The first half of May had remained cool and comfortable. The nights were even a little chilly, requiring a blanket as insurance against the early morning cold. Then, almost without warning, the heat arrived. The entire week had been a scorcher, and instead of a blanket we needed a fan. Even the lizards seemed to be affected. They stayed under the porch more than usual, taking advantage of the breezes that circulated through the overhang, and convening in counsels of two or three, as if to discuss the temperature.
Kira & Spenser with their Lizards at Twin Rocks Trading Post.
The day dawned like every other that week; bright and hot. I opened the side door of the trading post and was immediately mobbed by a flock of moths. There had been a worm infestation earlier in the year, and the worms had apparently morphed into moths. There were moths everywhere. I retrieved the little red vacuum we keep for just such occasions and sucked dozens of them into its small holding bin. That didn’t seem to diminish their number one bit. They were still everywhere, and now they were madly dispersing in all directions. Having lost the battle of the moths, I decided to proceed with my usual morning cleaning duties.
All in all it was shaping up to be just another ordinary day at the trading post. Then Barry arrived with his son, Spenser. Barry had taken Adam, Spenser, Tarrik and Grange camping the night before and was just coming back. It was Kira’s seventh birthday, and I needed to leave the trading post to help Jana with preparations for Kira’s party that evening. As I was placing a mistakenly returned sleeping bag in Barry’s truck before going to find Jana, I noticed him: the giant Collared lizard Barry and Spencer referred to as a “mountain boomer.” He was just under Barry’s truck; by the left front wheel.
As Spenser meandered across the porch from the restaurant to the trading post, I directed him to look under the truck. “Wow,” was all he could say. I knew we would have to catch the lizard, and that “Wow” was soon followed by “Can we catch him?” The Navajo people believe that lizards are keepers of knowledge. Lizards are often portrayed as well meaning, thoughtful, elderly beings with the time and patience to properly educate those who desire to learn about Navajo culture and tradition. We are not quite sure why so many lizards take up residence at the trading post, in spite of their intermittent capture. It may be that they perceive a need to impart their wisdom to this mob, in the hope of improving our condition.
Spenser has always been the master lizard catcher around the
, although some of the other nieces and nephews have given him a run for his money from time to time. I discouraged lizard hunting when the kids were younger, but have recently changed my policies. Before the kids became master hunters we would wind up with short-tailed lizards, and severed tails squiggling and wiggling all over the porch. Also, the kids generally wanted to take their captives home, which I felt was a bad idea. After a few discussions about what it would be like if someone took them from their moms and dads, the kids devised a catch and release policy. I am sure the lizard moms and dads were relieved. The kids also discovered that they could squirt the lizards with water and capture them whole. The cold water startled the small creatures, causing them to stop long enough for the kids to snatch them, tails intact.
At times like these I am reminded of my torts professor, Chuck Luther. Chuck was a great advocate of animal rights, and frequently asked us if we thought rocks and trees had rights too. Since we had no idea that he was actually talking about environmental issues, we generally answered, “No!” He was loved and admired by all his students, and has had a great impact on many of us. Once I realized the importance of his questions, I became much more aware of the environmental issues which were so important to him. Since the kids have developed a means of enjoying the sport of lizard hunting without harm to the reptiles, I paid due respect to Chuck’s memory, to the Navajo culture, and to Spenser’s request. “Let’s get him,” I said.
Barry sneaked around behind the truck as I got the water hose. Spenser positioned himself to grab the prize once it was sufficiently saturated. Barry then scattered a few small stones beneath the truck, and the lizard moved out into the open. A few more stones from Barry and the flood was unleashed. Spenser danced around for a second or two, dodging the spray of water and positioning himself to grab the lizard without getting a bad bite. The trap was sprung. Spencer stood holding the lizard in his hand as a big smile spread across his face. After admiring its rare beauty, and showing him to Jana, Kira and Grange, the lizard was allowed to return to his business. Shortly after that we captured a second large specimen. A little while later Spenser caught a third, monsterous, beast.
As it turned out the day was anything but mundane. It was a successful afternoon of hunting for Spenser, and a good day for the lizards who still stalked the grounds discussing the heat, and undoubetly explaining to their companions how they had escaped the great lizard round up. Of course we also had a few stories to tell. The lizards began to grow with every retelling of the story, until I was sure I overheard Barry and Spenser telling someone that the last lizard captured was the size of a full grown crocodile.
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