Moqui knelt on the stone patio of their pueblo home. Beside her was a small basket of yellow corn kernels. In front of her was a stone metate and mano, used for grinding the corn into meal. Nothing had changed since her birthday last week - nothing but her hair. She now wore it in two buns above her ears, like the older girls. Gone were the braids, but to mother, she was still a child. She was ten summers old now, but she still had the same boring chores - plus some more. When she was a child, she had to shuck the corn and lay the yucca leaves out to dry. Now she had to grind the corn and carry water from the spring. When would mother let her make baskets and pottery like the other Hopi Indian girls her age?
She plunged a hand into the basket of corn. The dry yellow kernels oozed around her hand like sand. It felt cool. She cupped her hand and dipped grain from the basket. Lifting her hand high, she let the kernels trickle through her fingers. They fell, bouncing wildly around the worn center of the metate. Some of the kernels bounced out of the metate and rolled across the patio. She shrugged. The birds would eat them. She picked up the mano. The smooth gray stone was warm from the evening sun. Mother would be upset again because she was working too slowly.
She brought the stone down on the kernels with such force that they split, shooting small pieces of corn into the air. She ground at the corn as if she were crushing a stinging scorpion. Why was mother always telling her to work faster? She worked faster than some of the other girls. It wasn't fair.
She gave the corn a few more passes with the mano and stopped. She scooped the grain out of the metate with her hands, spilling a little on the patio. Let Shongo clean it up. She dumped the grain into a shallow white bowl with black designs. Some of the pieces of corn were a little too big, but who cared? If Mother didn't think it was done right, maybe she would get Shongo to do it.
Why did her brother get to do all the fun stuff? Even now, he was out learning to hunt with their uncle...and Shongo was only eight summers old. Most Hopi boys didn't get to go on a hunt until they were eleven summers old. Why did everyone like Shongo so much?
From the corner of her eye, she saw motion in the distance. She dropped the mano and threw a quick look over her shoulder. Mother sat with her back to the doorway of the pueblo. She was busy making a basket out of yucca fibers.
Moqui stood, tugging at the sash of her blue cotton dress. She crept across the patio, careful not to let her sandals scrape on the rocks. It would be a few minutes before Mother noticed the silence. She leaned on the patio wall, gazing down into the plaza, three stories below. The village of Walpi lay below, spread out over the flat mountaintop of First Mesa. The red clay walls of the adobe pueblos separated one family home from another, but women were out on their patios, making baskets and grinding corn. In the clear air, she could hear their chatter as they talked to each other about the harvest and other important things.
Beyond the village, the land dropped away in a steep cliff. From there, the desert stretched out, littered with blue green sage brush and yucca spears. Occasionally a small Juniper tree leaned out over a dry wash. Across the desert, two other mesas rose to meet the turquoise sky. The red and white cliffs added color to the tawny landscape. In the distance lay Second Mesa. The pueblo of Mishongnovi was barely visible in the shimmering heat waves.
Again, movement drew Moqui's attention to the desert below. Tiny figures moved toward the mesa of Walpi. Who? It was too early for Uncle to be returning from the hunt. Maybe Father was back from the trip to trade with the Zuni Indians. No, that could not be. They had been gone only three suns and the Zuni pueblo of Hawikuh lay many suns to the southwest. Could the approaching figures be an Apache raiding party? The Apache would not attack until the storerooms were filled with squash, beans and corn. In any case, the group was too small to be a raiding party. It could not be the Spanish soldiers returning. They would be riding huge beasts and their clothes would shine in the sun. Besides, they had not been up this way since their trip to the big canyon. The Grand Canyon lay far beyond the Hopi village of Oraibi on Third Mesa.
So who could the group be?
"Moqui." Mother's voice was crisp behind her. "Come finish your work and stop watching the boys."
Moqui blushed. "I was not watching the boys. I was trying to see who was coming to visit our village." She pointed at the group on the desert. "See?"
Mother shaded her dark eyes with a slender brown hand and stared down into the desert. "That is strange," she said. "It looks like the trading party. I wonder why they are coming back so soon."
She dropped her hand and turned back to Moqui. "We will soon find out. For now, you need to finish grinding the corn." She glanced at the bowl. "You have not even ground enough for the evening meal - and look at the mess you are making."
Moqui knelt in front of the metate and brushed at the spilled meal on the patio. She sighed as she picked up the mano. "I will clean it up when I am done."
Mother shook her head and rolled her eyes. "You always make such a mess. With all the corn we have swept off this patio, we could feed a Spanish soldier for one season."
Moqui glanced up at her mother and could not help but smile. When the Spanish soldiers had visited, the people of Oraibi said they had eaten as if they would never eat again. Then they took more food with them when they left. It was the way of the Hopi to welcome guests with food, but the Spanish soldiers had taken most of their food. Father said they must not blame the Spanish soldiers, who had traveled such a long way to meet the Hopi. Father was being kind, though. The soldiers did not come to meet the Hopi. They came to see if the Hopi had any of the yellow rocks that the Spanish called gold. They did not try to understand the Hopi. Some referred to the Tihu figurines as Kachina Dolls. They were not dolls and the correct term was Katsina, not Kachina.
Moqui began grinding the kernels again. The basket of corn looked like it was growing. Oh, how she would like to watch Shongo grind the stupid corn. Why was she the only one who ground corn any more?
Mother began building a fire on the patio to cook the evening meal. There would be no more chances to sneak a peak at the figures on the desert.