After fueling up and getting another refill on some much needed coffee, Sonny Ray got back on I-10.
Nikko and Raye slept quietly as they headed out of Phoenix. This gave him some time to try to figure out who this guy was, and want he wanted. Sonny Ray recalled as a little boy going on a trip from Ohio to either upstate New York or Pennsylvania. His father had taken the family to meet some of his people. Wendell’s children were received with a polite indifference, which was for Sonny Ray, some of his earliest memories of the less than subtle niceties of those with skin lighter than grey. Sonny Ray had no memory of who he met, or even what did while there. So if he had an relative that he didn’t know about, he certainly could not recall him from this particular stanza. The questions began to pour out from his mind. If he did have an uncle why did his father never make mention of him? How did this old man know who I was? Sonny Ray was determined to get some answers.
Dwayne answered the phone on the forth ring. He had run back to the house from the back part of his property. He was slightly out of breath as he picked up the phone. “Hello?” “Uh, hi my name is Sonny Ray Willetto, and I received a message from a Cyrus who said I could reach him at this number. Are you Cyrus?” “Hi Sonny Ray, no my name is Dwayne Notah. I’m a family friend of Cyrus. I know your wondering what this is all about, but if you just hear the old man out, I think you’ll soon see why he contacted you. There was a slight uneasiness in Sonny Ray’s deportment. The two men spoke for several more minutes. As a result of their continued conversation, Dwayne asked for and received the cross streets where Sonny Ray was waiting. Dwayne gave a brief description of himself and his jeep trying to allay any reservations Sonny Ray might have about meeting him. After hanging up Sonny Ray went into the little mom and pops store to get the girls something to drink. They had had both fully awakened, and we’re both getting a little excited about the whole situation. “So what is this guy’s name?” Nikko asked, opening her cold drink. “He said Dwayne Notah.”
Dwayne stepped off the porch and walked out into the small clearing amongst the ponderosa pines of his mountain home. Cyrus was feeding the black eagle when Dwayne approached him from the back.
“So Sonny Ray finally showed up did he?” Dwayne had to smile.
“How did you know it was him?” Dwayne asked beaming. “A big bird whispered in my ear,” the old man replied with a bearing that Dwayne had grown accustomed to. “Now go pick up Sonny Ray, and if you would, pickup my favorite flour so I can make some fry bread tonight.” Dwayne was about to reply but just shook his head, smiling as he walked away.
Sonny Ray and Nikko leaned side by side against their car. Little Raye leaned against her mother sipping her drink. Dwayne said he would be there in fifteen minutes or less. A police cruiser exited the highway, and pulled into the parking lot of the little convenience store. Officer Bob Fritz parked a couple of lanes over from the suspicious couple. Officer Bob looked over at the young family, smirking at them as he approached the front door of the market. Sonny Ray had not noticed his arrival. It was a gorgeous day, the air fresh, cold and crisp. The young family was observing the San Francisco Peaks. Sonny Ray felt someone’s eyes on him. He turned slowly, casually.
“Excuse me boy, would you mind telling me what in the hell are you doing?” Officer Bob asked. Sonny Ray was caught slightly unawares. His first emotion was reactionary, but he knew his family was more important than over reacting to a typical, and arrogant law enforcement type. Nikko had picked up Raye and stepped onto the sidewalk giving her and her daughter some space in case things got out of hand. “What is it you want officer?” Sonny Ray’s voice was flat. “What I want Indian, is for you and your colored girlfriend there, and your brat, to get in your car and get the hell out of my town.” Sonny Ray looked at officer Bob with gleaming eyes. “We appreciate the small town welcome, but we should be on the road and out of your friendly little town shortly.” Officer Bob snorted and was about to continue his verbal assault when Sonny Ray continued. “First of all I am not American Indian, but native hawaiian , and second of all my wife is not colored but more of a cocoa brown,” Sonny Ray was doing his best to play it straight.
“Harwaiian my ass,” officer Bob said sarcastically. “I watch reruns of Harwaii five-o all the time, and you don’t look like nothing that black ass Kona.”
Sonny Ray stared at the officer in disbelief. He started to look around for a large van. Was he being punked? Sonny Ray knew that many white folks we’re culturally clueless, but damn. “Kono was the characters name, not Kona. Kona is a town on the big island,” Sonny Ray replied, trying not to laugh.
“Well now, all I know is that you kind of resemble the local injuns in this area, and it is my duty to keep safe all the law abiding folk in these parts.”
“Okay you found me out I am, and so is he!” Sonny Ray said, pointing to a man pulling up in a jeep. Officer Bob turned in the direction of the vehicle to see who was approaching. A call came across his hand held radio. He turned away for a moment. “Watch your ass boy.” Officer Bob jumped in his rig, tires screeching as he disappeared down the street. Sonny Ray motioned for his wife to get in the car. This trip was about to get cut short.
“You alright babe?”
“We’re fine,” Nikko replied.
“Sonny Ray?” A voice called from behind. Sonny Ray turned in the direction of the voice. “Are you Sonny Ray?” Dwayne asked politely. “I am. Are you Dwayne?” Dwayne introduced himself and the two men shook hands. Sonny Ray then introduced his family. “I see you just met the local calvary,” Dwayne stated. “Strange little man,” Sonny Ray said, a little more relaxed now. “Well after that warm Antelope Springs welcome I’m thinking we should be on our way.” Dwayne always tried to remain positive in every situation. Dwayne waited for Sonny Ray and family to load up, and then they were off.
The old man put more wood in his stove. He loved cooking outdoors. Dwayne had surprised Cyrus with this huge 1800’s wood stove. Dwayne found it in Gallup, when he was returning home after buying a beautiful bay horse from an old cowboy down in Austin. Dwayne saw the stove sitting on the end of a loading dock of an old and well worn general feed store. They hammered out a price and the employees even helped him load it on the stock trailer he had. He only had one horse to haul, so there was plenty of room. It had taken five of Dwayne’s friends to help place it in the clearing near a small stream. As Cyrus waited for his guests to arrive, he sat in a chair near a fire pit that Dwayne had built. Dwayne had started a fire in the pit before leaving to meet with Sonny Ray.
Cyrus knew that his son was not going to believe him. He had shrewdly retained all correspondence with Sonny Ray’s mother, and a few photographs he had managed to hang on to.
Still, he would be starting this conversation with a complete stranger, and Cyrus knew he would have to address a few things.
Dwayne pulled into his long, and narrow driveway with Sonny Ray and family close behind. It was lunch time and Cyrus hoped they had an appetite. Dwayne closed the door of his jeep and walked back to the slightly uneasy family. “I believe Cyrus is out cooking us some lunch,” Dwayne said trying to sound upbeat. They followed him around back, going through a small wooden gate. It was heavily wooded, but Dwayne had worked hard last summer to create a space that would be functional, but not overly invasive to the natural surroundings. Flames flickered upward as the smell of mesquite permeated the area. The small group approached quietly as Cyrus was turning some of the meat over on the stove. “Cyrus,” Dwayne called out, so as not to startle the old man. Cyrus turned and gazed upon the small family. He smiled politely and looked intently at Sonny Ray.
Sonny Ray met his gaze, a question mark fluttering between his eyes and the eyes of this stranger. It was a quiet introduction, but not an awkward one. Sonny Ray extended his hand, and as he did the old man stepped forward and enveloped the young man with a firm and kind embrace. Sonny Ray reciprocated and embraced the old man as well. They both stepped back and looked at each other. Cyrus towered over the young man yet his warmth was felt, as it radiated like the flames within the belly of the stove.
“Mommy that man is tall and he is really brown,” little Raye proclaimed. That fact had not escaped Sonny Ray’s notice. The small group looked at Raye. The old man chuckled. Sonny Ray turned quickly, and introduced his wife and daughter. After all the introductions were made, Dwayne invited everyone to sit around the fire pit.
The afternoon went by with easy conservation, and laughter. Cyrus was both happy and relieved to have finally met Sonny Ray. Cyrus knew much had to be accomplished in the next day or two. For now he needed rest. He would sleep, and he would dream. Yes Cyrus would dream as he had every night for as long as he could remember. Dwayne awoke early the next morning and put on a large pot of coffee. The smell of coffee brewing soon began to fill the air. Sonny Ray, like a salmon in search of it’s birthplace, swam down the hall towards the warmth and smell of familiarity. Cyrus made his way on the short trail from the hogan to the back of the house. He ducked down through the doorway as the two men looked up from the table. “Good morning Cyrus,” Dwayne said, reaching for another coffee cup. Dwayne poured a cup of coffee. Cyrus sat down slowly, as Dwayne slid the hot coffee in front of him. Cyrus and Sonny Ray had not yet spoken much to each other. It was however, with a quiet effortlessness that each man moved in, and around each other’s space, and neither felt ill at ease because of it. “So what are your plans today young man?” Cyrus asked Dwayne. “I was going to make a run into town, and go look at a horse, and then pick up some groceries.
Did you need me to pick you up anything?” “No, I don’t think so,” Cyrus replied. “I think I’ll take Sonny Ray with me if you don’t mind.” “That will be fine, it gives me a chance to visit with the two young ladies.” Sonny Ray smiled as the two men prepared to leave. “Dwayne, don’t you stay gone too long. Sonny Ray and I need to get acquainted.” “I won’t Cyrus, promise, Dwayne replied, patting the shoulder of the older man with gentle respect. Cyrus finished his coffee. With the two men headed into town, Cyrus decided to cook a fine breakfast for the two sleeping beauties. The aroma of fresh food cooking soon coaxed the girls to abandon their warm and snug bed. In no time at all, Nikko and Raye were engaged in a delightful conversation with a virtual stranger, who had such a presence and gave the vibe of someone they had known for some time.
Dwayne left the dirt road and turned onto the hard top that would take them right into Antelope Springs. Dwayne and Sonny Ray had talked some, but Dwayne detected that Sonny Ray appeared tired, and was probably reserving some of his questions for Cyrus. After a short drive they arrived at the little mom and pops market. Soon they emerged with a basket full of groceries. Dwayne was supposed to go look at a horse before shopping, but his friend Rocket called. Rocket had forgotten about having to help his uncle round up some cattle on a remote part of the Rez. So they would do it another time. After loading the groceries they headed out of town, and back to the house.
After breakfast Cyrus invited the two ladies to accompany him on his morning walk. They both agreed, and were excited to go. In no time at all they were on the well worn trail. This narrow path had been traveled by Cyrus many times over the years. Today, it was done in health that was surely fading, but with a spirit that soared with unspeakable joy. “Young lady this old man needs to stop for a moment to catch his breath,” Cyrus said. “Of course, little Raye could use a break too,” Nikko replied. She was observant that Cyrus was in a weakened state, but she did not feel it appropriate to question him.
Their rest break was broken by the furious flapping of a low flying bird that had been circling the trio.
The large black eagle seemingly dropped from the sky, like a predatory base jumper. It landed on a stump next to Cyrus, who himself sat resting on a fallen tree. “Oh my goodness,” Nikko said as she instinctively pulled her daughter closer. “Look mommy a eagle,” Raye declared. A smile of approval came across the old man’s face as he observed the little girl. “Can I touch him?” Raye asked, looking to Cyrus for approval. The old man gave a kindly smile and said, “No little one I’m afraid he wouldn’t stand for that, but if you like you can sit with me, and we can look at him together.” Raye nodded in the affirmative, and sat on Cyrus’ lap.
Nikko walked up slowly and stood next to Cyrus. The black eagle watched the two girls attentively, burning their image into it’s memory. “So I take it that this is more than just a casual acquaintance between you and this eagle,” Nikko said. Cyrus looked obligingly at his old companion. “Yes young lady we have been together a long, long time.” Cyrus began to cough. “Are you okay?” Cyrus nodded that he was fine.
“Did you buy him at the store
Mr. Cyrus?” “No Raye we met a long time ago in place called Africa.”
Nikko’s interest was piqued. “It must have cost you a small fortune to ship him here,” Nikko said. Cyrus turned his attention from the eagle. “No young lady it cost me nothing,” Cyrus said, matter of factly. “You must have a good friend working at the airlines then,” Nikko concluded. “No young lady, you see this eagle followed me here,” Cyrus said unobtrusively. “Well, I was curious about that. Where exactly are you from?” “I am from Waipi’o Valley.”
“That’s on the big island of Hawaii right?” Cyrus nodded. “This bird, this eagle followed you from Hawaii to Arizona?” Cyrus nodded once more. “You know I have read stories, and seen the news of cats and dogs getting lost, and finding their way back home, but I must say this is; it’s a bit much,” Nikko said, exasperated. The old man began to get drowsy, and appeared to fall asleep sitting on the log. He opened his eyes after a few moments and smiled sleepily at the little girl who stood quietly nearby. “You know little Raye, I had a dream about you and your mommy.” Cyrus said it in such a way so as not to frighten the little girl. “You did?” Raye said, eyes wide with anticipation. “Was it a good dream Mr. Cyrus?” “Oh yes Raye, a very good dream. Would you like to hear it?” “Oh yes, please, please tell me,” little Raye said, clapping her hands excitedly. “All right then.” Cyrus rubbed his large brown hands together. Placing his hands face down on his thighs, he began to speak. “You and your mommy went shopping, and your mommy bought you a pretty dress. Then she took you for pizza. “I love pizza,” Ray shrieked. “Me too,” Cyrus replied. “Then, you and your mommy walked out of the store, and you looked up and saw something in the sky.
Do you remember little Raye?” Cyrus asked, looking at Nikko.
“Yes I remember,” Raye shrieked again. “It was a big bird, a eagle mommy, Remember mommy?” Nikko’s mouth dropped slightly open, as the hair on the nape of her neck stood on end. Nikko stood there in stunned silence. After gathering herself she told her daughter, “Raye could you play over there for a minute. Mommy needs to talk to Mr. Cyrus, okay honey?” “Sure mommy.” The large black eagle had not moved from Cyrus’ side. The old man sat solemnly, waiting for the questions that would surely come. Nikko composed herself and asked,
“So who are you exactly?” The old man’s head rose slowly, and he started to speak. “My name is
I have searched for my son, I have found him and it is my hope that he will look after my friend here, after I am gone.” “Your son?”