I had a rough night last night. All these thoughts haunting me as I sleep. Today, I will ride through Tulip Flats. I saw this new good looking bay stud colt in the barn that’d I like to ride. I don’t know much about him but I’ll take him anyways. I’ll grab my pole also and maybe try to find one of the ponds Yote and Jimmy told me was a good spot to catch a bass out of.
As I ride through Tulip Flats, this horse seems fresh, young and dead fucking broke. I’ll assume Jimmy bought him. He’s always had a nice hand and an exceptional eye for a good one, and one I’d love. This bay was big and handsome with a kind eye and a nice head, with a thick jet black mane that hung past his shoulders and a puffy tail that touched the ground. He’s quiet but inquisitive and he’s very sensitive. I kick him into a long trot and we trot for some time up the long grade. I smash my hat down and lightly squeeze and he’s already in a lope. I lean forward and ask a little more out of him. Quick and smooth, we begin to float across the green. As he takes big long strides, we cover across the land rapidly. His head low, I open him up some more and damn, we begin to fly. I sit deep in my saddle and we slide like we’re skimming across the ice to to a dead stop. He takes a snort with his head low and he softly shakes it in an attempt to get his heavy forelock out of his eyes. I pat his head gently and push his hair from his eyes. He seems happy and ready for a mission.
The afternoon is quiet as we ride along the flat. The grass is tall and green as we watch baby calves and mommas enjoy a mid-day snack. The trees dance as their leaves welcome us. The same hawk family circle above me. As I ride by the rock piles, they begin to show me beautiful configurations. Their deep cracks and lines become spirits, animals, plants and beings. Green, turquoise and orange moss highlight their edges as the sunlight enhances a parade of shades. These rocks are so powerful, I wish they could tell me what they’ve seen.
I follow the trail between the rocks and see a big pond at the bottom of the canyon. I instantly observe the landscape change. This stud is good on his feet as we cruise down the steep canyon - I let him take us to the bottom. Covered with moss and lily pads, bull frogs croak and splash into the big deep pond. I step off and take out my pole.
I grab my creel and throw a cricket on my hook. My line flies across the water and settles in. I look around and scope the landscape. The grass is brown and bare. There’s a few eucalyptus (eucs ) trees and rock piles, nothing else. The energy is different here, something I couldn’t explain but I ignore the feelings and reel in my line a tad. I feel a bite and slowly reel in and wait. Another jerk, and I reel hard and fast. With some heavy tension, I reel harder and faster until I land a big thick girl. Excited, I admire her and quickly release her. I smile in satisfaction and throw my line for another.
“That was a beautiful bass. You’re an impressive fisherwoman,” a voice says from behind me.
Startled, I quickly jump up and look behind me and see nobody. My dogs growl and begin to sniff and search the area. I reach across my saddle and grab my .44 and pull the hammer back.
“No need to be worried. You don’t need that,” the attractive male voice says with a chuckle.
“Who are you and where are you?” I say sternly. “You are trespassing and I have the right to do as I see fit as you are on my property. Now, reveal yourself,” I say meanly as my voice shakes.
“I come in peace,” he responds. At the same time a black horse comes around the big euc. Riding him is and a stunning handsome Native American, with a nice black felt wearing all denim.
“Who are you and what are you doing on my land?” I asked madly.
“I knew your grandpa. My family has worked with him for many of years. We’re neighbors, I border you where the waterfalls meet. One of your bulls was on my side and I kicked him back in. I was stopping at the pond to water my horse, but I was a bit shocked when I saw you.” As he speaks he smiles and his whole face lights up. I feel myself become embarrassed, shy and a bit insecure.
I pull my hair behind my ears and wonder how I look. I ride closer and whip out my hand as I look him in his dark eyes, “I apologize. My name is um…Willow Swisher.” Our hands meet as he shakes mine softly, and I grab his firmly. I pull away quickly expecting a tight hand shake in return. A heavy energy is stimulated as we pause for a second.
“Is that the first fish you’ve caught?” he asks.
“Yes, I actually just got here. Jimmy and Yo…I mean Jimmy told me it would be a good spot.”
“I know Jimmy. He’s a good man. Is that your boyfriend? Husband?”
“No. Jimmy is like a brother to me. He’s worked for my family since he was a child. His grandparents and his dad have been on the ranch for years,” I reply.
“Can I stay and keep you company? We’ll go throw a line in. I have some snacks and water in my pack, would you like some?”
Meekly, I smile, “I don’t mind if you stay. And, no thank you.”
We ride to the pond in silence. He’s glances over at me several times as I continued to look straight. I can feel his intense eyes on me – he’s mesmerizing really.
“That’s a nice stud you’ve got there,” he says. His skin is soft, a dark olive tone. He’s got a big scar over his right eyebrow that extends under his hat. His jaw line is strong and beautiful, decorated by scars and weather.
“Thank you…” I begin to reply. “Wait, what’s your name? You never told me what your name was.”
“My name is Alo Shingoitewa.”
“Hopi?” I ask.
“Yes, how’d you know?”
He chuckles, “Well, again, you have my attention. Throw your line in and let’s see you catch a paakiw – that means fish in our language.”
I smile and cast.
“Here,” I say as I hand him the pole. “You can have it for now.”
“Why, thank you. Your eyes are piercing, intoxicating actually.”
“Thank you,” I respond and look away.
I take a seat on a rock and stare into the water. The water’s dark and murky as it glitters in the sun. Alo walks over and takes a close seat next to me – our bodies barely touching.
“I think I have a bite!” He says excitedly.
I watch as he reels in quickly and lands another big fat bass.
We both smile at each other and admire his catch.
As he throws her back, a close cry rings my ears.
“Hey, did you hear that?” I ask.
We both stay quiet for a second but hear nothing.
“Hmm.” I say.
“I thought I hea…” another cry interrupts him. But, this time its right next to us and loud. A baby’s cry.
“It sounds like a baby crying,” I begin to feel my chest fill with an uneasy feeling as I look at Alo. More cries.
Suddenly, I am forced to glance at the pond and see big ripples.
“Did you see that, do you hear that?” I ask beginning to panic.
The stud colt snorts and pulls his head up and ears alert at the water.
“What the fuck is going on?” I ask.
Alo, says nothing. He’s looking straight into the water. The crying is getting louder and now sounds like multiple babies crying. A splash comes from the water and then screaming and more splashing.
The screams pierce my ears as I cover my ears and jump towards my horse. Alo is slowly walking towards the water, almost hypnotized.
“What are you doing?” I yell, “ALO, HEY ALO, LOOK AT ME!”
He glances over and his eyes look black with a heavy glaze. He’s stepping into the water, still saying nothing.
“ALO, NO. PLEASE. HEY, HEY TALK TO ME.” I start riding around the rock pile. By, this time he is almost waist deep. The splashing moves from all over the water and the screaming and crying is now turning into laughing. A possessive laugh, something evil.
“HEY!” I yell, “HEY FUCKIN’ LISTEN TO MEE!’ I scream as I am now kicking the stud hard around the rock pile, grabbing for my rope.
As I get around to Alo, he is almost shoulder deep. I drive the stud almost into the water and throw a loop around Alo’s body. At the same time he submerges into the water and disappears. Heavy on the end of my line, I dally. Hitting the end of the line, the weight becomes abundant almost jerking the stud and I into the water. A heavy amount of splashing occurs and I undally quickly and spin the colt the other way – he spins and bolts smoothly away from the water. The water begins to spin in what looks like a black hole while children laughing spreads around me as they whisper my name. Snakes begin to emerge from the hole. Hundreds of them intertwined.
“Willow, Willow” echoes from the canyons, from the tops of the trees and the banks of the pond.
Tears flood my face as I look around everywhere. The stud begins to blow and run. My dogs begin to bark and tuck their tails. I watch as my rope gets sucked quickly into the water.
To Be Continued.
Photography by: Jamie Changala @changalaaussies