An Archaic mano, or hand grinding stone, begins its next few thousand years in the sand of a hearth. Time and weather have reduced the charcoal of ancient campfires to a shadow in the soil.
A bear’s footprints, round sole, four fat round toes. We followed them; the bear had broken branches from a juniper to eat the ripe berries. Suddenly Jan said, “There!”
It took a moment to spot it, about five hundred yards away: black, big, ambling and then running away from us, its loose skin every which way, shining in the autumn sun.
On a promontory, a huge Archaic campsite. People had slept in that sandy hollow for millennia, for it was black with firepits, and at times it must have been a trash heap. But Archaic trash, unlike our own, was nothing: the husks of wild grasses scattered by the wind, the femur of a mountain sheep smashed for the marrow, a few human turds.
Halfway down the steep canyonside, irrevocably stuck, abandoned and stripped, was the shell of a vehicle of the species we call a “poodle jeep”: iridescent green, with graphics. Somebody thought that advertisement was real.
Windy. Took shorts, but it was too cold to wear them. We drove way far out in the Ojito and hiked down to the place where there’s scattered white-yellow-green petrified wood, below hoodoos among the ponderosas.
Archaic firepits. The crew kept getting ahead of me; I was dogging back and forth, trying to keep them in sight, now and then frantic as the others got farther and farther away and I had to run after them.
Found a large dinosaur bone on the ridge by following its fragments up a wash. It was falling apart; we dug some of the sand away from it, then covered it back up without ever having located both ends. Jan taught us the lick-stick test: If it’s bone, rather than another type of rock like agate or petrified wood, it will stick to your tongue when you lick it. (The porous vesicles left by cells and capillaries wick up the moisture of your tongue.)
Windblown grass draws circles in sand, as in snow.
Oak bushes have brown leaves around their bases, bare grey twigs on top.
Back in Bernalillo we went to Silva’s Saloon, which was full of bikers in leathers, a billiards game in progress. We shared two pitchers, ate Kentucky Flocked chicken and came home happy.
I forgot to say that on an Archaic site on the ridgetop was a broken mano, a hand-grinding stone: pretty, crystalline, red and white and yellow, with a slanted natural edge of white quartzite along one side. The edge made a perfect place for the user of the stone, probably a teenager, to hook her fingers. So I hooked my own fingers there, thinking: After five thousand years–fifty centuries–this stone remembers the grip of a hand.