Recently, I was sitting on the porch of the trading post watching my two nephews riding their bicycles and antagonizing each other. It was early evening; a relaxing time. The day was winding down, and it was almost time to head north, towards Blanding and home. It had recently rained, the air was fresh and invigorating, the earth smelled rich and there were new sprouts of green near the edge of the sidewalk. This certainly meant a new crop of weeds would soon come bursting forth. As I watched, Tarrik and Grange ran their bikes into each other and crashed to the ground. I quickly realized they were unhurt, and smiled to myself as I witnessed their entanglement and post smash up argument about who caused the incident.
Tarrik and Grange in front of Twin Rocks Trading Post
As I helped the boys untangle themselves, briskly dusted off their back sides and tried to stop the recriminations, a memory popped into my head. The event happened at least ten years ago, but the emotions washed over me as forcefully as they had at the time of the original incident. My eldest child, Spenser, had decided it was time to "take off the training wheels," and test his independence. He figured he was ready to ride his bicycle without being artificially propped up or aided in any way. He also figured he was not going to need the help of his father.
For whatever reason, my four year old foundling had asked me to remove the bicycle extensions and step aside. I learned something about my boy that day that both worried and made me proud. As instructed, I stood back and watched as Spenser repeatedly mounted that miniature bicycle and fell to the sidewalk. As my wife paced back and forth on our front lawn, and frowned at me as if this were my fault, Spenser continued his efforts. It wasn't long before tears of frustration rolled down his youthful, pink cheeks, but he would not accept help or give up his undertaking.
Laurie and I watched in concerned amazement as our son slowly progressed. Soon he was pedaling his way from one end of our block to the other. His determination was remarkable, and his tenacity unwavering. Spenser had pushed his limits to new levels and discovered that one can achieve great success by sheer willpower. At that moment, Laurie and I realized we were the proud parents of a very determined and resourceful young man.
This experience, and my newly found understanding of what can motivate people, has, over the years, proved beneficial at the trading post. I see the same determination to succeed in many of the artists we deal with on a daily basis. Looking across the counter into the fiercely determined eyes of an artist negotiating a price for his or her creation can be truly inspiring, and frightening. With great zeal, they inform us just what it took to produce their masterwork, and why it should be worth more than we are offering. The whole experience can be extremely educational.
There are tears of frustration, grinding and gnashing of teeth, hair pulling and near strangulations. Being the sensitive type, Steve gets rather worked up over these situations. The artists, on the other hand are usually more reasonable. But you have not lived until you have stood opposite someone like Matthew Yellowman, and listened to his impassioned dissertations on what it takes to carve, detail and professionally paint his masterful folk art. Beautifully sculpted roadrunners, along with chickens and ravens in moccasins and sneakers, spring to life under his expert hand. You soon realize that he has powerful emotions concerning his art, and he expects you to understand his motivations.
Then there is Delbert Buck, and his whimsical sculptures depicting humorous aspects of Navajo life. He has a knack for making you snort with laughter when first catching sight of his work. Delbert is low key, easy going and has a much more subtle approach to promoting and educating us about his art. He brings his entire family along to help express his opinions, share inspiration and negotiate terms. They gang up on us, which exaggerates their fervor. I have learned not to underestimate the strength of numbers. Steve and I don't stand much of a chance against that determined mob.
Whether I am dealing with my own family, my nephews, Steve and especially the artists, there are always strong wills at play, exaggerated opinions and emotional outbursts to contend with. Creative individuals often have much to say, and inventive ways of expressing themselves. It seems there is never a dull moment here at the trading post. Maybe one of these days I will feel comfortable enough to express my own point of view. I can feel the training wheels coming off.
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