A gleaming star in the south caught my eye. It brightened enough to cast shadows. Hassun and Chogan both gasped. Trailing a tail like rocket exhaust, the object slammed into the ground 300 metres in front of us. An instant later, a deafening shockwave flattened the three of us against the hill. A boulder emerged from the impact to hurtle toward us. Smashing through my fence, it ricocheted up the hill, hopped over us, and tumbled up the entry pathway into the medicine wheel. Turning and half rising, I spied the boulder, twice the size of a large beach ball, perched atop the central cairn where it now emitted a fading red glow. For a stunned moment, I fancied that my skin still felt the hot breath of the bolide’s passage within inches of my head.
Meteorite hunters arrived coincidentally with the first flash of the morning sun. Within half an hour, a dozen of them gathered around the oblong crater left by the initial impact. I saw their eyes follow the path the meteorite had carved on its way up to the central cairn. Several approached where I was busy patching the gap punched through the fence. One of them, a short man sporting a bushy red beard, addressed me. “You own this land?”
“I hold title tuh the grazin’ lease.” I gestured toward the twenty or so Blackfoot men who had joined Hassun and Chogan on the kame. “The way I see it, they got the ancestral rights.”
The look on Red Beard’s face suggested that he understood he was dealing with someone of limited intelligence. “You’ve the legal right to throw these yahoos off your lease. I’m offering $5000 for the chance to go up there, find the meteorite, and claim it as my own. How about it?”
“Maybe you didn’t get what I said. That rock’s theirs. I think maybe you should get off my lease.”
Red Beard and his companions moved around to the west of the fence. As I turned back to my work, Hassun nodded in my direction. Red Beard shouted his offer of $5000 to anyone inside the fence who might be interested. The only hint of a reply, three Blackfoot cradling rifles moved partway down the west side of the hill. Red Beard retreated.
Throughout the morning, more people, both Blackfoot and white, arrived. I noticed that there were a lot more rifles on the kame. Many of the arriving whites carried rifles of their own.
Twelve Blackfoot arrived with drums. They positioned themselves in four groups of three at the four cardinal points around the central cairn. Unlike the other Blackfoot, who kept watchful eyes on the whites, the drummers faced the cairn. The drumming started with the accompaniment of wordless singing. From my position, I could only see six of the drummers. As the singing and drumming progressed, their faces blanked. They entered a communal trance.
Back at my ranch house for lunch, I called the RCMP detachment in Picture Butte to let them know what was going on. On any other day, I would have spent the hour after lunch operating the telegraph key on my ham radio set. That afternoon, even though I’d no chore demanding my attention back at the medicine wheel, I drove back. I didn’t want to miss the show.
On the way, I tuned the pickup’s radio to CBC Calgary. A news item was in progress.
… three competing interests: the Aboriginal People, who consider the meteorite a sacred object; a collection of private meteorite hunters, who are here because of this rock’s monetary value; and geologists from the Universities of Calgary and Lethbridge, who emphasize the scientific value of such an object. Sighing, I switched off the radio.
I had to park farther back from the kame than usual. My grazing lease was starting to look like a parking lot. Three of the vehicles sprouted satellite dishes. TV crews had arrived. I sighed again.
One of the vehicles parked below the kame, a white van, sported the University of Calgary logo. An SUV parked nearby displayed the lettering, University of Lethbridge. As I emerged from my truck, a man stepped out of the van. I recognized Jon Amundsen, a geologist who had come here with an archaeology team three years previously. He was closely followed by an attractive blond woman from the SUV. Jon didn’t waste time with social niceties. “Sam, if there’s a meteorite up there, it belongs in a lab for analysis. We can learn a lot from a rock like that.”
“Good tuh see you too, Jon. There’s a rock, but it belongs tuh the Blackfoot. Talk tuh them.”
Jon’s face made it clear that he’d already tried speaking with the Natives. He stomped back to the van.