Day Nine

October 24, 1996

Shiprock, NMCrane over highway

Uploading last night was a little out of the ordinary. There are no motels in Shiprock and so we set out to find a phone jack. Nothing at the burger place. We stopped by city market as the manager there last year had allowed us to charge the radios. He was gone and one of the checkers was reluctant to let rough characters like us in since the store was closed. We were just about to go searching elsewhere when she asked us for ID and after examining it said we could come in. We pulled one of the check stands apart and fished out a phone line from the credit card machine and were soon downloading. The Indian girls name was Harriet and she was very helpful. She and her associates waited until we had finished to make sure everything was ok.

Although we are still in the US, we are in the Navajo Nation. It is interesting to note that everything was Navajo Nation operated. Police, utilities, schools, etc. all bore the Navajo Nation emblem. We are also in the minority.

During the night, the temperatures dropped and although no one got too cold camping out, we all noticed the change. Morning skies were completely clear and calm. Kent suggested that I drive over to the base of the Shiprock monument just to see it. As I got ready, Errol said, "Shoot, I’ll just fly you over there." Yesss!!

I climbed in Errol’s plane with a couple of cameras just as the sun line was coming down the face of ‘the rock’. It was spectacular (see photo). By the time we reached the base, it was completely lit up in the oranges of sunrise. As we circled the top, the rugged rock faces were accented by the dark shadows of the jagged vertical formations. Of particular interest was a single spine of rock wall that stretched far off in the distance in a nearly perfect arc. You could almost imagine looking back in time to when Shiprock was a giant castle and the crumbling spine was a rock wall.

With the anticipated route right along the highway, we decided to let 107 join the airborne crew this morning. Last night when we let her out of the trailer, she took off and flew around the camp about three times, demonstrating that she could still fly and wanted to. The planes took to the air, helped off the ground by the mounds of grass that had grown across the runway. The birds were right behind them.

107 didn’t last long. About 15 miles down the road she sat down in a field on the west side of the highway. As I pulled up, Ron and Kevin were filming Jim walking out towards her through the brush with Shiprock in the background. She seems to have developed an aversion to the trailer and knew exactly where she was going. Catching her was difficult. Jim and I tried twice and each time she flew before we could get close enough to catch her. The second time she landed just beyond Ron and Kevin. Ron left Kevin to film and got on the other side of her. I got there and we worked her close to a fence. As she started to spread her wings, Ron got a hold of her tail feathers and made the catch. Kevin got it all on film. We carried her back to the trailer to join ‘no band’.

About 25 miles outside of Gallup, Kent developed fuel problems and had to set down. It appeared to be a plugged fuel filter. He took it apart and blew it out and took to the air again. About five more miles and it plugged completely shutting down the engine. He sat down on a dirt road about 2 miles off the highway and without much civilization in sight. Or at least we thought.

As they all went to town to get some food and fuel filters, I watched the birds. It didn’t take long for the locals to come see as one of them put it, "What da hell you doin?". Many of them had seen us flying over and then set down. One fellow with his little boy came by. I think he had been smoking too much peace pipe or drinking too much fire water. He started in on how crazy it was to have cranes follow a plane and then went to how the white man screwed up all the migrations which the Indian had known early on. I just listened for a while and he mellowed. He left and then soon came back to ask me if he could bring me lunch. All that stopped were very nice. An older Navajo couple on their way to town in the pickup. A young girl and her grandmother. A teenage girl and her younger brothers and sister. Two different Navajo Nation policemen came by. One was very official and took our names and the paper Jim had written. The second came and talked to everyone. Before he left, he was sitting in Errol’s plane handling the controls.

With the new fuel filters back from town, we spent some time putting them on. Errol changed his too just to make sure there wouldn’t be a problem. We cleaned the gas cans as well. The winds picked up and didn’t let off until well after dark so there was no more flying. We made about 70 miles total. It looks like a storm is coming in and may last for 2-3 days. If we could have gotten to Gallup, the tailwind from the storm would have kicked us well towards Albuquerque.

next day