I’m on the road with my son, heading east to my daughter’s college graduation. We drove through the southern tip of Navajo country yesterday, through that place I know through the eyes of my favorite mystery novelist, Tony Hillerman. I did not find Lt. Leaphorn or Sgt. Jim Chee.
But we drove through the colorful wasteland of the Painted Desert, and I could almost see the archway of Window Rock to the north. Through the broken volcanic flows at the feet of towering Mt. Taylor, the “Turquoise Mountain,” dull black but still dusted with a covering of snow at her peak. I heard an elderly Navajo gentleman greet another with “Ya-ta-hey” in the Grants, NM KFC.
Then on east, through Albuquerque, and eastern New Mexico where the desert is high, 6,500 feet and more, grassy, stretching on to the far horizon and broken only by dry arroyos, wind mills, and small villages. Lots of traditional octagonal hogans among the more modern houses.
We reached our destination for yesterday after 12 hours of nearly non-stop driving: Amarillo. Yellow, in Spanish. Finally unable to contain my curiosity, I discovered in Wikipedia that it is called yellow because of Amarillo Creek and Amarillo Lake, which are said to be yellow because of the dissolved minerals in the local soil.
Amarillo is also the home to the Cadillac Ranch, the open-air sculpture by artist Stanley Marsh featuring a row of Caddies all buried with their tails in the air and painted various shades of pink. We did not stop for a photo op.
Amarillo is said to be the helium capital of the world, which is perhaps why my voice sounds like Donald Duck this morning. Do they put it in the water? Does it creep in through the air-conditioning ducts? If they drill for helium and strike a pocket, how do they keep it from all rushing out? Do underground helium-filled caverns make this part of the earth’s crust bulge out? Alas, no time for answers. Got to make Memphis tomorrow.
And as I approach Memphis, I always like to sing Paul Simon’s song, Graceland. May your life be filled with the grace of the Giver of Grace, Jesus Christ.