“You can’t be serious,” I said with a grin. Kathryn just
looked a me with a cat-who-ate-the-canary smile on her face. “You’re
“Serious as a rattlesnake,” she said and laughed “Richard
will be teaching you. There are places you’ll be needed that the Land Rover
cannot go, but a horse can.”
“Where is Richard?”
“He is doing a diabetes clinic. That’s a disease that plagues
Native Americans. There are plenty of other plagues including, as I
mentioned, drugs and alcohol. Young men, especially those who live in the
city, get hooked. If they can be brought back among their people and learn
the old ways, they usually become great young men. There’s something to be
said about the power of tradition.”
When we had unloaded my things and supplies for the house, we
went to the clinic which was further down the stream. The clinic was as
close to the small stream as it could be and still be safe from flash floods
which occurred from time to time. It had a reception area, two rooms each
with two hospital beds, two examining rooms and an operating room or, as
Kathryn called it, a surgery. It was bright and airy, but built so that it
could be quite cozy when winter came.
When we had stowed the clinic supplies, we walked to a corral
where there were three horses. All were beautiful animals, but they were so
big! As we stood at the fence, they all looked at us and finally one, the
smaller of the lot, walked toward us. “Seems Sundancer likes you,” Kathryn
said as the horse started rubbing her head against my hand resting on the
fence. “I would not have chosen the paint for you as she can be pretty
frisky at times.”
“Horses with the kind of pattern she has -- they also come in
black and white -- are called paints. Well, now is as good a time as any to
get you started. Come along.”
We walked to the shelter -- I guess properly speaking it was
a barn, but was for storage, not for the horses -- and Kathryn had me pick
up a saddle and a blanket. “I’m just going to learn how to put these on a
“Foolish boy,” Kathryn laughed like something was really
It took me fifteen minutes to get the saddle on the horse. I
had to learn how to tighten the cinch in spite of the horse swelling her
belly with air. Kathryn led Sundancer to the fence and held her so I could
climb on. Once I was in the saddle, she tied the horse up and adjusted the
stirrups to my legs. That done, she led the horse around the corral for
almost half an hour. “I’ll wait and let Richard actually start teaching you
to ride. He’s very good at that.”
I was still sitting on the horse when a second Land Rover
drove up. “Here’s Richard now,” Kathryn said. “He’s much earlier than I
expected.” When Richard got out of the vehicle, Kathryn called to him,
“Richard, come meet Derek and see if you can make a rider out of him. I
understand he’s incredible in water, but maybe not so good on land.”
Approaching was a man considerably shorter than I was, maybe
five ten, and built like a tank, not fat, muscular. He was dark and wore a
red band around his head, his black hair in a kind of pony tail. I had
looked at pictures of Navajo on the internet after I met Kathryn and Richard
was a perfect example of a young Navajo man. Definitely a handsome man, but
in a way different from any man I had every met. He appeared to be younger
than he had to be since he had been in Iraq and earned his PA certification
“Derek, Richard Singer, pleased to meet you,” he said as he
extended his hand.
I leaned down from the saddle and grasp his hand and replied,
“Derek Wilson, pleased to meet you, Richard.”
“I can see the way you sit on the horse you’re not used to
it, but swimming will have served you well when you start riding. Stomach
and back muscles get a real work-out and if they are not in shape, learning
to ride can be pretty painful. You can anticipate a sore ass and legs, but
nothing like someone not in the shape you are in. Sundancer is a pretty
obedient horse, so, Kathryn, hand him the reins and let him ride around the
“You’re sure?” Kathryn asked.
“Certainly. We know how to set broken bones,” he chuckled.
Kathryn handed me the reins and Richard said, “Derek, gently
pull a rein to turn the horse and pull back, gently, on both to stop her.
You might say ‘whoa, girl’ or something like that, but a gentle pull on the
reins will generally get the action you want.”
I sat with the reins in my hand waiting for some action.
Nothing was happening. I laughed and asked, “Where’s the accelerator?”
“Just give her a gentle tap with the reins.”
I did and Sundancer started a very sedate walk around the
corral. Half-way around, Richard said, “Turn her around and come back.”
I pulled on the reins and forgot to say ‘whoa,’ so I guess
Sundancer thought I wanted to back up and went into reverse. I pulled on the
reins and said ‘whoa’ to stop her, but she kept going backwards. I guess we
both were confused. I let the reins go slack, then started to pull back on
them again and say ‘whoa’, but in the process, slapped Sundancer with the
reins and that was her signal to take off. I was half-in and half-out of the
saddle, pulling back on the reins and yelling ‘whoa’.” Sundancer got the
message and came to a very sudden stop with me hanging off the saddle.
Richard came, lifted me out of the saddle and put my feet on
solid ground. “I see Kathryn wasn’t joshing me when she said you’ve never
ridden. I suspect you pulled back too hard when you wanted to stop her and
that is her signal to back-up. Well, in a couple weeks you’ll be riding like
a cowboy.” So ended my first riding lesson and before two weeks were up, I
had a very sore ass, my legs ached, but I could ride, maybe like a very
young cowboy, but I could ride and even walk when I got off a horse.
During those first two weeks, I also traveled with Kathryn or
Richard in one of the Land Rovers, visiting clusters of dwellings and
occasionally individual homes. I saw a few pregnant women, lots of injuries
ranging from simple sprains to broken bones, barbed wire cuts, to serious
wounds from work and disease.
In spite of a major effort to make sure every child had the
vaccinations needed, many had been missed and Richard soon taught me how to
do them. By the end of my third week, Kathryn said I was the shot-giver
preferred among the younger set.
We had no regular phone service, land line or cell, so
calling Wolf was out of the question. That was possible only when we went
into town and we hadn’t done that since I arrived. We absolutely depended on
radios. Just how important the radios were became very clear to me when I
had been at the clinic for less than a month.
Early one morning, Richard hooked a horse trailer to his Land
Rover and loaded his horse. He was driving some forty miles away, then
riding the horse to make a circuit among isolated families and clusters of
three or four houses. Kathryn was conducting a clinic about twenty miles
away. “You’re in charge here,” she said as she was ready to leave. “Give me
a call if you have a complicated situation, but anything less than removing
a leg you can probably handle.” My doing emergency brain surgery or
something similar was a running joke among us.
There was no-one at the clinic so I decided it was a good
time to get some work done in the garden. I had been hoeing and weeding for
over an hour when I heard the bell at the clinic. Someone was ringing it
furiously. I dropped my hoe and raced toward the clinic. A young man, not
much older that I was, was pulling the bell rope as rapidly as he could.
“What’s the problem?” I asked.
“It’s my wife. She’s having a baby.”
“Well, let’s get her inside.” I grabbed a stretcher just
inside the clinic door and soon the two of us had the young woman on an
examining table. I started washing up and as I did so asked, “What’s your
“Sasha, Sasha Claw. I’m Jerry Claw. We’re Navajo.”
“Well, let’s see about this new Navajo who wants to join the
family,” I said, wanting to calm the young man. Back in the examining room,
I asked, “Sasha, how are you doing?” I could barely hear her response. She
was not well and she knew it.
“Her water broke four hours ago. We were on our way to Shonto
where there was supposed to be a midwife, but Sasha thought we better stop
I had witnessed Kathryn deliver a few babies and it looked
easy, but then she was doing it. In the movies, they always send the husband
to boil water to get him out of the way, but I needed him. At the same time,
he was already pale and looked ready to faint. “Jerry, ever operate a
radio?” He nodded. “Well, get on the radio and stay by it. I’m as new at
this as you are.” I had him call Kathryn and he got no response. When he
called Richard, reception was bad, but better than nothing. He had me
examine Sasha and tell him what I saw. He finally said, “Okay, this is more
complicated than it might have been, but you can handle it. First...” We
Before I could panic, I heard Kathryn’s voice. “Derek, remain
calm. Richard was able to contact me after he lost contact with you and we
have a clear signal. For the next hour she talked me through delivering, not
a baby but twins, two boys. Both looked healthy and had the required number
of fingers and toes so far as I could tell. The births would have been
straightforward except, as Kathryn said, the two must have been playing ‘I’m
first! No! I’m first.’ By the time I had them cleaned up and Sasha had cut
the cord, they were pink and yelling.
How did I feel? Like a million dollars! Atlanta and Grady
certainly couldn’t have offered me anything to have made me feel I was being
deprived out here in the desert.
When I wasn’t working and one of the two regulars was
available, I was receiving training in advanced first aid, midwifery, and
diseases and their treatment. When I was idle and neither of the two were
available, I had my nose buried in a medical text. Both Kathryn and Richard
were lavish in their praise for the progress I was making. I was pretty
proud of myself as well.
The weekend after I had delivered the twins, Kathryn said
Richard had left before dawn and would be away all weekend. “He’s studying
with an elder, at least that’s his excuse, but he’s also courting a young
lady somewhere in the Canyon De Chelly area. I thought it was time we
celebrated your first month here and delivering the twins. You might like to
talk to some of your friends also. Up to a trip to Page? We’ll spend the
night and come back tomorrow.”
“Sounds great,” I said.
“Well, the dress code is cowboy dress-up.”
“Yeah, clean jeans, your fancy cowboy boots, fancy shirt,
vest and your dress hat.”
Turns out there was a third pair of boots involved in
outfitting me. When we were buying boots for everyday, there as an awful lot
of measuring, much more than seemed indicated. Last week, Richard had come
in from his day’s travels and handed me a package. He and Kathryn had
ordered a pair of custom-made cowboy boots which were splendid. They were
ebony leather, tooled with silver symbols from both the Hopi and Navajo
selected by Kathryn and Richard and worked into an amazing design by the
boot maker. The toes and back of the boot were covered in silver. “These are
too fancy to wear,” I had commented, but Richard and Kathryn disagreed and
insisted I wear them around the house to get them broken in.
We packed and left before 6:30. On our way, we stopped beside
an isolated adobe house and Kathryn said we needed to make a stop and do a
check-up. She knocked and the door was opened by Jerry Claw. “Derek,
Kathryn, please come in!” We walked into the small, but immaculate house.
Sasha and the boys are in the kitchen. She had a baby in each arm, managing
to nurse both, and was not disturbed by our presence.
“Looks like the boys are doing well,” I said.
“They are. They’ll finish in a minute and you can take a good
look at them.”
When they finished, she and Jerry changed their diapers and
handed one to me and one to Kathryn. When we had the babies, Sasha spread a
blanket on the kitchen table and Kathryn and I undressed them. Following
what she did and said, I examined the baby and then Kathryn and I changed
babies. To my eyes, the two were perfect and I asked Kathryn if she found
“Did you?” she asked.
“No, did I miss something?”
“Nothing I saw,” she smiled. “You and Sasha finished up a
good job Jerry started.” Both husband and wife beamed and blushed at the
It was a policy of the clinic to make sure any woman who came
in contact with it for prenatal, delivery or postnatal care received birth
control information. I was afraid Kathryn would abandon me and I’d have to
perform the task, but I need not have worried. She sent me and Jerry outside
so I could talk with him and she stayed with Sasha. Turned out, Jerry and
Sasha were well-versed on the subject. “We’d like another child, but only a
year and a half or two years down the road; after we get a whole night’s
sleep anyway,” Jerry laughed.
We arrived in Page for a late lunch, then went to the motel
only to be told our room wouldn’t be ready until check-in time which was
3:00. Kathryn suggested I swim and really get wet. When we asked the desk
clerk, she was reluctant to allow it, but when Kathryn got the manager and
told him the situation, he gave his okay. I changed in the restroom in the
lobby and was soon in heaven. Of course, there was no diving, but I did get
to swim. When I finally got out of the pool, the manager had found out who
Kathryn was and upgraded our rooms to a suite and it was ready for us. When
I asked about cell reception, he said the patio by the pool had excellent
Since I hadn’t used my cell phone for a month, I had piles of
messages and plenty of people to call. I had been thinking since I knew we
were going to Page who I should call. The first call was easy enough to
decide. I dialed the phone and when it was picked up said, “Dad, Derek.”
“Baby Boy! Good to hear your voice. How are you? How’s the
work? What’s living in the desert like?”
In the background I heard Brad say, “One question at a time,
Sam, and put the phone on speaker.” Sam did. “Hello, Son, how’s the
young’un? By the way, Mae’s here.”
“Hi, Mom,” I said. “Mom, I delivered twins -- boys -- since
I’ve been here. Saw them today and they are healthy and well.” Among the
four of us, we talked for an hour. When we finally finished, I called Auntie
and we spoke for fifteen minutes or so. She was having a wonderful time and
I decided not to call Dr. Bailey or Dr. Levey. I would be
sending a report to them as I had access to the internet here at the motel.
Between the two of them they had come up with independent course plans which
would give me fourteen hours credit, more than I could have earned in summer
school. Their plans involved keeping a journal, weekly reports -- which they
would get as I had access to email -- and a final report and evaluation of
I called the house and when Louis answered, asked how things
were going. “I think you may have a hard time getting us to leave,” he
laughed. “You have a grand place and we are enjoying it to the fullest.” We
talked for a few more minutes, then I called Levi’s place.
Levi put the phone on speaker and he, Jeremy and I had a long
conversation. Jeremy was presently without a woman and asked about my
bringing him an Indian. “Jeremy, I haven’t met a woman you could handle
yet,” I laughed. “Saw one earlier today who went into labor on the way to a
midwife -- that was a twenty-five mile drive at least with no roads for the
first ten -- and finally I delivered twin boys without a complaint from her.
Well, to be honest, she helped, but I delivered the boys.”
“You delivered a baby!” Jeremy practically shouted.
“No, two babies,” I laughed. “Twins come in pairs.”
After we talked about that, my learning to ride and all, Levi
asked, “Are you using that camera?”
“Both” I said. “I’m planning on sending photos while I am
here if I have time as the motel has broadband. We don’t even have a
telephone at the clinic. Anyone needs to contact us, they have to call a
volunteer who relays the message by radio.”
Finally we pretty much ran out of things to talk about when
Jeremy said, “Derek, you haven’t called Wolf, have you?”
“How did you know?” I asked.
“You haven’t mentioned him.”
“Jeremy, I think this is something Derek needs to talk over
with an old friend. I feel like I’m eavesdropping on something I shouldn’t,”
Levi said. “Derek, sounds like you made a wise decision to go west, young
man. Send pictures,” and cut off the speaker phone.
“I agree with Levi, Derek. I think you made a wise decision,
but I’m surprised you haven’t called Wolf.”
“Jeremy, I’ve been thinking about that and to be honest, I
don’t know what I have to talk with him about. Since I have been here I have
spend more time alone than I have in years -- ever. The country is conducive
to thinking. I’m spending more and more time on horseback and Sundancer
knows more about where we’re going than I do, so I can think. I know I loved
Wolf and I don’t regret a moment spent with him, but to be honest, I can see
no way we can be together. Our aims, our goals, our values are so different.
The only thing keeping you and me apart was our sexuality. That’s a biggie,
but when I am honest, the only thing that held Wolf and me together was our
sexuality and as I have said time and again, I am a man who is gay, not a
gay who is a man. Make sense?”
“Of course, but I’m sure there was more than that involved in
“You’re right but, Jeremy, you and I could talk for several
more hours. I can think of little to talk to Wolf about other than his
“I will,” I said and meant it.
Kathryn suggested we go shopping and we did. I’m not your
typical -- if such exists -- gay shopper, but I did enjoy spending a couple
We found a movie we’d like to see and made reservations for
dinner at 7:00 to catch the last showing of the film. Kathryn said she was
taking a nap and I spent the time selecting photos and notating them. Before
I finished I had almost a hundred. I posted them on a photo sharing site and
sent emails telling people how to find them. It was quarter of six when I
finished and I, too, lay down for a nap. Kathryn called me at a 6:30 and I
took another shower -- I was taking advantage of water while I had an
opportunity -- and dressed.
Kathryn had picked a really nice restaurant and both the food
and service was exceptional. The only thing missing was a handsome gay
waiter to flirt with. Needless to say, yours truly was pretty horny in spite
of having taken care of business in the shower.
After the movie, we went back to the hotel and Kathryn
ordered sandwiches and beer. Both were good and we were pretty relaxed. I
should have known the question was coming, but when it did, I was
blindsided, “How’s Wolf and how’s his internship going?” Kathryn asked as
she poured us another beer.
I stuttered and stammered before I got out, “I don’t know. I
haven’t talked to him.
“Kathryn, I can’t think of anything we have to talk about. I
talked to my dads and Mom for over an hour and to Jeremy and Levi -- I’ll
tell you later,” I said when she looked puzzled and I realized those were
just names to her -- for an hour as well, but they were interested in what I
was doing. I’m not sure Wolf will be or that I am ready to learn that.” I
then told her who Levi and Jeremy were and how we were friends and really
cared about what the others were doing and thinking. I also told her how I
thought my relationship with Wolf was the reverse of my relationship with
“Your assumptions may be correct, Derek, but you owe it to
Wolf and yourself to resolve any doubt either of you might have. Call him.
It’s 11:30 here, so it 1:30 in Atlanta. It’s Saturday night, so I doubt he’s
been asleep long even if he is in bed.” With those words of advise, she said
goodnight and went to her bedroom.
Reluctantly I opened my cell phone, put it down, poured the
last beer and drank it before dialing Wolf’s number. “Wolf Lancaster, CNN
intern, I’m not available now. Please leave your name and number and I’ll
call back. Ciao.”
“Wolf, Derek. I’m in Page and have cell service. I’ll be here
until mid-morning tomorrow. You have my number.” As I closed the phone, I
laughed. Wolf was likely out living it up at 1:30 in the morning and it was
11:30 in Page and well after my bedtime. I had learned quickly early to bed,
early to rise might not do any thing for my physical well-being, financial
status or wisdom, but it sure saved hauling in gasoline for the generator
which provided electricity for the house and clinic.
I undressed, crawled into bed and thought about the evening.
I had talked to friends. That set me to thinking about my relationship to
Wolf. Jeremy and I had been and were friends. I was closer to him than
anyone else in my life, including my dads. Would that have been true had he
been gay and we didn’t have our sexuality setting bounds around our
relationship? I wondered. Levi and I had gone much further sexually that had
Jeremy and I, but that happened only after we were friends. Jeremy was my
very best friend, even closer than DeAgelo. Levi and I were not as close as
Jeremy and I, but still very, very close. Philip was a good friend,
definitely not as close as Levi -- even if the sexual part of my and Levi’s
relationship is ignored -- but a good, solid friend. It was in the back of
my mind and I was hiding from it, but it finally bit me in the ass.
Regardless of what relationship I had with Wolf, we were not friends, not in
the sense that Jeremy and Levi were my friends and maybe not even as close
friends as Philip and I.
I dozed off, only to be awakened by an annoying noise. It
took me a minute or two to realize it was my phone. In the month I hadn’t
heard it, I had forgotten the sound. As I flipped it open, I saw Wolf’s name
and noticed it was almost 2:00, almost 4:00 in Atlanta. “Wolf, what are you
doing up so early?” I asked in amazement.
“Easy, having breakfast before going to bed. We haven’t been
to bed yet. Derek, this is one partying city. We...”
“Ricky, David, Michael and Skip. Skip is team leader for my
team of interns.”
“No women interns?”
“Of course and there are other interns as well, but we are
“Yeah, you know, gay. We spend a lot of time together, a lot
of time. Anyway we started out at Skip’s with drinks and dinner, then went
to a gay club and stayed until it got boring, then went to another and so
on. I’ve just got back home. Why haven’t you called or emailed me? I feel
“Well, it doesn’t sound as if you are being neglected, but to
answer your question, I do not have access to a phone or the internet. We do
have satellite TV, but we go to bed early since we only have electricity
from a generator and we have to haul gasoline fifteen miles to run it.
Easier just to take advantage of natural light and not worry about phones or
the internet. I did upload a pile of photos this afternoon. This is the
first time I have been into town where I had access to phone or internet.”
“Sounds boring. Well, I can tell you nothing’s boring here. I
mean, my internship is okay. I’m learning something, but mostly I’m a gofer,
but I’m only on duty from 9:00 until 5:00. The evenings and nights are free.
I get to rub elbows with famous people and am making some good contacts for
the future. I’ve got two more weeks here before I go to New York. I’m
looking into transferring into Columbia School of Journalism and Mass
Communications. A couple of important people here think I have what it takes
to get in.” Wolf talked non-stop for the next twenty minutes about what he
was doing, how many parties he as invited to, how he had spent the night
several nights with one of the ‘family’. He explained that all they did was
suck each other off, but that he was really horny. He more than hinted about
some drug experimentation. After another ten minutes, I realized that we had
not, indeed, been friends and I hardly knew him if he was who he said he
Finally I had heard enough and asked, “Wolf, are we friends?”