Neewa the wonder dog and.., p.18
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       Neewa the Wonder Dog and the Ghost Hunters, p.18

           John Cerutti
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  Musicians and singers begin in unison as she starts turning and spinning, portraying the legend for all of us to see. She is spectacular, her footwork precise and deliberate. It is a beautifully choreographed five-minute celebration of the Shawl Dance.

  Almost as quickly as it began, it is over. The music stops and Linda stands still. A roar comes from all the people in the hall. They are stomping their feet and yelling high-pitched cries, whoops, yips, and bloodcurdling calls. They continue for almost a minute until she leaves the dirt floor. Even after she left bedlam continues, and when she returns and waves to the crowd mayhem gives way to applause that thunders through the room. The place is shaking as she exits for the last time.

  The musicians get up and begin to gather their instruments and belongings. They receive a standing ovation with whoops and calls acknowledging their contribution. Finally calm prevails.

  People in the hall are filling out through the doors. Everyone is leaving the hall. We gather up our things and head for the exit. Around us everyone is talking about how good the Deer Dancer, Heather, Linda and the musicians were.

  I’m thinking about the video I could have made of the Pow Wow. I could’ve had a complete documentary of a real Pow Wow and a Medicine Woman vanishing. As I ponder my lost fame and fortune I turn my thoughts to walking Neewa and the three-hour ride home.

  Linda comes running over to us. I am so excited to see her. Jackie and I run to her and give her a big group hug. Energized from her performance she pulls Dad into our group embrace.

  Linda gets eye-to-eye with Dad, so close I thought their lips touched. “I will be coming home next week.”

  Dad replies spellbound by the closeness of her body to his, “Oh you must come to visit us.”

  Linda answers, “I will come, it’ll be great to see you guys.”

  After a last embrace she runs off with her friends giggling, “See you next week.”

  Dad motions writing on a pad, “We have to give you our number.”

  “I have it,” she laughs as she is swallowed up in an ocean of long black hair, headbands, and cowboy hats.

  Dad mutters to himself as we leave the great hall, “How did she get our number?”

  Jackie and I look at each other, smiling.

  I whisper to Jackie, “If Dad doesn’t know that Linda is Chester’s sister by now, I’m not telling him.”

  Jackie replies, “He is so dumb, duh.”

  We arrive back at the van after the ten-block walk in the freezing cold. We’re packed and ready for the long ride home. Neewa is so glad to see me, she jumps all over as we gallop down the street for her last run before we hit the road.

  “I missed you Neewa, good girl, good girl, run girl run. We are going home.”


  We arrive home in the middle of the night. The house and the neighborhood are dark.

  After getting washed up, I’m in bed, ready to sleep.

  “Dad, why does Jackie have to take a bath now?” I shout from my room. “Never mind.” I’m so tired I don’t even care.

  She can use up all the hot water tonight. I’ll have plenty for my morning shower.

  Chapter 33 - Linda for Dinner

  Linda calls us to say she is coming to town to visit her family and friends. She has this week off from school.

  Dad is getting all kinds of special stuff out of boxes that I haven’t seen in years. Out comes Grandma’s set of Earthenware dishes. We haven’t seen those dishes in two years. He also gets out the candlestick holders and is buying new candles. I thought we only use them during power blackouts? And he’s putting placemats on the dinner table too. He’s making a real fuss about Linda’s visit.

  It’s early morning and Dad asks, “Hey you guys, I spoke to Linda and she asked if she can stay over here at our house a few nights? She said the spirits at her Mom’s house are driving her crazy. So what do you think? Can she stay in one of your rooms? I’ll sleep on the couch and whoever gives up their room can stay in my room.”

  “I got a better idea,” I tell him, “how about you stay on the couch and Linda stays in your room. Jackie and I keep our rooms? Duh!”

  Dad replies, “Ok, that sounds good to me, I’ll run it by Linda.”

  “Did she say, ‘The spirits in her house are driving her crazy?’” I laugh quietly. “How about introducing us to those spirits? Ha-ha.”

  Dad answers, “Yeah Christina, we’ll just walk in there and meet them.”

  “Well you have a better idea?”

  “I will never get into that house again!” Jackie adds.

  Unannounced Linda shows up at the door, earlier than anticipated. Dad is helping her bring in her stuff and puts it in his room.

  Linda talks a lot about medical school, how much work it requires and all the time she devotes to it. She says she’s been looking forward to time off and being able to think about something other than school.

  Dad told us she would be in and out of the house since she has a lot of people to see and things to do. He said one night she might be here for dinner and the next morning, gone. She will probably sleep over a friend’s house one or two nights, so we might not see her for a couple days. “Who knows?” He concludes at the end of his speech.

  I show Linda around a little. She is getting a kick out of our lab in the living room. I tried to clean it up, but it’s obvious something is going on there.

  Inquisitively she picks up the EMF meter and looks at it, “What do you guys do with all this stuff anyway?”

  Dad answers, “A lot of that equipment is from work. I bring it home to test it. We bring it camping with us and do field tests too.”

  “I think there’s something else behind all this?” She picks up another meter and then checks out the thermal infrared camera.

  Dad replies, “Well you’ll have to come camping with us sometime and you can see what we do with it.”

  Linda brings most of her stuff into Dad’s room, and hugs each of us before she says she will be back later. She drives off in her cute sports car.


  The week is going by fast. We are sitting down to our last supper with Linda before she goes back to school in the morning. Linda wants to hear more stories about Neewa and our adventures out west. She says I’m a great storyteller. Again I tell her how I got her at the pound and everything. I tell her about the Tribal Historian Meeting and when the little girl asked if I knew Neewa has a spirit?

  Linda is all ears and laughs at the jokes I sprinkle in. She wants to hear all about Jackie and I and all about New Jersey and why I want to go back.

  Jackie happily adds, “Me too, I miss all my friends and especially Grandma and Grandpa.”

  Linda tells us she is going to do her residency in New York City in eighteen months.

  Looking at Dad with that twinkle in her blue eyes she inquires, “Are you guys going to be living close to New York City?”

  Dad explains, “We’re going to be pretty close to New York City. It’s still quite a trip to travel back and forth every day. A lot depends on the time of day you travel and the traffic. It could take two hours each way.

  Dad says, “We’ll be going back East before you start your internship. You can come and stay with us.”

  Linda replies, “They have apartments for us at the university hospital, but I want to visit you guys, and you can show me around the city?”

  Dad replies, “Yes of course, we will and you must come stay with us, it’s settled.”

  It’s been cool having Linda visit. She and Dad got along really well. Linda says we’ll be getting together again soon. I’m going to miss her, though I know she has to go back to school. I hope she visits us. Maybe she will stay with us when we get back East? That would be so cool, as long as she doesn’t mind my ghost hunting.

  Chapter 34 - Camping

  Spring is so close I can smell it in the air. I’m packing Neewa’s bowls and chain for our camping trip to Ruby Lake Reserve, a National Wildlife Refuge. I’ll be picking
pine nuts, hiking, and fishing. Chester and his girlfriend Marlene have decided to come too.

  We are bringing sleeping bags, tents, and all our stuff.

  I ask, “Dad can we bring the ghost hunting stuff?”

  Concerned about our safety and his job, “I’m afraid the whole Reserve will know if we do? It’s not a good idea.”

  “Come on, Dad,” Jackie breaks in, “we have to go ghost hunting out there.”

  Dad replies, “Can’t do it, the guys at work are already suspicious about me taking equipment home on the weekends. And Chester will be there. Whatever we do will get back to everyone, including Heather and Linda.

  “You know how the Indian Grape Vine works. Look what happened to Coach Edwin when he got back from the basketball game. Everyone knew what he did. I saw him at a softball game a week later. He looked like someone ran him over with a truck. You should have seen the look in his eyes. The whole colony shamed him. He has a long road ahead of him if he’s going to redeem himself. I heard Heather almost got rid of him. No, we can’t risk it.”

  Starting off early Saturday morning is Dad’s idea. We all pile into our van and go get Chester and Marlene. Dad wants to get there with plenty of time to pick pine nuts. Or is it to go fishing?

  Chester is six feet tall and he can barely get in or out of our front seat. Dad is five feet eleven inches and has to put his seat all the way back to fit. In the back seats are Marlene, Jackie, Neewa and I. It’s a little tight but we fit.

  Neewa is in the third seat with me and all our gear is behind us. She’s able to jump around everywhere as usual, but lies down and rests next to me.

  Chester and Dad love to fish the marshes. They talk about it all the time. It’s Dad’s all-time favorite fishing spot.

  Chester displays a rare bit of enthusiasm, “There is plenty of pinyon pine trees in the mountains surrounding the marshes. The weather’s good and it’s time to harvest the pine nuts. We’ll get bags of them.”

  Chester’s girlfriend is Chinese American with long straight black hair below her shoulders. Marlene is very close to her family in California. She talks about them all the time and misses them terribly. Sometimes she just breaks down crying because she is so homesick. When Marlene and Chester are together they look like brother and sister. They have the same color skin, hair length, and both wear blue jean pants and jackets. I don’t think they plan it that way?

  I’m telling Chester and Marlene about Neewa and the pumpkin pies that disappeared, they laugh and laugh.

  “We still can’t figure out how she got up on the counter?” I say, interested to hear Chester’s ideas.

  Chester says, “Maybe she flew up onto the counter like a ghost.”

  We all laugh and laugh as we travel down the road.

  I have pine nuts dancing in my head as I fall asleep on a rolled up sweatshirt pushed up against the window. I think the real reason we are going to the marshes is because it has eight-pound brown trout all through its canals and ponds. People go there to camp, bird-watch, hunt, and fish.

  The Native Americans that live around here call it the Ruby Marshes. That is what they called it before anyone else even knew about it. It was designated a federal park in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

  But before that Indians migrated through the area for hundreds of years, hunting and gathering food for survival. They moved south to north with the good weather, following the seasons. Back then they were called hunter-gatherers.

  The drive to the marshes will take four hours and we will be traveling through desolate, uninhabited barren desert.

  You wouldn’t know it if you didn’t live here, but the desert is teeming with life. At first glance it looks like there isn’t anything going on out here. But in the high mountain desert, life is everywhere, if you know where to look. There are prairie dogs, mule deer, and antelope to name a few. So far this trip I saw prairie dogs, rabbits, and a rare roadrunner. And there are insects, lots of bugs, mosquitoes, and beetles.

  Beautiful birds are hidden everywhere in the desert. Hummingbirds drink the pollen from the desert flowers, while hawks circle above looking for prey. Eagles also patrol the scrub forests and the desert looking for dinner or a snack. And there are plenty of buzzards waiting to clean up whatever dead animals they can smell.

  Predators like the coyote, fox and even wolves roam the desert. They look for deer, prairie dogs, and even little moles to eat. Animals in the food chain finish every morsel, they devour every last bit of food they find. Any carcass left out here is picked clean, right down to the bones. Even the flies and maggots make sure nothing goes to waste. And there is no time to waste in the desert. If you want to survive you have to be on the look out for your next meal all the time. It’s first come, first served out here.

  Many species of desert flowers grow here. There are Yucca, Buckwheat, Ruby Mountain Primrose, Monte Neva Paintbrush, Milk Vetch and Scorpion Flowers. After a rainstorm, the desert comes alive. Flowers bloom, new plant shoots color the rolling hills, and paint the desert landscape with all the beautiful colors of the rainbow.


  Dad complains, “The prairie dogs run across the road just as I get close. Are they playing chicken with our van?”

  “Squish, Splat. Oh no, I hit that one!” Dad screeches.

  He looks in the rearview mirror. We all turn to survey the remains of the poor little prairie dog.

  Chester says, “John, I’m going to tell you how to avoid the suicidal prairie dogs.”

  Everyone laughs.

  Dad talks to the deceased prairie dog, “Just as I pass you, you run out into the road. You’re crazy. You should have stayed on the side of the road! You nutty prairie dog.”

  Chester says, “You’ll never hit one if you don’t slow down or swerve to try to avoid them. That’s when you run one over. If you stay straight and maintain your speed, you won’t hit it. They run under the car and between the wheels. No one knows why?”

  Chester warns laughing, “If you slow down, speed up, or swerve? Squish, splat, more food for the buzzards.”

  We laugh.

  From then on Dad doesn’t change direction or slow down when he sees a prairie dog run in front of the van. And amazingly, he doesn’t hit another prairie dog.

  About a half hour away from Ruby Lake we see a sign for the park and turn onto the dirt road entrance. A marker says, “Ruby Lake Campground twenty miles.”

  It seems like we are driving forever through the scrub forest and sagebrush on this endless dirt road. Dust and pebbles kick up into the air behind our van as we barrel down the road.

  Finally we arrive in the park. I didn’t see one car the entire way here. We turn into the camping area that appears to be empty.

  Dad declares, “Pick out a campsite or two if you want. We can take any of these.”

  He pulls into the driveway of site number nine. I let Neewa jump out my door. She disappears into the brush. We all get out to stretch and look around. The afternoon air is crisp and clean and I can see the marshes stretching across the valley in front of me.

  On a ridge looking out over the park Jackie yells, “Look at this, you can see everything from here, this is the campsite I want.”

  “There’s almost nobody here, just a few motor homes over in the trailer camping area, but over here in the tent section, there are no campers at all.”

  In the tent section you pay for the night by putting money in an envelope in a wooden box at the end of the driveway. It’s self-service camping. The park rangers come around in the afternoon and pick up the envelopes in the morning.

  We are surrounded by natural beauty and tranquility as far as I can see. I stare into the miles of marsh, with reeds and grasses blowing in the breezes that whip across the water leaving tiny wave trails. Mountains surround us glowing in crimson earth tones from the sun’s rays beating down on the red clay. The marsh is an enormous meadow painted in soft pastel colors, purple, blue, yellow, and light green at the foot of these mou

  Underneath the umbrella of flora and fauna are vast amounts of water. So thick only specks of green and blue are visible from our vantage point up on the ridge at tent site number nine.

  Birds of all types pop up and then disappear as they skip from reed to cattail, flying to and from their nests. Like dancers they glide and leap about, taking different poses on the flowers and tall stems. Some just hover above the marsh looking for their favorite foods, waiting to dive, to make a grab. Others feed on a wide variety of seeds and bugs and return to their young, hidden and safe under the pallet of color.

  Ducks and geese are departing while others commence their approach for a landing, “Splash, quack! Splash, honk honk!”

  Like the runways of a modern airport, the many landing strips are all in use at the same time. Ducks, snow geese, and swan land and take off while a solitary great blue heron passes by above us. Gliding effortlessly he turns and chooses a hunting ground.

  “Neewa, Neewa, Neewa!” I call her so she doesn’t stray too far.

  Galloping toward me from a nearby stream that feeds the marsh, she stops and shakes the water from her coat into the air like a sprinkler onto my legs and feet.

  “You stay close Neewa, I don’t want you going too far,” I order sternly.

  We unpack our tent and gear for the evening. I finally pick a spot to put up my tent and prepare for the night. It is still warm right now, but I wonder about the cold night ahead. We have two tents for the three of us. Jackie and I get the bigger one with the screen door and rain cover, and Dad gets the little one.

  Neewa follows Chester as he walks over to me, “It will be cold tonight. Bring some of these large round rocks into your tent and put them in your sleeping bag. Here, take this one. The rocks are warm from sitting in the sun all day and they will give off heat during the night.”

  Chester and Marlene want to sleep out under the stars in just their sleeping bags. I see Chester putting a lot of rocks in the two bags. Jackie and I gather rocks and put them in our bags.

  The sandwiches we brought from home are in the cooler. They are looking mighty good right now. I’m ready to eat, but we are all walking to one of the ponds first.

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