Post by Kristy McCaffrey
It’s a pleasure to be a part of Prairie Rose Publications. I’ll be blogging the second Tuesday of each month. For my first post, I’d like to share an experience that has had a lasting impact on me.
When I was nine years old, my parents moved my sister and myself to the Navajo Indian Reservation. Needless to say, I very much did not want to go. My dad, who has long had a deep and abiding respect for Native Americans, saw this as a chance to give back with his life. He took a job as an accountant with an arts and crafts store in Window Rock, Arizona. We obtained a house just across the border in New Mexico, in a small town aptly called “Navajo.”
I should preface my experience by saying that I’ve never been great at making friends. I’ve always been a little too quiet and withdrawn. Add to that my displeasure over being wrenched from my life in Phoenix, and I was none too happy. My sister, nearly four years younger and in kindergarten, embraced the journey with much more enthusiasm. She quickly came home speaking Navajo. I, however, was in fourth-grade and only one of two white girls in the classroom. I was teased constantly, for no other reason than being different, and it left me less than congenial toward most of the other kids.
It was 1975 and we lived in a neighborhood that consisted of generic, government housing. We weren’t rich by any means, but when we moved in, it became quickly known that we had a working telephone and my mother was generous in sharing kitchen items. After a time, she had to start saying no. The charity was simply getting out-of-hand. Unfortunately, many of the Navajo were complacent and drank too much. Even as a child, it struck me as a rather depressing place to live.
|The view from our house in Navajo, New Mexico.|
One night, a Navajo man came to our front door with a shotgun. He said he was going to shoot our dog, believing that he’d killed his daughter’s mutt. There was a pack of rather mean canines that roamed the neighborhood; there was no doubt in our mind that they had done the killing. My dad had erected a barbed-wire fence for our two dogs, so we were certain that neither was guilty. (The fence was to protect them, really.) My dad spent several hours, and several beers, trying to convince the man not to shoot, and thankfully it worked.
I developed a panic-filled fear of AIM walkers, fueled by stories heard from classmates. I now know that this acronym stands for the American Indian Movement, a group dedicated to addressing the issues of present-day Native Americans, but in my scared mind they were ghost-like shape shifters that prowled the wash behind our house. There were many nights I literally shook in terror while trying to sleep, fearing they would snatch me from my bed.
But, lest I paint a completely dark picture of the year I spent in Navajo land, there were intriguing aspects to it. A hex was placed on the craft store chain where my dad worked. Since it involved all of the employees, he was allowed, despite being a white man, to participate in the ceremonies conducted by a medicine man. Some of his experiences I incorporated into my new novel with Prairie Rose Publications, Into The Land Of Shadows, when the main characters find themselves under the shadow of a curse. During one of the ceremonies at which my dad was present, the medicine man burned a piece of human skull. Two female employees reported instant relief from a terrible headache that had suddenly besieged them. Back at home, at the same time, my mother said I’d been distraught and crying for hours from pains in my head, which immediately stopped when the bone was destroyed. We were all tied to this land in ways none of us quite understood.
And the land was stark, amazing, and absolutely breathtaking. Our house sat at the base of a sheer red rock cliff. One day, we climbed it. At the midway point, a precipitous rock face had to be traversed. One of our dogs made it, but the other, an overweight black Labrador, couldn’t navigate the steep path. She paced at the bottom, barking and whining, while we scrambled onward. The expansive view at the top, coupled with the solitude and palpable energy in the land, left me with bittersweet memories. The region drenched the soul with possibilities, but I know now that I was too young to appreciate it, to channel it in a useful way. In some regards, the Navajo themselves, at that place and that time, had lost their center as well.
At the end of that year, my father brought us back to Phoenix, for which I was greatly relieved. But my time there left an indelible mark, always calling me back. I returned, many years ago, to show my husband. Not much had changed. With my new book, I felt compelled to write about the Navajo and what they were long ago—people who struggled, who lived, and who loved. Just like the rest of us.
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Into The Land Of Shadows is now available in print and digital!
Rancher Ethan Barstow is weary of the years-long estrangement from his brother, Charley. Deciding to track him down is easy; not so easy is riding in the company of Kate Kinsella, Charley’s fiancée. In the land of the Navajo, spirits and desire draw them close, leading them deeper into the shadows and to each other.
Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. A fascination with science led her to earn two engineering degrees—she did her undergraduate work at Arizona State University and her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh—but storytelling was always her favorite hobby. Born and raised in Arizona, she writes Old West romances to capture the landscapes that were such a big part of her childhood. Her first novel, The Wren, was a CAPA winner for Best New Author Traditional, a Texas Gold finalist, and a HOLT Medallion finalist for Best First Book. The Sparrow was the 2012 Winter Rose Winner in the Published Historical Division. She lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, where they frequently remove (rescue) rattlesnakes from their property. Her four teenaged children are in varying stages of flying the nest, so her two chocolate labs—Ranger and Lily—are the recipients of her maternal instincts these days.
Blog ~ Pathways: http://kristymccaffrey.blogspot.com/
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