OUTSIDER | JONATHAN GREYWOLF ~ Jonathan’s father—Sundown Greywolf—was born in a goldmine—literally. His father and mother, Awena and Wenona, both worked as cyanide leach field experts at a large gold mine near the Mojave Preserve. Before their son was born, they purchased a hard rock gold and silver mine to work in their spare time. When a pandemic struck in the early twenties, their jobs were suspended, so they hunkered down in makeshift living quarters inside the mine. Their baby was nearly a month old before he ever saw the light of day. They couldn’t settle on a name, so they called him Ashkii—Navajo for ‘boy.’
Gold prices were good, but times were bad. More than once, the Greywolf’s had to fire a warning shot at claim jumpers. A massive earthquake collapsed one of their tunnels. Many times, they considered moving to Awena’s family home in the Navajo Nation. But Awena had just hit a good pay streak. At eleven years old, Ashkii could move a lot of ore. With all three of them working, they could strike it rich.
They didn’t act fast enough. Earth cracks and landslides destroyed their only path of retreat, the I-15 freeway. They had no way to move the ore, and the mine became too unstable to work. With the sun setting on all of their hopes, they finally gave their boy the name Sundown.
It took them weeks to secure the mine and pack up their belongings. They drove to Baker, planning to stay there until the government repaired the freeway. It was a ghost town. Buildings were boarded up; power was shut down, there was nothing left. They found evacuation notices posted in a number of places. It gave a phone number and e-mail address to contact the authorities. They didn’t own a computer and had no signal on their cell phone. Wenona held Sundown close and wept.
They discovered why all of the vehicles were gone. A notice showed where to go for military assistance to cross the earth cracks. They went there but only found a lot of tire tracks. They returned to Baker and broke into a few businesses, but no supplies had been left. Disheartened, they drove back to their mine site.
Awena tossed and turned that night. Their food supplies would last a couple months, but after a few weeks, it would be pretty boring. Edible food was not in abundance in the Mojave Desert. His family in Arizona wouldn’t be concerned about them for months. Where can I turn for help? Then he remembered seeing something on one of his backroad trips through the Mojave. An orchard. What are those people growing in that orchard?
The next morning, he searched his maps. He drove to where he remembered the orchard to be with a wife and son who refused to stay behind. He expected to find more abandoned buildings. He found a thriving community that called itself ArcPoint. They were welcomed with open arms and given a tiny house to stay in.
ArcPoint had no means—and no desire—to contact someone outside of the Mojave. But they worked with Awena to devise a plan. In three months was the annual family reunion at his wife’s parents’ home. Awena and his family never missed it. This year they would, which would lead to talk, an investigation, and eventually a search of their mine site. Awena erected a sign at the site that read ‘Will Return Soon’. That was for claim jumpers. Below that, in the Navajo language, were instructions on how to find them at ArcPoint.
A full month after the reunion, a helicopter dropped a message in the ArcPoint compound. The time had come for the Greywolf family to leave. They almost didn’t. But mining was all the family knew, and that would no longer happen in the Mojave.
Sundown never forgot that place. He became close friends with young Leeland Franklin
and learned a lot from his father, Lee Senior. He vowed someday to return. Years later, he taught his son Jonathan the tricks of the mining trade. He told him of the traditions of the Navajo Nation. And he recounted many stories about an oasis in the desert filled with God’s people.