Roland Denny of Mexican Hat, Utah


Roland Denny of Mexican Hat, Utah

Roland Denny, a Navajo student on the Church’s Indian Placement Program, has two families. And he tries to make the best of both worlds in which he lives. During the school year he lives with the Alan Mecham family in Salt Lake City, where he attends Hillside Junior High School. He plans to be either a doctor or a dentist when he grows up. For now, when he isn’t doing schoolwork or practicing the piano, Roland enjoys swimming or playing baseball.

An active member of the Parley’s First Ward deacons quorum, Roland can be counted on to pass the sacrament and to collect fast offerings. In the Mexican Hat Branch, where he passes the sacrament in the summer with his brother Brent, members live so far apart that they must bring their fast offerings to church themselves. And because it is an area where daytime temperatures often soar to well over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, drinking water must be drawn from deep wells, put into fifty-five gallon drums, and hauled by pickup trucks to the homes.

Bobby Denny, Roland’s father, attended Navajo Community College at Tsaile, Arizona, and for fourteen years was director of instructors in the Navajo Adult Education Program. Brother Denny is first counselor of the Mexican Hat Branch. Alice Denny, Roland’s mother, is a trained nurse and works for the Utah Navajo Development Council. She has worked in leadership positions in her branch Relief Society. The Denny family was elated last year, when Roland, his three brothers, and his two sisters were sealed to their parents in the Jordan River Temple.

When Roland returns to his natural family in Mexican Hat for the summer, he keeps busy with family chores and his flock of chickens, ducks, and turkeys. He also started a snow-cone business last summer to earn some spending money. In July he and other Mexican Hat youngsters participate in the Mad Hatter’s Fling, a riotous, four-mile-long race down the San Juan River. They ride inner tubes, homemade boats, or anything else that will safely float.

Sometimes, when the open-air shade house in the garden at home doesn’t provide enough comfort for sleeping, Roland’s family makes an excursion to Cedar Mesa, a cool, wooded area to the north of Monument Valley, where Roland’s grandfather, Julius Denny, lives. A traditional Indian herbalist, Grandfather Denny is also a miner and a rancher. Roland likes to help him with his herds of Rambouillet sheep, Charolais cattle, and Angora goats. Roaming the vast reaches of Monument Valley, with its gigantic, storied sandstone formations, helps Roland understand and appreciate the Creator’s wondrous handiwork.

[photo] Photos by Dick Brown

[photo] 1. Besides his proficiency on the piano, Roland excels at baseball and swimming.

[photo] 2. Roland ponders the majestic immensity of Monument Valley in southeastern Utah.

[photo] 3. Irrigation water for Sister Denny’s fruit trees and garden is pumped up from the San Juan River, about a mile away.

[photo] 4. Brother Bobby Denny, Roland’s father, is first counselor of the Mexican Hat Branch of the Church.

[photo] 5. The city of Mexican Hat was named after this unusual sandstone formation, which resembles an upside-down sombrero, near the northern gateway to the Navajo Indian Reservation.

[photo] 6. Dispensing snow cones out of a “store” in the Denny’s garage is just one of Roland’s summertime enterprises.

[photo] 7. Roland, his brothers, and his cousins are ready for the annual Mad Hatter’s Fling.

[photo] 8. Grandfather Denny, Roland, and their sheep-dogs guide a herd of sheep, cattle, and goats home before nightfall.

[photo] 9. An interesting assortment is Roland’s flock of young chickens, ducks, and turkeys.