Traveling through Navajo country Dwayne would naturally pick up a hitchhiker or two, but with Cyrus laying down in the back of the suburban it would have proved to be a difficult task. Cyrus had
had a pallid complexion for the last few days, so Dwayne knew time was of the essence. Cyrus had managed to eat a small amount of fruit, and some coffee. Other than that he had no desire for food. Dwayne by nature was relatively quiet. However, being a human the strain of Cyrus’ impending death was beginning to show on this young man. Sonny Ray knew that look. “Hey Dwayne.” Dwayne looked in his friends direction. “So what’s the deal with this Shiprock place?” Sonny Ray asked earnestly. Dwayne glanced at Cyrus. In the last several hours a pall began to form under both of the old mans eyes, his face gaunt. “Well first the name of Shiprock in my language is translated, `Tse Bit’A’i’ which means, ‘Rock With Wings.'” Sonny Ray nodded. “Sonny Ray there are numerous other legends and stories, but I will tell you a story that my parents, and grandparents told us from a very young age. Many, many years ago the Navajo were being treated harshly by their enemies. One night, one of the medicine men prayed for intervention in behalf of his people. He prayed to the various deities of the Navajo people. According to the legend, their prayers were heard, and the ground was made to rise, lifting the Navajo up and away to the east, away from their enemies. It settled where Shiprock Peak now stands to this day. It was after a short period of time that the people then decided to live on top of this new mountain. They only came off the mountain to plant their fields, and to get water.” Dwayne maintained a vigil for a dirt road. “For some time the Navajo found themselves at peace, and were prospering in all their hard work. Then one day their was a storm. The men were down in their fields, when something tragic occurred. The trail up the mountain was split off by a powerful lightning strike. As a result of this devastating strike, tons of rock plummeted to the earth. The once familiar trail leading up the mountain was now a sheer cliff, left in it’s place. The women, the children, and the old people, were cut off from returning to those down on the ground. As a result they were stranded to die a slow painful death. Their bodies remained on the mountain. Therefore, because of this legend, the Navajo people do not want anyone to climb Shiprock Peak for fear of stirring up the ch’iidii, or desecrate their remains.” Both men grew quiet. They continued on their quest as Shiprock mountain was beginning to loom large in the distance.
It was a beautiful day, though both Arizona and New Mexico were in the throes of another drought. Dwayne looked at Cyrus through his rear view mirror. “This road is going to get a little bumpy. Hang on Cyrus,” Dwayne said gently. Cyrus raised a hand weakly in the direction of the two young men. Sonny Ray glanced at Cyrus, and then at Dwayne. “So this is it huh?” This is where Cyrus wants to die?” Sonny Ray asked plainly. “Yeah, this is it.” Their eyes met briefly. Dwayne began to decrease his speed as he left the hardtop, and began the journey on this long dusty road. They were to camp at a spot known only to Dwayne and Cyrus. They discovered it when Dwayne was a teenager. They were to camp between Shiprock dike and the mountain itself.
Dwayne always came to this place like a Muslim going to Mecca, or an Apache going to ceremony in Oak Flat, or like a wealthy man checking his financial portfolio. Sacred things were after all, in the eye of the beholder. The Dike was in of itself, breathtaking. You had a sense of what you were not when you stood out here on this land. The two men slowly assisted Cyrus from the vehicle. There was not a stop sign for miles. With the exception of their incidental stir, the noise of modern life was temporarily suspended. This rare quality of silence; was a hushed silence that Sonny Ray had not heard in many years. As they finished unloading their supplies Sonny Ray was beginning to understand why Cyrus would want to come here to die. It was like birth, perhaps even quieter than that. Dwayne had encouraged Cyrus to sleep in the back of the suburban, but the old man insisted on sleeping on the ground. As Cyrus put it, he wanted to feel his mothers breast near to his still beating heart. You could see forever from here. The wind blew periodically, causing little dust devils to swirl, like little tornado wannabe’s. Every so often a big dust devil would form, obscuring a portion of the mountain but for a brief moment in time. Shiprock mountain rose up from the desert floor some, 7,178 feet above sea level.
From their view, you could easily recognize the great wings that spread out over the top of this sublime summit. Perhaps that was why Cyrus really loved coming to this place. Shiprock mountain is a sacred place. The young men had not seen the black eagle since leaving the small canyon they had camped in the night before. It would come though, as it always had. The sun slowly slipped in the sky, and with it the life of Cyrus Keali’iwahamana. The only thing they could do now was to sit and wait. The sun would set in a few hours. And away his spirit would fly.