An Encounter in the Desert

Acoma Sky City

It was our third day in Albuquerque. Martine and I were visiting the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. While Martine wandered around looking at the exhibits, I stopped in front of a table covered with dozens of pieces of pottery that caught my eye. The artist was an Acoma Indian named Larry.

Now I had visited Acoma twice, and Martine, once. The Sky City pueblo shared with Old Oraibi on Third Mesa on the Hopi Reservation the distinction of being the two oldest continuously inhabited towns in North America. It sits atop a mesa closed to all but reservation traffic. One must take a bus from the Sky City Cultural Center and Ha’aku Museum to get to the top. Then, after taking the tour, one can take the bus back down or walk down a relatively easy trail.

I told Larry that we planned to visit Sky City in about a week or so, and that we had seen it before. I saw a pottery seed container bearing an image of a horned toad. Even though it was not cheap, I bought it because it was elegant. I explained to Larry that I liked to collect turtles and frogs because I, too, lived in the desert (9 inches of rain in a typical year); and turtles and frogs made me think of rain.

Horned Toad

This caught Larry’s attention. He recommended that when we next visited Sky City a week hence, we try to get a guide named Turtle.

As it turned out, Martine and I could not visit Sky City that next week: It was closed for a tribal religious ceremony. We were staying at the Sky City Casino on the Acoma Reservation, where I became ill. Martine had to drive me to the Indian Health Service clinic on the reservation, where I was fitted up with an IV with Solu-Cortef added. I got well quickly, as I wrote earlier.

Although we did not get to see Sky City during that trip, I felt in a strange way that I received a blessing of sorts while we stayed at the Casino. I even won a small amount of money.