Thursday, June 28, 2007

Haircuts and Hillbilly Hugs, Part II

As Barry and I began our journey on U. S. Highway 50, I remember thinking, “Well, this is not so lonely.” Compared to Bluff; Salina, Scipio, Holden and Delta, Utah are literally sprawling. Once we left Delta, however, I began to understand the designation. Delta is on the eastern edge of the Great Basin; a large inland region comprising approximately 200,000 square miles with no external drainage. The Basin is bounded by the Sierra Nevadas on the west and the Wasatch Mountains on the east, and was named by explorer John C. Fremont, who felt it resembled a gigantic bowl; a gigantic, empty and sparsely populated bowl. The region is stark and solitary; at times overwhelming in its enormity.

Our destination was Nevada turquoise mines owned by rough and ready Tuffy C. Barry and I have been buying turquoise from Tuffy for many years, and enjoy the color and variety of his stones. Although dealing with the man is always a challenge, we have managed to stay on the inside longer than most, and Barry had recently secured an invitation to Tuffy’s mines. When Brother John Huntress, master bead maker, heard the news, he informed us we definitely did not want to miss the experience, so Barry and I fired up the Subaru and headed west.

Barry had ambitiously made reservations for us at the Lincoln Motel in Austin, just 20 or 30 miles from the mines. Since it was already 6:00 p.m. when we exited Delta and entered the Basin, I was pretty sure we would not make it to Austin that night, and so it was. Exhaustion forced us to stop in Eureka, a small town 70 miles west of Austin. Since it was late and the Best Western was full, we secured lodging at the Sundown. Reasoning that Barry had gotten us into this adventure so he should accept the higher risk, I advised him to make a run for the office while I guarded the car.

From the outside, the Sundown looked as though it had flamed out decades ago. Oil field workers in boxer shorts and tattooed and pierced women stood, reclined or slouched in many of the open doorways. Barry and I feigned courage and soldiered past them all. Locating our room, we were surprised to find it 1970s comfortable. The roughnecks and working girls retired about midnight and I slept peacefully, dreaming of inland oceans.

Early the next morning, with a loose description where to find Tuffy’s turquoise treasure trove, we were on our way to the mines. After a brief misfire, and a lot of bumping around on dirt roads, we finally arrived at our destination. I must admit, but for an an old Caterpillar track hoe parked next to the high wall, I would not have recognized the mine as being of any consequence.

View from Motel
View from the Motel.

When Tuffy finally arrived a few hours later and fired up the hoe, I told Barry I intended to drive into Austin to scope out the town and get a few supplies. Saltine crackers, sardines in mustard sauce, original Spam and white bread were high on the list. After our good luck at the Sundown Lodge, I had high hopes for Austin.

Upon entering the town from the east, however, my expectations were immediately dashed. Austin was founded in 1862, when a horse owned by prospector W. H. Talbott kicked up a piece of quartz containing gold and silver. That occurrence set off a mining rush that brought 10,000 people to the town and lasted until the early 1880s. Since then, Austin has been in steep decline, and the population had dwindled to about 200 souls. The junkyard on the east side of town set the tone, which continued the entire eight or ten blocks comprising the community. To say it was bleak would be a gross understatement. Spotting the Lincoln Motel, my heart sunk even further. From the highway, it looked as though the lodge had been abandoned in the 1880 mass exodus. After a little searching, I was able to secure a few necessities and a cast off Omaha Steak styrofoam cooler from the local convenience store and headed back.

During my absence, Tuffy had mucked out the mine, and he and Barry were beginning to probe the clay veins for mineralogical specimens. I made my report, and Barry looked at me the way he does when I am spinning one of my trading post yarns. It was not until we checked into the motel that he fully comprehended the vitality of my account.

After maybe a century of use, the mattresses at the Lincoln Motel looked as though they might have been slept on by Mr. Lincoln himself. Decades of use had compressed them to about three inches thick, and they sloped dramatically toward the headboard. The television was so old it had just one channel, which continuously broadcast an infomercial for 1950s music. Strangely enough, with my feet pointed towards the headboard to ensure the blood did not run to my head, I slept like a king.

The next morning, while the mining team organized itself, I went for a walk around town. Noticing a bottle and jewelry shop a few blocks up the street, I started in that direction. Since the “Closed” sign was still up, I just peered in through the glass. Alice, a woman in her late eighties, unlocked the doors and invited me in, saying, “Honey, there’s no reason to look through the windows when you can come inside.” I inquired how she was getting along and was informed that she was fine but for a back problem that had kept her down a while.

Lying on a mat just inside the front door was the oldest big dog I had ever seen; her coat and eyes were misty gray, her teeth were mustard yellow or missing and she had large growths on the only side I could see. “Eighteen years old,” Alice proclaimed. “She’s 18 years old and her name is Lady. Isn’t she beautiful? The Washington Post called and wants to do a story on her. She’s part hound and part rottweiler. Isn’t she beautiful?” I had to admit there was an unusual and exceptional beauty to both Alice and Lady. Lady rolled over so I could scratch her tummy, and Alice advised me that Lady was an extremely good judge of character, so I must be all right. Asking Lady if she needed to go outside to, “do her business,” Alice let the dog out. Lady’s business required a trip across Highway 50, which constituted Main Street Austin, to a vacant lot. Because Lady could walk only a few steps before requiring a long respite, I expressed my concern about her getting across the street safely. “Don’t worry Honey,” Alice reassured me, “that is the Lonely Highway.”

Small Town of Austin
Alice's shop in Austin, Nevada.

Lady returned and demanded another scratch, so I willingly obliged. In the meantime Alice had directed me towards two soda pop bottles I wanted to buy for our bottle collecting buddies. Once the purchase was consummated, I felt an overwhelming urge to give Alice a hug. She intuitively shuffled out from behind the counter, shyly embraced me and said, “That was a hillbilly hug. My old momma used to say they will keep you alive at least one more day.” Hoping to keep us both alive even longer, I gave Alice another hug and departed the store with a new fondness for Austin and its residents.

As Barry and I left for the mines that day, knowing I would likely not return for a long time, I drove slowly past Alice’s store. I felt completely recharged; fully satisfied that I had once again discovered an unexpected gem in the heart of America.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tuffy and his Pocket Rocks

Tuffy shifted his weight to the right, dug the toe of his boot into the muck and leaned into the air-pick to gain leverage on the hidden vein he was attempting to dislodge. A dark object about the size of a half-dollar popped loose, and he deftly caught it with his left hand. Leaning back, Tuffy put the stone to his mouth, licked it and eyed it closely. Grunting contentedly, he dropped the nugget into his shirt pocket and repositioned himself to continue the assault.

Turquoise Veins
Turquoise Veins

"Let me see!" I said, nudging Tuffy on the shoulder. He rocked back on his heels and wrapped his hand around the air leak where the heavy rubber hose connected to the quick-connect metal fitting and proceeded to play an obnoxious tune. Tuffy thoughtfully considered the exposed wall in front of him while the steady, mechanical beat of the air compressor above us exaggerated his silence. "You sure are nosy!" he said shortly, and went back to work, hammering loudly.

I considered the cantankerous miner next to me and then the shovel in my hand, thinking I might use it to make an impression. I looked at Steve sitting patiently on a pile of rocks a few feet away and caught his cautioning eye. As if reading my mind, he shook his head from side to side, as if saying, "Don't get him started." I knew he was right, Tuffy is as volatile and unstable as 55 year old dynamite. Lighting his fuse is a sure way to initiate a catastrophic explosion. I resisted the impulse. "Good thinking!" Steve said out loud, relaxing a bit.

Tuffy owns and operates two turquoise mines, which are located in central Nevada. His two mines produce some of the finest quality natural turquoise available in today's market. We have known Tuffy and his turquoise for quite some time now, and have, thus far, survived the relationship. To acquire these exquisite stones, you must deal directly and exclusively with Tuffy and his bad attitude.

Tuffy called me around the first of the year and extended an invitation for Steve and me to visit him at the mines in June. Since invitations to witness Tuffy extracting rare and beautiful gemstones are extremely unusual, I was dubious to say the least. My first unthinking, reactionary response was, "Why?" Tuffy snorted, and quickly responded, "Because I intend to carry out my promise of breaking your knee caps and planting you in a mine shaft." That was more like it, this was the Tuffy I knew and understood. He is forever threatening me with bodily harm and telling me he will withhold his turquoise if I don't act properly. Tuffy knows I, like him, rarely act properly, so we are always at fictional odds with one another. I don't understand the underlying psychology, his or mine, and certainly don't expect either of us to undergo evaluation or therapy. It is what it is!

Needless to say, Steve and I took Tuffy up on his generous offer and met him at the mine. Tuffy went right to work, and excavated a 30 foot wall, exposing six recognizable veins of turquoise and a mysterious mud bank containing hidden nuggets. We then watched as he set up the air-pick and began extracting chunks of skystone. He would hammer away at the wall and dump chunks and lumps of rock into a recycled five gallon plastic bucket marked, "Scoop Away Kitty Litter."

Every once in a while Tuffy would find something he considered worth placing in his pocket rather than the bucket. Occasionally he would stroll over to his SUV and empty his pockets to make room for more. This practice was getting the best of my curiosity, and causing me great frustration. I wanted to see what was so special about those "pocket rocks,"but Tuffy was not forthcoming.

Barry holding Turquoise
Turquoise from the mine.

By the end of the day, I was mad; I wanted to see those pocket rocks! That evening, I cornered Tuffy in the parking lot of the motel and complained about his lack of sensitivity and selfish nature. "Well, if you're going to whine about it!" said Tuffy, reaching between the seats of his vehicle. He pulled out a cantaloupe-sized plastic bag of rocks and knelled down onto the black asphalt. In the evening light Tuffy poured out the contents of the bag. I picked up one of the flat stones and saw color. Licking my thumb, I ran it across the blue streak; an intense, neon blue with tight black matrix sprang to life.

Tuffy and I spent the next 20 minutes looking at a treasure trove of incredible, straight from the earth turquoise. He was in his element now, exhibiting a sincere passion for the stone. As I examined the rocks, he explained how he would cut and polish each piece. Each stone was unique, and I was amazed at the diversity of color and matrix patterns. "Am I ever going to see these stones again?" I asked. "Probably not! snorted Tuffy," probably not!"

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Haircuts and Hillbilly Hugs, Part I

“If you believe it, you will experience it.” The statement of defrocked Charismatic bishop Carlton Pearson pierced my road weary mind as Barry and I listened to an NPR pod cast while driving west on I-70 towards the Damele and Paiute turquoise mines in Lander County, Nevada. Bishop Pearson had run afoul of his church when he developed the Doctrine of Inclusion; in essence a philosophy that there was no God-created Hell, and that everyone is saved, no matter what their faith.

Loneliest Road in America
The Hwy 50 Road Sign

Bishop Pearson had decided that humans, not God, created Hell. He also came to the conclusion that God was love, not the mean-spirited monster portrayed by many of the ministers associated with the Charismatic movement. The other ministers immediately understood how Dr. Pearson’s doctrine might adversely affect their ability to scare the fire out of their flocks and were not amused.

Not long after hearing Bishop Pearson’s pronouncement, Barry and I arrived at the junction of US Highways 89 and 50. We were about to begin our journey on the, “Loneliest Road In America.” Bishop Pearson’s words kept banging around in my brain, mostly because I agreed with his reasoning, but also because I had recently decided I need more interesting experiences in my mundane life.

Ironically, my experiential revelation had occurred two weeks earlier at precisely this same spot. Just one block north of where Barry and I currently sat waiting for the opportunity to turn left, in a dusty, timeworn storefront just off Main Street, Salina, Utah, stood Natch’s Barbershop. I had stumbled upon the salon late one evening as I fumbled about, trying to find Highway 89. There was no traditional barber pole to indicate the business’ specialty; just two hydraulic chairs and a lot of hair tonic on the other side of a large pane of glass. After discovering Natch’s, I realized that Highway 89 began at the intersection and ran north, so it was not long before I was back on track.

The next day, as I retraced my steps on the return trip, Natch’s began calling to me. I did not need a haircut, but felt compelled to go inside and see what kind of experience I could gin up. I steered the car into a parking slot in front of the building and piled out. Inside the shop, slouched in one of the lifts, was an also timeworn woman of about 70 years. “Do you take walk-ins,” I asked in too large a voice. It was apparent the traffic at the shop was not overwhelming, so I thought I was on firm ground. “Yes,” she said, jerking her thumb toward the remaining chair, “He will be back in a few minutes.” “He” was her husband of numerous decades, and He returned shortly.

Mr. Natch was a pleasant, medium height, maximum circumference man, maybe a few years older than She Natch. Assessing my scalp, He said, “So, what should we do?” On the opposite wall was a poster featuring hair styles of the 1950s. The placard had obviously been hanging in the same location at least 50 years, and had become a bit tattered. I briefly considered a flat top, but decided it might startle my family, partners and friends. Intuitively I knew I would have to ease into this new lifestyle.

One of the sketches on the poster looked a little like Clark Gable, without the pencil thin mustache. Taking that as a sign, I asked, “Can you make me look like Clark Gable?” “No,” She snorted, without the slightest hint of apology. He Natch seemed in agreement, so, understanding She was likely correct in her evaluation, I asked for a lowly trim. Old habits die hard.

While I was taking myself to task for not being more bold, I surveyed the premises. Bottles of hair tonic that appeared to have originated before World War II were arranged about the room. Layers of dust on the containers indicated they had not been rearranged since originally being placed on the shelves. I wondered whether there might be a market for them at the Twin Rocks trading post.

Taking out his clippers, He began to carve. It did not take long to recognize that this was going to be an interesting encounter. I looked straight ahead and tried not to move, lest He lop off one or both of my ears. An exciting experience was one thing, but going about like Vincent van Gogh was another thing altogether. Every once in a while I cast a sideways glance at She, who continued to slump in the seat next to me, to see if she approved. Although her eyes drooped and she appeared to be nodding off, She smiled like the Cheshire Cat.

When the process was complete, I asked the charges, and He, admiring his handiwork, announced the total cost to be $10.00. I quickly glanced at the mirror and noticed the cut was smartly slanted and more closely cropped on the left than the right. Now, I have had hundreds of haircuts, but never one so memorable. So, along with his standard fee, I gave Him a $2.00 tip.

Paiute Turquoise Cabochons
Turquoise Cabochon from Twin Rocks Trading Post.

Back at the Twin Rocks trading post, Zigy, who was a regular at Twin Rocks and had been in a just a couple days before my departure, noticed my new trim. “Something’s different,” Zigy announced, “Let me take a look.” Circling me several times, he mused, “Ahh, sure. Hum.” Finally he queried, “How much did it cost?” “Ten dollars,” I disclosed in my most budget-minded tone; neglecting to mention the tip. “That is the best $10.00 haircut I’ve seen in recent years; shorter on one side, crooked in the back, it’s great,” Zigy pronounced. “Shoulda’ given him a tip.”

Reflecting back on Zigy’s comments, I clicked the blinker and turned west onto the Loneliest Road, continuing the search for nuggets of turquoise and nodules of knowledge.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Bluff Bohemian Lifestyle

Yellow Rose Bush
Yellow Rose Bush

With a spring-like freshness, the distinctive local flora is bursting forth from the high mesas and craggy canyons in and around Bluff. Those of us who take this landscape personally have also been graced with an extra, delicate and fragrant scent which accentuates the views and vistas we hold dear to our hearts. Unaided and unattended, these hardy, tenacious plants add a formal beauty to our little crevice of the world.

As I watched this change occurring all around me, the wild yellow rose bush across the road, in the yard of Melvin and Betty Gaines, came to life the other day. I had driven down from Blanding before dawn to open the cafe and witnessed its coming out party. Standing in the window, I noticed the orangy-red sunlight unveil itself upon the cliff face across the valley. Slowly and gracefully, a beam of golden light split the shadow along the canyon floor in front of me and lit the bramble like a burning bush. The magnificent illusion lasted only a moment before the light stream broadened and pushed further into the heart of town.

It is odd what comes into your head in such instances. My mind jumped back in time to when I was dating my green eyed monster woman, and playing it safe by giving her yellow roses on special occasions, because they signified friendship. Now that dainty little golden cluster of ultra-soft petals and gentle aroma represents a much more significant and passionate attraction.

One of our Navajo friends informed me that the wild yellow rose represents the strength and magnificence of the Sun, but also speaks of an opposing, softer, gentler side to this most powerful of Navajo deities.

Blooming Yucca
Blooming Yucca in Bluff, Utah by Twin Rocks Trading Post.

The yucca is also blooming on the mesa above town. The stilleto-like leaves guard and protect the stacked blossoms of these intermittently spaced sentinels, which spread across the sandy hillocks and sun-baked desert.

Recently I spoke with Priscilla, our longtime friend and associate here at the Twin Rocks trading post, about the yucca plants. As we talked, she began to share more about their uses and meaning. She said her mother was quite knowledgeable about native plants and that she often gathered the yucca fruit just before the plant bloomed and grilled the delicacy on the hot coals of a spent fire.

A mischievous look came into Priscalla’s eyes when she told me the root of the yucca was often dug, cleaned and pounded to produce a shampoo which is used to ceremonially cleanse a patient and his or her possessions. This brings about a blessing from the supernaturals, allowing more spiritual and material blessings to the newly scrubbed individual.

Moon Flowers
Datura Flowers at Twin Rocks Trading Post.

Priscilla insinuated that if Steve and I would invest in the aid of a medicine man, we might significantly improve our economic and personal affairs. By using the shampoo on our graying locks and the Twin Rocks trading post inventory we might look and feel younger and expand our net worth. “At least” said Priscilla, with a broad smile, “things would smell a whole lot better around here.”

One of the most common questions Steve and I field around here is “Aren’t you guys afraid those rocks are going to fall?” This inquiry is second only to, “What do you guys do here; what is your lifestyle?” Well . . . we sit around all day discussing the wondrous landscape; rub shoulders with world class artists and individuals, attempting to expand our minds and debating philosophy; and we live, laugh, love and experience life in a canyon. If I had to describe it in a nutshell, I would have to say that we are living a rather remarkable Bluff Bohemian lifestyle.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright Twin Rocks Trading Post 2007

The Warmth of the Land

Last week I traveled to central Utah for a day of meetings. Leaving the Twin Rocks trading post late in the afternoon, I arrived at my hotel long after dark, and therefore could not gain any perspective of the unfamiliar landscape. The following day, however, I had the opportunity to drive the full length of the rural Utah valley and was enchanted with the small communities and vast swaths of lush, green vegetation. These quaint hamlets stood in stark contrast to the red rock valley of my origin, and the large fields of alfalfa and rolling hills studded with livestock left me feeling pastoral. It was starting to get hot in Bluff, so I welcomed this short reprieve from our desert heat.

Chief Seattle
Chief Seattle

As I drove the narrow two lane road in the early morning, the chilly crystal air blowing in through the open window enticed me to reach my hand out and try to catch the wind. As the breeze streamed through my open fingers, uncatchable and free flowing, I thought of the response attributed to Chief Sealth (Seattle) when the “Big Chief in Washington” proposed to purchase the tribe’s ancestral lands. “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us,” Sealth is said to have inquired.

As members of the Anglo culture, the idea is not only knowable, it is fully formed and completely implemented. The concept of buying and selling the air, land, water and whatever else we can conceive of was clearly evidenced by some extremely large and incongruous homes perched upon the rounded knolls dotting the picturesque valley. I have come to believe that experiences, history and values are extremely personal, and it is often difficult to sort out what is right or wrong and what is valuable or not. Although my Democratic friends might find it difficult to believe, as I grow older, I have begun to understand and appreciate the sentiments expressed in Chief Sealth’s speech. I still, however, have great difficulty implementing the principles, although that may come with time.

The blast of a siren and flash of red lights caused me to quickly retract my landing gear, check my speed and slow the vehicle to the designated speed of 55 miles per hour. The thoughts about land preservation, land use and the conflict between traditional Native American and Anglo cultures persisted as I watched the police car disappear in the rear view mirror. Fortunately, the small town peace officer recognized that I was lost in the moment and was only signaling me to slow down and proceed with caution.

During one of the meetings I attended that day, I was informed that, due to a massive landslide caused by too much moisture in 1984, the irrigation water serving much of the valley had become tainted with extreme accumulations of silt. As a result, agricultural production had decreased by almost a third, and the traditional farming lifestyle was endangered. Strange, I thought, how the tables had turned; instead of people degrading Mother Nature, she had instead aggrieved her inhabitants. In another odd twist of fate, rising land values, and the corresponding real property sales to new residents, were mitigating the loss and improving the economy of these small towns.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley

It has become apparent to me that there is a direct, inverse relationship between Native American values and economic development. What we value as part of the Anglo culture; formal education, jobs, economic prosperity, a large mortgage, is inconsistent with much, if not all, of Native America. So the question must be asked, “How can traditional Native American values persist in contemporary society?” How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? One need only visit the local county recorder’s office to answer that question.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright Twin Rocks Trading Post 2007

The Change is Gonna Do You Good

It was a thing of beauty! I side-stepped, spun him around, drove a hard left to the gut and finished up with a right cross to the chin. Craig was caught totally off guard, as was I. He stumbled backwards, stomping all over Grandma's bed of dainty daisies and hit the board fence hard. Craig was on the ropes! I felt strong and competent now and looked fiercely into his eyes. I saw surprise and wonder . . . and then something else. A look of anger and then resentment quickly replaced his previous expression. Then his eyes bored into mine. I recognized danger, and instantly reconsidered my aggressive stance. The chorus from Kenny Rogers song "The Gambler" best describes what coursed through my mind at that point, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run." I ran!

The reason I bring up this long past occurrence is a discussion I recently had with my wife concerning roughhousing. It all started when our son Spenser and I crossed paths in the hall and started punching each other in the arm and ended up on the floor wrestling, kicking and pinching. Laurie and her "Mini Me", our youngest daughter McKale, pitched a fit about it. Middle child, Alyssa, just sat there on the couch, taking the whole "Froo Ha Ha" in with a knowing smile of amusement. I tried to explain that this was simply our way of showing affection; male bonding through physical interaction as it where, a right of passage practiced by every species on the planet. Grizzlies, wolves and bears all prepare their young to face the unforgiving world by teaching them to fight and win. "If a kid can't take a lickin' and keep on tickin', he will surely fail", I said with conviction.

Seeing adamant disagreement and fire in Laurie's eyes, I quickly continued my dissertation. I explained that this was the way I was brought up; rock fights, cross country war games and tag team wrestling on our living room floor. It was not unusual for Craig, Steve and me, (and sometimes even Cindy), to show up in school with carpet burns on our foreheads and dislocated appendages protruding at odd angles. That's what I'm talking about! A kid knows he's loved when his family cares enough to prepare him to face the future. In my day, if a guy gave you a hug and a kiss you gave him a black eye and a busted lip. A noogie and a kick in the butt showed how much you cared on a much higher level than could ever be expressed by soft words and actions. I told my dear wife that the raising of male children was best left to real men. She had to only take a close look at me to see how positive and effective such an upbringing can be.

Laurie looked at me as if I were insane. As she thought about what I had said, her head started shaking side to side. She simply said "No!!!!" She mumbled something about me spending far too much time watching Animal Planet on the Discovery Channel. Laurie then waded in with her hands on her hips, backed up by McKale, and a condescending tone in her voice. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that the philosophy I had adopted was, in part, what had inspired such dysfunction in today's world. She said that aggression, hostility and the inability to get past the "Me Attitude" was causing our world to crumble and fall apart, and she was not going to allow it to show its ugly face in our home! Laurie and I stood nose to nose on opposite sides of a heated issue. I figured with the previous training I had received I could take her and her trusty sidekick.

A cough from Alyssa, and Spenser nervously shuffling his feet, caused me to re-access the situation. Maybe she was right, a healthy dose of tolerance, compassion and love couldn't really hurt. I reached out and grabbed my son in a rough bear hug, kissed him on the forehead and said " I love you boy!" Spenser was a bit taken aback by my abrupt change of attitude, and a little confused by it all. He slugged me solidly in the chest and said " I love you too Dad!" I realized a compromise had been reached, and that punch was going to produce a bruise, I was so proud.

The boxing incident I spoke of earlier occurred when Craig and I were young boys. Our family was living in Livermore, California with our mother's parents while our father added a few years of community college to his resume. The night before the altercation our family was watching the Saturday night fights on TV. Craig was simply showing me how the Cuban fighter had won the match by forcing his opponent on the ropes and aggressively pummeling his midsection. Early in the fight, the Cuban's outclassed American opponent came to life while being bombarded against the corner post. Our heroic countrymen took a shot to the stomach, side stepped, swung the Cuban to the corner and gave him a left upper cut and a right cross that briefly stunned the Cuban.

Within seconds, the Cuban regrouped and proceeded to beat the American senseless. I remembered the occurrence well, which is why I turned on my heel and exited, stage left. I made it to the large, heavy gate at the side of the house seconds before Craig. Luckily it stood partially open. As I sprinted through the opening I reached out and yanked it closed behind me. This slowed Craig only slightly, and angered him even more. I kicked it into high gear and beat a hasty retreat. Unfortunately my high end was equal only to Craig's second gear. He caught me within a hundred yards and proceeded to give me a lesson in why not to tick off a Cuban. Jim Croce said it best; "You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don't mess around with Jim" or Craig or, well you get the picture. A valuable life lesson, best learned from a loving brother rather than from a less than compassionate stranger.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.