Life as a Basket maker II band member living around 600 B.C.E. or 2600 years in the northern Southwest of northern Arizona and southern Utah proved extremely challenging during the short life expectancy of clan members only lasting 25 years for an adult. Traveling from the Phoenix area to the Colorado Plateau took the band through extremely rough terrain into basins and over mesas. The journey went through the land of the volcanoes where black hardened lava rock covered the cone shaped mountains left by volcanoes with the biggest occurring over 50,000 years ago. As a basket maker band, communal activities included creating wondrously beautiful patterned baskets and sandals and made spectacular carvings as well.
The first five years of my life with the band of 36 members including an infant and a number of children between the ages of 1-14 years were under the care of 22 adults of the Basket maker II band. In this life, the first five years found the band living in the rock shelter called the Turkey Pen. This rock overhang sheltered us from rain but not from the harsh winds or blowing snow. Weather conditions combined with the rough terrain made life difficult in both expected and random ways. The rock shelters made living less difficult even with the lack of complete shelter from the weather. The most critical aspects of the weather are the effect on growing corn.
The Basket maker II band exists as semi-mobile farmers living in five year periods in the rock shelters growing corn and even some squash. The corn seed planted was carefully selected over the years by other band members and handed down through the generations with only the proven heartiest of this precious food source passed down through the generations of the band over its long journey north from Mexico and finally settling onto the Colorado Plateau region.
During the first five years of my, life with the band living in the Turkey Pen rock shelter, planting the corn meant arranging the seeds near the rock sheltered home in sporadically located distances one from the other when the short corn stalks emerged from the hardened ground by using a digging stick. This digging stick had a fashioned pointed end used for creating a small hole where the seed corn drops into the ground. With corn, the primary food source there was constant danger to having a good harvest sustaining the welfare of the band. These dangers proved the gauge for whether the band should stay in one particular rock shelter or move on to one of the the four on the plateau used throughout the typical 25 year life span of each band member. The dangers to the crop look at a list of possibilities. This could include ruining the crop with a drought or a herd of deer making a rapid meal of the corn shoots, decimating the entire crop in a very short time.
In addition, other dangers to the crop include flash floods, early, and late frosts killing the corn shoots. Further dangers come as high winds, and pounding rains of the monsoon, or an occasional thunderstorm rocking over the plateau ruining the dispersed corn plants often found with squash planted in between where the corn grows proves other dangers to sustaining the main food source of the Basket maker II band.
Another food source is the highly prized harvests of pine nuts found in pinecones. This harvest comes every four to seven years creating its own problem as a reliable food source since there is no way of predicting if the pinecones will produce the nuts. When the harvest comes in the abundance of this foodstuff provides a 2-year storable larder. The most subtle of environment conditions stops the nuts from growing so the unpredictable aspect of this as a sustainable food source is not reliable.
The first five years at Turkey Pen, rock shelter proved a bad time for the band. Between the frost, and poor corn crops the band decided to move to the Three Fir for the next five years. Again, after the five years ended, between little rain during the monsoons, and early frost proving bad for the corn crops, as well as the harvest of piyon nuts happening only one of the five years, the stay at this rock shelter meant the band had to move again to try for better outcomes at Fish Mouth. Travel from to and from these shelters added to the already burdened existence of the band because of the poor food situation during this past 10 years. With farming the major food source, nonetheless hunting deer, antelope, rabbits, and rodents kept the band from starvation with hunting these prey.
The 11-15 year mark living in the Fish Mouth rock shelter found the band again, barely existing with the continual dangers keeping from harvesting a good corn crop consistently every year. Once again, tallying the conditions of the past five years meant the band had to move yet again, this time choosing the harsh trek to the White Dog, rock shelter location. Finally, the first year during this time span among the band found conditions nearly perfect. The winter was mild and not the typical bitter cold but with some much needed precipitation. The pinyon nut harvest allowed laying up 2 years’ worth of the desired foodstuff, as well as another abundant harvest two years later. At the end of the 15-20 year stay, the good fortune in food and nearly ideal weather conditions made the band decide to spend another five years at the White Dog location. As 23 years living as part of Basket maker II band, life proves good at the White Dog rock shelter. The weather continued growing abundant crops of corn, squash, and even harvesting pinyon nuts. Hunting proved another unexpected surprise with racks of drying meat that meant little hunger tormented the band. Times of prosperity remain rare for the Basket maker II band of people thus, making such days a rare pleasure.