Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Pride

The other day Jana surprised me by asking if I wanted to attend a beauty contest. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that I was not an intended contestant. I have always been a little slow to catch on, however, so I immediately had visions of a glittering sash flowing diagonally across my chest and a sparkling tiara balanced gracefully on my head. “Heck yes”, I said, “I can parade as well as any queen.” To be candid, I was concerned that although I have been called many things, beautiful is not one of them. Additionally, crabby as I am, even Ms. Congeniality didn’t seem a realistic possibility.

Navajo Famiy Pride Carving
Navajo Family Pride Carving

“No, no,” Jana chuckled, “I haven’t entered you! Grange has to sing at the Whitehorse High School Miss Indian Broken Trail Contest. Can you take him?” “Well,” I said defensively, “I am really busy. There are, after all, dishes to do, floors to mop and bathrooms to clean.”

To be honest, I was both relieved and disappointed. In light of my recent weight gain, the thought of getting into evening wear, not to mention a bikini, was worrisome. The other problem was that I could not begin to imagine what I might do for a talent. Telling off color jokes, my special gift, would surely be inappropriate.

Seeing these conflicting emotions reflected on my face, Jana put her arm around me, gave me a little squeeze and said, “It’s okay honey, I think you’re pretty. It is important for you to take Grange. He sings really well.” “All right,” I said, “no hard feelings.” We shook hands and I resumed the clean up.

Grange has become an acomplished Navajo singer, so he and several other students in the Bluff Elementary Navajo Language Program had been invited to perform during the pageant. I had been elected chauffeur and given detailed instructions for delivering him to the high school in time for the event.

When the appointed hour arrived, Grange appeared at the trading post in black pants, pollen-colored satin shirt and traditional Navajo moccasins complete with silver buttons at the ankles. Jana had adorned him with Sleeping Beauty turquoise beads from Ray Lovato, a John Begay pin to keep his collar together and a classic concho belt to support his trousers. But for the red hair, freckles and fair complexion, he looked all the world like a miniature medicine man.

As we drove the thirteen miles from Twin Rocks to the high school, Grange was extremely quiet. “Stage fright” I speculated, and asked if he had thought to bring a note pad. He gave me a sideways glance. “You never know pal, you might be able to get their telephone numbers,” I advised. “Dad, I am only nine”, he shot back. “Never too early to get started”, I counseled. “This is not my first beauty contest”, I boasted, shading the truth just a little.

When we arrived at the auditorium, I was amazed by the number of Navajo kings, queens and princesses. I had not realized there was that much royalty in all of San Juan County. There was the Bluff Elementary Princess, the Northern Navajo Queen, Miss Monument Valley, King Whitehorse, Miss Red Mesa and the soon to be derailed Miss Indian Broken Trail.

After the introductions and the evening wear section, during which I conceded I would not have had a chance, Grange was called up. During his introduction, in which he gave his ancestry as the Portugese sausage and Italian linguini clans, the audience was mysteriously silent. When he started to sing, however, the auditorium exploded with clapping, whistling and shouts of support. Apparently the spectators had been so surprised by his fluency during the first part of his performance they had held back until they heard him sing.

When the kids were small, they often watched Walt Disney’s The Lion King. They would squeal with delight when Mufasa tumbled with Simba and afterward roared his approval. That animated film gives one a sense why a group of lions is referred to as a pride. Watching Grange sing in Navajo I felt the same emotion, and had to restrain myself from roaring like Mufasa.

As we exited the building, Grange asked, “Could you tell I had stage fright?” “No”, I said, “Did you get any telephone numbers?”

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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