Sunday, October 1, 2023

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Guest Column: Hawks, foxes, deer and rez horses

By Duane A. Beyal
Special to the Times

Four hawks

We saw four hawks.

The morning was bright and clean. The highway smooth like a freshly washed porcelain plate. The Southwest horizon clear in the sun.

Usually, in the morning rush to work along Highway 264, I look for hawks. Sometimes they are there, sometimes not. When I see one it always seems serious, huddling inside its brown jacket with tufts of its white shirt poking out. I raise my hand in greeting and say or think, “Hey, bro.”

So that morning was unusual. Along the north side of the highway I counted four hawks in their solemn demeanor sitting on telephone poles.

I thought that a traditional Navajo would stop and do something because four is an important number. But I continued on to Window Rock along with the morning rush.

Pair of foxes

On a Sunday morning, just before sunrise, the field below my apartment was a still, silent, slumbering scene.

Then I saw a flash of brown, almost yellow. Quick and brief. Then the color flashed again, obviously an animal.

In fits and starts, a small fox took shape, bounding in the brush then disappearing. It had a small body and a large fluffy tail nearly longer and thicker than its body.

Another flash of yellow-brown. Another fox. They were identical, running and vanishing behind the twisted limbs and stiff, pale green clumps of sage.

As they neared a clearing below my apartment, they came into full view. Small foxes with sharp faces, large pointed ears, thin bodies and large bushy tails.

They flowed weightlessly through the brush and over the ground.

A few minutes later, they flashed through the bushes, running really fast. Sprinting as if they had been frightened or maybe it was part of a game.

They flashed away, zigzagging in a sandy clearing then disappearing.

Deer reappear

On another April morning, the tawny shapes finally appeared, moving against a hill by the entrance to Pittsburg & Midway’s south mine.

It had been months since a deer had appeared there. Over the weeks I looked vainly, worried about the loss of another piece of animal habitat or at least failing eyesight.

But there they were — one, two, three, four, maybe more.

It was a relief to see them after a long absence that made it seem that man and technology had ruined another part of the world.

Roadrunner investigates

A roadrunner appeared one day in the field behind my apartment.

To see a roadrunner, grey and spotted and careful and deliberate as it moved slowly among the sagebrush, was a pleasant surprise.

I had seen one only once before outside of Albuquerque, west along I-40. That one struck a pose on the shoulder of the freeway.

To see this second roadrunner, I watched it through binoculars as it poked around the field.

Later, as a woman walking her dog came by, I saw it running across a paved parking lot, pausing to look back now and then at the lady and her dog.

So there is still life out there besides our own with our silly trappings.

A walk with the dogs

We heading east towards a mesa with its north face a red rock escarpment. The white dog ranged ahead of us, sniffing here and there. Haachi, a large black dog, padded behind me and joined the white dog once in a while to peruse the forest ahead.

Occasionally, I heard their frantic yipping as they chased an elusive rabbit.

We reached the top. To the west was the Sawmill plain with Fluted Rock in the distance. To the east was Navajo, N.M., and its mountain. To the north and right under us was Buell Park and in the distance the Chuska Mountains.

It was very quiet, the silence broken by a horse’s neigh once in a while.

Our walk took two and a half hours. In the last mile, Haachi stayed behind me. He is getting old, I guess, the same way we must all deal with the parade of time.

Rez horses enter the fray

Navajo Nation politics saw a surprise end to the prolonged election season. Two new animals, Russell Begaye and Jonathan Nez, won in an election that produced disputes, complaints and charges and counter-charges.

As former council delegates, they can be likened to rez horses. These rez horses join a long line of past presidents who cast off the roles of council delegates to run for the presidency. Their success has been limited.

Maybe Begaye and Nez can pull their weight, maybe not. But if they can pull, they may take the Navajo Nation in a new direction that will better serve the Navajo people.

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