In the northeastern corner of Arizona north of I-40 there is a town called Ganado, 45 miles west of Window Rock, deep in Navajo country. Ganado has the Hubbell Trading Post, a dusty, century-plus old historical site with a gift shop and old corrals. The Ganado rodeo grounds are east of where routes 191 and 264 (Code Talkers Road) go round a traffic circle. There, once a year, the Ralph Johnson Memorial Indian Rodeo is held. Ralph Johnson was a WW2 Code Talker. This is an all-Navajo event.
I towed there Memorial Day weekend. Events get started Saturday at 7 PM. Got there early, hoping to see preparations, grit, and all the other stuff a genuine rural rodeo event produces. As an outsider yes, I was unsure of what to expect. I was self-conscious and therefore primed to be extra charming.
At the grounds around noon Saturday, I pulled in close to the rodeo fence that surrounds the arena. The events coordinator saw me and came over to investigate. During our conversation when I called the Indians cowboys I had to gulp mentally and hoped I wasn’t being insensitive. He said I couldn’t leave the trailer there but it would be ok parked across the lot over by the Porta-pottys. He also said if I wanted I could camp overnight, free. I thought about that.
My plan though, was to take the trailer another 35 miles up to Chinle for the night, leaving it at Cottonwood Campground. That’s next to amazing Canyon De Chelly. From there I would drive to Lukaschukai, to scout another Indian rodeo venue scheduled next month. In this four corners region numerous small rodeos are held throughout summer. These rodeos are fun, you get to roam around, you tailgate the event, you’re not funneled like cattle into the stands. Folks around here love the horse stuff. They start ‘em early. Where I grew up you just played baseball in the park; here they start with practice calf roping and compete in local rodeos.
Cottonwood Campground is also Navajo run, costs $14 per night, has paved, level sites, dump station, clean heated rest rooms, but no hookups. Quite nice, especially if you get a spot under the cottonwood trees. No cell phone service. I did drive to Lukaschukai, to check for paved roads, etc., and made it back to the Ganado rodeo grounds by 6 PM. It was early enough to park my truck right up at the arena fence near to the participants’ entrance gate. That was convenient but turned out to be a mistake. There’s no disciplined parking here. The yard quickly filled up with spectators’ cars and trucks and my truck got totally surrounded and blocked. I was going nowhere until ten thirty when the show was over. It was an interesting rodeo. Saw some mean bucking broncos and bulls, the place was packed, lots of families, kids running around. Think I was the only Anglo there. Everyone seemed fine with that.
It was nearly midnight when I got back to my trailer parked at Cottonwood. Backing in, something in my trucks’ dashboard rear view camera monitor seemed wrong. Where was the chrome hitch ball? My class IV hitch receiver mount, pin, and 2-inch ball were all gone. Easy pickings at the rodeo, no doubt. Damn!
After a fitful night’s sleep there was no choice; I wasn’t towing out of Cottonwood until I got a new hitch receiver ball mount. It was Sunday morning on a holiday weekend. What to do? Where to go? A WalMart Super Center would be open regardless of the day, or the hour. Drove 90 miles Sunday morning to Gallup, NM, the nearest big city. So glad I brought my trailer vital stats folder along so I could confirm that’s what I needed. It cost $32.81 for replacement 2-inch ball, 2-inch mount drop, pin.
Lessons learned: Never leave that stinger in there after you are camped. Always keep them trailer vital stats handy when on the road, and bless the big box store you can count on in a pinch. Total trip miles 781, towing miles 591.