On this day in 2016 I bought the soul of Samuel Thomas for $10 and it worries me still.

Was it okay to take his photograph?
He said yes

Canyon de Celly South Rim lookout and thunder
I’d been skirting the storm clouds since leaving Ganado
Aware at Chinle they threatened to catch up with me
The usual visitor centre
The park for lunch
Bread, cheese, tomatoes
Sweet mesquite potato chips
A dog, some trees, scattered picnic tables
Just me and some off-duty rangers

Is history ever planned?
He said yes

One thousand foot high sheer cliff faces
One thousand year old ancestral stronghold
Red rock scoured by ages
Sunrise and deluge
Teeter on the edge and relive the past
Bareback braves and gatherings
Col. Kit Carson in sixty three
Surrender and removal
Return and reclaim

Do you ever come back?
He said yes

Every spring and summer after the thaws
We open up the hogan with eight walls
The door facing east toward the rising sun
Pick a peach or two on the remaining tree
In days gone by the crop would be dried
Laid like sunsets on baked ledges
Preserved alongside the corn
Winter’s rainbows
Now I drive a pickup and live in town

How much? Ten bucks? I’ll be back
He said yes

It was part of the bargain
The waiting and negotiating
White European invader with smartphone camera
Follow the trail, find the clues
Read the unfinished story
Listen to the thunder applaud your glory
And see. Now I am ready to honour my word
The money buying his family time
Carefully skirting around the canyon between us

Did you paint that?
He said yes

Crudely painted native art
Some representation of things I knew not what
Spirits and stuff for tourists on the back of a board
But hey, it’ll look good on my book shelf
But I didn’t say any of that
He was packing up
The storm clouds were catching up with us
Day turning to night
A time for retreat

Can I take your photograph?
He said yes

And posed without smiling
Held his artwork without pride
I held out my hand and we shook like men
Looked him in the eye but his was cast to the ground
An uneasy truce ensued
The first drops of rain falling first upon his cheeks
They all seeming to miss mine
I wondered did he ever smile
Samuel Thomas, Navajo, 22nd August 2016

It’s been nice meeting you I said
He said yes

And then, looking away he said
I have to be here
This is my home
This is my life
If I leave
If I have to go somewhere
It is like somebody broke my journey
I dream of hearing wild horses again
The sound of peaches falling into buckets


On the road out of Chinle
Still within the Indian reservation
The storm had come and gone heading north
Great floods of water surrounded shacks
Island trailer homes and tied-up dogs
The summer hail swept to the sides of roads
Eighteen-wheeler-dealers thundering through
And me? I was on my way to Horseshoe Bend
The next stop on my whistle-stop tour de force.


2 thoughts on “On this day in 2016 I bought the soul of Samuel Thomas for $10 and it worries me still.

  1. I somehow can’t get the image of peaches like sunsets laying on a shelf! Worth the read for that alone although the whole thing is a thing. I keep reminding myself of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie.

    I admired you for this trip Colin!

    Liked by 1 person

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