The Hundredth Meridian

Wyoming Peak

It is 145 road miles from Belen to Gallup, New Mexico, a railroad town immediately east of the Arizona border on old Highway 66 and adjacent to the Ramah and Big Navajo Indian Reservations where my grandmother Williamson taught school early in the century, returning to Ohio after a semester or two when an amorous Navajo could not be discouraged from dogging her footsteps around town. Ninety-some years later I had a similarly unpleasant encounter m an Indian bar on the wrong side of the tracks in Gallup with a hairy Navajo who carried a knife in his boot, invited me to go deer-hunting with him, then stroking mv beard asked me to be his squaw. At least that is w hat Ernie Bulow, who is acquainted with the language, made out from his somewhat disordered communication—Ernie only a step or two behind me as we made a hurried exit by a side door. Ernie, the son of a teacher at a Navajo boarding school, was a teacher himself to Navajos before the federal bureaucrats, in their zeal to "Americanize" the students, forbade him to wear cowboy boots in the classroom. A critic, author, and book collector, he operates a bookstore from his old bungalow overlooking Gallup and the forested mesas surrounding the town. He makes a cameo appearance as the trader Don Williams in The Fool's Progress by Edward Abbey, a longtime friend, and, after supplying Tony Hillerman for years with information pertaining to the Dineh, recently coauthored...

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