Late in the afternoon I stood behind the jewelry counter watching the day fade to black. It was the type of fall day that causes Twin Rocks Trading Post patrons to ask, "Is it always this nice here?” As we all know, nothing is universally the same, and in Bluff everything, including the weather, can change in an instant.
Bluff Cottonwood Trees
During evenings like this I long to bottle a few early November hours to remind me of autumn during the heat of summer or the chill of winter. On this particular evening, the golden sunlight streamed through yellow cottonwoods and splashed on the ground, creating pools of gold I treasure more than any precious metal. This serene beauty makes my heart beat slower, and at times leaves me in an almost hypnotic trance.
As the sun set, the smell of ripe melon permeated the store and I noticed customers unsuccessfully attempting to identify the scent. A young man in his early twenties strode in sporting waist length hair imprisoned by a series of rubber bands and an Australian accent that seemed too forced to be authentic. Neglecting the unusual aroma, he asked, "Do you have knee-high moccasins and bone chokers?" "Sorry, no", I answered without further explanation, putting him on notice this is not a knee-high moccasin and bone choker kind of place.
Moments later an elderly couple wandered through the store, smiling, pointing and complimenting in a friendly fashion. Their senses worked hard to define the unrecognized fragrance. Only a few hours earlier Ray Lovato had delivered the aromatic fruit, along with blue corn cookies and several chilies. "Grown from my own patch," Ray proudly proclaimed as he handed over the produce.
Ray had informed me the melon was a highly effective means of exciting the opposite sex. He said one must eat its fruit and boil the left over rind in alcohol to produce the desired effect. Once the husk was completely rendered, he advised me to rub it on my face, chest and other anatomical parts that should not be mentioned in polite company. "Guaranteed to work", he affirmed. His daughter blushed and turned away.
After Ray exited the trading post, a mining economist who had previously been holding forth on existing and extinct turquoise mines asked, "Has he been drinking?" "Drunk on the fairer gender," I explained, "Ray gave up booze decades ago. Now he's addicted to turquoise and memories of the past, maybe hoping for future adventures if his melon recipe works out."
The question posed by the economist reminded me how difficult it is for our customers to understand local culture. It also brought to mind an incident that happened several years earlier when two women came striding into the post. "Are you here for the Bluff Arts Festival," I asked. "Yes," they responded, "we were out at St. Christopher's Mission for the Spin Off. There was a live sheep when we arrived that was dead when we left”, they explained with unvarnished disgust. The women failed to understand that, on the Navajo reservation, sheep are considered a gift to the people; an expendable resource.
Ray's romance melon and chilies
Later that same evening, Kira's friend Gabby and I were discussing the proper method of slaughtering sheep when Kira announced that killing them was “awful." Gabby patiently explained the process to Kira and described delicious foods created from sheep intestines, brains and blood. To Gabby, butchering animals for food was as natural as taking ground beef from the freezer. Kira, however, found the process foreign. Gabby's patient explanation opened a window of understanding for Kira, and helped her appreciate the differences that define their lives.
In our modern world of prepackaged everything, society has forgotten the basic functions of rural life. Like Gabby, many of our Native American friends still understand how it used to be. Ray, however, must not be one of them. As Barry and I can attest, his "traditional" love potion was a complete flop. Just don’t ask how we know.
With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.
Copyright 2005 Twin Rocks Trading Post