Tracking the Election travel blog

Grand Canyon West - Hualapai Reservation

Grand Canyon view

Hualapai Tribe Members

Hualapai tribal dwelling

Guano Point abandoned machinery

Helicopter and Canyon View

Helicopter, Canyon and River View

Mollie revels in the majestic setting

Canyon serenity

The author contemplates


November 4, 2008 – The big day and an Amazing Gift

Hwal`bay means “People of the Tall Pine.” The Hualapai are a small tribe of Native Americans living on a reservation exceeding one million acres along the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. The tribe of about fourteen hundred members lives, mostly, north of our tourist dude ranch. We are here on Election Day for that part of our journalistic endeavor, as explained earlier, to find out peoples reactions to the election. The dude ranch we are staying at features touristy bus rides to the now-famous Skywalk, a glass-like structure extending out over the Canyon that most adults find slightly intimidating or even downright frightful. Most kids have no trouble and enjoy exploiting the fears of their elders by jumping as hard as they can up and down on the structure that is about four thousand vertical feet above the canyon floor.

We begin conversing with a jovial blonde bus driver who spends her days taking tourists back and forth from the dude ranch to the little airport parking lot. Tourists then take another bus to the Skywalk and Guano Point (a vista site with three hundred sixty degree views of the canyon). She regales us with humorous stories about her job. She’s the new kid on the block and hasn’t graduated to driving the Skywalk to Guano Point route.

She’s happy to be in these magnificent surroundings. Every day she sees the splendor of the canyon. The conversation turns serious; I ask for her impression about the election. Nary a response except to say she’s too busy enjoying the grandest of canyons.

After the tourist thing, Skywalk and all, we return to the Hualapai dude ranch, settling in our room. We discover something interesting, this is election day and there is no television, no radio, no phone, nothing in our room to give us a hint about the big election. In addition, there is no cell phone reception. After a two-year prelude to this election and round the clock news coverage, we have ended up in the wilderness. We saunter over to the dinner palace. There we discover no particular interest in the election and no more access to news than we had in our little cabin.

During dinner, we spend about an hour conversing with Richard, a Native American, who works at the dinner palace. He has the most genuine of attitudes and explains a complex tale of a daughter who became suicidal and was taken from her home by Child Protective Services. A long and costly saga began that cost Richard and his wife their home as the County took the residence to pay for the daughter’s medical and psychiatric expenses. The daughter eventually straightened her life out and became a productive health care worker. Richard and his wife of forty years began life anew and are happily into the fifth year of buying a new house near the reservation. He had a brief tangent story about his service in Viet Nam where he was under fire, jumped into a small depression and came face to face with a Cobra. He remained motionless and the Cobra, deciding the threat subsided, slinked away. He had faced death from nature and man and somehow survived. Today Richard is a man thankful of his marriage of forty years and life as it has turned out so far. I admire his perspective.

Next, we meet Clem, a transplanted upper New York State cowboy. He is lean, tough and old-fashioned polite. Clem has been working on the ranch since four days after the Skywalk opened. He is also a poet and promises some examples of his work tomorrow morning (more about that later).

Jack was there too. He is a card shark banned at all Nevada casinos. His stunning, fluid card tricks were obvious proof of the reason for banning him from those casinos.

After dinner, we listened to folk music played into the folds of a peaceful Arizona night. Don’t it make your brown eyes blue, Spirit of New Orleans and other songs brought about plenty of nostalgia amongst the dozen or so tourists.

As the evening darkened towards bedtime, I realize no one had mentioned Democrats or Republicans. No news of the election surfaced. This journalistic quest was becoming a bust. We went to bed ignorant of what must be the most historic presidential election of our lives. We sleep soundly.



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