Sunday, June 06, 2010

BUS STORY # 187 (What Are The Odds?)

What Are The Odds?, originally uploaded by busboy4.

“Hey, welcome back.”

This from the regulars who’ve noted I’ve been missing a week or so. I explain I was on vacation. We had some friends out from the east coast and were showing them the sights.

“Go anyplace interesting?”

“Yeah. Tent Rocks and Chaco Canyon. And we took the train to Santa Fe.”

A young guy, Seth,* asks me about Chaco. I tell him I hadn’t been out there in some 25 years, and I was happy it was on our friends’ “must see” list.

“I don’t remember the visitor’s center being so nice, and I don’t remember the loop road being paved.”

I also tell him the times I’d gone before, I’d taken the road from I-40. This time, we took the road from the north, just before Nageezi, and it was nowhere near as rough as the road in back in the early ‘80s.

Seth tells me he wants to get out there himself. He took a college course in southwestern archeoastronomy, and Chaco Canyon was a big section of the course.

I ask him where he went to school. Colorado. It rings a bell. I ask him who his professor was. The name doesn’t ring a bell. I explain there’s an archeologist from Colorado University who has a theory about migration routes, but I can’t recall his name. Steve something. That doesn’t ring a bell with Seth.

We talk about the solar and lunar petroglyph marker up on Fajada Butte, made famous by the Robert Redford-narrated documentary, The Mystery Of Chaco Canyon. I tell Seth that, on my first trip out in 1980, I was still under the impression Chaco Canyon was a settlement like Mesa Verde. He smiles and nods indulgently. My tree rings are showing.

I tell him how, this time, we took the tour, and how the ranger told us the term “Anasazi” has fallen out favor. “I think she was calling them 'pre-Puebloan-Chacoan,'” I tell him.

The next morning, right after I board, Seth hands me a copy of Prehistoric Astronomy In The Southwest by J. McKim Malville and Claudia Putnam. Malville was his professor, and this was his textbook.

I’m genuinely moved, and excited, too. I go home determined to find out about that CU archeologist. I finally locate Steve Lekson and several layman-level articles dealing with his controversial Chaco Meridian theory. I also find an exciting bonus: an online rebuttal of his thesis by a local guy, David Phillips, the curator of archeology at the Maxwell Museum. And then a response by Lekson. Good stuff all!

I print it all out to give to Seth the next morning. I feel elated to have found someone who not only knows about Chaco, but shares the same enthusiasm for this arcane, ancient place and all its attendant mysteries. And to think we met on the bus!

What are the odds?


*Real name changed


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