This morning, on ABC-TV's THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, during a regular segment honoring those who sacrifice and serve our country in the military, only one name was listed. His name was Jonathan D. Davis, aged 34, from Kayenta, Arizona, a Staff Sergeant, serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, killed in Afghanistan this past week.
Sadly, there have been so many casualties there, serving in the longest war in which we've ever participated, but seeing from where Staff Sergeant Davis was, triggered fond personal memories of his hometown. Those memories, and this blog, are respectfully dedicated to him and his family.
Having lived in Las Vegas for five years prior to moving to Minnesota in 1970, it was always a joy to frequently visit one of my favorite "thinking places", located approximately five to six hours drive east of Las Vegas, on weekends. That place is known as "The Mittens", situated on the Arizona-Utah border, and part of one of the world's most visually-numbing and awe-inspiring landscapes, known as Monument Valley. Only an occasional sight of a Navajo shepherd and flock suggests any semblance of civilization. At one time, there was no trading post nor building of any sort into which one could drive and park a vehicle to just "look", but in recent years that has changed, and there is a vantage point, paved, with a small building, from which one can gaze northward across the border into the Utah side of the valley and see those "Mittens". Film director John Ford used Monument Valley (with permission of the Navajo, whose land it is) to film several of his epic "westerns" with John Wayne. ("The Mittens" are two monoliths that look like mittens, side-by-side, jutting upward from an equally spectacular surrounding desert landscape.)
The closest town, and gateway to Monument Valley, is Kayenta, Arizona, situated 25 miles south of the valley. In 1967, I began making my weekend treks through Kayenta to get to Monument Valley. At that time, it was a very sleepy little town. In subsequent years, with more visits dating into the 1990s, the Navajo had built an excellent Holiday Inn and some very upscale stores. One of the stores was named Basha's Dine (not dime) grocery store and trading post. Once, while in an unusually-strong thunderstorm there, I parked my car in the parking lot and ran into Basha's for shelter. One of my happier memories from that shelter-seeking was purchasing my first boom-box as well as retractable umbrella in that store! Who would ever have thought a site of the U.S. Postal Service's most remote post office location, and a major part of the Navajo Nation's landscape and governmental jurisdiction, would also be the dichotomous site for some very "modern" purchases? I reverently smile when thinking of that stormy afternoon and what it wrought, purchase-wise, for this "city slicker". It also reinforced my lifelong admiration and respect for American Indians. Thanks to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, based in Little Canada, Minnesota, I was afforded the privilege to express that admiration via my company's production of a documentary, in 2005-2006, about several tribes in Indian Country and the egregious injustices akin thereto via broken promises and treaties. It won a Telly Award and was hosted by my longtime friend, ABC-TV's Sam Donaldson, with John McCain and Tom Daschle my senatorial "stars". Sam owns three ranches in Southeast New Mexico, all immediately adjacent to the Mescalero-Apache reservation there. It was on one of his ranches we taped his "stand-up" narration. Prior to asking if he'd be my narrator/host, and even though we'd known each other long before the documentary production, I had no idea his early life was spent in Indian Country. He was kindly very receptive to being the host/narrator, for which I'll be always appreciative.
I hope the fond remembrances of Kayenta and the wonderful Navajo people there may have struck a responsive enough chord with you to visit there sometime. It's truly a special part of another world ("another world" stated only in the most positive sense), and easily-reached. From Kayenta to Monument Valley and environs, in my opinion, they're places that envelop our senses in only the most reverent and peaceful ways. The late Staff Sergeant Davis was truly blessed to have had Kayenta as his hometown, but his tragic death this past week must surely have cast an especially sad pall on that otherwise beautiful place. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends
Thanks for reading, thinking and sharing in these blog thoughts. Please, if you wish, also "tune in" to my other geezer thoughts via A SENIOR MOMENT at www.startribune.com/video, then linking to Lifestyles.