Chindi and the Scout
Some years ago, maybe ten, I wrote a column about dog prints in adobe. I described how earthen blocks are made in a wooden form, in a yard, often among the company of kids and pets. When the form is lifted a slightly concave profile is given the block. That, of course, would be the "top" during casting and vulnerable to the impressions of passersby. The technical lesson in the article was that the top of the block when cast should become the bottom when laid in the wall, reason being that moisture follows interfaces. The cupped edges of the inverted adobe guide dampness, as it reaches the mortar joints, toward the vertical surface of the wall where it evaporates.
Long before I had figured any of this out, I had met a dog named Chindi who left some footprints in adobes at Pecos National Monument. Chindi was a Yellow Lab mix, smallish and pale even for a blonde dog, and was possessed of delirious energy. The footprints she left were in adobes that were being made to restore part of the historic mission. Her staff were Nancy and Larry Hammack, both archeologists with the Museum of New Mexico.
I am happy to recall that I spent several seasons in the field with Nancy, Larry and Chindi and find myself still mirthful, randomly and unexpectedly, when certain memories of that era recur. Significant to the memory of the dog is that "Chindi" in Athabaskan means ghost.
Once, on a weekend camping trip to Canyon de Chelly during a particularly cold, wet spring when the only dry firewood we could find was in pack-rat nests, Chindi's name took on real significance. After a miserable night we hiked to the bottom of the chasm where we met a flock of sheep being herded by a Navajo family. Chindi did what all good dogs do and, as the sheep scattered, Larry screamed her name while she flitted between beast and rock. The sheep seemed to come back together after a while, but the Navajo family was gone for good -- at least until the ghost-dog was assuredly absent. There was clearly an aversion to the name.
The most memorable event in Chindi's life, from my non-canine point-of-view, occurred in the Gila Wilderness. We were doing highway salvage archeology and one afternoon Larry and Chindi drove the State's tinny, miserable International Scout to Gila Hot Springs for a meeting with the Forest Service. Chindi waited in the vehicle which Larry had parked precariously at the top of a hill without leaving it in gear or with the parking brake engaged.
The wait, I believe, was short before Chindi began the ride of her life. She survived, of course, and was waiting breathlessly for Larry at the top of the hill where the car had been left: Three hundred yards down the canyon the Scout had not quite come to its end. The highway contractor retrieved it with a crane and it saw several additional years' service for the Museum under the hands of veteran archeologist, David Snow.
Chindi moved on many years ago, not by any means having had a dog's life. On the contrary, she left those footprints in mud blocks that are as close to immortal as one can ever hope to be.