"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"
Taos, New Mexico USA
Bob, my husband, and I have been impressed
when people share their personal accounts of how they came to Frank Waters, a
sharing experienced again last July at his magical Centennial Celebration.
Each time we are deeply touched, feeling a warmly human spiritual
bonding. Whether theirs is a seemingly matter-of-fact recounting or
some life-altering revelation, we are moved by the synchronicity and
significance of Waters in their life journey.
Some name their favorite Waters book and detail its personal impact.
It strikes us that telling and listening to
our stories is a means of participating in a spirit of community around Waters
and his work, however far-flung we may be geographically or how disparate the
story. Thus we have begun to
compile these first-person accounts of how people discovered Frank Waters.
Are you willing to tell your personal Waters
story? Are you interested in
reading the stories of others with whom you share a love of him and his works?
If so, we would like to receive your piece of writing in 2003.
We encourage you simply to write in your own words and in your personal
style whatever you wish to say on this subject.
Your experiences, insights, feelings, and
thoughtful reflections will be a rich addition to this collection.
What attracted you to Waters? Were
you already interested in his subject matter, or are these subjects new and
expansive areas of interest? Has
your life been affected by this experience, and if so, in what ways?
Please send your written sharing to us at
222 Denwood Drive, CO 80816. Include
your name, address, phone, e-mail address if available, and whether you agree to
possible publication by the Frank Waters Foundation on our website (frankwaters.org)
or in this newsletter. You may request that your name not be published.
are the story contributions of Ann Jauregui and Ted Egri.
Warmest wishes for your health, contentment, and enlightenment during
this new year.
Bringing his tale to a close in Pumpkin
Seed Point, Frank Waters spoke of his eagerness to go home to his “little
ranch a mile above the Spanish village of Arroyo Seco and adjoining the Taos
“Home! How wild and beautiful it was!”
he wrote. “A thick-walled adobe set back of a stream in a lawn surrounded by
great cottonwoods and flanked by a grove of aspens.”
Arroyo Seco. That was just up the road from
where we were vacationing, where the pine-forested slopes of the Sangre de
Christo Mountains rise up from the mesa.
Aware of the snow and the silence, I got up
to feel around in the darkened house for a phone book.
Frank Waters couldn’t still be alive. Or,
he’d be very old.
Frank Waters. His name jumped out at me, El
Salto Road, Arroyo Seco. My heart
pounded, and the thought came, “I’ll try to call him in the morning.”
That night, as the snow came down, I
dreamed. I was in the private library of someone’s home, talking with Frank
Waters and a woman who was introduced to me as his fourth wife. She was a
lovely, blonde person, a Jungian psychotherapist whose name seemed to end in an
“a.” Ramona, Barbara.
Books surrounded us, floor to ceiling; the conversation was easy. I could
see Frank, standing tall and slender beside his wife, gesturing as he spoke, and
I could see through him. He was in the
room, and not.
The next morning I sat in front of the phone
for a while. Then I dialed.
“Hello?” a woman’s voice said.
“Hello,” I said, identifying myself.
“Is Frank Waters there?” What was I doing? What made me think …?
“No, Frank died in 1995,” the voice
said, friendly. “At the age of 92.”
“Are you Rose, then?” I asked her. In Pumpkin
Seed Point Waters had spoken of a wife, a woman named Rose.
“No, Rose was Frank’s third wife. I’m
his fourth wife, Barbara.”
“Are you a blonde, Jungian
psychotherapist?” I asked her. Too late to turn back now.
“My practice is Jungian-oriented, and
I’m blonde,” she said, ordinary as buttered toast.
“I’ve been hanging out with the two of
you all night,” I told her. “In a dream. In a library.”
Barbara seemed to be unfazed by this. At
least there was no protest, no hang-up.
I stumbled on. “My husband, John, and I
are visiting here, staying in the house of some friends on the Hondo mesa.
We’re snowed in, and I’ve been reading about Frank living at Hopiland
in Pumpkin Seed Point. I finished it
in front of the fire last night, and I was hoping … I was hoping it wasn’t
too late to thank your husband for this wonderful book.”
“Oh, it isn’t!” she said. “Frank is
here. He’s all over the place. When the weather clears, why don’t you come
The next day the snow was softening in the
sun as we curved into the quaint block-long village of Arroyo Seco. “Where are
we?” John exclaimed. “Is this the United
The narrow street extending up toward the
mountains became El Salto Road, running alongside a stream on one side and a
herd of buffalo, hunched together in the cold, on the other. Soon we were
turning across a small wooden bridge and into the aspens Frank had described,
white in the hush of the snow.
Barbara greeted us cordially at the door
with a little committee of curious dogs at her feet. She showed us around the
warm old house and served us tea in front of the fire. The conversation was as
easy as it had been in my dream; and when John described the surprise that had
rushed in on him as we came into the village, Barbara shot us a look.
“Maybe you’re supposed to live here,”
she said. “There’s a house for sale next to the post office.”
In fact, John had noticed a newspaper ad for
the house, offered by an outfit called Dreamcatcher. Of course we ended up
John and I have not moved to Arroyo Seco,
not all the way, not yet. But we visit in all seasons; and as we sit on the roof
at sunset, time and space breathing in, breathing out, we experience something
not in some far and future place but in the now of the Hopi. Frank speaks of it
in the voice of the Taos Indian Palemon to his son in The
Man Who Killed the Deer. And beside the Waters home, in Frank’s memory
these same words speak out from a granite stone resting among the aspens,
will meet again as equal parts of one great Life.
Many years ago I came across Frank Waters’ book The
Man Who Killed the Deer. I bought it. Much later I found the Book
of the Hopi. This too I purchased. I was impressed with Frank’s
understanding and interest in the Native American people. Kit Egri and I had
come to Taos in September of 1950, and we were impressed with how close to their
roots the Native Americans still were. We felt the same about the Hispanic
When news came that Frank had died, I
immediately telephoned Barbara and told her that I wanted to create a memorial
sculpture for Frank. Barbara accepted my offer; and she told me that Frank loved
granite, and I should carve it of that stone! I was eighty years old at this
point, and I got worried. At my age I should have to learn to carve the hardest
stone in existence? Barbara led me, or drove me, to the place called Cuyamungue
Stone Company. We selected a 3,000-pound chunk of granite.
At home I prepared for the stone by building
a base of railroad ties outside of my studio. Barbara purchased the proper tools
for me to tackle the stone with. This consisted of carbide steel chisels and a
diamond-studded wheel. I began figuring out in what manner I could depict
Frank’s spirit, as the work of his life. Before I could come to a conclusion,
Barbara said it had to be a deer! A Mimbres deer! Then I started searching for
illustrations of Mimbres deer. I found there were about thirty-two kinds!
Eventually I selected one design from some Mimbres pottery.
When it came to designing, the form, Barbara said Frank liked the number seven. So I added a seventh antler.
It took me two months of seven days a week
carving. Even so my carving came to a fairly shallow depth in the stone. Last of
all Barbara chose the words to be put on the stone. The thought of carving them
threw me at first. Then I found in front of the Stables Gallery a man named Mark
Saxe who had created a fountain sculpture. I spoke with him about my problem
with engraving letters into granite. He explained that he had the equipment to
do just that! Also he too had great admiration for Frank, and he said he would
not charge for his work on the memorial. Some of the words were “We will meet
I discerned after dealing with Barbara that
she was and is a very attractive woman. And I made the memorial for her as well
as for Frank.
Before the memorial was moved from my
grounds, a forest service friend came by, and I proudly showed him the memorial.
I boasted about the durability of granite. He listened and then he said,
“Don’t you know this granite will be sand in a million years? All our sandy
beaches were granite.”
That shocked me. Then I thought about
Barbara. How could I break the bad news to her? But I decided to face her with
it. When I told her about it, she thought for a while. Finally she said, “I
think I can handle that.”
A crane or bulldozer picked the sculpture
up, and Barbara selected an aspen grove near her to have it placed in. She also
purchased a granite chair from a shop in Santa Fe that had imported it from
I had met Frank from time to time. He was a
tall handsome man with a deep voice. I know Barbara misses him, and I admire the
way she runs the Foundation.
Egri, a noted artist and sculptor, is Taos’ Renaissance Man.)
A Literary Treasure
I have been interested in the Southwest and Indian culture since I was a young person. Living in Idaho, books about the Southwest were not in abundance. In 1988 I came across Pumpkin Seed Point in a bookstore. I had never read or heard of Frank Waters, but after reading the blurb on the book back, I knew I’d found something worthwhile. Frank’s writing drew me in. I was able to smell the dust on the mesa, and it gave me an inside perspective on the Hopi community.
I’ve read several other of Frank’s books since then and with each, I’ve come away with something I didn’t know or had not thought of in that way. I think it’s quite a treasure to find a writer that gives this to the reader.
In fifth grade my family moved to Los Alamos from Albuquerque, and I always had a fascination with the old bridge at Otowi. As a teenager, my friends and I would often go to play on the bridge. I had a friend living in the nearby house, and one day he mentioned some “famous” lady who had lived there. He said there was a book about her. I went to the library and found The Woman at Otowi Crossing, my first exposure to Waters’ works.
After graduation from UNM, I moved to Taos where I worked as a musician and for the local paper. I was part of a small group of writers (including Natalie Goldberg, Don Nichols, Janet Cannon, etc.) who met weekly to read our works. We would schedule visits with people connected with writing in Taos, including D.H. Lawrence’s old flame Lady Brett, John Nichols, and Frank Waters. Often I would see him at the post office and want to talk, but our eyes would meet and that was sufficient exchange – wordless communication.
It was in Taos that I truly discovered the writings of Waters, checking out the early editions from the old library at Harwood’s house on Ledoux Street. My favorite was To Possess the Land, with the interweaving of fact with fiction, psychological drama with mystery, and wonderful Taos history. I recall I was re-reading the Otowi book one evening when my wife, Stephanie, called me from work to tell me the news that John Lennon had been murdered.
Moving to Pojoaque after getting my teaching license, I revisited Otowi, the book about a fictionalized Edith Warner. This helped rekindle my fascination with the real Edith Warner, which led to the book of her writings that I edited, In the Shadow of Los Alamos: Selected Writings of Edith Warner.
(It’s great to keep the Frank Waters one-hundredth birthday party going in such a creative way as these stories!)
A Lifetime Fan
Roberta E. Keene
My brother and I spent our first years on the Navajo reservation at Window Rock and Shiprock where our father was a construction engineer. My entire life has been spent in or near the Southwest. We have lived in Las Vegas since 1966. I don’t consider it Southwest, but … we return to our roots often, at least every year. Both my husband and I spent most of our formative years in New Mexico. He in Portales and myself in the aforementioned Window Rock and Shiprock, then Alamogordo, Albuquerque, and Portales, New Mexico. In college we took a course in Southwestern Literature. One of the authors sampled was Frank Waters. But it was just a short sample, mention that he was a great New Mexico author and on to the next author.
As a lover of the Navajo Reservation, I once found a book called Desert Wife by Hilda Faunce. On the cover it said “Introduction by Frank Waters.” From the picture on the cover, it was obviously about the Navajo Reservation. I bought it, thoroughly enjoyed that book and, unbeknownst to me, it was the beginning of my Frank Waters collection.
In 1987 I was visiting my mother in Gig Harbor, Washington. There in a tiny used and new bookstore, I found a used copy of the book The Colorado and noticed it was by Waters. I’d heard of him so I bought it. When I returned home, my husband announced, “I found a course you can take at UNLV.” It was Dr. Charles Adams’ Frank Waters course. I needed more credits to get a M.A., plus thirty-six credits in order to advance on the Clark County School District pay scale. My husband didn’t know I had just bought The Colorado. It’s a small world. Not only did I learn about and come to love Frank Waters’ works, but I ascended the pay scale enough to get a substantial raise.
I loved the course, took the second semester course, and ended getting extra credit the second semester by indexing volumes six through ten of Studies in Frank Waters. For that I even got to meet Frank and Barbara Waters. I wish I could find time to index the rest of the editions, but it is a very time-consuming proposition. Dr. Adams made me a lifetime devotee of Frank Waters’ writing. Some of it is considerably over my head, but some I have read several times. It was such a pleasure this summer to get to actually see the Mabel Dodge Luhan and Frank and Barbara Waters’ homes. To actually be there by those aspen trees that Frank and Dr. Adams talked about so much was almost beyond my dreams.
Another neat thing for me about the Frank Waters meeting was that I stayed with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school, forty-seven years ago. She moved to Taos within the last year. I found her, thanks to a computer search by another classmate, and we enjoyed continuing our friendship. She even accompanied me to the dinner and the picnic at the Waters’ house.
I will be happy to tell you about my favorite Frank Waters books.
My favorite Frank Waters book is The Colorado. When I found The Colorado in a bookstore near Tacoma, Washington, I immediately bought it because I had heard of Frank Waters in college. He was a New Mexico author, well thought of even way back in 1958 when I was in college. After all, Mr. Waters had been writing more than thirty years then.
I started reading the book and was soon engrossed. I grew up in Arizona and New Mexico. I had been to the Grand Canyon. I now live eight miles from the Colorado River and Hoover Dam. I have followed the river through much of Colorado. I have been to the headwaters of the Colorado in Colorado.
The thing that most amazed me, during and after I had read the book, was that I believe Frank Waters wrote the book entirely from memory as he worked in Washington, D.C. or New York City when he was writing it. What a feat of memory that was! The Colorado is really one flowing word picture after another. It paints a picture of this river and the land it runs through, a vivid picture. I can’t image writing the book even living on the rim of Grand Canyon, much less far away in either Washington or New York. But he had it all stored up in his head, waiting to be put down on paper. That is amazing brain capacity.
I love vocabulary and The Colorado made me trek to the dictionary many times. I kept a dictionary sheet of the words I looked up. Reading it by myself, I saw the literal part of this book. Later when I took the UNLV course in Frank Waters, Dr. Adams helped me understand the other parts (I call them the hidden meanings) of Frank Waters’ work in this piece of western literature. Each time I read The Colorado I see things I didn’t see before. It’s a little like researching the ancestors. Each time you look at the facts, each time you look at pictures, you see new things.
As the first Frank Waters book I read, it will always have a special place in my heart as one of the best works I ever read about the country I call home.
Pumpkin Seed Point
Pumpkin Seed Point is my other favorite Frank Waters book. The first paragraph reads,
" It was a long walk home to the little house just below Pumpkin Seed Point. The distance wasn’t far, scarcely a half-mile. What made it seem long was the cold and the snow, darkness and silence. The acrid cold ate like a corrosive through the woolen scarf wrapped around my ears. The snow covering the rutted dirt road was frozen hard. Every step squeaked shrilly in the silence. Under the gritty winter stars the earth spread out flat and bare, save for the jagged, rocky mesa jutting forth at Pumpkin Seed Point."
These words took me back to my childhood on the Navajo Indian Reservation at Window Rock, Arizona, scarcely a hundred miles distant from the Hopi Reservation Frank waters was talking about. I was hooked with that first paragraph because it brought to mind my childhood, and it brought to mind my love of the land inhabited by Hopi, Navajo, and a few Anglos, as we were called when I was a kid, and it brought to mind the high Arizona reservation land.
My father and mother grew up in New England but my father’s second or third job after marriage was as a construction engineer and draftsman at Window Rock in January 1938. I was six months old. We lived at Window Rock from 1938 until 1951. As Frank Waters often discusses, it is my “spirit of place.” When I start across that big, empty, picturesque country, I almost swoon with happiness. It is home.
Pumpkin Seed Point is the story of Frank’s three-year stay at the Hopi village of Kiakochomovi where Waters interviewed and listened to the Hopi elders discussing their beliefs and ceremonies. This information was to be his Book of the Hopi. For me it was a visit home. I have read this book three times and it still raises the nostalgia of “home” every time I read it.
Another thing that keeps Pumpkin Seed Point so close to my heart is that through it I came to understand The Hopi, who were our next-door neighbors on the Navajo Reservation. All I knew before this book was that they wore “those neat white boots” to the Gallup Indian Ceremonials every August. I like what Frank said, speaking about Brown Bear, the “white” wife of White BearOswald Fredericks
"Her attitude reflected the indignation and animosity of the whole rational and extroverted white race confronted with an invisible, other-dimensional world which it did not believe existed, but to which, by some curious perversity, it resented being denied admittance." p. 113
To me this is that attitude of nearly all of the people who pass by or through the Arizona/New Mexico Indian reservations. It brings out what my father always said about the reservation that he loved. “It was ruined when they paved the roads and let all those tourists in.” I don’t think he in any way felt closeness to the Navajo as Frank Waters did to the Hopi. Perhaps it was because my father wasn’t any part Indian. At the same time that my father loved the geography of the Navajo Reservation, I don’t think he ever understood the Indians. He would get angry when they wouldn’t talk; he would get angry when they didn’t show up for work; he would get angry when they seemed not to understand.
This book revealed to me the character and the personality of not only the Hopi but also the Navajo and the Apaches I knew in high school, and the various Pueblo and Navajo Indians I met and taught in Albuquerque. Finally at age fifty, I began to understand the original inhabitants of the land I love. Thank you Frank Waters!
I think of this book as a Frank Waters’ book. This book was written by the cousin of one of Frank’s teachers in grade school. Hilda Faunce wrote letters to her teacher cousin Ruth Wattles in Colorado Springs from the trading post she and her husband ran on the Navajo Reservation. Miss Wattles read the letters to her class. A later edition of the book (1981) includes an introduction by Frank Waters. Frank’s teacher Ruth Wattles sent excerpts from her cousin’s letters to Harper’s “where they aroused the enthusiasm of Little, Brown and Co., who persuaded her and Hilda Faunce to arrange them in book form.” (Frank’s introduction)
" Hilda’s husband had grown up on the Navajo Reservation. In Oregon the bank failed, they lost their land so they drove a wagon from Oregon to the Navajo Reservation in the early part of the twentieth century. There they ran a trading post at Covered Water near Black Mountain “about twenty miles from Chinle.”
This book tells of the Navajo Reservation I knew as a child. It tells the story of trading post life before World War II. It rings constantly with scenes, towns or spots, and names that I can duplicate from my memory of life at Window Rock, Arizona. We were about a mile from Tse Bonita trading post, just across the state line in New Mexico from Window Rock, Arizona. That is where emergency shopping was done. That is where we went for a pop or an ice cream cone. Some of my classmates in school were the children of trading post operators. I think I like this book because it is as close to a diary of my early years as I will ever have. I have read it numerous times and I’m sure I will read it more times when I want to revisit my past.