Milepost 360.5

I chased a double rainbow. As I topped Howell Mesa, the monsoons were raging in a distance. The background skies were dark blue. Thunderclouds with dark virga, hanging and sweeping the ground. The Cloud People, bestowing blessings of moisture once again.

Other vehicles stopped off the highway to view the bright colors of the multicolored rainbow stretching across the valley. I chased the illusive arc until I was able to see both ends of the rainbow and stopped for a photograph. I took a pano shot hoping for a full semicircular view and both ends of the rainbow. The air was moist, the grass sparkled from the raindrop reflections of the afternoon sun. 

As I turned to get back into my vehicle, I realized that I stopped directly across from a roadside memorial. I have passed this memorial many times and silently remembered the how and why of this special, humble spot. I got goose bumps on my skin. 

I returned to this memorial with an intention. I left an offering of gratitude. I do not know if it was appropriate. But the meaning of the offering was intended to be a personal expression of gratitude. 

Recently, I sat in a roomful of representatives of the U.S. Marshals Services, along with other high level officials of the U.S. Department of Justice. This meeting was very unusual, as it is very rare for these officials to visit the Hopi Reservation, in person. Under the Biden and Haaland Administration, the impossible is becoming possible with new changes for Tribes in federal law enforcement and Justice services.

During the meeting, a gift of a metal token that represents the U.S. Marshal seal was given to the Hopi representatives. The seal is a six-pointed star, a bald eagle clutches an olive branch and arrows in its talons. The colors represent courage and blood shed in carrying out duties.  “Justice. Integrity. Service.”

I studied this seal and researched the symbols. The meaning of the Star, Eagle and Arrow is similar to Hopi understanding.  I knew where this seal should be placed as a remembering of honor and sacrifice; the humble roadside memorial at milepost 360.5.

On September 17, 1988, Hopi “Police Officer Dean James was shot and killed when he attempted to arrest a suspect who had escaped from the Hopi Tribal Jail the previous day.”

He was 34 years old, married with three sons and a daughter. His maternal clan was  Bear and paternal clan was Greasewood/Reed. He grew up in Kykotsmovi Village.

Officer James was on duty when “he observed the escapee hitchhiking along the highway” between milepost 360 and 361. The escapee “opened fire with a .22 caliber rifle, mortally wounding Officer James”.  officerdownmemorialpage, odmp.org

This place now marks a humble memorial.

I left the offering of the U.S. Marshal seal at this place. My hope is that when the family and clan comes to clean and care for the memorial, they will see and understand the meaning and feel a small measure of gratitude and honor for their sacrifice.

This special place is found at the end of a double rainbow.   

Remembering Dean James

A father, son, clan nephew, husband

Flag of the Hopi Tribe

2 Comments on “Milepost 360.5

  1. Thank you for your beautiful essay and memorial piece. Here too we have remarkable double rainbows and blessings of rain. Sending good thoughts to you and your family.
    Janet

  2. In a time that so many fail to live up to the oath that they have sworn to uphold it is refreshing to read about a warrior, a protector who lived up to his oath. My only hope is that his loss is remembered because of his commitment to protect his community. His sacrifice is not forgotten.

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