Saturday, February 21, 2009

Iwanna Goes to Tumbleweed Hell or, Three Dog Omens (another true-enough story)

One night last winter, by the cold light of a nearly-full moon, my friend Skip and I discovered a place we named Tumbleweed Hell. It was a neat place in a prickly sort of way — acres of dead tumbleweeds piled on top of each other, inviting you inward along a barely-discernable path, and reluctant to let you go after the path disappeared and you found yourself entrapped inside with no way out. (Many real-life situations are like this, as you have no doubt already discovered, dear reader.)

When Iwanna, our Resident Alien friend from the planet Fargon, paid a visit to Skip and me at Skip’s house on July 10, 1988, it seemed like the natural thing to do to take her on a little journey to Tumbleweed Hell.

"Would you like to visit Tumbleweed Hell with us?" we asked her after we laid down our blazing guitars and incandescent mandolin, shook the string creases from our fingertips, and allowed the etheric music vibrations to gradually fade down a little.

"You bet!" Iwanna answered, always eager for an exciting new adventure like this.

Energized by our musical escapades, we set off forthrightly into the desert in the direction of the Doña Ana Mountains, and crossed the Leasburg Canal, which is the main feeder irrigation ditch for the entire Mesilla Valley north of Mesilla. The canal roared and hissed at us as we crossed it and continued into the creosote-covered hills which beckoned us onward. When we reached the Santa Fe railroad tracks, we hung a left, and headed due north along the rails.

We soon encountered our first dog omen: a dead dog body lying twisted between the tracks. It was a very dead dog body — there wasn’t much left but bones and the remnants of paw pads. Skip’s two dogs, Luna and Willow, sniffed warily at the carcass.

"Get your ass outta here!" Skip scolded them, so they skedaddled. (Luna, as it turned out, skedaddled completely out of the adventure altogether, and this turned out to be the second dog omen, though we didn’t realize it yet.)

"Shucks, I wanted to see if they would eat it," I said.

"You been hangin’ round Eveready too long," Iwanna answered.

Continuing on our northward journey, Iwanna walked balanced on one track all the way across an arroyo trestle. This task required much coordination, concentration, and muscular skill. She had passed her first test.

Then we came to a high bridge spanning a large canyon, and Skip "Walked the Outer Track," a death-defying ritual which involved walking on a sideways track suspended over a deep abyss, at the bottom of which lay certain injury, death, or worse. Successfully over the canyon, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Skip, too, had passed his first test.

(I am presently passing my second test by writing this stuff down for you. (I passed my first test by remembering all this stuff in the first place.))

Then we encountered the Guardian of the Hills (disguised as a human being out for a walk) with his three vicious killer dogs. The dogs growled and whined unfriendly whines at us. Willow’s hackles rose. She whined and paced nervous circles around her master as we proceeded along the tracks. The Guardian of the Hills knelt and restrained his two younger dogs, while the oldest killer dog made brief tentative snapping forays in our direction. The Guardian of the Hills flicked brief glances at us, but couldn’t confront our radiance directly for long.

The tracks crackled and glowed, and the ties radiated blue-green energy at the touch of our feet. Then we left the tracks, and crossed a field of blooming alfalfa. The leaves were green and the flowers were purple. The air smelled rich and green. Iwanna found a magic coyote gourd, which she tossed into the air hundreds of times as we walked, charging it with much energy and power.

Then, for the second time, we encountered the Leasburg Canal, the big Mother Ditch for our region. It was full of water. We threw rocks at the waters of the ditch. We used flat stones and skipped them across the water. First Skip skipped. Then I did, and then Iwanna. Each skip counted for something.

Then came the third dog omen: Iwanna Drew Blood. Dog Blood. Willow’s blood. The life fluid of a living animal was released onto the ground. (Iwanna threw a stone at the water and missed, hitting Willow’s front leg instead, cutting it. Willow yelped but didn’t seem to mind too bad, actually, after the initial burst of pain subsided... she just panted and looked off into space the way dogs do.) Iwanna offered her apologies to Willow and it was at that point that Skip realized that Luna was gone. The second dog omen was finally recognized.

"I wonder where Luna is?" Skip asked.

"There sure have been a lot of dog omens today," I ventured.

We continued our seven mile journey to Tumbleweed Hell and eventually reached our destination. And guess what? Tumbleweed Hell was gone! How symbolic! Someone had thrown a match to it and burned it all up! It must have made quite a flame. Now all that was left was a 5 acre open area, surrounded by a perimeter of burned mesquites and saltcedars.

Iwanna placed her magic gourd in the center of the open area. Then we turned and began our journey home.


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