Thursday, September 20, 2007

A New Philosophy

Lately we have been shooting a lot of video. As a result, Barry, Tina, Rose, Tarryl and Jana have begun wearing dark glasses and speaking like celebrities. One would think Bluff had become Hollywood East. When artists bring in baskets, rugs, jewelry or other artistic creations, we immediately put the bite on them to explain the techniques and motivations behind the piece.

The Twin Rocks Video Team
The Twin Rocks Trading Post Team.

Although we are just learning the secrets of good video production, we have captured some interesting cultural material and have even begun referring to the trading post as NCC; Native Cultural Channel. Rose has demanded a video van to traverse the Reservation in search of breaking stories. Although some have gone next door to the cafe with tales of crazy people at the Twin Rocks trading post, the artists have been extremely open with their personal stories, and we are discovering a great deal about local Native American traditions.

The other day, Navajo silver and goldsmith Robert Taylor came in with a beautiful silver and gold story bracelet. Although it took a while, and a call to his agent, we finally convinced Robert to talk with us on camera. Robert’s story bracelets typically feature symbols that illustrate various aspects of Navajo culture and life on the Reservation.

On this particular cuff, Robert had overlaid cowboys, livestock, a weaver, a hogan, an outhouse, a shade house and one of the Monument Valley Mittens. By the time he began explaining the significance of the Mitten, Robert was feeling pretty good about his performance and started talking about the movies that had been made in Monument Valley.

Being a movie fan, and having spent a great deal of time at Goulding’s, which is in the heart of Monument Valley, I was familiar with both the old and new adventures filmed in that magical land. I have often wandered through their museum, and have many times been told how Harry and Mike traveled to Hollywood to meet producer John Ford. According to the myth, Harry and Mike camped in John Ford’s outer office until he agreed to come have a look. Upon his arrival, Ford was smitten with the landscape, and the rest, as they say, is cinematic history.

Robert is apparently a serious John Ford and John Wayne fan, so he began telling stories about the making of certain films. He explained that on one particular occasion, John Ford had assembled his “Indians” and set about explaining very carefully just how they were to come riding over a certain pass, whooping it up and looking fierce. The headman was taken aside and instructed that when the war party crested the rise, John Wayne would aim and shoot, at which point, the chief was to fall from his horse.

Everything was properly arranged, and the leader assembled his warriors, saddled up and rode off into the distance, where they awaited their cue. The signal was given and the tribe began agitating. As they crested the hill, John Wayne carefully sighted in on the leader and gently squeezed the trigger of his trusty rifle. Bang went the blank cartridge, whereupon the entire war party fell to the ground.

Robert and I had a good laugh, and a little while later he headed back to Indian Wells; having enriched himself through the sale of his art and me with his funny stories. A few days later, an older gentleman came into the store and inquired about Robert’s bracelet as a gift for his wife. As we discussed the symbolism of the piece, I eventually came to the Mitten, and related Robert’s John Wayne story.

Worrying that Robert may have been pulling my leg, I said, “I don’t know if it is true.” In return, the gentleman said, “What difference does it make whether it is true or not; it’s a good story.” Barry and I have decided we agree with that philosophy, and have adopted it as our motto for the Twin Rocks trading post. Now, whenever someone looks at us askance and asks whether our tales are true, we just say, “What difference does it make, it’s a good story.”

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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