The sun was set and it was almost dark when we arrived at our new home. Tim knew the place well because he had already lived there for two years. It was hot and the windows were down so we could hear the drums in the distance. How odd that was; here we were on the Indian reservation and there were drums just like in an old western movie.
Don and Nona Perrault were the sentries and saw to all of the daily details at Immanuel Mission. As we got out of the car Nona trotted up with a serious but friendly smile. She was short and wiry and looked like she could fight a bear. Their trailer was near the entrance and right next to the well. In the morning you would see Nona running out to greet the steady stream of pick up trucks that came with their empty 55 gallon drums. Wells were scarce because they had to be drilled over 500 feet to get to a good water supply. Some were as deep as one or two thousand feet.
Nona commented on the drums right away, "Yei-bi-chai", is all she said. Tim explained later about how the Navajos have a ceremony to call on the spirits to protect their children before they send them off to school.
Tim asked her why it was so quiet. I didn't know that he was referring to the generator. Normally the drums would not be heard above the steady hum of the only power source for the mission compound. Nona motioned towards Don as he strode up with a wrench in his hand.
Don was short and stout and always friendly. He also always seemed to have a wrench in his hand which reminded everyone about his duty as the master of the generator. He built it and knew every nut and bolt and it was his job to keep it running. The generator would have to wait for morning now.
We got the key and headed towards our new home. It was a deluxe trailer that once traveled across the country as a high end vacation tool. Exactly 8 feet wide and 30 feet long, the interior was finished in birch veneer and the multitude of cabinets and cubby holes meant everything was automatically organized.
At the end of the trailer was the one bedroom with a window facing directly at the campsite where the Yei-bi-chai was happening. There was light from a huge fire that lit up the colorfully dressed people. There were people walking around in the shadows too and small children darting in and out. The outline of many pickup trucks faded in the background. I wanted to get a close up look and see this spectacle but everything was in miniature since the campsite was so far away. They were in another world and I felt like I was reading the National Geographic live. I fell asleep that first night with the sound of the drums echoing in my dreams.
I woke up to the sound of eggs crackling on the stove. "Tim was cooking? Hmmmm," I thought that was my job. There were no drums. Looking southwest was the beautiful earthy red rock, Tsetse-uh standing straight up towards the sky. The flat table top basking in the sun. To the west was the campsite, the Navajo's homestead where we heard the drums. All of the trucks were gone except one.
A mounded adobe hut, a hogan, sat in the center with some other small wood buildings surrounding it. Two women slowly carried a gigantic tub across the yard and began to tip it over the fire pit. Smoke clouded up and engulfed the scene. A dog and three small children ran through the smoke, barking and hollering and laughing.
There were no other people around. The women disappeared into the hogan followed by the children.
Suddenly there was a loud noise in the distance, a muffled roar that didn't stop. It was the generator. There were no power lines leading to the mission but there were lines leading to the generator. I would get used to the noise and if it stopped it was like a breath of fresh air for an instant and then worry that something was wrong. As long as the pulsing motor drummed away we knew our refrigerators would keep running and our lights would stay on.