As young boys my two brothers and I would climb up onto the high points surrounding Bluff, gaze down upon our small community and look for adventure among the landscape, citizens and structures below. Much like the raptors that drifted on the updrafts and air currents high above our closely shaved heads, we found ourselves in constant search of nourishment; they for food, we for adventure. The locals were acutely aware of our mischievous nature and did their best to eliminate temptation.
The Simpson Clan
Old Mrs. Bourne would lock away her valuables in a boarded up chicken coop and with bloodshot eyes tell tall tales of children that disappeared without a trace when left unattended. This foxy ancient actress would also attempt to gain our friendship and cooperation by plying us with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was no use though, we had a mental picture of her entire cooped-up inventory and easy access through a loosened board on the roof. We knew better than to steal anything, but found it exhilarating to tip-toe through her warehouse of wondrous objects.
Roy Pearson took the opposite approach, this kindly character left everything he had out in the open and available for inspection. There were no locks on his outbuildings, no fences and no ferocious dogs to impede our progress. In fact, if we found something that sparked our curiosity we would simply go to Roy and ask him about it. Roy was exceedingly patient and tolerant of our presence and more than willing to educate us with his knowledge of construction and mechanics. There was always a "Help Wanted" sign on the door of Roy's gas station when it came to us. We would often earn quarters by emptying trash cans, stacking oil and sweeping up around the place.
Bill Huber's Silver Dollar Bar was a favorite hang-out of ours as well. Bill often left the door open, and we would peek into the cool, darkened interior to see who was there playing pool and drinking beer. There were quite a few oil workers in Bluff at the time, and if there was not an excess of coarse language and bawdy humor Bill would allow us to hang there. If the opposite were true, Bill would sic his little, ratty dog on us and send us scampering. In that case we would slip around back to where Bill lived with his family in hopes of catching a glimpse of Bill's teenage daughter, Barbara. I am sure Barbara was not aware of us since she was extremely popular and much courted by area high school boys. No matter; we were strangely impressed by this raven-haired beauty and kept a keen eye out for her.
Hiking back across Cottonwood Wash took us to Clemma Arthur's Turquoise Cafe where we would spend the quarters we earned at Roy's gas station. Powdered Hostess donuts under glass and orange soda in a frosted glass were always available for starving young adventurers. Clemma had a group of rough and tumble boys of her own and two girls that could hold their own with any of them. Tammy was the youngest and feistiest of them all. She was our age, and you simply did not mess with her unless you were in the mood to lose some hide and hair. To this day, I consider Tammy to be a true and valuable friend. I have the scars to prove our hard won friendship!
The highlight of our days had to be the first of the month. Our two sisters would join up with us, uninvited of course, and head over to the post office. Dorothy Nielson was the benevolent post mistress back then and managed a quaint and wondrous world of miniature bronze vaults with twist and turn dials that allowed access to communication with the outside world and local interaction. Wanted posters plastered one wall forcing us to consider our actions and the dubious honor of being recognized as infamous, but the real draw was the parade of Indian people who flooded the town on "payday".
Satin and velveteen swirled and shimmered about the hips and shoulders of patient women with copper-colored skin. Tall black hats of felt, and crisp new blue jeans rolled up at the cuff showing off highly polished cowboy boots adorned many of the men. Shining black hair, combed and pulled tightly back and meticulously tied into the traditional bun with fresh white cotton string was worn by both. On days like this, the people were much more animated and excited, flashing brown eyes and brilliant white teeth, it was a sight to behold; nothing like what Hollywood portrayed in the movies.
They arrived driving all manner of vehicles, from bicycles to pick-up trucks, and if we were lucky a horse drawn team pulling a wagon outfitted with rubber car tires. By the end of the day, the wealth of the Navajo Nation would be redeemed from many a dark and dusty pawn vault to gleam and glimmer in the afternoon light, only to be returned to darkness within the week. The Indian people were patient with our inquisitive gawking and seemed to accept us as we did them.
At that time in our lives, I am sure that we thought we were preying on the people of Bluff. If the truth would be known, it is my guess that the people of Bluff were praying for us. I know for a fact that they were looking out for our best interests and watching out for our well being. It is a different life now: computers, fashions from the east and west coast and modern high speed connections available to everyone. Most importantly, what remains, is a deep seated concern for the children. We all set aside our petty disagreements with each other and keep a sharp eye of compassion and care for our youth. They are our future, and it would be best if we all made a concerted effort to keep them off of the post office wall.
With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.
Copyright 2005 Twin Rocks Trading Post