Friday, March 3, 2006


Friday night it was late, I had made it to the end of another day and I was dreaming of a quiet evening. Friday is generally "havley movie night" at the house above the trading post, so I was anticipating a silly DVD and some prime time with the kids. Grange, at a time his young mind could not properly form the word "family," had given the weekly event that name and it has stuck with us.

Hillary Rodham Clinton & Navajo Basket Weaver Mary Holiday Black

After turning off the computer and straightening my desk, I spied a magazine article protruding from the stack of papers. I pulled it out and noticed the essay had been published in the September, 2000 issue of Native Peoples Magazine by a physician from Phoenix, Arizona. A friend had run across the article on the internet and sent me a copy. The story was in essence a travelogue about the writer's drive into Monument Valley to meet several of the local Navajo basket weavers.

The narrative made it abundantly clear that its author had found the art and the artists as interesting and exciting as Barry and I have over our many years in the trading business. As I read the article, the associated pictures made me a little nostalgic, so I pulled out the photograph albums we keep under the counter and began reminiscing about the time I have spent at Twin Rocks.

One of the first photographs I ran across was that of Mary Black shaking hands with First Lady Hillary Clinton. The legend on the back of the image reads "Official White House Photo 278EP95." Now, in all honesty, I have never been a fan of the Clintons. In spite of my personal bias, however, the photograph is beautiful, and took me back to a time before Mary Black had become well known as the "Maria Martinez of Monument Valley" and "The Matriarch of Navajo Baskets."

Another late afternoon, probably sometime during the winter of 1992, came to mind. It was shortly after I had first met Patrick Eddington, who, along with his sweetheart Susan Makov, later wrote The Trading Post Guidebook. Patrick, who was an experienced reservation explorer, had come into the trading post to see if we had anything new and exciting. After a while, we began discussing Mary's contribution to the revolution that was occurring in Navajo basket weaving.

During the conversation, I told Pat I felt Mary had not been given the recognition she deserved. It was Mary, after all, who had initiated and propagated the extremely innovative baskets produced by the Douglas Mesa weavers. In spite of that, she was relatively unknown. By 1992, Sally Black, Mary's daughter, had gained a certain celebrity status for her weavings. Mary's contribution, I argued, had been largely overlooked.

Pat began rubbing his chin and I could tell he had caught the fever. With a sparkle in his eyes, he said, "We should nominate Mary for the Utah Governor's Folk Art Award; she is perfect." The blank look on my face told him I had no idea what that meant. "Don't worry," he said. "I'll take care of everything. You just write a letter of support." Patrick put together the application, I provided the letter and it wasn't long before Mary was on her was to Salt Lake City to accept her award.

As a result of Pat's work, Mary was also nominated for and received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1995. After much excitement among the Black family and the folks at the trading post, Mary was off to Washington D.C. with a few members of her family.

At the trading post, we anxiously awaited their return and the story of their big adventure. At that time, Barry and I had not been to Washington D.C., so we were excited to learn about their travels. On their way back home from Albuquerque, Lorraine and Mary dropped by the trading post with tales of being entertained at the White House. Mary gave me the photograph, and, proudly displaying the plaque she had been given, asked me to take her picture.

As they discussed their experiences at the White House, Lorraine said, "The food was not very good." Scrunching her nose she almost shouted,"We couldn't wait to get back to Albuquerque to get some real food at Denny's." Even the excitement of Washington could not match the red dirt in her veins and the mutton stew and fry bread in her heart. The White House chef was no match for a Denny's fry cook.

As I browsed through the images, I saw Kira and Grange progress from babies held in Lorraine's arms to young people standing proudly next to her as she displayed her latest creation. "It's time for the havley movie," came the stereo call from the top of the stairs, and my walk down memory lane abruptly ended.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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