Wednesday, May 28, 2003


The most prevalent topic of conversation at the trading post these days is how dry it is, and what effect this drought will have on us this summer. If a rancher or cattleman walks into the store, we make a sustained effort to steer him away from this very difficult subject. Speaking of cattlemen and misdirection reminds me of the time my sister Cindy and I talked a waitress out of a free plate of stuffed mushrooms. Cindy brings out the devil in me more than any of my other siblings. She is playful and always up for a practical joke. Being the last of five children, she was a tom boy and was spoiled quite rotten.

While we were at a trade show in Denver, Cindy and I decided to have dinner at a steak house near our motel. She was on that all protein diet at the time, and was craving red meat. As we walked into the restaurant and waited to be seated, we noticed a message board which boldly proclaimed, "Try our crab stuffed mushrooms, they are simply the best in the state." Written just under that was another message that said, "If your waitress does not mention the stuffed mushrooms we will give you a plate free." There it was, as bold as brass, a flat out challenge. All it took was one look and we both knew that the gauntlet had been thrown down. As we followed the hostess into the depths of the restaurant, we were mentally warming up to the task.

We were seated and a young waitress breezed up to the table, "Hello! My name is Terry. I will be your waitre....". Before Terry knew what hit her Cindy and I were grilling her about what there was to see and do in her wonderful town, dinner suggestions, favorite beverage, how beautiful her engagement ring was, when she was getting married, and on and on. Between all the questions and answers, we ordered dinner and drinks, flattered poor Terry to death and thanked her for her perfect service. As she turned to walk away, I casually said, "Oh, and Terry... we will take that free plate of stuffed mushrooms while we wait for dinner.. Terry stopped in her tracks, turned to us with an oath, gave us a harsh look and returned to the table. In a hushed, disturbed whisper she said "Da_n you guys! I have not had to give a single plate of those mushrooms away in the last two weeks. You have just messed up my perfect record." Cindy and I looked up innocently and sheepishly grinned. Terry said, "I'll bring you your mushrooms, but don't you tell anyone about this, I don't intend to lose the contest because of you two." Cindy reached over and gave me a high five as Terry steamed away. Those mushrooms sure tasted good, as did the rest of the dinner. As we prepared to depart, Terry slipped us seven dollars to pay for the mushroom. We added the money to her tip, thanked Terry for her fantastic service and smugly departed.

Getting back to how dry it is around here, I believe we are going to be a dust bowl this summer. I know this is the case with many parts of the world, and that I should refrain from complaining about the discomfort, but I can't. The drought is a major concern with the Anglo population. We are worried about our lawns, gardens, flowers and everything else we have planted to brighten up this arid, desert landscape. We fuss and fret about our livestock, the wild animals, trees and vegetation; all with good reason I assure you. There is much to worry about, and so much worrying has a way of rippling through our lives. When the subject is broached with the elderly Navajo people of our area, we hardly get a response. They simply shrug and say, "We live in a desert region. We are bound to get our share of dry years. What do you expect?" It is the belief of the local Navajo people that Mother Earth and Father Sky will look out for their charges. The deities will provide many good times, but they will also test their people with hard times to temper them, and to teach them to look for the good in bad situations. It is believed that the survivors, of all species, will be better prepared to face the future, and that a hardier, more resilient, life form will emerge from the hardship.

We look forward to the challenge in hopes of coming out the other side of this drought as more capable individuals, better business people and improved capacity for acceptance. Hopefully we can take a cue from the Native people and make the best of it. To take what comes as a challenge, prepare for it, and figure out how to bring about a "free"plate of crab stuffed mushrooms from the deal. "Hello! My name is Hot, and Dry I will be your waitre...

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