FALLS It seems like only last week that winter winds were
blowing in the threat of snow. People in different parts of the
country have their own way of marking the change in seasons. Some
watch daffodils and irises poke their heads through the ground.
Others see the return of seasonal birds.
despite the cold winds that chilled the area last week, Navajos
are untying the blades of their shears and giving their sheep and
goats their first haircuts of the season.
Elsie and Raymond Phelps of the Grand Falls area invited students
of the STAR School out for the morning as they tackled the first
of their sheep on the morning of May 10. A charter school for kindergarten
through seventh grade, STAR School is located just off the Navajo
Reservation near Leupp.
children stepped from the bus straight an active sheep camp. Raymond
Phelps was already halfway into a black Churro ewe.
by Louva Montour, Elsie and Raymond's daughter, the students
waded into a sheep corral and overwhelmed the next customera
white ewe. Some of the children pushed from behind while others
steered her along by her horns. She was deftly tied while Phelps
flipped the black ewe and started on the other side.
teachers, and even the bus driver got into the spirit of thingsproving
the old adage that practice makes perfectand most of the shearers
needed a good deal more practice.
Tso, a cultural consultant and translator for the Arizona Department
of Education's Learn and Serve program, admitted that it had
been quite awhile since he'd taken on a sheep. Still he earned
a Coke with his frybread later for finishing one.
students charged back to the bus to get Dan Smith, who piloted the
bus, and dragged him into the fun.
an expert," he said with a grin.
Tomas, who teaches the third- and fourth-grade class, said that
her family's sheep camp no longer shears with the old fashioned
mother's sheep are shorn by Mexicans with electric clippers
powered by a generator. They even do llamas," Tomas added.
who also serves as a cultural consultant for the program, had conveyed
her parents' invitation to the STAR School Learn and Serve
were kind of tickled to see the sheep after Sam got done,"
she teased. "He didn't do it evenly, so they want him
to come back and practice some more."
joined in the laughter.
was trying to give her a Mohawk," he said with a grin.
parents really enjoyed having the kids over," Montour added.
"They enjoy having the kids come out to our place because the
kids aren't shy, and they make themselves right at home."
of the students jumped at the chance to take some snips at the wool.
Others practiced on a dried fleece.
the shearing event progressed, Elsie Phelps prepared Kool-Aid and
frybread for the visitors. The students dove gratefully into the
at the school, Joseph Monroe said that he liked shearing the sheep,
saying that he thought it must feel like getting a haircut. He enjoyed
the frybread and playing different games that he and his friends
developed while at the Phelps' house.
Long said that it was his first time to try to shear a sheep and
thought the sheep looked scared. But he himself enjoyed the experience.
feel really good about being a volunteer and helping my community,"
Johnson said that he too liked helping and doing hard work.
liked learning to shear. It was fun and hard," Johnson said.
"The frybread was a great reward."
students found other things to enjoy on this adventure. Several
girls, including Angelica Nelson, enjoyed sorting the vegetables
that the group had brought to feed to the goats.
mostly liked taking pictures. I would like to be a photographer,"
said Brandi Becenti.
great to see the children using Service Learning as part of their
curriculum. It's a great way to learn about their community
and the people who live in it," said Tso. "It goes both
ways, the children get to learn from the elderlies, and the elderlies
get to appreciate the service learning the children are doing. I
think the family that they helped really appreciated the sharing
of skills even though it was just a tiny amount of time. They understand
that the effort counts. Besides the third and fourth community is
at a place where they enjoy what they learn, so it was fun for all
a great way to give back to the community. Maybe next year we'll
get to learn how to tan a fleece."