Sitting in a sweltering high school gymnasium during the recent fourth of July celebration was turning into a truly uncomfortable lesson in patience and stamina. The gym was cramped and crowded, and the seats were hard, so I was having a tough time sitting still. As I observed two young women boxers wailing away at each other in the center ring, a bead of sweat formed, then rolled off the end of my nose onto the bleacher seat in front of me. It just missed my son Spenser. I observed him watching the "battling babes" and noticed a look of dismay on his face. I said to him, "It's not a pretty sight when women fight, is it?" He shook his head in disbelief, then gave me a questioning look when I told him that it was even uglier when a woman thrashed a man. As understanding set in, Spenser's eyes rolled upwards. He turned back to watch the fight, choosing to ignore me rather than chance another lesson in male/female relationships.
After losing my son's attention, I focused on the next set of combatants; two strong young men who beat each other about the head and shoulders for three rounds. When the war ended they staggered together, hugged and patted one another on the back as if all was well with the world. In one case, respect had been gained by force, in the other humility had come with a beating. I guess what my wife says about men and boys is true, "To teach 'em anything worth knowing you first have to hit them between the eyes with a 2 x 4, just to get their attention." My mind began to wander back to the trading post, and I remembered what my dear friend had said to me the day before.
"What are you guys still doing here in Bluff? You must be gluttons for punishment! It is hot and dry, you work long hours for little pay and you are missing out on all the action a city can offer. If you were putting all this time and effort into a business anywhere else, you guys would be millionaires." As I mulled over what my friend had so eloquently and longwindedly said, I knew that he was partially right. I also knew that he would not accept the truth in its simplicity, which was that this is a chosen exile. This business and lifestyle are what we love. It is as much a part of us as we are of it. The idea of abandoning Bluff and Twin Rocks Trading Post is not even an option. Although there are those fellow Bluffoons who would happily provide a generous going away bash should we decide to depart, we are here for the duration.
I looked my friend up and down as he awaited an answer. I cleared my throat, hitched up my drawers and told him a story. When we were children growing up in Bluff, there was a big old dog that would come visit our home about once a month. He was friendly, lovable and affectionate. This adorable mutt would hang around for a few days as we pampered him with love and spoiled him with leftovers. Before we tired of playing with and indulging our canine friend, he would leave us for an unknown destination. We looked forward to that dog's visits with great anticipation, and worried about his well being until we saw him again. For years the dog would show up with regularity, and irregularly when he needed medical attention such as porcupine quill removal. He seemed to have an affinity for porcupines. I guess he knew the consequences and the cure. We found out later that we were not the only family this gallivanting critter cozied up to. It seems that the dog had a string of contacts that took care of him wherever he chose to settle for a while. The point is that the dog chose to live this way, and when you understood his lifestyle, it didn't seem half bad. His routine had been established, his comfort zone was being maintained and he was perfectly happy.
The sound of a bell brought me back to the fights. I heard the announcer "Don Palmer King" say that they were looking for a two hundred pounder to fight their reigning champion, "Scoot Something-or-other". It seems no one was courageous enough to take on this masher of lesser men. I stood up and began to make my way to the ring. I would show this Goliath what a forty something feller from just North of the Navajo Reservation was made of. Why I had grown up in the sticker bushes, sharp rocks and scorching heat of Bluff, Utah. I sparred daily with a wiry, fast as lightning female and had held up well so far. I could surely take on this foolish youth, and teach him a thing or two in the meantime. From out of nowhere came my 80 year old father-in-law and my 13 year old son. They easily escorted me out of the building and down the street. "Why, you two saved that boy a real whoppin', " said I. Grandpa Clem mumbled something about wondering if I thought I could survive a collision with a Mac truck, and Spenser began an "Illusions of Grandeur" speech. Maybe there would be a fight after all; I think that I could take them both.
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