As a small boy growing up in Bluff, I often wandered off alone and found myself climbing upward. The jumble of rock and rubble piled at the base of the towering cliffs frequently called out to me, and I would scramble up the difficult grade, through the boulders and into the zone between slick rock and slag. Backing into the shaded depression, I would gaze upon the happenings of our fair town.
Double Rainbow over Bluff, Utah.
Some of my earliest memories are drawn from that vantage point. I am old enough to recall dilapidated round-fendered pick-up trucks rolling into town packed with vibrant Navajo families dressed in colorful swatches of satin, velveteen and denim. The back of the vehicle would be stocked to the gunwales with sheep, dogs or bright-eyed, smiling children. Coming to town was a much anticipated event in those days. The Navajo people seemed to have a knack for keeping those old work horses running; they were amazing mechanics. Bailing wire could be counted on to bind everything from axles to valve covers.
The K and C store was a hot spot of activity. Keith and Curtis Jones ran an early example of a convenience store/trading post that drew the locals for all of their grocery and trade good needs. Livestock, pinion nuts, propane, gasoline, white gas, Spam, Vienna Sausages, huge saltine crackers, canned peaches and red pop were just a few of the staples. If there was a demand for it on or near the Reservation, you could find it at K and C.
From where I sat, I could see Bob Howell patiently working his garden. It seemed a never-ending effort to keep the weeds at bay and the soil from locking up. Traces of alkali were clearly visible, even from that height and distance. I could see my sisters Susan and Cindy playing around the clothesline as our mother hung the wash. Five children and a hard-working man kept her busy washing and cleaning up after her brood. Mom always kept a clean house; hot, fresh food on the table. She persistently attempted to keep the red dirt out of her children's clothes and off of their deeply tanned hides.
My brothers, Craig and Steve, were forever getting into trouble and, because of their highly mobile nature, could only effectively be tracked from above. Craig was big and strong, the local "Conan the Barbarian". Steve and I depended on Craig to regularly save us from harm or misfortune.
Once a month, the traveling Catholic priest would make his rounds. It was extremely entertaining to watch as Mom scampered about town locating her wayward children in an attempt at indoctrination. The priest finally gave up, Mom never did.
I recall heat waves dancing upon the pavement as the rare tourist made his or her way through the S-turns of town. Many would slow down as the unshaven and reckless Bobby Goforth; in his black cowboy hat, blue jeans and boots, waved them on through with his realistic looking set of cap pistols and authentic leather holsters. Bobby would scowl, spit Skoal into the dust and "move-em-out". Gene and Mary Foushee attempted damage control by calming their fears, inviting them to stay the night at the quietly comfortable and quirky Recapture Lodge. After a good night sleep, a tour of Monument Valley might even be in order.
In the cool of the evening, like James Dean, Billy Huber could often be found touring the town on his motorcycle. If we were extremely fortunate, his very attractive sister, Barbara, would be with him. To this day, the distinctive sound of a motorbike reverberating off of the cliffs brings back fond memories of a dark haired beauty roaring by at breakneck speed. Unfortunately, dear sweet Barbara was less than interested in younger men. Their parents, Bill and Gladys, owned the Silver Dollar Bar on the west side of town. Bill often opened the door after sundown in order to ease the strain on his over-worked air conditioners, which allowed a clear and entertaining view into the joint. Temptuous strains of animated laughter, cigarette smoke and the sharp "clack" of pool balls colliding drifted out onto the cooled night air.
I remember Father Pontias of Saint Christopher's Episcopal Mission could often be tracked about the village on service oriented visits. His three young blond-haired daughters might also be seen following closely behind. One of the girls remains in Bluff to this day; a lonely, but fondly remembered resident of the Mission cemetery. She became an all too early victim of the ravages of cancer.
On a lighter note, our local constable, Rusty Musselman, backed up by his wife Lillie, watched over the local population and kept a sharp eye out for young troublemakers in the making. Rusty's jaunty character, distinctive laugh and Lillie's brilliant smile are fondly remembered by those of us who knew them well.
I once saw an episode of Star Trek where the crew of the USS Enterprise rescued a team of ethnologists from a cliff face overlooking a primitive community. The forcefield they hid behind had partially collapsed and the scientists become visible to the residents below; a shocking development indeed. Because of the time I spent in the rocks, overlooking and participating in this community, I believe it would have been, and probably would still be, an extremely fascinating case study. And who knows, if you believe in extraterrestrial beings, maybe we are being watched right here and now. I wonder if they might like warm, canned peaches and cold red pop.
With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.
Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post.