Sunday, June 29, 2008

June 29, 2007
In 1956 and 1957 I remember seeing Navajos still riding in wagons on the reservation. I also remember going to a cowboy dance on the Big Sandy with Bill Blake and his family. Highway 93 was still a dirt road from the Blake Ranch down to the Big Sandy. The dance was held in the Wickiup school house and everyone brought cakes and they had a band with a fiddle, a guitar and a piano. There was the prerequisite fight in the parking lot and The uncrowned queens of the young cowgirls were Roxie Stephens and Jeri Penrod. All the young boys my age, Jimmie and Tommy Short, Bill Blake, Tommy Penrod and Robert Odle were ga-ga over these two. I seem to remember Jimmie Short was the only one with enough nerve to dance with Roxie (and he married Jeri Penrod).

These traditions are all distant memories now, but when I hear about my son in Peru getting to attend festivals where the only way to get there is on foot with burros packing the hooch, I envy his experience, because, as I told him, how long will it be until those trails are traversed by ATVs? And then pickups? He's experiencing something really special.

Last week Thomas Charles joined his host father to deliver chicha (a local concoction of spirits) and other gifts and food staples high up on the ridges. They also planned to attend a Llama festival at a small town (The Peace Corp frowns on giving exact locations). Now high is subjective since the village where Tommy is, stands at 11,000 feet above sea level. They loaded up two burros with supplies and left at 4:30 in the morning and headed up into the mountains in the dark. T. Charles took this shot as they stumbled along the trail in the dark:

As it got light, the trail became steeper as they climbed out of the canyon where their village lies secluded. The locals burn the green, mossy stuff you see in these photos:

After four hours on the trail they stopped to rest the burros and eat. Tom's host father took these two photos of T. eating a local three egg concoction with potatoes prepared by his mom:

They are climbing from 11,000 feet up to about 15,000 so it's way above the tree line:

It is about an 11 hour walk to make it to the small village where they are going:

On the way, they pass isolated "estancias" or ranches and Tom's host father stops to chat with the ranchers.

After climbing up through the rocks and canyons, they reach the "pampas" a long flat plain on the top of the mountain range.

Here (below) is their destination. It looks like some little Sergio Leone concocted town out of "The Good, The Bad And the Ugly":

Hard to believe more than five people live here, but in the evening, more and more residents appear to begin the festival:

The local priest blesses the llamas at the culmination of the feast. In the morning, Thomas and his host father repeat the return trip, getting on the trail by 4:30 and getting back to their village late in the afternoon.

In shape? Oh, yes. Tommy says he's in the best shape of his life.

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