Friday, July 21, 2017

Elvis is in the Building


As is often the case on these hot July days, Barry, Priscilla and I were hunkered down, sheltering behind the Kokopelli doors. Outside the temperature was 104° Fahrenheit and rising, it was hot. Inside the store, however, it was cool and calm, tranquil. Despite our comfortable circumstances, a dark cloud hung over us and our mood was sober. We had begun to worry someone had closed the tourist valve, and like grapes in the California sun we were about to become economic raisins. Turquoise and silver was not selling, and even Navajo taco and fry bread sales had softened. 

As with everything that goes wrong these days, we assigned blame for our slump to Donald Trump. Likely it was just that we were nearing Independence Day and Bluff is not considered a July 4th destination. Trump is, however, a convenient scapegoat, and we shamelessly abused him and his administration. After the Great Recession of 2008, it does not take much to spook Barry and me. We are still suffering the psychological effects of that slow down and have never fully regained our financial courage. While we have considered alcohol or counseling to overcome our cowardice, we cannot afford either and are therefore stuck with our malady. Although we have tried, we have yet to find a way to pin this situation on our current president. We are confident, however, that, like Robert Mueller, we will eventually find the smoking gun.

In our small community, there are no parades, no picnics, and no fireworks commemorating the birth of this nation. Indeed, there is typically not even a large glass of lemonade to be had, since most local businesses close so their staffs can enjoy the holiday. As we crept closer to the day Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and our separation from the crown, those of us at Twin Rocks were actually hoping, maybe even praying, for a few Brits with pounds in their pockets to find their way in. We were fully prepared to forgive and forget the past injustices and embrace them as brothers and sisters once again, so long as we could shake ‘em down. As difficult as they are, we would have even welcomed the French. Frankly, once we realized they were not responsible for French fries, we lost all fondness for them. We are not, however, above taking their money.

As the afternoon wore on, our mood grew progressively gloomy. Suddenly the door burst open and a gentleman in his middle-sixties ducked in out of the heat. We noticed he left his traveling companion outside. I could see the second man sitting on the Yertle the Turtle King, which is located on the westerly side of the broad porch, immediately adjacent to the cohab. When Kira and Grange were young, we spent many an evening reading Dr. Seuss, marveling at the stories created by that extraordinary man. Although not my absolute favorite, a title then and forever held by the Sneeches, Yertle was one of the most popular. So, when Jana, Grange, and I arrived at the Sipesonian Institute for Creative Endeavor several months ago and spotted the carving out in the yard, I knew it had to live among the folk art already incorporated into Twin Rocks Trading Post. After searching out Dave Sipe, artist, curator, and cofounder of the illustrious institution, which is headquartered just west of Mancos, Colorado, we got down to business. Dave is a tough negotiator and we did our best to hide our enthusiasm. Consequently, it took some time, and a few crocodile tears, but we eventually arrived at an accommodation. Once payment arrangements were satisfied, Grange and I loaded the marine reptile into the Subaru and headed home.

Noting the other gentleman seemed to be bordering on heat exhaustion as he reclined on Yertle, I asked, “Why doesn’t your friend come in?” “He has a dog”, the visitor responded. As a result of our Buffy the Wonder Dog phase, which tragically ended about three years ago, we are pet friendly. So, after receiving assurances our furry friend would not pee on the carpet, Priscilla invited the overheated man and his dog inside. As it turns out, the canine was a Parson’s Russell terrier, a breed of small, white, feisty, energetic animals known for digging up badgers. They are reputed to be extremely smart, and this particular pup fit the mold. According to the information we gathered, the breed is named for the Reverend John “Jack” Russell, who in 1819 purchased a small white and tan terrier female named Trump from the milkman in the hamlet of Elmsford, England. That particular Trump formed the foundation for the parson’s breeding program. While we were inclined to draw parallels, we withheld judgment to avoid slandering the dog.

Once inside, the pet owner took up residence in a wooden chair and his sidekick set about thoroughly inspecting the premises and then surveying each individual in turn; first Barry, then Rick, then Priscilla, and lastly, me. The inquisitive terrier limped slightly as he completed his turn around the store. “Elvis,” the man said, correcting the dog, “that’s the wrong leg.” According to his master, the terrier had recently had surgery on his left leg, but in an attempt to garner sympathy and a little attention, he mistakenly favored the right. The canine was confused.

The animal wore a harness with an attached notice stating, “Do not pet!” Despite the mandate, after giving me the once-over, the dog jumped up and demanded attention. “Go ahead, pet him”, the owner directed. “Elvis?” I asked. “Yup!” Now, anyone who knows me understands the only person I love more than Dr. Seuss is Elvis, so the dog and I immediately bonded. As people straggled in from the scorching sun, Elvis, still confused over which limb had been repaired, hobbled over to them and extracted a scratch on the belly, a pat on the head, or a thorough rubdown. As I watched Barry overseeing this occurrence, I could tell he was hatching a plan. By the next morning, Barry had copied Elvis’ routine down to a science as he hobbled about the store. Clearly, he had set aside all concern for our financial well-being and become more interested in getting a pat, a scratch, or a rubdown.