Leroy, a northern Tiwa, came over and sat beside me on a bench on the Taos city plaza before they removed the jail that plunged beneath the ground on the northwest side. It seemed a dungeon, of sorts, the jail. Could be a Taos County law enforcement kiva? Hey! he said. Hey, back. I read a newspaper. We talked that day. We talked the second day. Jack, can you loan me ten? Yes, I said. It may have been the first day he wanted the ten.
Leroy and I talked the third day, on the plaza before they covered the jail underneath. He said he used to make jewelry, but it bored him and he quit and drank too much. So, he said, I came back here, to the pueblo. More conversation. I was from Amarillo, loved to come up to the mountains, the high-desert country, I confessed.
I liked Leroy. So, I gave him a gift.
Out of my backpack on the third day, I brought out a paleolithic axe I had discovered in an exposed sandbank in the middle of the Canadian River near the Alibates flint quarry in Texas. I had waded across the Canadian River when it was low in the winter to find the 1849 rock cairns of Major Randolph B. Marcy when his survey team mapped a southern transcontinental railroad route. I found Marcy’s cairn. My legs cramped from the freezing, cold water when I waded across the Canadian River and when I came back. The muscle cramps were worth it: I found a rare tool, a paleolithic axe, perfectly formed, grayish-blue. And, I’ve never found such a prize since.
I handed the axe to Leroy. He took it in his hands and then quickly raised it to his cheek and rubbed the Alibates flint axe against his face.
Why the rub against his cheek? He smiled. Ahh! he said.
It’s yours, I said.
All I can remember now is that he said, Ohh.
Then, Leroy: Let me take you to the pueblo and up the mountain, Jack.
We went together up the Taos Mountain that day with his cousins in a blue Volkswagen with sunroof. Towards Blue Lake, towards the sky, towards birch trees all around.