The Pollock Family: Good Day to You, 13 of 14

“You must send them away to school,” the Indian Agent insisted. He gestured toward the four children clustered behind John Pollock and his wife in the dusty Agent’s office. “It’s the law.”

“Not Navajo law,” John Pollock said.

“How else are they going to learn to read and write?”

“I will teach them.”

“You speak American, but—”

“I also read and write it.”

“All adult Navajos are illiterate. Everyone knows that.”

John’s eyes glinted with amusement. “If you say so.”

“The soldiers will throw you into prison.”

John’s wife stiffened, but John smiled gently. “We will see,” he said, turning to leave.

“We’ll stop your rations.”

John opened the office door. “We have mutton and corn.” He gestured his family through the doorway and nodded politely. “Good day to you. I expect we will not meet again.”

“Educated Indians,” the Agent muttered as the door closed. “God help me!”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson


The Pollock Family: Homecoming, 12 of 14

He had missed the glare from the red rocks, the harshness of the heat, John Pollock realized with surprise. He stood, feet slightly apart, feeling the stone and sand beneath him, and gazed at the sky and rugged mesas. Words came back to him, long-buried Diné words praising Creator and creation. He breathed in the hot dry air. It was good to be home.

He began walking. Somewhere there would be cousins. Perhaps aunts and uncles. He had the money he’d earned in the mines as well as the gold Thomas Pollock had pressed into his hand as he said, “You take care now,” on that final morning. Perhaps he would buy sheep and drive them to pasture as he remembered his grandfather doing before the Long Walk. His mind sheered off from remembering the Walk itself, that dark and hungry time.

“Somewhere there will be cousins,” John told himself.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson





The Pollock Family: Departure, 11 of 14

“Well then,” Thomas Pollock said, extending his hand.

John gripped the older man’s palm hard as he shook it.

“You have what you need?” Thomas asked.

John nodded. He looked at the Pollock wagon, loaded for the trek eastward over the Santa Fe Trail, then to Ohio. The three children stood silently beside it. Charlie looked glumly at the ground. Jessie gazed skyward, mouth set tight against angry tears. Only little Josephine looked him in the eyes.

“I wish you would come with us,” she said.

Wordlessly, John shook his head.

Sarah appeared in the doorway of the now-empty cabin. She raised a hand in farewell, lips trying to smile. “God go with you,” she said.

“And with you,” John answered. He turned abruptly away and began walking south, toward Palo Flechado Pass and then Taos. He would go westward from there. “Home,” he told himself. But he felt nothing.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Pollock Family: We Are Your Family, 10 of 14

“I need to find my family,” John said.

“We are your family,” Sarah protested.

The sixteen-year-old shook his head. “You have been very kind—”

Sarah sank into her rocking chair. “We tried to make you love us.”

“No matter how I feel, I am still Diné,” he said gently.

She looked up at him. “Oh John.”

“Jessie will get older, and I will be an obstacle to her suitors.”

Sarah waved her hand. “That’s a long time coming.”

“Not so very long.” He moved restlessly. “I don’t belong here. Not really.” He wondered whether he would belong in Navajo land, now that he’d learned the White ways. His habits had changed. Even speaking English was becoming less of an effort. But she’d only done what she thought best. He felt a twinge of guilt as he faced her. “I must go,” he said.

She turned her head away.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Pollock Family: The Letter, 9 of 14

The Elizabethtown gold mining venture hadn’t worked out, and now there was a letter from Ohio, telling Thomas Pollock that his father had died and there was land for him, if he wanted to farm it. He stood with the paper in his hand, looking at his wife.

Sarah gazed back at him over the bowl of potatoes she was peeling. “What about John?” she asked.

“What about him?”

“A Navajo boy in Ohio. What kind of life will that be?”

“The mining hasn’t amounted to anything much, and it’s getting poorer,” Thomas pointed out. “We have to eat.”

“We can’t just leave him.”

“There are other boys here on their own.”

She lifted her chin. “They wouldn’t be, if they were mine.”

He grinned, knowing this was true. “I don’t have to decide right away,” he said.

She nodded and returned to her potatoes, her eyes troubled.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Pollock Family: Lesson Time, 8 of 14

It had been what Mama Pollock called three years since her family had rescued John from the wilderness. She stood behind him now, studying the columns of numbers on his slate. “You have a gift for figures, John,” Sarah said. She patted his shoulder, returned the slate to him, and reached across the table for Jessie’s work.

“I wish you’d let me sit beside John,” Jessie said.

Her mother looked up. “You’d copy his work and wouldn’t learn anything.”

Jessie and John looked at each other and grinned.

Charlie came in the door. “Lesson time, Charles,” Sarah said, returning Jessie’s slate to her.

“It’s still daylight,” Charlie protested. “John’s gonna teach me to throw a knife.”
Sarah put her hands on her hips. “Lesson time!” she said sharply. “You need civilizing more than you need to learn how to throw knives.” She turned to John. “Please don’t encourage him.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Pollock Family: 1870 Census, 7 of 14

“And this young man?” the census taker J.B. McCullough asked. He pointed his pencil at the Indian boy who’d just carried in an armload of firewood.

“His name is John,” Thomas Pollock said. “John Pollock.”


“About twelve.”


There was a pause. Thomas looked at his wife, who stood motionless, holding her mixing bowl. “Navajo Indian Country,” he said reluctantly.

“Can he speak English? Read and write?”

Thomas turned. “John?”

The boy came forward. He looked quietly into McCullough’s eyes. “Mama Pollock is teaching me,” he said.

The man looked at Thomas. “Well, you know what you’re doin’, I guess.” He tucked his pencil into his shirt pocket. “Good luck to you.” He nodded to Sarah. “Ma’am.”

The door closed.

“Bastard,” Thomas muttered.

“It’s all right,” the boy said. “I’m used to it.”

Sarah looked at him, her face stricken. “Oh John,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson