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Shalako's Keep

279 pages4 hours


I followed a side road, passed by it too many times, couldn’t take it anymore. Never learned how to resist two tire tracks arcing over a rise in the distance and disappearing into the wide open high desert. A half hour of turning and bobbing, losing traction, racing to make it through beds of soft sandy soil only to find the end of the road, blocked by downed tree trunks, with nothing ahead but chest high junipers and an a decline into what must have been a lake at one time. It is flat as could be, backed up to a strange looking flat topped mountain a few hundred feet high. Should have given up then but retraced my route, now seeking the mountain instead, and a few miles down the main road, a real one with pavement and everything, I found another set of tracks and followed.
Later that same day, after crossing a dry creek bed, I’m hiking up the side of the mountain finally reaching the top. It is bigger than I thought, could be a mile long, and flat it is. I can see bigger trees in the distance but this section is mostly dried grass and a few little calf-high bushes. A sudden gust of wind threatens to knock me to the ground, and then it becomes a constant whipping of gusts strong enough to make walking a struggle. I come to some sort of opening in the ground, make my way to it and step down in to get out of the wind. Step down? Yes there are steps, a ring of rocks laid out in encircling rows one after another going down. And lying at the rim are artifacts, ceremonial artifacts of feathers and sticks and agave string. The wind is whining through the grasses and bushes, crying. I’m wondering where I am, feeling strange, and decide to take a couple of pictures and leave. As I cross back the wind just stops.
Not long after that trip a story comes to me, and months after while working on the words I discover by accident where I had been, and that the story is based on reality, a reality I did not know of, didn’t know even after the trip to the top. But I felt it, something strong and connected to the earth and the spirit of the place.

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