Vacating the Premises – A Vanishing Act

The mountain I used to prospect for several years is covered with ruins wherever there is water.  Big ruins.   I used to sit on one near my camp and try to imagine what it must have been like.

One summer solstice afternoon I was sitting on the cliff boundary of the ruin watching the sunset.  In the basin below there’s a volcanic knob out toward the center of the plains.   I’d discovered a single kiva on top of it years before and puzzled over it vaguely.  What was that kiva doing there, miles away from the big houses?

But because that day happened to be solstice, I suddenly noticed when the sun went down, it vanished directly behind the point of that Kiva knob!  Yon damned Mogollons used it to mark summer solstice!

A place like that fires the imagination, and I spent a lot of time thinking of those people who lived in that ruin. Some of these groups had evidently been in the same locations for 300-400 years, and suddenly their government leaders decided they had to leave.  Politicians, or priests, or both, deciding what was best for them.

One day they  just left.  I’ve always thought it was because of that grim civil war nobody knows anything about that happened among them around the time these ruins were abandoned.  Bashing in the heads of anyone who didn’t agree to migrating.

They probably watched and even hosted strings of these travellers along the trail until their own turn came.

What a thing it must have been to be one of them on that last day, saying good bye to the place your great-grand-dad, your granddad, your dad, and everyone else as far back as anyone could remember, including you were all born, lived, and mostly died.

Everyone voluntarily packed a few belongings, a medicine bag and blanket or two, a stone hatchet and a few scrapers, and left, leaving corn in the bin for those coming behind.  Abandoned pots lying around all over the place measured the things they couldn’t carry.

Sometimes sitting on that mountain early in the morning it sort of overwhelmed me, the pain and sorrow in those villagers.  Probably they all left in the morning one day, after a while of maybe being notified it was their turn.  A few weeks of  planning.  What to take?  What to leave behind.

Finally they probably finished the last minute packing the night before.  At dawn they made a line down the basin heading south, looking back over their shoulders as long as they could, feeling so sad.  Knowing they’d never go home again, wondering about the place they were going.

Remembering how it was playing on the mountain with their grandads when they were  kids, remembering the special, secret places kids always have.  Just looking and yearning to stay, and already missing that long home where their ancestors had roamed for 2000 years.

They’d have tried to keep it in sight as long as they could, each one stopping to wipe the trail dust off his face, pretending to catch his breaths.  But yearning back at the old home place, piercing the heat waves with their eyes, straining to see it one last time, maybe crying, certainly crying inside.  The kids probably screeching enough to cover everyone elses grief.

As they trekked south they were joined by other groups from the neighboring villages.  The dust rose on the trail making a plume, a cloud around them.  They examined these strangers who were now trail mates and wondered who they were.

Some, they probably soon discovered had a mother-in-law, or uncle who came from their village.  They got to know one another better there on that hot, sad, lonesome trail away from all they they’d ever known, and they shared the hardships of the journey together for a long time.

Today, it’s just piles of rock, potsherds, holes left by scholars and other diggers for spoils.  The land still falls off across Johnson Basin, sun going down over that volcanic nub that once measured the time to plant.  Cow men ride their motorized hosses across the old trails, cows stomp around looking for grass, making the pottery fragments even smaller.

But sometimes late at night when the wind howls down the mountain a man might hear, or think he hears an echo of the chants, the drums, the night mumbles and whispers of lovers, the ghosts of lovers.  Pulls the bag tighter around his ears and wonders.

Old Jules


Today on Ask Old Jules:  What is Forgiveness?


24 responses to “Vacating the Premises – A Vanishing Act

  1. You are a very deep well, Jules. Thanks for sharing this vision.

  2. I’ve spent many, many days sitting among ruins, wondering the very same things, imagining their lives and their leaving. These are wonderful places to look at the history of humans and their wanderings. I’ve always loved looking out of an alcove at the same scene they did hundreds of years before, trying to feel what they might have felt as they sat in that very place. Those are times for which I’m very grateful. Not much finer. Thanks for sharing your own thoughts around their history.

    • Teresa Evangeline: Good morning or whatever to you. I’m obliged you stopped by. I suppose they probably just felt the way people do when they’re plodding through life. Their arrow points got smaller as time wore on, whereas ours have gotten bigger. Gracias, Jules

  3. The wannabe Rihanna’s and the equivalent males should read pieces like this. They won’t of course. There’s nobody out there and it does not take long for the imagination to start. We’re nothing but piss ants in time. I wonder when the kids had to stop being kids back then.

  4. Awesome post Jules, I can certainly relate although never seen ruins that old but even the Gold Rush Trail gets my imagination going.

  5. When you sit and imagine touching the same rocks where those ancient people lived, it thrills me. Have always tried to come up with reasons that they would all have had to abandon their dwellings at one time. Even boggles a strange mind like mine! When exploring out West, tried to check out as many of these ancient dwellings as possible. Makes you wonder what their life was like, and thankful for what we have today. Enjoyed your thoughts on the subject.

    • Gypsy Bev: Thanks for the read. They didn’t leave a lot behind to tell the tale of why they left. But those full grain bins tell a lot, seems to me. Gracias, Jules

  6. I found the ruins and reading on them fascinating and even more fascinating how they used the simple rocks to spell out for them the changes.

    • DanIrene: Problem for modern man reading those simple rocks is knowing what they said, which we’re prone to thinking we do without much evidence we’re right. Gracias, J

      • so true. I think that they ones studying it can only assume because points of nature line up with it that this is the reason.

        • DanIrene: I suppose so. The ones who assume it definitely think so. If someone who assumes it can give me an explanation I can understand about why the people on that mountain left their homes I’d feel better about believing something they assume is written on rocks. Similar to the Mayan calendar in a sense. If someone can explain to me how the people who made the calendar could make a virtue out of ripping the still-beating hearts out of a few hundred people at regular intervals, I’d be more inclined to believe the person explaining it had some understanding of whatever else the heart-rippers had to say. Thanks for the visit. Jules

  7. Reblogged this on Becoming is Superior to Being and commented:
    We are still trying to discover why some of the ancients disappeared.

    • kenneturner: Nice seeing you this morning. I expect we’ll never discover most of it. I figure those particular ones went to Mexico, but they might be working in call centers in Kamchatka for all I know. Gracias, Jules

  8. Ya knowbody knows how many times our tracks have crisscrossed the land thanks Jules that is very beutiful.


    • Hi Keith: There was that ruin below the claims, but I think you were with me exploring the one north at brush springs, too. Longish time ago and memories fade I reckons. Good to see you reading. Gracias, J

  10. Ancient ruins of the Pueblo’s, perhaps Anasazi?

    • Lindy Lee: Mogollon ruins, I believe. This one’s documented, whereas most in the immediate area aren’t. Academics dug this one during the 1950s, hauled off a lot to some University in the Eastern US. The others have only been dug by pot-holers, mostly, and folks burying recent homicide victims described in another post. Gracias, Jules

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