j. l. navarro

Strange Things Happen

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Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

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Strange things have been happening in Sutter's Valley for as long as I can remember, for as long as my great granddaddy can remember, and for as long as his great granddaddy could remember.  It's just one of those odd places on earth where unusual things happen, like it or not.  Growing up that way I guess I'm inclined to accept these things more than a new comer might.   A few folks I know up and left when they got to seeing some of the things that were commonplace for us regulars.  But that’s okay because though it ain't something we go around discussing in front of outsiders, we just as soon they hadn't come around in the first place. 


Now we get more than our fair share of them flying disks, you know the ones, them spinning saucers people see every now and then.  Around the valley, we see these things two three times a weeks.  So they ain't no big thing to us.  We get our share of them so-called crop circles as well.   But what I saw that day I don't think anybody's ever seen.  At least in these parts.  It was early spring around here when I noticed that Jesse, one of my cows, was missing.  Every so often one of the heifers wonders off into the foothills and I have to ride out and fetch her.  It's not the first time Jesse took off on me like that.  She just has one big wandering spirit, I suppose.  Certainly more than the others.  I got up on Ken, that's my prize-winning bull, and rode out toward the east pastures.   The last time she went adventuring, that's where I found her, so I'm thinking maybe that's where she was.


Sure enough, I'm coming over a hill when I see Jesse grazing on a distant knoll.  The old girl turns to look at me and then real kromu like decides to walk away, heading over toward Luke Hodges' place.  I can see her plain as day walking horizontal to me.  I can see her big pinto spots flanked along her side and that's when I see her head disappear clean down to her neck.  So there I am looking at a cow with no head.  Like I say, strange things happen around here mostly all the time, but that was a sight that nearly knocked me off my bull.  When this happens, she stands stark still.  Frozen.  So there she is standing on this knoll with her head completely gone, and then she backs up easy as can be and her head is right where it should be again.  Can't make heads or tails of what happened.  Jesse looks over my way and then walks a ways a bit and starts grazing again.  I'm sitting on Ken wondering if I should approach her or not.  I ain't afraid to admit that I was scared.  I suppose most people would be.  Knowing she ain't gonna come unless I go after her, I giddy my bull and take off.   She's standing there cool as winter chig eating up that grass, just waiting for me. 


I guess I must have been ten yards away from her when I saw what looked like a man's head come out of thin air and start to look around.  Now this is really peculiar and I stop Ken quick as can be.  Me and Ken are standing there looking at this man's head turning here and there, and all the while Jesse is minding her own business nibbling her grass.  The man's head looks at me and Ken, and then I see the head has some shoulders on it, and finally an entire body.  The whole thing came in out of nowhere.  The man's got black hair on that head of his, and he's dressed in blue fings and wearing a light tan jacket.  Nothing unusual about that.  He's standing there close enough to touch Jesse if he wanted to and looks in my direction after dropping what looks like a drung colored rock on the ground.  He doesn't seem too concerned about seeing me and raises an arm to wave.  I ain't too sure I want to do the same thing.  Ain't everyday you see a body walk in out of nowhere, straight out of thin air.  But I don't have to move if I don't want to because the man is walking toward me.


He has a real excited look on his face that's covered with a beard as black as his hair.  I'd say he was somewhere in his forties, and he calls out, "Where is this place?"


By now he's practically up beside me and Ken.  "You're in Sutter's Valley," I tell him.  "What'd I'd like to know is where the gincha you come from?"


"I was in Chaco Canyon," he tells me.


"I never heard of it."


"It's in New Mexico," he says, looking up at me sitting on Ken.


"Well you're a long ways from there," I tell him.  "Sutter's Valley is in Maynard County, right smack in the middle of the grand old state of Hermon."


"I'm sorry, what?  Did you say Herman?"


"Her-mon," I tell him. And then I tell him again, "Her-mon," so he can't mistake what I told him the first time.


"This is definitely an alternate dimension," he says, mostly to himself.


He looks around like he's more lost than ever.  By this time, my fear kinda ebbed away from me.  He didn't look dangerous at all, just a little confused.


"How come you're not riding a horse?" he says.


"Never heard if it," I says.  "This here's Ken, he's my prize bull.  I don't travel much away from home without him."


"So you don't have any horses around here?"


"Guess not.  Couldn't even tell you what one looks like if my life depended on it," I says.  "But if you don't mind, mister, I think I'll get my cow and just go home."  The way I see it is if he's lost then all he's got to do is go through that hole in the air and go back where he come from, wherever the gincha that might be.  That ain't none of my business, so I don't bother to ask.  Then I start to giddy to get old Jesse when I get this thought that maybe I done solved myself a mystery.  I'm thinking maybe this fella is the guy who makes all them circles in the hergash fields around here.  I ask him point blank if that's the case.


He says, "I've never been here before.  First time.  But listen, do you mind if I talk to you a minute.  I'd like to learn a little more about this place."


"You can ask me anything you want," I tell him.  "But you know what fella, I'm getting awfully hungry, so if you don't mind I'll just get myself a little nourishment while you ask me whatever it is you want."  I hop off old Ken and go up to Jesse who looks at me with those big brown eyes, all the while the man is looking at me like I'm some sort of strange gunchi. Well, I don't pay no attention to that.  But then I think, maybe I'm being a little rude here.  Maybe I should introduce myself proper like.  I tell him, "Name's Sam Egan."  Then I stick my hand out in a friendly way.  He looks at it like it's some kind of zulgo offering.  Finally, after I'm standing there with my hand sticking out he grabs it with his and says, "Pleased to meet you, Sam.  My name's Roland Blanco.  I'm an anthropologist with the University of New Mexico."


"Pleased to meet you, too, " I tell him, and give him one of my friendly smiles.


Well, sir, that's when he jumped back about a yard.  I don't know what got into him, but I'm too damned hungry to care.  I go up to Jesse and pat her head before I open my jaws and clamp my filas on her neck.  I get real famished around this time of day.




This story is included in The Blood Cake Vendor and Other Stories.