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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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A day in the life of a cliff-dwelling boy

It is a sunny warm day as most are in what we call Arizona today, but it is a day several centuries ago before the European invasion (not the Beatles) took place. The area is rocky, but we see corn, beans, and other field plants. There are cliffs bordering the fields and a stream flowing calmly, not like it had several days ago during monsoons. 

A boy about ten years old, almost a man, is sitting on a cliff watching the men returning from a hunt with a couple of mule deer. The boy knew he had to go down and help dress the deer for smoking. That would keep the meat from rotting for weeks. Everyone had to do tribal work. Laziness meant you did not eat. 

Yapai moved down three levels from the adobe floors built high on the cliff face. The way down was navigated on long ladders some 3-5 stories up. All around were children playing and hanging off the cliff’s edge to catch a cool breeze. Women were grinding corn for the next meal and nursing babies. 

Clothing was light and made out of skins and cloth that was traded for over the last year. Yapai’s tribe had lived here all his life. The elders spoke of times the tribe had moved many times in stories told at dark at a blazing fire. But, elders cautioned, we have been here too long, and many bad things will befall them if they did not move on. Yapai did feel the yen to find new places and see new people.

Yapai finished the deer and began to start the smoke den to hang the meat. After starting the smoke den for the deer, he could go swimming and cool off. He was also looking forward to tonight’s stories that his grandfather would tell. 

His mother called from the fourth level of the cliff adobe, “Yapai, come mind your sister while I cook.” That was women’s work! He moved very slowly as maybe his older sister would do what his mother wanted. 

Finally, with a full belly, Yapai went swimming. Several of the boys and girls enjoyed the cool stream. 

He had other things to do before dark, stoke the smoke den, gather wood for the night fire, pick field crops, and more. 

When he climbed the cliffs to his home on the second level, he looked across the wide valley to mountains that caught lightning bolts. There were adventures there beyond those mountains; maybe grandfather would tell tales when the tribe was someplace mysterious with strange events and peoples. 

The tales told tonight were sailing through his head as he lay down on his softened deer skin bed on the rock floor. As Yapai moved into the sleep world, he started a whole new adventure of his own. 

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Stan Washington
Stan Washington, Contributing Writer
Stan Washington is a contributing writer for Cape Fear Voices.

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