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American History
Chrissey's Lemonade

This was sent in from Donna and was written by John Rustywire at

It was the end of summer and in the next few weeks school was starting. Some of the kids on the rez had to travel many miles away to buy clothes for school. For some there was no money for such things.

There was this one Navajo woman, Chrissy's mother, and she lived a couple of miles off the dirt road across a small arroyo (a canyon) and lived amongst the cedars. Her man had left her some time ago for the city lights and streets of Gallup, finding comfort in the taste of Roma wine and Thunderbird.

She had two girls, Chrissy who was ten and Rowena, nine, who used to play outside during the day and would help their mom chopping wood for her and bringing in buckets of water. Their place was small but warm and happy. Their mother had no work, but she could weave, and there was loom with hand-spun wool sitting by it. The kids had gathered the different plants with their mother over the summer and she had showed them how to smash the small plants in boil a whole bag full to make certain colors, warm browns, reds, and tans, and gray.

hey watched as the men from the local area came to help shear the sheep by hand, with sheep scissors and how Chrissy's mother cleaned and washed the wool. There were big gunnysacks used to store them away and worked on cleaning, carding and spinning the wool by hand while sitting outside in the shade house, called a chaooh. As she did Chrissy and her sister Rowena played around the small area of their home.

There was a corral and the sheep stayed there. The oldest girl and her sister would take the sheep out everyday and knew all the small mesas, and gullies and a long valley they would take the sheep up to
where they watered at the spring.

School was going to start soon and when they walked the four or so miles to the trading post, the Chrissy looked at the posters on the wall talking about registration for school, head start and immunizations. In one corner of the store was the post office really just a cubbyhole with mail in it.

On the side of counter was a trashcan and she saw the trader's wife throw a catalog away, an old Sears. She picked it up and took it home carrying in a gunnysack they brought for food.

When Chrissy got home she stood it out and layer on the bed and looked at all the pictures in there of new clothes, shoes, toys, and toasters, and towels and many things they did not have.

She thought how would it be to have a shower way out here, to set up a tub outside next to the house and have a shower curtain with brass pipes to hold it up and there would be a room to wash in and throw the big towels on the floor.

How would it be to have a big closet with all those shirts, pants and sox of different colors. Chrissy marked the ones she wanted with an X. She took a break every now and sneaked a spoonful of dry cocoa mix from kitchen as a snack.

As school got nearer she realized there was not enough money to buy any new clothes and her sister was going to get her old ones from last year.

The missionaries from the different churches usually had clothes at their churches but this year they did not go anywhere on Sundays because it was too far. To get to church they had to take the sheep out real early and bring them back in, get a dress on and then walk the two miles to the dirt road and then walk to the small Indian community where the churches were 8 miles away. They would walk hoping someone would pick them up who was going that way.

One thing she couldn't understand was why people who went to different churches didn't stop for them, but just drove past. Every once in a while someone would stop and they would get a ride, but sometimes they would go part way and then have to turn around and walk back home. So they quit going. There were no church donated clothes this year for them.

Chrissy just wondered about what they were going to wear, she needed some shoes and was wearing thongs she got in Gallup last year. Her tennis shoes were worn out. She had read a book about a how kids set up lemonade stands to sell lemonade. She told her sister they were going to sell lemonade by the road on Sunday's afternoons.

She found a box and searched everywhere for loose change, a few cents here and there. When she went to the trading post, she asked the trader's wife if she could sweep around the store, but she said no, she didn't need any help.

She went outside and old Morris Natani, the mailman from Newcomb said to her, "You can help me bring in the mail". He was a friendly old man. He asked her why she trying to earn money.

Chrissy told him,  "I have to buy lemonade to make a lemonade stand so I can buy some school clothes".

He said, "Oh, I see..." She pointed back down the road to her place and said, "We are going to put the lemonade stand by the bus stop way up there". He looked that way and could see it.

The trader asked Chrissy how her mother was doing with the rug, she had credit at the store as a down payment for the rug, and it was a Two Gray Hills rug, with blocks and squares. It took a long time to weave one of those, her mother would sit there all day and into the night day after day weaving it one strand at a time. Chrissy said it is more than halfway done. He said ok and gave her a candy, but she traded it and her money for lemonade mix.

Old man Natani just watched this as it was going on looking up the road at the place where the lemonade stand would go. He gave her a ride in the mail truck, he was sort of the way people got back and forth if they could see him, so they could ride to Newcomb and then catch a ride to town.

Chrissy got home and put her lemonade away and brought empty plastic jugs to the spring and filled them up carrying them back to the house for lemonade.

Sunday came, and she carried her water jugs to the dirt road and sat there with her sister Rowena at the base of those two mesas some call Two Gray Hills, and sat there with a sign that said lemonade 25 cents a glass. It was early morning, and she waited for the first customers to come up.

A family drove by, the Nez's and they stopped and asked her what she was doing and when she told them they bought four cups. They said it was first time they had seen a lemonade stand way out there at Two Gray Hills. They were going to the chapter meeting, a community meeting at Two Gray Hills. As she sat there she drew designs, rug designs that she had seen done by her mother on notebook paper she brought. She drew a bunch of designs.

Old Man Natani came by and said, "Let's go down to the chapter house so you can have more people to sell to". 

They left and went to the community building and she sat by the door with her lemonade stand started to sell a few cups here and there. The meeting was about the chapter getting a new water line in from Toadlena, the work would have to be volunteer and many people were there. Chrissy just sat there and drew her rug designs.

In the parking lot a car came with white people sitting in it with California license plates and two kids with red hair got out and walked over to her, while their parents were getting out. The parents had red hair and were talking to some of the people gathered there. She looked at them; it was unusual to see white people out here and with red hair too. Their eyes were reddish brown. They asked her if she was a real Indian girl, she looked at them and said, "Yes". 

"Do you want to buy some lemonade?"

They turned around and ran back to their parents who were coming over with Old Man Natani. Their father had a kind face and said we will buy four lemonades, and she fixed them up. They stood there and watched her as she poured the lemonade from the gallon jugs into solo paper cups. The father stood there and looked at her and saw the notebook with pictures in it. He picked it up and turned the pages. Chrissy hoped he would not take it with him.

Old man Natani, said, Chrissy's mother is a weaver, she makes Navajo rugs with natural dyes, she is well known for her rugs. Since you are looking for one you might want to talk with her.

The man with red hair asked her where her mother was and she said she is at home. Can we go there he said to her, and she just looked at him.

She was going to say it was hard to get to, but Old man Natani said it first. He said we will have to take you there. She didn't want to go because she had lemonade still left but loaded up her stuff in Old
man Natani's truck and they all got in the back leaving the car at the chapter house.

As they drove along the way, the kids talked to her about school, where it was and they learned how far away it was. When they got to the turn off, the road was really bumpy since they didn't have a car; it was not used very much. The red headed family was surprised at how far away it was. They were even more surprised to learn she walked two miles one way to go to school each day.

When they got to the their place, her mother came out of the shade house wondering who Old Man Natani had with him and if something had happened to her girls. The family got out and Old man Natani said they were looking to buy a rug, a genuine Two Gray Hills. Chrissy's mother was embarrassed cuz she didn't have much to offer them, but the went into the shade house to look at the rug on the loom. It was three fourths done, and it was really nice, the design looked like one of Chrissy's drawings. As the father talked with Chrissy's mother, the children looked around and saw the catalog, and looked at it seeing the X marks she had made by the girl's clothes. The mother of the red head kids watched this as she said it was just some things she liked.

After some talking, the family that came went to the truck and talked for a little bit, and then as Old man Natani helped Chrissy put away here lemonade jugs, her mother asked her s she sold some. Chrissy's mother was surprised to see she had six dollars in change from the sale. She didn't tell her mother that she could have sold more, but it was obvious why it did not happen, cuz the people came here with her.

They wanted the rug, and gave her mother a check, a down payment for it so that she could pay her bill at the trading post and buy a few things. Chrissy's mother was trying not to smile but it was there anyway. The father turned to her and told her we are sorry we messed up your lemonade sale today but I put a little something extra in this for you.

When they left, she wanted to see the check her mother got, and wanted to know how much it was for. Her mother told her to get the Sears catalog and they sat at the table with her sister Rowena and she just smiled and laughed as she pulled out the order form and filled it in with all the things Chrissy had put an X by and some things for her sister and her mom too...

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