Last summer, my grandma got the notion to go back to her hogan and herd sheep. My mother didn’t like her out there alone, so she told my brother and me to go too. I knew I’d like it because we used to live on the reservation when I was small. I helped my cousins herd sheep, so I knew something about it. My brother Sam wasn’t sure he wanted to go where he couldn’t play e-games, but we took the bus out to Gallup and my grandma met us with the pickup and we went way up a dirt road to live in the old ways.
Here you always seem to be behind time, but there it’s like time is something you carve into. We threw rocks at rattlesnakes and bullets over a cliff to see if they’d go off and we hunted for lizards. Each day we watched the thunderheads build up into big mountains, but it almost never rained.
The main problem living in a hogan is water. You have to fetch it in big drums with the pickup. My grandma’s kind of rich, so we could drive into town for water every week. We always got hamburgers, milk shakes and french fries and went to a movie. She’d give us money to go buy candy while she washed the clothes. My brother figured how to get twice as much candy by picking something with lots of pieces. Then he’d tear open another package and pour it in too and reseal it before he bought it. You can’t do that with the kind I like.
Well, we were herding our sheeps close to a main road one day, and we see a sign that tells tourists that these guys will herd sheeps for the camera for ten bucks a car or fifty bucks a bus. We watch as the herd spreads out coming down a hill. Those guys are making a lot of money doing that over and over. So Sam and I, we decide we can do the same thing for less. The next day we put a cardboard sign up the road saying we’ll herd our sheeps for eight bucks a car or forty bucks a bus. We make a lot of money that Saturday.
Sunday morning, this red pickup drives up and two big guys get out. They rip down our sign and start coming after us. Sam and me, we run for the hogan, but we don’t know what we’ll do when we get there. We run in yelling, and my grandma, he calmly grabs the rifle and steps out. These guys come panting up and my grandma cocks the rifle. My little, skinny grandma in her purple and black velvet doesn’t even point the rifle at them, just looks at them, and they go away.
My grandma, all he said was that the sheeps would get skinny over near the main road, so we better take them another direction now. We agreed because the money was good, but it was boring just herding them over the same hill.
When we came back home, my mother said we must be happy to have indoor plumbing and plenty of water. She said we were probably tired of mutton and frybread and beans. But I don’t know. If my grandma wants to go to her hogan next summer, my brother and me, we’ll go.