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Three Belagaana Stories by Steve Merit

by Steve Merit

I once woke up in the back of my truck on the rim above the goosenecks of the San Juan River. It was raining and the wind was blowing and I was feeling very cold and sorry for myself because I couldn't make my coffee in the morning storm. It took a long time to drive back down the slick clay road off the mesa and then by pavement to the nearest little town. Ducking quickly inside, shoulders hunched, I desperately searched for the self-serve coffee machine that all Dineh trading posts keep brewing.

As I was paying for that precious styrofoam cup, I asked the Dineh woman behind the counter if she had heard the latest weather report. She looked at me for a moment, then bent down a little to see out the low front window, then straightened up, looked at me again and said, "Rain."

The Navajo Reservation

One beautiful afternoon while driving across the Nation I found myself between two different sightseeing points of interest. Sitting in the parking lot of yet another small trading post, I poured over my map and checked my watch, trying to decide which wonder most suited my schedule. Unable to decide, I entered to buy a candy bar and as I was paying for it I asked the Dineh woman behind the counter how long it would take to reach each of the places I was considering.

She paused and considered my question for a moment, then said, "It depends how fast you drive."

The Grand Canyon's South Rim

Once while walking a trail that led to an overlook of Canyon del Muerto, I came upon an old Dineh woman sitting on the ground selling juniper seed necklaces from a blanket spread in front of her.  "You should buy one of these and give it to someone you love," she said. 

I felt sorry for her because it was snowing and she was huddling inside an old, torn surplus jacket. As far as I could tell I was the only tourist within a hundred miles, so I bought one. As I handed her the two dollars I said "You know Grandmother, I have no one to give this to."

She looked at me and laughed.  "You will," she said.

Snowy Slope at Mesa Verde National Park


Steve Merit is a zookeeper and member of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance who lives in Susana Knolls, California.  He no longer has the necklace.
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