There are days of rest. There are vacations for the body and mind. There are even diversions from the ordinary to places off the
beaten path. Then, there are grueling lifetime adventures to test your mettle and your standing as a brave. I, along with fourteen
other braves from the tribe, Angloimbibes, from the land of the rising bird, found such an adventure.
We were going to travel to the land of the Hualupai, at the very bottom of the cracked earth. What the white men call, the Grand
Canyon.Our brothers, the Havasupai Indians, live in the land of sun-scarred sacred earth filled with springs of eternal falling.
They live amongst the scorpions and javelina where they are forced to tend to the needs of the
white men who come to escape
their cities to find the fountains of the Great Spirit.
Our travel began from the land of the rising bird to the north to where that great Indian trader, Seligman, lived. It is five-hour travel
in the small iron horse. I,
Curly Short, and Head Like Moon (Kenny G.) along with Pixie Smile (Karen) have come along in the
hopes of free gasoline. We meet
New York Freddie and his squaw, Mini Bonita (Shirley). They have had the high honor of
traveling with
Medicine Man Rob and High Chieftaintress Liz. Our tepee tonight will be along the "Route of Kicks, Number 66."
Famous people have slept in all the rooms. I cannot find a room where Geronimo or Hiawatha had stayed so I settle for the
room that was used by Bill Haley and the Comets.
The Medicine Man has brought firewater for all who travel long days journey. We pass the peace pipe and trade stories of great
hunts. Others of the tribe begin arriving.
Tracy Happy Bear and his sidekick, Tall Funny Man (Brian), come with glad tidings from
his people in the west. Joe Too Good Looking for his Own Good (Not Pictured) and his new squaw,
Rebeka of Donnybrook
Farm have not much to say as honeymoon tepee needs to be broke in. The last to arrive are the
three-squaw war party. Their
faces are all painted and they are ready for attack. First, there is Serious Cecile who has been hiking with Shutter Eye in
preparation for hike from hell. Then there is Shana Blonde Honey and her friend, Crazy Ball Breaker (Christine). They will be
staying in Timmy's room. You know, Timmy from Lassie's show! The Medicine Man and the Chieftaintress will be staying in the
room where Broderick Crawford slept.
The moon has passed and the great sun cracks dawn. It is time to begin our grueling journey to the Havasupai. We rustle into
our small iron horses and take the path to Hualupai Hilltop, ninety miles away. We had stayed in the closest tepee in the area.
Their land is as wide as the Great Spirit's sky. We avoid their cattle as they have trained them to stand in the way of any iron
horse. The sun has begun its rise; it is 7:32 AM. All fifteen members of our tribe have gathered at the peak of the long, long dusty
trail. We flash photography of us
together. We know many may not make it back alive. The sun will sear like log in fire. We have
eight miles to travel to village of Havasupai and then two more miles to Great Spirit's water. We have come without horses and
all the water we can carry. I have brought
many things for our survival but it is not ensured. We are a quarter moon away from
solstice and the sun brings its burden (110°).
We begin our trek in good spirit and the chain of friendship shiny and new. We hit the switchbacks with vigor and soon find
ourselves buried in the canyon walls. The sun still burns and we pray to the Great Spirit for shade. The mesquite and Palo Verde
trees offer two leafless branches of shade and we are glad to have it. We send four scouts ahead to tell of our arrival. But we
have a five-hour walk in front of us! The
beauty of this land is unfathomable. Some see it as a stark, desert wasteland. But others
and I find the strength of the rock comforting and softness of the sand caressing. But the harshness of the climate can kill.
Without the sweet nectar of water, delirium then death happens quickly. We stop often to greedily slurp our water. We sweat like
running horse. It is when you stop sweating it is time to worry. The war party presses to the front along with Good Looking and
Donnybrook. I am not stupid. I stay in the shadow of the Medicine Man and the Chieftaintress.
We are now two hours into our journey and we are showing signs of weakness. Head Like Moon begins taking forays into the
underbrush. I ask not why he does this. He soon comes out from behind a rock where he has found
skeletal remains of a
horse. The horse had died along the trail and was burned to prevent anthrax. The sun has no mercy for man or beast. Head Like
Moon runs ahead laughing. He scares me.  The Medicine Man will try many cures; ground snake rattle, skin of mole, cotton
bands to cure our blisters. These medicines could have cured that dead horse but they did nothing for our blisters. I ask the
Medicine Man for rain dance to cool heated brow. He says Chieftaintress will not allow such a thing, as this is to find which brave
is strong enough to someday be Chief.
Four hours into our crawl and I no longer want be Chief. Hell, I don't even want to be an Atlanta Brave! If I see another person go
by with a horse I'm going to horse jack him! We have seen the walking dead walk past us for four hours now going back up the
hill. "How far?" we ask. They respond with inaudible grunts.
The mirages have begun. There at the top of the canyon above the rust-hued monolith is a water slide! I could slide down it and
splash into Dormont Pool! Oh, Dormont Pool! Where are you?! The water hole of my youth beckons me with its undulating
waters of cool crispness. But it is only trickery of mind. I am flopping like fish in the heated sand. What is that?! It is a Coke
machine! Coke, the tasty frost-laden drink for the masses, I only need one more quarter! Please, my favorite bow for anyone with
some wampum! Alas! It is only another red rock...
My foot falls in front of me. And...then...the...other. All the other braves are far ahead. I decide to send smoke signals with my
cigarettes. I am pulling up the rear when we stumbled across
another dead horse! This one seems to have died in the past
week. The Havasupai are rougher on their horses than a merry-go-round. That poor dead horse could have been carrying my
I am on the verge of non-existence. There are spots in front of my eyes and the cartoon birds flying around my head are vultures.
I am wringing my canteen for water when all of a sudden someone says, ";Who wants ice cream?" Ice Cream?! Ice Cream?!
You have got to be yanking my moccasin! Sure enough, on the outskirts of the village there is an ice cream shoppe. These
Indians are mighty smart! I run with the speed of a stampede. "Give me two chocolate éclairs and five ice cream sandwiches!
Go ahead and drop those last ones down my back!" Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... These girls are looking at me
like I'm Crazy Horse. We are here!
We leave the ice cream shoppe. The village is in full view. We await the welcoming committee...and wait. What is with this
place? No welcome totem pole, no totem poles at all! I was expecting a great Indian village, you know, something along the
lines of...Cleveland. This place has lost all pride. When the white man took their dignity they also took their motivation.
Trash-strewn streets, roaming dogs, well-fed woman, hmmm, maybe this is Cleveland.
After an eight-mile hike we have made it to our Shangri-La, the Lodge. Abutted against the staggering enormity of the canyon
wall is our tepee for our two-night stay. We collapse in a heap in various sectors of our rooms. The lodge has all the trappings of
a "Motel 2" broken furniture, dysfunctional toilet and the smell of Ben-Gay. But it does have the most desired attribute in the world
right now, a hot, steamy shower with a pulsating beat, like a disco in Rio.
Unfortunately, like United Airlines, they have lost our luggage! We had paid mucho wampum to have our fifty-pound pack of
supplies muled down the hill and they have sent it to the campground instead of the lodge, two miles distant. So there is no Rio
Disco for us, as we have nothing to change into. We decide we might as well suck it up and hoof to see what we came to see,
the waters of eternal falling. With the steadiness of an arthritic flamingo we begin down the trail again to the falls. Two more
miles! The Chieftaintress tells us it will all be worth it when we get there. I ask the Medicine Man for relief from my pain. He gives
me tree bark and firewater (Rice Krispy Square and Schnapps).
We pass the campground of the visiting white men. It is an idyllic setting of Coleman tepees along the meandering river of
Disneyland like clear,
blue-green water. It is a constant 70°. There are picnic tables placed in the middle of the creek for cool
relaxing and ant control. The canyon wall towers everywhere with boulders precariously clinging to its side. We arrive at the first
of the great falls wrongly named,
Navajo Falls, considering we are in the lands of the Havasupai. Flowing on the wrong side of
the path we can only longingly adore its majesty and its great cooling capacity. The dramatic effect of cascading water over a
cavalcade of soft porous rocks causes, uh...heap big thirst. I am snapping pictures like twigs in hurricane. But this is not our
ultimate destination. A half-mile more and we will be there!
Around the arroyo, through the gulch to Havasu Falls we go! As we peek around the peak we can see and hear the power of the
dual water falls descending into the canyon below. It is a spectacular sight to behold! The contrasting beauty of
desert aridness, cacti, rock and sand with the purely lucid, rushing water carving its way to its suicidal end only to begin again!
Oh, sorry, I mean...the waterfall is cool!
With renewed vigor we traipse down the hill to the mouth of its pool. You can feel the thunder in your breast...or breasts. Skying
150 feet above our heads the falls land with compelling force. Head Like Moon and Crazy Ball Breaker have already conquered
its secrets as they wave me come join
them behind the falls. The tribe encircles the falls trying to find the most unique
perspective to capture its greatness. As I whisper a prayer to the Great Spirit then try to wade to the falls. I step off the rock and
then...kerplunk! I am fully immersed in the freezing water. My heart quickens as the goose bumps begin to grow feathers. I swim
to where I can stand again in waist deep water. As I tread
closer to the falls I can here them beckon for me: "Curly Short let me
refresh you, enliven your soul and pound your aching body with my healing waters." I can walk to with 15 feet of splashdown but
then it drops off precipitously. With all the determination that I can muster after hiking ten miles in the staggering heat, I try to
swim between the twin sister falls. Head Like Moon is yelling, "It is easy! What kind of brave cannot make it to where I am!"
Emboldened by his dare I swim with furious motion to the watery inferno. I am swimming and swimming and moving nowhere!
The power of the falls will not let me enter its depths. With the crash of water engulfing and my perpetual motion of fruitless
effort, I abandon the idea of going between the falls. I change direction and swim for the end of the right sister. Taking a wide
berth I manage to get to the side of the falls and the slime slick rocks. Between the hypothermic temperature of the water and
the Herculean effort it took get there I cannot catch my breath! Ball Breaker is there to break my balls. "Are you okay Mr. Spine
Like Snake? We would not want to lose a brave like you, Mr. Run Like Chicken!" "Pant, pant, I am"...huff...huff..."fine"..."I am
strong"...pant..."like horse." I get a flash back to the dead horse on the trail. The mist from the falls is like a storm on the Plains. I
am trying to breathe and the mist is choking me! Head Like Moon is egging me on to my death. "Come on! You haven't gotten to
behind the falls yet, Mr. Swim Like Stone!" Okay...that's it! If I have to come up with another stupid Indian name to continue this
story, I am outta here!
Sorry...the editor wants me to apologize for that rant. Mr. Ramble Like Babbling Brook will now continue with the gut-wrenching
I still cannot catch my breath! I am sucking wind and water like a tornado! I have got to get out of here! I plunge back into depths
of the liquid death. I am frantically swimming until my body shuts down!! The exhaustion, cold and too many peace pipes have
finally gotten to me. It feels as if I have done 300,000 push-ups. It is time for real panic! I am floundering in the water and two
fingers are up when I catch a glimpse of the Medicine Man. He senses the panic in my flailing arms. He yells, "Are you alright?"  
"No!" I scream. I flail some more, kick my hiked-out legs some more and drink deeply. He yells again, "Are you alright?" "I said
No! Quit standing around and use all of your training of berry crushing, snake-skinning and goofy dancing and get over here and
save me!!" Not even taking the time to take off his feather dressing he springs into action. He swims like a shark, grabs me
around the neck and instructs me to quit flailing like headless turkey. He is not Pamela Anderson but The Medicine Man (Robert
Hammersmark) has saved my life! So the next time you see him give him a great big "Attaboy!" otherwise you may have been
denied these great long-winded emails!  (
Curly Short after near-death).
Well, there is nothing like a near-death experience to slow you down. No more water over knee-high for me. So much for my
Chief campaign! Maybe I can run for Chef. It is a long walk back to the Lodge.  Thankfully, nobody got any photos of me drowning.
We arrive at the Lodge to find that Pixie Smile has raised enough ruckuses to get our packs delivered. So now we can take our
blissful showers. But because of my recent experience, I keep the water on very low. We find that the evil white government has
shut down the cafeteria in the village due to unclean conditions. So now the Havasupai are going to cook us spaghetti in their
home kitchen. There's spaghetti, I've never made before, Indian! As the cat runs around the kitchen we are sold Chief Boyardee
for $7 a pop. I joke with the squaw about the roaming dogs and she says, "There is one less now!" Not very funny joke when
eating meat sauce. That night we sit around electric campfire and play a three-hour hand of UNO. And I do mean one-hand! We
drink firewater and watch the unbelievable night sky light up with more stars than your arm will allow you to point to. Sleep will
come easi......l..........snore...
The next day, with renewed vigor, we set our sights on seeing the ultimate eternal falls, Mooney Falls. These falls are three
miles away but are said to be even more spectacular than the Havasu Falls. After the beauty and death...oops...I mean, depth of
Havasu it is hard to imagine anything greater.
Because of the unarranged sleeping accommodations, I find that Head Like Moon has had the enviable task of sleeping with
the three-woman war party! Blonde Honey and Serious sleep with war clubs. But Ball Breaker has taken a shine to Head Like
Moon and he is all aglow. Pixie Smile, Medicine Man, New York Freddie, Mini Bonita, Chieftaintress and I all begin our making
our way to Mooney. Too Good Looking and Donnybrook sleep late. At least that is the common excuse for honeymooners. Head
Like Moon and the War Party will stumble along later. I don't want to know what happened in that room that night...unless there is
a video.
We walk along the dusty trail past the campgrounds, Navajo Falls and Havasu Falls to the legendary Mooney Falls. The rumble
begins before we even see it. Father Earth shakes like a buffalo stampede. Around the canyon wall we come to the wall of water.
A sheer drop of 250 feet of fire hose blasting water! There's a fine of
$500 for jumping off it. I guess they sue your estate. It falls
into a half-mooned canyon then paddles on to a series of smaller waterfalls. We greet it at eye-level and find that the only way to
get down to it bottom is to scale the cliff face through a series of caves and chains embedded into the porous rock. The height is
an instant inducer of vertigo. Shutter Eye is keeping the camera in front of her face to ward off her fear of heights. The
Chieftaintress tells us this is one of our last trials to pass before we can be promoted to Private First Class Brave. The Medicine
Man and her lead the way. Mini Bonita jumps in line followed by Pixie Smile. I tremble...I mean, trundle after her. New York
Freddie is there to push me along...with a very sharp stick! We curl into the pose of the Elephant Man to navigate our way through
darkened cave. I pronounce that I have no fear of small, closed in places...but I do. Medicine Man taunts me with, "Yeah, you
so brave! Ha, Ha!"  We emerge out of the cave to find ourselves 250 feet above the lagoon. Gilligan and Ginger are waving us
down. The cliff face is dotted with iron chains and rebars poles that you are to strategically use to scale down with. I grasp for my
pole and yank on my chain and then I start climbing. If one person loses grip the chain reaction will result in many deaths. We
are scaling Mt. Everest without the snow!  The whole scouting party is directly below one another. One false move and no one
will need a tepee. Every step is made with fear, anxiety, forethought, and diligence and with the thought of, "How'd I ever get
talked into this!" After thirty grueling minutes we land at the bottom only to find that a
dog has beaten us there! He just climbed
down with his mountain climber companion. We make base camp and see that Head Like Moon, Ball Breaker, Blonde Honey
and Serious have been here frolicking in the crisp water for over an hour. They have scouted the area thoroughly and try to lure
me behind the falls again. "Hey Curly Short, the falls await to crack your little body like lightning to tree branch!"  I play in the pond.
It is very relaxing. But I can hear the torrential
thunder of the falls at all times. It is calling my name! "Curly Short, come to me and
let me make pieces of you...I mean, peace with you." To peer at
its majesty, a neck-craning 250 feet above, and its explosive
power of millions of gallons of clear crystal death, keeps me in the pond. The other braves have found a rope swing to show off
in front of the Chieftaintress. Flopping off of it with grace of a wounded javelina they make spectacles of themselves. The
splashdowns look painful. I watch from afar and pretend to be doing something else. All I need to do is to hang myself before
drowning again. I find a seat in the cold water that floats down the steps of rocks. It is a spa of the highest natural order. The
waterfalls create
more waterfalls and then more in perpetuity. There are literally hundreds of smaller falls in the area. We scout
further down the
waist-deep serenity. Waterfalls, waterfalls and waterfalls! Pixie Smile and I scout the furthest distance.
It is time again to begin our ascent up the rocky ledge. Like monkeys looking for a banana we scramble up the cliff face with
agility. The dexterity of the human body is mind blowing. I pretzelize into so many positions to gain a foothold that I would
probably go good with a beer. But the climb is exhausting so now I'm pretty salty also. After we arrive to the top, exhausted from
the day's events, we realize we have to hike three-miles in the 110­° desert heat. Was it worth it? YES! Every harrowing
minute! We make it back in time for the Havasupai version of pizza. They must have had some left over dog and placed it with
beans on fry bread. At this point in our starving lives it tasted just like Fiore's Pizza!
Everyone is asleep at 8:00 PM. The true braves will be hiking out of this paradise/hellhole at 4:30 AM. Nine of them have decided
that this is a test of their mettle and they will conquer the Grand Canyon on foot like you are supposed to do. Or, they were too
cheap to pay the $70 to helicopter out! My feather is off to them but I'm no loco donkey. I'm taking the
chopper to the top of the hill.
I rationalize to them that I have never been a whirlybird and that is the only reason that I won't lead them up the hill. That and that I
had done enough walking this weekend that I should be Pittsburgh by now!
I arrive at the top of the Grand Canyon to find that they have been waiting for us for two hours. They look spent, like wampum in a
nudie bar. It has taken them five hours to crawl out of the canyon. It took me five minutes to
whirlybird out. I laugh at their
misfortune, they laugh at my laziness and now we are best of buddies. We have shared an experience that no mind can lose.
The brushes with death, the exhilaration of the frozen waters, the stifling of the heat, eating dog, blisters and the awe that we
shared in the indescribable beauty of the Grand Canyon will reverberate throughout our lives. Many became braves that
weekend and some became braver but we are all now Chiefs!
Curly Short
JUNE, 2002