I love my family, for all its weirdness.

My aunt plans to live in a teepee in the badlands on the Colorado-Utah border, so of course the family got together to build it. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we had an instruction book and lots  of opinions. The canvas fit the tangle of poles about as well as a size 8 pair of jeans on a size 12 butt. With my aunt and her sister — my mom — beating drums, cousin Jerry shimmied to the top of the poles to survey the problem. It was sturdy enough to hold him, though it would later collapse.

Teepee project: Too many chiefs; not enough Indians from Steve Krizman on Vimeo.

With a day full of dust and beer behind us, we called it a night. Next day, we resolved to chuck the instruction manual and instead listen to the only Indian in the family, Leona, the partner of my cousin’s daughter.  We’re a diverse family.

There was an essential first step involving the proper arrangement and lashing of the first three poles. Then Leona carefully directed placement of supporting poles. A graceful apex emerged, eagle feathers fluttering. She showed us how to neatly fold the canvas and tie it to the main pole. All hands hoisted it into Leona’s chosen position. The canvass unfurled, Leona showed us how to use the vent flaps.

The teepee looked solid and sturdy. It better be: it’s windier than hell out there. I think my aunt will do fine there in the winter. Jerry sunk the living area into the ground, which should keep inside temperatures within a comfortable range. A small stove will serve for cooking and heating.

The land could be described accurately as desolate or stunning. Desolate if you crave lushness; stunning if you are partial to magnificent sunsets on multi-hued bluffs. The neighbors are armed but friendly if you don’t trespass.

I look forward to visiting — and helping Jerry build his earth ship on a nearby ridge.

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