When I was a young boy, my family was invited to the home of a friend of my father. For me it was no ordinary home, it was like a different world. The home was on the Hopi Reservation in Polacca a tiny village near Second Mesa. I wish I could remember more today than I do, but what memories I do have are very strong. You see this visit turned out to be the most frightening thing I can remember. It started simply enough, my parents packed their three children into the car and off we drove into the desert of the North Eastern Plateau of Arizona. I don't remember the trip, but I do remember we arrived during the day. Once we arrived I met a young girl, about my own age, named Buttercup. I remember her name as if it were yesterday, although I almost can't remember anything we did that day. Anything until late afternoon that is. That was when we were told the story of the Ogre katsinam. What I remember of the story is that children caught misbehaving would be carried off by them.
That’s a pretty frightening thing for a young child, but it’s really not the scary part. That came later that evening at the Kiva. You see my family had been invited to watch a ceremonial Bean Dance.
It wasn’t any one thing that frightened me; it was the overwhelming combination of the experience. Imagine a crowded town center at night with very little lighting. People shoulder to shoulder lining the street as the dancers arrive painted and masked in their ceremonial garb. Drums beating, people speaking a foreign language. The dust of the dirt streets rising in the air as people mill about. Down we went through a hole in the roof of the Kiva; down a ladder into ceremonial chamber.
I don’t remember much about the Kiva, what I do remember is it was loud and it was crowded. Most of what I remember is spending the evening hiding behind the pants leg of one or the other of my parents. Apparently they took turns watching the dances in the Kiva and me outside the Kiva. From what they say I was a crying mess. Scared to death of the Katsina or Kachina.
My fathers friend was a man named Richard (Dick) Pavatea and he died recently. The little girl I played with as a child, Buttercup, was his daughter. I’ve included an excerpt from the story of the accident that killed him and the text of his Obituary. I wish nothing but the best for his family.
The Winslow Mail: "A 74-year-old Polacca man died early Dcc. 4 after a 1993 Honda with a 16-year-old driver at the wheel struck him outside Winslow High School. Police said Richard Pavatea, 74, of Polacca ran out in front of the Honda after attending the the first night of games at the Winslow Ford Shootout basketball tournament at the high school."
"He was born on September 26, 1930 in Polacca to Theodore and Genevieve Pavatea. Husband, dad, “Teh-teh” we loved you dearly and appreciate all the values you taught us. We will miss you but we know you are at a better place with other loved ones who have left before you. You will always hold a special place in our hearts. Thank you for your open heart and never ending unselfishness of time, love and devotion to not only your family, friends and relatives, but strangers as well. He is survived by his wife, Geneva Pavatea, of Polacca; daughters, Dora Pavatea of Polacca, Janet Pavatea of Phoenix, Buttercup Pavatea, Karen Abeita-Daw and Yvonne Abeita all of Polacca; sons, Ronald Abeita and Isidor Abeita, Jr. both of Polacca; sisters, Virginia Poola, Elsie Nahsonhoya and Mary Shephard all of Polacca; grandchildren, Rod, Ryan and Renae Lacapa, Kristy Pavatea, Darren, Daryl, Ervin, Lenora, Kelsey, Isidore III Abeita, Ranelda, Tocara, Tom, Dennis, Cornell Pavatea and Faylynn; great-grandson, Latrell; numerous god-children, nieces and nephews. Dick was preceded in death by his parents, Theodore and Genevieve Pavatea; brothers, Schwartz, Robert and Percy Pavatea; and son, Alan L. Pavatea. Arrangements Under the Care of Greer’s Mortuary of Winslow."