Chapter XIII. Of Housekeeping in Zuñi, and how Zuñi Dick Helped Us to Buy Meat


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AT Zuñi temporary sojourners have the choice of three ways of existence. The Government school may take you to board, but as it is not a boarding-house, that is not to be counted on. Almost any Indian family would harbour you—the Zuñis not yet having been civilised out of the primitive virtue of hospitality—but unless the ways of civilised life rest as lightly upon you as they did upon Cushing, you would not stomach that. The third way is to hire a room (the missionary may accommodate you) and board yourself. We did that and prospered. The Indian trader will provide most of the necessaries of life at rates as a rule not exceeding one or two hundred per cent. over the prices of civilisation—he must live—and some luxuries may be had from Gallup, forty-five miles away, when a team


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comes thence. Fresh meat is to be had of the Indians, as also eggs. As two sparrows in Biblical times were sold for a farthing, so it is the unwritten law of Zuñi that three eggs sell for a nickel. Thus forewarned and provided with a borrowed egg which, held up, should make known our need, for we talked no Zuñi and few Zuñis speak English, we had no trouble.

The quest of meat proved a more serious matter, and we decided to call on Dick for assistance. He was not at home when we knocked at his door, but his wife smilingly gave us seats, made some matter-of-fact remark in Zuñi, and went on dyeing wool. We sat expectant for three quarters of an hour; then, our Caucasian impatience getting the better of us and the sun being low, we said goodby and left. Two corners away we found Dick passing the time of day with a neighbour.

‘‘You want sheep meat or cow?’’ he asked.

If sheep meat was not goat, we should like that, we thought.

Dick meditated, then said: ‘‘You come—mebbe some Zuñi man he have cow meat—I dunno—we see.’’

We filed across the great plaza, through a black,


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covered passage into the little north plaza, clamorous with dogs all atongue at our intrusion, then zigzag by one lane and another till we were lost. The evening fires were gleaming in the houses, and through doors ajar we could hear the pleasant voices of the inmates gathered about their suppers. It occurred to us then that, though we had been three days in Zuñi, we had not heard a cross word spoken by man or woman, or seen a child harshly treated. After a stay of seven weeks, we could say the same. The gods of Zuñi have no ear for rough speakers.

Dick knocked at a door and we all entered. A murmur of welcome greeted us, and an elderly Zuñi man alertly came forward and shook hands. In the dim twilight we could distinguish seven or eight people in the room, collected about a little cook-stove in the centre. Our host set three stools for us.

‘‘Long time ago, same as 'Melican sit-down chai's,’’ explained Dick.

A few minutes' decorous silence and then all the Zuñis joined in a leisurely conversation; now and then a cigarette was lighted and enjoyed, and there was an occasional musical laugh at some


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witticism of Dick's, who seemed to be a humourist. Through a window we saw the moon beginning to flood the street with radiance and so far as we could judge the meat was as far from us as ever. By and by, three cups and a pot of coffee, a pan of meat, and a basket of bread were placed on the floor in front of us.

‘‘You eat,’’ said Dick, ‘‘it no cost you nossing.’’

Then more talk, and finally our host went to an inner room and reappeared with a foreleg of beef, which he deposited upon the floor.

‘‘You want 'im meat,’’ said Dick, ‘‘you take.’’

‘‘How much for fifty cents?’’ we asked.

‘‘I dunno,’’ said Dick; ‘‘you got scales? Mebbe you weigh some.’’

We explained that we did not carry a butchering outfit in our pockets, and they must cut off fifty cents' worth. Whereupon a saw and an axe were brought, and with these and the assistance of most assembled, a piece was hacked off and placed in our hands au naturel.

We tendered our benefactor half a dollar. He glanced at it and said something in Zuñi. We looked appealingly at Dick.

‘‘He say seventy-five cents.’’


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‘‘But we ordered only fifty cents' worth.’’

Another outburst of Zuñi, and then Dick observed, as though shedding new light upon the subject:

"He say seventy-five cents."

"But we only ordered fifty cents' worth. Tell him to throw in a soup-bone and we will give sixty cents."

And on this basis the negotiation was concluded with a handshake all around.

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter XII. Of Zuñi in the Rain, and of Zuñi Dick Next: Chapter XIV. Of Sa-wi-etsi-tsita, how She Made Us Jars; and Somewhat of Zuñi Babies




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