The Photo of Four Navajo Girls

by N.P. Tarpey

In the late-morning sun, we parked the pickup by the side of the road, lowered the tailgate, and put down a bowl filled with water for our two dogs to drink. Four young curious Navajo girls noticed the dogs, and without hesitation or fear, they climbed up onto the tailgate and took turns petting the tail-wagging canines. The girl in a pink long-sleeved shirt giggled when the old beagle licked her dusty face, but the girl in the white shirt was disappointed because the fox terrier was more interested in staying alert and watching the desert, than in chewing the squeaky hotdog toy. I knew to request permission before photographing Navajo people, so I asked the two women selling silver and turquoise jewelry at the nearby table, “Can I take a shot of your girls with our dogs?” The women smiled, and the older one said, “Yes, it looks like our girls have already made themselves at home in your truck.” Eight years later, the photo of the four Navajo girls makes me smile, even though the beagle is dead and the terrier is old, yet I sometimes wonder if the girl in pink laughs a lot and if the girl in white still has unmet expectations?

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N.P. Tarpey, after working 19 years as an alcohol, drug and family counselor, is in his third year as a sportswriter for the Times-Standard in California.