Back in the spring of 1980 I was hitchhiking with a friend through Arizona and we were picked up by a Navajo man named John Twobirds Arbuckle. He drove a beat-up old sixties sedan and drove us from the mountains north of Phoenix all the way up to Sedona. Along the way he told us this story:
Years ago there was a Navajo man who lived with his family on some land granted to him by treaty. He had a beautiful wife and two healthy children, a house, a barn, and several head of sheep and cattle. A White man came to him one day, penniless, and asked if he could sharecrop the Navajo’s land. The Navajo took pity on him and let him stay in the barn and help work the land until he got back on his feet.
One day, while the landowner was in town, the sharecropper got drunk and, enraged that he should be living at the mercy of the Indian, killed the man’s wife and children, burned down the house and barn, slit the throats of the sheep and cattle and ran away into the hills. When the Navajo landowner returned and found his house and barn burned to the ground and his family and livestock slaughtered, he vowed to spend the rest of his days finding the man who did it.
The Navajo searched throughout the Southwest, up through the Rockies and across the plains. Many, many years went by as he made his way back and forth across the Great Divide, through the Pacific Northwest and into Canada. From there he walked deep into the heart of Alaska and outside the small town of Bethel he spotted a figure way up on top of a mountain…
He spent the entire day climbing the mountain and at its peak, just as the sun was going down, he came face to face with the man. With so many years gone by it was hard to tell if the old man in front of him was, in fact, the sharecropper, so the Navajo said, “Are you the varmint who killed my wife, killed my children set fire to my house and my barn and slit the throats of all my sheep and cattle?”
The sharecropper replied, “Yup… that was me.”
The Navajo looked at him straight in the eye and said, “Well… You’d better watch that shit.”
USA - 856
FB - 617