The dogs are barking in the darkness outside.
"Probably it's just an animal passing by," suggests Diane Harris as the three of us sit talking after supper. "Recently I've seen Kit Fox tracks, and we've had Badgers just below us. But, you know, for a long time something very strange has been going on here. It began thirteen or fourteen years ago. We heard a sound, a loud, shrill sound, moving along the cliff behind us, but it was so dark we couldn't see anything. It was a little like the call of a Red-tailed Hawk, but much too loud, and not really the same. It moved too fast across the cliff to be any animal with legs, yet it was too slow to be a flying bird. If it'd been an animal with legs, especially moving at that speed, it'd have knocked rocks loose and we'd have heard them. But not a single dislodged rock was heard."
"Over the years we've experienced this sound on several occasions. Each time the sound is a little different from other times, and always it moves much too fast and calls too loudly to be an animal. Time-before-last, I made a special effort to fix the sound's point of origin, and visualize the route along the cliff it took. Next morning, I went out and systematically covered all of the sandy area around us over which the sound-maker would have had to pass, but there wasn't a single footprint, neither in the sand or on the cliff... "
"Last time it happened, we had sense enough to go get the tape recorder as soon as it began. But we had to go down to the hogan to get it, and exactly when we turned the recorder on, the sound ended. As we were walking back to the house we stumbled over Jason. Well, finally it occurred to us that, since Jason was a very good watchdog and always barked hysterically at the least hint of anything out of the ordinary, he should have been barking his head off. But he just sat there wagging his tail and looking at us in a smiling way, as if nothing had happened."
"Two or three days later, a couple of our young Navajo friends came over for a visit and we told them, laughingly, about this mysterious sound. The man said, 'On the night you heard this sound, that's the night when Hite Chee came back to his hogan and found that somebody had witched him. Somebody had taken a hatchet or knife and gone around and chopped notches on each of the big logs coming out of the ground, holding up his hogan's walls. And there were hoofprints outside, where somebody had ridden a horse around and around.' This couple suggested rather matter-of-factly that we'd been hearing a skin walker. The woman told us that skin walkers can tell dogs to be quiet."
"Well, skin walkers are evil spirits. They're people who have killed a relative, and when they're around regular people they bring very bad luck. If you have an enemy, you can hire a witch who will send a skin walker against your enemy. You've noticed that the hogans have an open hole in their roofs. The Navajos believe that skin walkers climb up the outside walls of their hogans and watch them through those holes. We've noticed that when the sun goes down the older Navajos are inside their hogans or houses and that's where they stay until the sun rises."
By the time the skin walker story is over the dogs have stopped barking. After exchanging a few more stories I go outside and lie in Henry. Before going to sleep I tune the radio to station KOA in Denver. The Stock Market is up a little today.