Saturday, November 26, 2011


Chaps are a leg covering worn by cowboys to protect their legs when riding through brush, for warmth, and to get a better grip on the saddle. They are usually made of leather, the cowboy ones anyway, sometimes smooth finished, sometimes rough. Sometimes worn by non-cowboys as part of a costume, sometimes worn by motorcycle riders for basically the same reasons cowboys wear them. Cowboy chaps come in two main varieties—batwing and shotgun. Shotgun chaps are sort of like a stove pipe: they cover the legs all the way around and close by a zipper that runs the length of the leg. Both types are attached permanently to a belt from which the leg coverings hang. Batwing chaps are basically open on the back, closing at the back of the thigh with a couple of clasps. Batwings are cooler and are easier for the cowboy to move around in while wearing them. Occasionally you will see a pair of chaps with the wool or hair still on them-usually shotguns-more common in the northwest.The top photo is of new chaps hanging in a tack store.

Chaps for me were very utilitarian. Mine were rough leather, undyed, batwings. The photo above shows me cutting wearing these chaps. Very useful in rough, brushy country. Everything in the southwest has thorns or needles on it. One day I rode in some brush without chaps and came back with thorns buried on the inside of my legs at the knees. I think one of the thorns is still in there. Cowboys are slow learners, but I didn't make that mistake again. Anyway, after cowboying for awhile my chaps had a mixture of my sweat, horse sweat, cow sweat, cow blood, cow urine, cow poop, thorns, and whatever else I had come in contact with on them. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Ralph Lauren was marketing a men's cologne called Chaps. $45 for 1.8, thank you very much.

Well I'm sorry but if I wandered into the house wearing my working boots and chaps I would be thrown out so fast it would make my head swim. Even if I left the boots outside. How do they make this stuff? Take old chaps and boil them down? Or do they make an alcohol extract of old chaps. Eau de chaps! Umm, boy, that must smell good! I wonder what odor extracts best—the urine, the sweat or the manure? Maybe the cow's blood. I can hardly wait to throw a little of this on me and slip up alongside my honey and give her a little peck on the cheek. I'd be taking my meals with the horses in the barn and sleeping in the hay for a week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Canyon de Chelly

The photo above is an iconic image of Canyon de Chelly with Navajos riding on horseback,taken by Edward S.Curtis in 1904.

Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument located in northeastern Arizona, headquartered at Chinle. It is on the Navajo Reservation and is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the tribe. There are actually two large canyons in the park which come together just before Chinle. Chinle means “place where the water runs out of the rock” in Navajo. “Chelly” is a bastardization of the Navajo word “tsegi” which means “rock canyon”; it is pronounced “shay”. The major south canyon is called de Chelly and the major north canyon is called Canyon del Muerte, named by the Spanish. To enter the canyon you go east of Chinle into the wash formed when the canyons come together. To enter the canyon you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide. There are two rim roads (North and South) which provide overlooks, anywhere from 600 to over 1000 feet above the canyon floor; no guide is needed for these drives. The canyon floor is about 5500 feet in elevation. The photo below shows Gnorbert reunited with his foster parents at an overlook on the North rim drive.

Thunderbird Lodge, which is owned by the tribe, as well as being a good place to stay and eat, provides guided half and full day tours. These are called “Shake and Bake” tours. The vehicle looks like an Army 2 ½ ton truck, open bed, with bus seats provided. On the full day tour lunch is provided. I highly recommend a full day tour.
Shake and bake truck shown below.

Canyon de Chelly has been inhabited for almost 2000 years. The Anasazi inhabited it from about 300 AD until around 1200 AD, followed by the Hopi and then the Navajo. There are still some Navajos who occupy parts of the canyon, farming and grazing some sheep, goats, cattle and horses. There a number of Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs and Navajo hogans.

The photo below is of First Ruin-so called because it is the first Anasazi ruin you come to driving up the canyon floor.

The next photo is typical of the canyons. A beautiful place.

Antelope ruin, another Anasazi ruin, is shown below. The pictograph associated with this ruin is shown in the next photo. The antelope was painted by a Navajo artist approximately 1864.

The next photo shows a Navajo hogan with some pictographs on the rock wall of the canyon. The cow is a Navajo painting.

The next photo is of White House ruin, called this because of the white ruin at the top. It is Anasazi.

The photo below shows a natural window or arch on the left side of the canyon. It is called appropriately Window Rock. This is not the Window Rock that is the seat of Navajo tribal government.

Spider Rock, shown below, is as far up the south canyon as the tour goes. It is sacred to the Navajos. It is here that Spider Woman taught the Navajos how to weave.

Finally, as we were heading out of the canyon, here was this yellow horse under a yellow cottonwood tree.