More Begay Family History Stories
Topic: Begay Family History
Today my cousin brother, Brunell Ryan Allen, celebrated his 5th birthday. After the cake had been served and the birthday boy opened all his gifts, we were all sitting around, full on chicken, mutton stew, cake, whatever.
I guess the story telling began with Grandma Marie, talking about how she was lying down this morning listening to a song on KTNN that brought her back to the "good old days." She envisioned in her mind the old chapter house, not the current one that you see in Chinle. At that time it was L-shaped, and she said she could picture the arrangement of everything. Both Marie and my aunt Sophi used to go there often, stealing dance partners away from my other grandparents, Grandma Ruthi and Nelly.
Apparently, Grandma Ruthi was the "hell-raiser" out of all of my grandma's sisters. She told us how she, Marie, Sophi, Shirley, and perhaps some others drove off to buy some GD (Garden Deluxe) for one of my uncles. She mentioned his name at the time, but I can't remember. When they came home, they found out he played a joke on them and he sat there watching some evangelist on TV. They laughed about that.
Ruthi also talked about how my great-grandpa, Harry Begay, got drunk one day. Ruthi and Marie were getting dressed to go to a dance at the chapter house, when they found him passed out with a bottle of GD lying around.
"So I said, 'We have to get rid of this before mom get's home,'" Ruthi said.
Marie finished the rest of story laughing by saying, "So Ruthi went and drank the rest of the bottle and then took a bath to finish getting ready, and here she passed out in the bath tub." Unfortunately, they never did go to that dance.
Shirley added, "My grandpa [Harry] used to fill up the GD cap and pass it around to us grandkids for us to drink. So, I guess in my book he was okay."
They told me about how Harry used to make his own moccasins. He never bought moccasins. Shirley remembers seeing him sewing his moccasins with ats'id (sinew taken from the backbone of a deer). My great-grandpa was a medicine man, so those moccasins of his had ceremonial use attached to them. "I remember him sewing up his jish [medicine man's bundle] as well," added Shirley.
They also told me about my great-grandma, Dorothy Begay, who I never really met. I've seen her before when I was younger but never talked to her. They told me that she used to be strict. She worked as a Dorm Aid over at the Chinle Boarding School.
"To this day," Shirley continued, "people would say, 'Your grandma was really mean,' while others would say, 'If it wasn't for your grandma, I wouldn't have turned out the way I am today.' Grandma Dorothy used to walk in on us sleeping, open all the curtains and tell us to get up. I do that to my kids now and say, 'You shouldn't be caught sleeping, that is your grandma's teaching.'"
"My mom used to get us up really early in the morning," added Ruthi. "We had pop cans tied to a string that we used to take to the corn fields about 5 in the morning to chase all the crows away."
They told me that though my great-grandma was strict, she loved sports. She would watch anything, basketball, football, wrestling, whatever. It is known to this day that she was a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan.
Some time ago, my great-grandma went with Marie to see Ricky Romero at a wrestling match, a famous wrestler. Marie told me that she jumped up in the middle of one of his matches yelling, "He was cheating!" She created such an uproar, that Marie remembers pulling on her dress, trying to get her to sit back down. Eventually, he turned around to her saying, "Shut up, you old woman!" She was mad the rest of the game, jini.
"In my time, I never saw my grandma weave. She would just spin wool, and use plants dye it for them to weave," said Shirley, pointing at Marie and Ruthi. "Back then, they used to have a big truck. While my grandpa was driving, Grandma Dorothy would have a carton next to her full of wool that she would spin. She would just be sitting there with her spindle spinning away. They don't make trucks that big anymore that would even hold a spindle."
"I used to get in alot of trouble and she was always spanking me," Ruthi continued. She told my about how she stole that pick-up truck to drive to her sister's place, who was Mary D. Teller, my real
"My dad did something to that truck," she said. "He added something to the joints that made it hard to turn. It took all of us pulling the stirring wheel to make it turn."
It wasn't long before they were pulled over by a police officer named Herman Adson.
"He asked where we were going," Ruthi said. "I told him I was going to visit my sister. He asked if I had ID and I said no. He really got mad at us and chased us home. My mom and dad were really mad," she finished, laughing.
Among other things she did, she also told me about how she saw some old man named Willie Sani chewing tobacco. "He made it look like it tasted real good the way he was chewing on it, so I stole it and ate it," she said. "Boy, I got real sick. My mom got mad at me and said that if I did it again, she'd make me eat a piece this big," she finished, indicating something the size of an apple with her hand.
She also told me how she was curious about cigarettes that she took some azhiih (the shreddy bark from a juniper tree), and rolled it up in some paper and smoked it. I guess when she inhaled it, her cigarette burnt back so fast she almost burned her eyebrows off.
Another time, Ruthi was chopping wood. I guess Grandma Ellie used to pick on her and snuck up on her. Ruthi didn't see her and accidentally chopped off her finger. If you're reading this, don't worry, she still has her finger. Grandma Ellie was at this birthday party and showed me the scar that remains to this day.
Both her and my other grandma, Nellie, were always doing crazy things and always getting spanked for it. Ruthi remembered when Marie was still in her cradleboard, and Grandma Nellie when and took her out of it and left her lying out in the ground. My great-grandma was weaving in the house or something, came out, and saw Marie lying on the ground all red while Nellie forgot about her and was off playing somewhere else. They were laughing about that.
Interestingly, both of my great-grandparents could speak and write in English, an unusual feat for Navajos in their generation. More interestingly, my deceased grandfather, George, Grandma Mary, and Grandma Lilly only speak Navajo.
They also told me stories about my dad. One of my dad's favorite songs was called, "It's a Lover's Question." He would always play it on his guitar, sing it while he was sweeping the kitchen, whatever. I have to find that song and play it for him someday, just to see his expression.
When he was younger, they told me that he was a sore loser when it came to playing Da'aka' (a card came called "Navajo Tens" in English). He would start crying when he ran out of match sticks, money, or whatever they were betting.
"After I would say, 'Here!' and throw some match sticks back, he would come back later saying, 'Can I play again?' We would just yell back to him,' You're just going to start crying again.'" stated Marie. I've never heard stories told about my father like that. I guess I forget that he once was a child at one point in time.
They also told me about Tabby (Tavia Tso), running for Miss Tseyi'. When it came time for the contestants to perform their traditional talent, Tabby talked about the Navajo Stick Game, how it was played, the significance of the game in terms of culture, etc. To the embarrasment of Grandma Marie, who was sitting at the front of the auditorium with her video camera taping the performance, Tabby announced, "... and tonight we're going to play the stick game at my grandma's house. She's the one sitting right here, in the very front. So if you want to play, bring your fives and tens and come over."
"She pointed to me and I was so embarrased, my face turned red," Marie added. "All sorts of people came up to me saying, 'Where is your house located?' 'Are you really going to play the stick game?' Stuff like that."
They told me all kinds of stories. It turned out to be a very funny evening. I can still see Grandma Lillie laughing so hard that she could barely breathe.