‘The Tape’ – Chapter 5 Meeka’s Revenge

by Bob Sparrow

(As a refresher, as well as for those new to the blog, the links below are to the previous chapters of ‘The Tape’, an allegorical tale of searching, with cameo appearances from beyond from my dear departed friend, Don Klapperich

(Jan 2014)  Chapter 1 ‘The Tape’                   http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2454

(Jan 2014)  Chapter 2  ‘The Tape’  –  Searching for Xoon        http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2500

(May 2014)  Chapter 3  ‘The Tape’  –  A Visit with Chief Chuckwalla    http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2776

(July 2014)  Chapter 4  ‘The Tape’ – Oh Where the Trap Door Leads        http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2807

 

Coachella-Valley

Coachella Valley

Chief Chuckwalla, with moist eyes, seemed a million miles away as he continued to stare out into the valley, trying to decide exactly where to begin to tell this story.

He finally began, “Everyone knows the story of slavery in America’s south, the slave traders gabbing black men and women from Africa and bringing them to America to sell; the cruelty that took place on the plantations and the attendant racism. But few people know of the slavery that took place right here long before America was ever colonized. It began when the Spanish conquistador, Cortez defeated the Aztecs in the early 1500’s which allowed the Spanish to rule what is now Mexico and the southwestern part of the United States for the next 300 years. The Spanish not only took our land, but they enslaved the Inviatim people to work it for them. The Spanish rancheros were the predecessors to southern plantations. They told us that our gods and beliefs were all wrong, that Christianity was the only true religion. In fact they used the word ‘Cahuilla’ to describe our tribe – a word that means heathen. We were told that we would suffer if we didn’t convert. And they made us suffer.

(Don: Ahhh, don’t ya just love organized religion?”)

The chief continued, “Those who either refused to work on the rancheros or refused to convert to Christianity were beaten, blindfolded, tied up and dragged behind horses to this place and imprisoned. Many of them died here, including my great, great grandmother.

“So those were their remains in the cells?” I said.

Palkara

Palkara

“No.” the chief replied, I could see he was struggling to get the story out. “My great, great grandfather, Palkara and their daughter, Meeka, managed to escape from this Hellhole. Several days after his escape, Palkara formed a posse and, now knowing the location of this secret underground prison, returned in the dead of night and attacked and killed the guards and freed hundreds of prisoners. Unfortunately he was killed in the attack. The Inviatim prisoners, who were released, moved south and established their village by what is now the Salton Sea, but at that time was a beautiful freshwater lake fed by the Colorado River.

Meeka, who was only about 10 when she and her father escaped, grew to be a very independent and strong-willed woman, who was determined to find a way to get back at the Spanish for killing her mother and father. As she grew older, she would often returned to this place just to remind herself of what happened here and to keep her resolve for revenge. She ultimately decided that she was going to use this Hellhole to exact that revenge. She convinced a small but courageous group of Inviatim tribe members to join in her crusade.

Meeka

Meeka

“It was in the late 1700s and the white man was now just starting to push the Spanish and Mexicans out and take over more and more of the southwest region. Most, if not all, of the Spaniards who took the Inviatim’s land and imprisoned and killed their people were now dead or gone. But Meeka’s desire for revenge needed to be quenched. She painstakingly found the names of those leaders responsible for imprisoning her people and killing her parents. She then located their children, or children’s children, many of whom were still living in the area and were now adults. Systematically, one by one, she kidnapped and imprisoned them here, locked the place up tighter than a drum and left them to die. It is their bones that remain down there now.”

I sat silently for a long time, in awe of the story I had just heard and finally said, “That is an amazing story; so what happened to Meeka?”

 

To be continued . . .

 

‘The Tape’ Chapter 4 – Oh, Where the Trap Door Leads!

For those who have joined us recently, you can find previous chapters of ‘The Tape’ in our ‘Archives’ as follows: Chap 1 (Jan 6), Chap 2 (Jan 20), Chap 3 (May 5).

by Bob Sparrow

trap door

The Trap Door

The Chief took the first few steps down into the cellar and turned back to looked at me with an expression that said,   ‘Are you coming?’  I was still frozen in place across the room and reluctantly inched my way toward the opening in the floor and wondered why I was doing this, what was I going to find down there and what if the Chief was really an axe murderer? One thing I didn’t wonder about was whether anyone would ever find my body if in fact he was. No frickin’ way. Let me end the suspense, the Chief didn’t own an axe, heck he didn’t even own a tomahawk.

dungeon

Stone walls & archway

The stairs down were longer than I expected so when we finally reached the stone floor at the bottom we were down about 20 feet. Chief’s kerosene lantern cast an uneven light against the cool, dank surroundings. I was not prepared for what I saw before me – the floor, walls and archways, were all lined with brick and stone; someone had put a lot of work into creating this place, whatever it was. As the chief held the lantern in his outstretched arm, we moved toward the main archway. At first I couldn’t make out what I was looking at and then as we got closer, I was stunned. Prison cells had been carved out on both sides of this cave; rusty cell doors hung open in rows as far as the lantern would allow us to see. A chill came over me as I realized I was in a real live dungeon.

(Don: “I’m getting a little claustrophobic, how about we all go up and get some fresh air?”)

The Chief was in deep thought as he looked around this underground prison. He walked over to a nearby cell and squeaked open the rusted door and stood motionless as he stared inside. I kept my distance, as I was pretty sure I didn’t want to see whatever was inside that cell. I asked, “So what is this? What the heck went on down here?”

(Don: “And why are we still down here?”)

cell2

dungeon cell

The Chief remained silent as the light from the lantern made eerie shadows play on his face.  He looked down the long row of cells lost in thought. He finally turned to me and said, “Let’s go back up.”

(Don: “Whew! How can I thank you?”)

I followed the Chief up the stairs, out of the house and to the top of a near-by ridge next to the house; from there the entire Coachella Valley lay before us. The sun had just slipped behind Mt. San Jacinto as the Chief sat down on a boulder and watched the evening shadows stretch across the valley floor.

overlooking coachella

Coachella Valley

I sat down a few feet away and asked, “That was pretty spooky; so what was that place?”

 

To Be Continued . . .

 

Update: ‘Murder on the Road to Hana’  For those regulars who read/subscribe to our blog, I wanted to provide an up-date on a earlier story published on March 3rd.  Nothing earth-shattering, but the Maui police have reclassified the case  of missing Carley Scott from a ‘missing person’ to a ‘homicide’.  Additionally they have found something in the waters just off the Hana coast that they believe can help them solve this mystery.  Ex-boyfriend, Steven Capobianco remains a ‘person of interest’.

Chap. 2 The Tape – Searching for Xoon

(Writer’s note: if you missed Chapter 1 you can find it in our archives at the right.  Our free subscription will send our blog to your email every Monday morning.)

by Bob Sparrow

shell     With my thumb and forefinger I fished the shell casing out from the bottom of my shirt pocket and held it in the sunlight coming through my windshield as I sped down Interstate 5 on my way home.  It was the last tangible reminder of my now deceased best friend, given to me after the service by his sister.  The crack of the military rifles still echoed in my ear – a resounding period at the end of his life sentence.

“God dammit Don, why didn’t you take better care of yourself?”

He answered, “Didn’t we always say that ‘life was too long’?”

“It was just a joke!”

“Was it?”

I drove in silence for the next three hours, although it wasn’t exactly silent, in fact my mind was filled with a thousand memories – it was actually quite noisy in there.  I shouldn’t call classical music ‘noise’, but he loved the song Nessun Dorma, we listened to it together as the hair on our arms would stand on end.  Now, as I drive in the vast openness of central California, that melody was haunting me as an ear worm.

Being a rather unsophisticated fan of opera, I would later learn that the song is from the opera, Turandot, by Puccini, Pavarottiwhich ironically, or not, is about solving riddles.  It features an unknown prince, a bitchy princess as well as some torture and beheadings.  Pretty much like operas today, only now they’re prefaced with ‘soap’.  While Nesun Dorma sounds like a beautifully majestic love song, the lyrics and the storyline in the opera are actually quite menacing.  For those not familiar with the song, and even those who are and enjoy a good aria, I’ve attached a link to the 3-minute video of Pavarotti’s offering in 1994 – you may have to copy and paste it into your browser – it’s worth it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTFUM4Uh_6Y

     I wondered what all this had to do with anything (as you may be wondering yourself!).  The Tape was already in the car’s cassette player so I just punched ‘Play’.  No longer trying to figure out what was being said, I listened more broadly to the rhythm, the pulse of it.  What I heard for the first time was what clearly sounded like changes in the language being used.  It was still all  unintelligible, but it now seemed clear that the language being used was changing several time throughout the 90-minute tape.

I heard a number of words and phrases repeated throughout the first several minutes.  One such phrase was Eviatem non Cawhoea. I’m sure the spelling here isn’t correct as I just wrote it down phonetically . . . while I was driving.  Of course it meant nothing to me, but I thought about a colleague, Matt, with whom I used to teach and who now was a professor of language at nearby Chapman University, who just might be able to help.

Matt tilted his head towards the cassette player in his office, narrowed his eyes and was motionless as he listened to The Tape.  As the cassette wheels spun I watched his eyes furtively shift, widen then frown.  I silently pointed to the tape, as if to make him listen harder when the Eviatem non Cawhoea part was coming up for the second time.  After it was spoken I clicked off the tape.

“Those words are repeated several times in the first few minutes” I told him, “Any idea what it is?”

“Maybe”, he responded as he turned to the bookshelf behind him and ran his index finger along a row of old books until he found what he was looking for.  He pulled it from the shelf and gingerly laid it on his desk and turned to the page as noted in the Table of Contents.

Pointing at the page he said, “Yes, here it is right here, it is in fact . . . gibberish.”

“Oh thank you esteemed professor of language, I knew you could solve this mystery.  Seriously, does any of it make any sense to you?”

“Actually some of it does.  The phrase, Iviatim non Cahuilla, which is repeated several time probably refers to the Iviatim or Ivia language of an ancient Indian tribe, related to the Aztecs; they’re actually indigenous to the deserts here in Southern California.  Cahuilla, (pronounced kah-wee-ah) was the name for Iviatim that was used by the missionaries and ranchero owners.  It was the Spanish first, then the Mexicans that took over their land.”

“Why did they change the name?  Can you translate any more of it; do you think it tells us why they changed the name?

“Hold on with the questions for a minute.  I’m afraid I can’t translate anything more, that language is nearly extinct; there are probably less than 50 people in the world that can still speak it.  Fortunately for you most of them are out in the Palm Springs area.  Someone out there may be able to answer your questions.”

“Thanks Matt, any ideas on how I would go about finding any of the 50 people that still speak this language?”

“Well, you’re probably not going to find them sitting around the pool at the Marriott sipping a Pina Colada, but I think I can point you in the right direction.”

I would learn later that Matt actually knew exactly where to send me, and he knew why the name was changed, but he had his reasons for not being the one to give me the answers.