Magic in PIT: Roundy Crossing
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Arizona, 1999
by Catherine Jay Cowan, PIT Volunteer
I am standing on ancient grounds, feeling the wind blowing through my hair. Listening to the music of birds as they soar overhead, my eyes gaze upon the vastness below. A real magic occurs as I sense a people of long ago.
I live in an area called Round Valley, Arizona, but in the spring of 1999, I found myself working as a volunteer on my first PIT project at “Roundy Crossing.” On the first day, I met the FS archaeologist at 6:30 a.m. to head out on my journey. We drove to the work center, an hour away, where most all other volunteers were camping. We loaded up all our tools, buckets, gear, and lots of water, and then headed to the site.
What a setting! No wonder these folks from long ago (ca. A.D. 1170) chose this place to live. The view is incredible now; just imagine what it was like then! The pueblo, comprising about 15 rooms, including a kiva, sits high up on a knoll. Its north side is protected by ancient pecked images in the basalt cap rock above. Signs of terraced fields remain on the sloping hillside west of the pueblo. To the east, in the floodplain of Show Low Creek, is what appears to be a farmstead, consisting of a couple of rooms and check dams for water control. What a handy work place near the river for farmers tending their crops!
As my first day of work began, I ran out of breath, climbing up and down the knoll, using a pick and shovel, carrying a 5-gallon bucket of dirt to the screen, and moving heavy rocks (or small boulders)! By the last day of the month, I was climbing the knoll without breathing hard, carrying two buckets of dirt at a time, and learning the finer points and tools of the trade.
One of my own discoveries was a small pinch pot, with only a tiny piece of rim missing! It was so cute! As I held it in the palm of my hand, I thought of my 4-year-old daughter and how she’d just love it. Then I thought of the possibility that a child was learning to make her first jar, or that it might have held small beads. I wondered how long it had been since anyone had held it.
It turned out the room I was working in is the kiva, a special place. The magic is sensed again, with a feeling of connection to these people of long ago.
The work was hard, the hours long, the weather ever changing. The rewards were constant: being involved in the efforts to “fill in” and preserve history, and developing friendships with the nicest kinds of people, old and young alike. This wonderful adventure was like a “crossing” in my life, where the magic of growth and discovery took place.