Neewa the wonder dog and.., p.16
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       Neewa the Wonder Dog and the Ghost Hunters, p.16

          John Cerutti / Thrillers & Crime
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“Burger, fries, and a Coke please.” I looked up at her as she wrote on her pad of checks, ready to hand in the next ticket to the cook.

During dinner Dave told his story. “I borrow money to buy and raise cattle just like any other rancher. The price of cattle has gone down, it could go down even more. If that happens I’d get an even lower price than I got today. I had to sell my cattle now because there is no telling what the price is going to be tomorrow. I’m not going to make much money this year. But I can’t take a chance that the price will go down even more. Then I’d lose money. So I have to sell the herd now. At least I’ll have enough money to raise another herd. I hope to get a better price next year.”

Dave continued, “I’m going to keep my calves and buy more with the money from the sale today. I’ll feed them all year and then sell them next year. If my bull is healthy, I’ll have a lot more calves in the spring. I’ll brand those newborns and let them out into the desert to graze.”

After I had enough to eat we were ready to leave. I said, “Good luck, Dave.”

Chester said, “See you guys.”

Dave said, “See ya.”

Dave and Chester were staying at the restaurant to have some dessert and coffee. We were ready to go home. Dad and I walked back to the van.

Neewa was resting on the back seat and jumped up as we approached the van. She was glad to see us. But I was not so happy to smell her. The whole car stunk of manure.

Usually Neewa jumps all over me when she sees me. But because she smelled so bad, I didn’t let her near me. I told her to get in the back. Then I gave her the rest of my cheeseburger, which she gobbled down in under three seconds.

I held my nose, “Neewa you smell.”







Chapter 29 - On the Reserve

The girls basketball game is an away game about a hundred miles from here. My Dad is one of the coaches for the team and we are going with them. We don’t know what to expect on the overnight trip, so we are bringing our sleeping bags and stuff. Besides, Dad doesn’t like motel beds. He would rather sleep in his sleeping bag on top of the bed. We laugh at him.

We’re not taking any ghost hunting stuff to the game because it would definitely blow our cover. Right now nobody knows we hunt ghosts. And Dad wants to keep it that way.

We get about a half hour from home when the snow starts coming down, heavy. It’s an unusual time of the year for snow, unless you are in the mountains where we are.

There is still another fifty miles to go to the little town up north. But we are too far to turn back and just close enough to make it there before the snow gets too deep. Pulling over on the side of the road is out of the question on this road. If we slide off the edge, we will have to walk to town or stay in the car all night and risk freezing to death.

The snow is really dry and powdery. It’s so light and dry the van swishes it right off the road as we go by. This is so coolio (the coolest,) it falls silently, slowly. On the side of the road it’s already about four inches deep.

Finally we arrive at the motel just outside of town. When we get to the front desk we find out that all the rooms are taken.

Dad knocks on one of the team’s rooms. Edwin, one of the other coaches, answers the door and Dad explains our situation.

We don’t want to cram into one of the team rooms because they’re already crowded.

Edwin says, “There’s no room here. Why don’t you guys stay at the jail. You and the girls will be welcome there.”

“The jail,” I exclaim.

“They always have plenty of room,” Edwin adds.

After slyly looking in the room Dad replies, “I think that’s a good idea.”

Standing outside all this time while they talk, I am almost frozen. Foggy white air comes from my nose and mouth as I breathe. Finally, we get back in the warm van and drive on toward town.

Dad tells me that there will be trouble on the Reserve when we get back home. He was looking in the door of the room and saw beer, coaches, and some of the team.

I ask, “Are you going to tell?”

“No way, I won’t have to tell. The girls will tell without any encouragement from me.”

Dad warns, “Heather will have something to say to anyone who gets out of line. She protects everyone, but especially the young girls. Chester is there and he will try to keep things from getting out of hand. But, they say when Edwin has too much to drink, he becomes a different person, evil.”

Arriving at the north end of town, we park near the jail.

“We’ll be better off in the jail where we can’t get involved in this,” Dad mutters.

The building is rectangular with steel bars on the windows and doors. It stands alone, by itself, with vacant lots on either side.

The downtown district is full of businesses and stores. Rows of two-story buildings line Main Street going toward the center of town. It looks like a typical Midwest town with angled parking up and down the street and tall curbs along the sidewalks of the storefronts. Lights from the storefronts illuminate the snowy sidewalks.

Walking back to the car after taking Neewa for a run, I marvel at how busy the downtown area is.

A casino at the end of town has so many blinking and flashing lights it looks like Christmas in New York City. There are lots of fancy cars parked under the marquee out front, and people are coming and going through the revolving doors. You’d think they were giving something away.

Also within view are the souvenir shops the locals depend on for survival.

Various Indian Nation buildings such as the community center and several schools are also located in the opposite direction. One of them has a gym attached where the teams will be competing tomorrow.

Suddenly, I look up. Out of nowhere comes Edwin’s truck speeding down Main Street. In the front seat, next to him, are three girls waving at us as they go racing by. I wave back in dismay as the truck passes us out of control. I can see more girls in the back of the pickup sitting on thirty packs of beer they just picked up at the store.

Dad, exasperated, says, “It’s against the law to give alcohol to anyone under the legal drinking age. Some of those kids are fourteen. They are heading back to the motel I hope,” Dad says in disgust. “That is, if they don’t kill themselves before they get there.”







Chapter 30 - Go to Jail

Walking into the jail and right into the Sheriff’s office gave me a weird feeling.

Dad explains the situation to the Sheriff, “We are here with the basketball team. The motel has no more rooms and we can’t afford the casino hotel rates.”

The sheriff is very understanding and accommodating. “You and your kids can stay here. It’s not much, but it is dry and warm. You are welcome to stay in this cell.”

“Sheriff,” I ask, “Can I bring my dog in? She is very good and she won’t bother anyone, I promise.”

He says as we walk through the jail, “No problem just keep her in the cell with you.”

Sheriff Sam is a tall man, soft-spoken, with brown skin. He has all the stoic features of Cochise and Geronimo combined, with high cheekbones, a broad forehead, and piercing brown eyes. His shiny brown western style boots match his official khaki uniform looks like a policeman’s uniform, but beige instead of blue. The shirt has western style pockets, collar, and short sleeves. On his forearm is a tattoo of an eagle, globe, and anchor.

His leather belt has his name, “SAM,” in capital letters on the back. The one and three-fourths inch finely tooled letters are carved into a two-inch by ten-inch strip of tan leather. That two-inch by ten inch piece is sewn to another two-inch wide strip of blue suede that is double-stitched to an equal width leather backing that completes the three layers of his custom belt. Sheriff Sam’s belt buckle is a status symbol. It’s sterling silver with a raised brass bronco rider in the center.

As he lets us in the cell he laughs, “Don’t worry I won’t lock you in.”

There doesn’t seem to be anyone else in any of the other three cells.

As I stand in our cell and look around, I feel much better about this whole thing. The room looks more like a tidy youth hostel. It has double bunks on either side, with mattresses, sheets, and comforters turned down at a corner. In one area is a color-coordinated bathroom with a door. Colorful curtains cover the barred window, and a nice woven rug warms the floor. On the beige painted cinder block walls are pictures of peaceful lakes and streams.

After running out to get Neewa and our stuff, Jackie and I return to the jail with Neewa in tow.

I then throw my sleeping bag onto a top bunk and shout, “I got this bunk.”

Quickly Jackie throws hers onto the other top bunk laughing, “Dad, I guess you’re on the bottom.”

Dad replies, “No problem, I’m better off on the lower bunk.”

Really, I didn’t care where Dad was sleeping as long as I got a top bunk.

Neewa jumps on the other lower bunk and curls up into a ball like she always does.

“I’m sleeping in my clothes,” I announce.

“It’s obvious we’re all sleeping in our clothes, Christina. This is a public place,” Jackie sarcastically replies.

It takes a while for me to get settled in our unusual surroundings. Jackie and I talk about telling everyone we know that we stayed overnight in jail.

“I’m going to tell all my friends back East, they will go crazy,” Jackie says.

“I can’t wait to tell Grandma and Grandpa,” I say, thinking the shock value of this is sure to worry them into begging Dad to bring us home.

Dad nods, “Your Mom would not be happy about this, and when you tell Grandma and Grandpa, explain it very, very slowly. Just tell them the truth, the motel had no rooms and it was the only place left in town.”

I laugh nervously, “This is so awesome.”

“Good night, Dad, love you.”

“Good Night, Tina, Jackie, love you.”

“Love you, Dad, Christina,” Jackie says.

“Good night, Neewa.”

Of course, Neewa is under the opposite bunk, watching everything. Then she disappears out of the cell door for a while. I let her go explore, hoping that after she investigates everything, she will settle down.

Later she comes back with a police escort. The Sheriff just couldn’t get enough of her. He tells us she has a good appetite. I guess he shared his lunch with her. Probably gave her most of it, as well as any leftover in the refrigerator from lunches interrupted.

I wake up at about three in the morning. The Deputy Sheriff is bringing in a man and everyone is talking and hollering.

Someone tells the man, “You have to stay here and sleep it off.”

“I’m not staying in this damn place,” the man yells back.

“Oh yes you are,” the Deputy laughs. “You are not getting behind the wheel of that truck until tomorrow. Now quit complaining and get some sleep before you wake up the whole jail.”

After the cell door closes, I hear the lock turn, “click’ and the keys “clink.” It’s quiet again as the new guy mumbles for a little while longer and then falls asleep.

Dad and Jackie sleep right through the whole thing, they don’t even stir or turn over. Neewa woke up and looked at me. If I had gotten up to go somewhere, she would have gotten up too.

I say to her, “It’s okay, Neewa, go back to sleep.”

She watches me until I close my eyes. I peek at her through my squinted eyes and she closes her eyes and falls back to sleep.

Morning sun barges through the barred window into the cell. We are up and packing, having gotten up as the day shift Sheriff came in and the night shift Sheriff is packing up. Sheriff Sam is going home.

Sheriff Sam walks through the jail with the day Sheriff and points at the man they brought in late last night. “Let him go when he gets up.”

Sam and the day Sheriff turn and look toward us. “Hope you slept well?”

I answer, “Everything was fine, thank you for having us. I never slept in a jail before, it was great fun.”

Dad nods, “Thank you. Is there a place close by for breakfast?”

“Marge’s Corner is just outside to the left,” he replies with a smile.

We gather our stuff, make the beds, and walk out the front door. It feels just as weird walking out of jail as it did walking in.

Two more inches of fresh snow have fallen since we arrived and the plows have already pushed it into piles.

As I walk to our car, I can see it isn’t snowbound. I throw my stuff in and walk Neewa around the block.

Dad starts the car and leaves it idling so it will warm up for Neewa. With the sun out, she will be as warm as toast in the van.

We walk over to Marge’s Corner for breakfast. Of course, I leave a window cracked open, and some food and water for Neewa. Later, the car will be warm for her while we are at the game.







Chapter 31 - Basketball

After breakfast I hurry to let Neewa out of the van so she can go for a run. Dad shuts off the engine. It’ll be nice and warm for her while she waits for us.

“I promise I’ll be back in a little while,” I tell her, as I get ready. “I swear, Neewa, I will come back after the game.” She doesn’t seem to mind and lays down for a two-hour nap.

***

All the players meet at the school gym for the big game. This game is between the girls’ team from our Reserve and the girls’ team here. The coaches and the team members are all Native Americans except for us. In fact, everyone in the gym is Native American but us.

I’m sitting in the first row of the bleachers, which is the team’s bench. I have the best view of the game. All around me are the players. Some of them are suited up and ready to play and others are not. Our girls know everyone on the home team and are talking with the fans, many of which are friends and relatives. Some of them know each other from having gone to residential high school together. And many come from the far corners of this Reserve. Some have traveled as much as thirty miles just to get here.

This Reserve is very big, about twenty miles wide and fifty miles long. It is located on the borderline of two states, and has over a thousand residents. The main industries here are tourism, gambling, and ranching. Near the Reserve is a big lake for fishing and lots of forests to hunt game in. And the casinos are right in the middle of town.

I’m having fun people watching. Native Americans don’t look anything like the people back east. Some of them are full-blooded and others have only one-eighth or one-sixteenth Indian blood, but they are all Native Americans nonetheless.

As I look around the gym I see many different styles of dress. Some dress in Western clothes and a few are in business suits. Many of the men and women have cowboy boots and hats with beaded headbands. And others have moccasins, deerskin pants, and ponchos. Some of the men have long straight hair and others have short hair like Sheriff Sam. Many wear silver, turquoise, and coral necklaces, bracelets, and rings made on the reserve by us.

The game has started and everyone in the bleachers is cheering. This is a fun game, competitive but fun. The girls around us are having a good time cheering and hollering for their team.

One yells, “Shoot it!”

Another girl screams, “Defense! Defense!”

One of the girls sitting with us turns to my Dad with a big bag of Redman Chewing Tobacco in her hand. She holds out a pinch of the tobacco in her fingers and looks right at Dad.

“You want a chew?” She says flashing her big blue eyes.

Dad hesitates, he isn’t even sure if she is talking to him.

Another girl sitting next to Dad elbows him hard in the side and motions with her head toward the girl with the chew. Now Dad knows she is talking to him all right.

He stutters, “Ah, no, no thanks, I don’t.”

Dad doesn’t even know how to chew tobacco. He’d probably choke if he tried it. They will laugh at him if he does.

The girl who spoke to my Dad and all her girlfriends are giggling and looking at him. Again, she looks him in the eye.

She smiles and says, “I’m Linda.”

Dad says, “Hi, I’m John.”

She says smiling, “I know who you are.”

Turning back toward the game and her friends she giggles and puts a tiny pinch of chew in her cheek.

Linda is a stunning looking woman who isn’t more than twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old. Her long silky straight black hair falls softly around her shoulders. Her piercing sky blue eyes are set perfectly in her high cheekbones and petite nose surrounded by soft peach skin.

She has a perpetual smile, gleaming white teeth, and rose-colored lips.

She wears leather boots embossed with intricate designs, tight jeans, and a Western shirt. On her head is a cowboy hat with a beaded headband. Wow, she is a knockout with a slightly mischievous look in her eyes like a Frank Rinehart photograph.

Dad can’t stop looking at her, and she is definitely flirting with him.

I find out from one of the other girls that Linda is a college student in Denver and studying to be a doctor.

Then I heard another girl mention the party last night. It comes up a few times in conversations taking place around me in the bleachers. I hear a comment or two and a few details slip out of their lips.

I listened to the girls recount who was with who, and doing what.

One of the girls who was only one year older than me asked, “What did I do wrong? We were all just having fun? I did not do anything wrong.”

She was unsure of herself and her voice trailed off at the end. It was not my place to answer her or even change my expression.

One of the older girls heard her talking to me.

The older girl frowned and angrily said, “Oh yeah, Edwin is in big trouble when he gets back. Heather is going to put a spell on him and turn him into a frog. Then she will become an eagle and fly down and eat him for dinner. That will be the end of Edwin.”

Another girl sympathetically says, “Edwin has changed. He used to be a nice guy and then all of a sudden he’s different. I don’t see what she sees in him anyway, besides he’s married to my cousin.”

Diane is here too and she adds, “He is evil, someone will have to put him down.”

The basketball game is coming to an end. The teams are tied and a shot is about to be taken. The entire gym is silent. Then a roar comes from the crowd as the ball hits net only, “whoosh.”
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