplies. He is about five feet tall, cowboy boots, and frail looking. He’s wearing an old straw hat, beat up jeans, and a snap button plaid shirt. Sticking out of his shirt pocket is a bag of chewing tobacco. Smiling, he reveals a total of three teeth in his entire mouth. I look at his face, old, wrinkled, and unshaven for weeks. He guzzles down the rest of his beer and tosses the crushed can into the trash.

  I don’t like the way he’s looking at me. Two other girls in the store don’t like him either, I can tell. Instead of walking past him, they circle around him, staying far away.

  He wheezes, “George Spahn’s my name and my ranch is the Spahn Ranch.” He grins wickedly at us with an evil beam in his eye. “Come on out to my ranch, we’re having a big party tonight, it’s out that a way. I have lots of friends out there staying with me and they like to party.”

  Dad nods, “Thanks but we are leaving for home in a few minutes.”

  I tell Dad, “That guy gives me the creeps.”

  Dad agrees whispering, “I don’t like him either and I wouldn’t trust him, he’s evil. That’s the kind of party people never come back from.”

  Neewa walks slowly between him and me and growls.

  “Good doggy, ha-ha.” He turns and walks to the warehouse supply counter to finish buying his provisions.

  After saying our farewells on the front steps of the general store, we get in the van and drive away waving and yelling, “see ya, see ya, see you guys.”

  The dirt road and surrounding desert seem kinder, more peaceful. Dad isn’t as nervous as he was on the way here. Although, I’m sure he’s concerned about the dirt road and the possibility of it being obliterated by a single dust storm.

  We drive for a few hours as the sun starts to set and the desert sky begins to change colors. Sunset in the desert is the most beautiful time of the day. A wide array of cloud formations and spectacular hues highlight the horizon. The pinks and yellows change with each passing minute, trying to out do the shades of blue and purple. No two sunsets are ever the same in the desert and the next one is always better than the one before.

  “How much longer till we reach the paved road?” I ask.

  Dad replies, “Any minute now. We should be on the pavement before it gets dark.”

  Jackie, Neewa, and I are falling asleep. Neewa puts her head on my leg. Her cold, wet nose shines against my pant. She is tired from all the exploring today, resting so close to me, I can feel her heart beating.

  A thud jars me awake. I look ahead where the headlights shine. We’ve reached the pavement. The tires begin to hum as they glide over the silky blacktop signaling our arrival back in civilization. Everyone lets out a collective sigh of relief.

  “I’m going back to sleep, wake me when we get home,” I mumble.

  Dad drives into the night for hours as we sleep. Then without warning we hit a bump, we’ve turned into our backyard.

  “I call shower first,” I yell.

  Frustrated, Jackie bellows, “Christina you always call shower first, you can’t do that.”

  “Yes I can, and I did,” I declare.

  We’re home, boy am I glad to be home. I never thought I’d say that about this old place. I’m exhausted and that shower sounds better and better. It’s going to feel so good. Then I’m going to sleep. Well maybe not right to sleep, I might read for a little while, I want to finish my book.

  “Good night, Dad, love you.”

  “Good night, Christina, Jackie, love you.”

  “Love you, Dad,” Jackie says.

  “Good night, Neewa.”

  Chapter 23 - Heather’s House

  After school Neewa and I walk to Heather’s house on the other side of town. Heather is the tribal Medicine Woman and very powerful, maybe the most powerful person in all the reserve. She called yesterday to say she is expecting us at four o’clock.

  Dad and Jackie are waiting in front of Heather’s house as Neewa and I turn the corner onto the dirt path that leads there.

  “Neewa, Neewa,” Dad shouts as he sees us walking.

  She r
uns like the wind to Dad and gives him a welcome lick on the hand. As he pets her she wags her tail, thumping his shin, “Thump, thump, thump,” and circling him in delight. After which she jumps up and puts her paws on his shoulders, stretching her body out. Pushing him backwards, she jumps down on all fours and puts her cold, wet nose in his hand, and steers him to Heather’s front door.

  Watching the whole thing I say, “Dad, she’s leading you towards the house. What does she know about Heather’s house? She has never been here before?”

  “Nothing that I know of,” Dad shrugs.

  Heather’s place is the oldest home in the colony. It is one level and made of railroad ties with cement plastered in between the rows to hold it together and keep the cold out. The flat roof is tarpaper, with extra tar spread on top of that. It looks very humble with dilapidated front steps, only three small windows, and a front door with deep gorges and peeling paint.

  Her compact yard is overgrown with plants and vegetation and has footpaths worn down over many years leading to every section. The outhouse is in the back, just a quick walk from the door. Beyond that is desert, sagebrush, and sand as far as the eye can see.

  Diane, who is Heather’s daughter, told me at school that their burial ground is underneath her house and that spirits visit them all the time. I don’t know if I should believe her or not? She is a nice girl, but that seems a little too far-fetched. A burial ground under your house? Why would anyone put it there?

  I did believe her when she told me she was apprenticing to be the next Medicine Woman. After all her Mom is the Medicine Woman.

  Diane told me herbs and plants grown throughout the front and back yards. She says the plants are used for healing ceremonies to treat illness and rituals to keep away evil. Each plant has a particular purpose such as the treatment of headaches, stomach problems, or arthritis, while other plants are used for incense or sweat baths.

  Stepping up to Heather’s door, Neewa is at my side as we follow close behind Dad. As he raises his arm to knock on the door, it opens, and she appears smiling.

  “Come in, come in, I’ve been waiting for you,” she grins.

  Before I walk in I order, “Neewa stay here, wait for me.”

  Quickly Heather asks, “Can Neewa come in? I would like that. We don’t have a dog or a cat and Neewa can go wherever she wants.”

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