I caught a few rainbow trout, which grew big if not numerous in Havasu Creek. When I returned five weeks later, I discovered that the others had gone on to Los Angeles without me. That was fifteen years ago. On the way, we stopped off briefly to roll an old tire into the Grand Canyon. Through sweet twilight and the sudden dazzling flare of lightning, I hiked back along the Tonto Bench, bellowing the "Ode to joy.
The watersoaked, heavy boots dangling from my neck, swinging back and forth with my every movement, threw me off balance, and I fell into the pool. I crept back down. There was nothing to burn but my clothes; not a tree, not a shrub, not even a weed grew in this stony cul-de-sac. Somehow, with a skill and tenacity I could never have found in myself under ordinary circumstances, I managed to creep straight up that gloomy cliff and over the brink of the drop-off and into the flower of safety. Again I paused, and for a much longer time. Not a chance of weaving such a wardrobe into a rope 80 feet long, or even 20 feet long. In all my life, I had never seen anything so beautiful. When the sun went down, the village went dark except for kerosene lamps here and there, a few open fires, and a number of lightning bugs or fireflies which drifted aimlessly up and down Main Street, looking for trouble. My canteen was empty and I was very thirsty, but I felt that I could wait. While watching the tire bounce over tall pine trees, tear hell out of a mule train, and disappear with a final grand leap into the Inner Gorge, I overheard the park ranger standing nearby say a few words about a place called Havasu, or Havasupai. I'm not sure that I care for the idea of strangers examining my daily habits and folkways, studying my language, inspecting my costume, questioning me about my religion, classifying my artifacts, investigating my sexual rites, and evaluating my chances for cultural survival. I got up on the little pile again and lifted one leg and set my big toe on the top of the stick. I discovered that I could move upward, inch by inch, through adhesion and with the help of the leveling tendency of the curve. I had a tiny notebook in my hip pocket and a stub of a pencil. The racing creek as it soared free over the edge created a continuous turbulence in the air sufficient to keep away all flying insects. Others had been here before: I eased myself into the chute and let go of everything except my faithful stick. What did I do during those five weeks in Eden? I would have plenty of time to write not only my epitaph but my own elegy. This was sandstone, soft and porous, not marble, and between it and my wet body and wet clothing a certain friction was created. After the first wave of utter panic had passed, I began to try to think. Through the tears, I noticed my old walking stick lying nearby. Yes, the Supai are an excellent tribe, healthy, joyous, and clever. This could never work. I remembered Tom O'Bedlam. The Friendship Dance, which continued day and night to the rhythm of drums made of old inner tube stretched over 10 tomato cans while ancient medicine men chanted in the background, was perhaps marred but definitely not interrupted when a drunken free-for-all exploded between Spoonhead and friends and a group of visiting Hualapai Indians down from the rim.
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