It was disagreeable to travel during the dry season, on account of the difficulty in getting provisions and finding pastures for the animals. But I made up my mind to start under any circumstances on an excursion toward the north-east, knowing that the fresh grass would come up quickly after a few of the thunder-storms not infrequent at that season. Toward the end of June I selected a few of my strongest animals, and, leaving one of my Mexicans to take care of the remainder, started out with two. As luck would have it, a heavy storm drenched our first camp, and afterward the rain seemed almost to pursue me, much to the delight of the Indians I visited, who had been praying and dancing for rain for a long time. One day I had the imposing spectacle of three thunder-storms coming up from different directions. The one in the south sent flashes of lightning out of its mass of dark clouds over the clear sky; but after all, not much rain resulted.
There was no difficulty in finding one’s way from Guachochic to Norogachic. At one place I noticed an Indian trail leading up a ridge apparently consisting of volcanic tuff. To facilitate the ascent, steps, now worn and old, had been cut for a distance of a couple of hundred feet. I made my way among the Indian ranches to Norogachic, the residence of the only priest living at present in the Tarahumare country. The name of the place contains an allusion to a certain rock in the vicinity. There is another priest who pays some attention to the Tarahumares, but he lives in Nonoava, and makes only annual visits to baptise infants or marry their elders who wish for the blessings of the Church.
A Priest and His Family Make the Wilderness Comfortable for Us—Ancient Remains Similar to those Seen in Sonora—The Climate of the Sierra—Flora and Fauna—Tarahumare Agriculture—Ceremonies Connected with the Planting of Corn—Deterioration of Domestic Animals—Native Dogs of Mexico.
Called on the padre and found him to be a very social, nice, energetic-looking person with a tinge of the “red man” in his veins.
He complained to me that the Indians were lazy about coming to mass. None of them paid taxes, and there was no way of forcing them. Nearly all of them he considered heathens, and only about a thousand came to the feasts. They arrive in the village on the evening before, and hear vespers. Then they give themselves up to drinking, and on the feast day proper are not in a condition to go to church.
He thinks there are some great men among the Tarahumares, but that, their mental faculties being entirely uncultivated, they are, as it were, rough diamonds. In the padre’s opinion not only all the Indians, but also the Mexicans living’ among them, will soon relapse into paganism altogether.
Living under rough conditions as he does, it is a lucky thing for the padre that his physique is equal to emergencies. Once at the neighbouring village of Tonachic (= where there are pillars) he admonished the people, in a powerful sermon, to mend their ways. As they were coming out of the church, a scoundrel who resented the charges attacked him with a stick, but the padre managed to disarm him and gave him such a sound thrashing with his assailant’s own weapon that the latter had to keep his bed for a fortnight.