Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur. The first time I heard the word was during a college business class, and I was certain it indicated something associated with the back half of a bovine. To this day, I am required to consult a dictionary to assure proper spelling of the term and am often reminded of the old joke about the self-employed man who said, "Last week I couldn't even spell entrepreneur, and now I is one." Had I known how profoundly the term, and all it implies, would affect my life, I may have paid more attention to the instructor.

Once I realized entrepreneurs usually have little to do with manure, and that I had in fact been one since the age of seven, I began to envision the concept as a vehicle to take me exotic places, where I would meet wildly interesting people and make gobs of money. I thought of entrepreneurship as a hot rod, with fiery flames scorching its fenders and blasting out its tailpipes, or as a long black Cadillac, with fashionable tail fins, easing with extraordinary class down the freeway of life. Little did I realize my entrepreneurial vehicle would be more like the Datsun pickup I drove during school.

That old yellow truck was once accused of single-handedly polluting the entire Sacramento valley with its belching smoke. Although that was a bit of an exaggeration, there was a grain of truth in the accusation. With all the petroleum products that Datsun consumed, it may have been primarily responsible for keeping the Saudi royal family in positive cash flow throughout the early 1980s. The California Highway Patrol once attempted to eject me and my truck from the state, but since it sported Utah license plates, there was nothing they could do to exorcise me from their jurisdiction.

Whenever I took my truck to the garage to have its annual inspection, my mechanic would just shake his head and paste the new sticker on the window, knowing full well he would be held liable if the truck went wrong and killed or maimed some innocent traveler due to a defective part. My bank representative often reminds me of that mechanic. When I ask the banker for additional financing to fuel my entrepreneurial tank, he shrugs his shoulders, wags his finger at me, and eventually gives in to my request. He, like the mechanic, knows there is a very real possibility he will be held responsible if a catastrophe occurs.

In spite of its immense desire for oil, my old yellow transport took me places a country bumpkin could only imagine and provided experiences that made me what I am today. I learned some very important lessons about life and love lying in the bed of that truck in the Nevada desert, watching as the stars cascaded across the night sky, alone, nursing a broken heart. I explored the California coast and the immense redwoods, feeling the richness of this earth and beginning to understand the beauty of our natural environment.

While driving that truck, I learned the law of the land and the land of the law. I met people who still inhabit the various chambers of my heart. I began to appreciate, rather than fear, differences in individuals, and was saddened when the pickup was retired to a farm in Northern California.

Like that old truck, Twin Rocks Trading Post has become my vehicle for education and new experiences. There is an old African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child." I believe it also takes a village to raise a business. Our trading post community is comprised of numerous artists who produce beautiful creations which are then cast upon the waters for our customers to enjoy. If we, as intermediary between artist and collector, do our jobs correctly, we become a catalyst for change---the fertilizer that brings the soil to a rich, loamy state, suitable for growing and nurturing crops planted by the artists to sate the collectors' hunger for Native beauty. If not, we begin to resemble the entrepreneur pile I originally envisioned during business class.

Twin Rocks has brought me many rich relationships and has given me a window into a rapidly changing culture, one that I worry may not be able to sustain itself many generations into the future. I have seen local artists create weavings I worry my grandchildren will never see replicated. Through those creations I have been exposed to the mythology, sociology, and anthropology of an enduring people.

This trading post has been responsible for teaching me more about living in harmony with divergent people and difficult environments than I could have imagined. It has polished me like a river stone, wearing off many, but certainly not all, of my rough edges as I tumble along. In return, I keep buffing and burnishing that entrepreneurial vehicle, hoping it will one day turn into the comfortable Cadillac or fiery hot rod I once envisioned.