Friday, September 25, 2009

Why Not?

Recently Lalana, reigning princess of the post, discovered a baseball Grange had abandoned some time ago. Grange has, at least for now, moved on to football and wrestling, so the baseball was not seeing a lot of glove time. Apparently the ball had found its way under a desk or behind a cabinet, and it took someone close to the ground to rediscover it.

Steve and Lalana at Twin Rocks Trading Post.

Lana, as she is known around Twin Rocks Trading Post, has become the latest in a long line of trading post kids. First there was Dacia, then Kira, Grange and now Lana. She was born to Tina, also known as “Mommatina”, our internet manager, almost three years ago. Like the others before her, Lana began coming to work only a few days after she arrived on this earth. She is now the ruler of the kingdom, and commands attention as she runs about downstairs shouting “Super Lana” and things of that sort. When Tina manages to trap her upstairs, Lana can be heard shouting, “Cilla, Cilla, go downstairs?”

It usually does not take long for Priscilla to cave in and bring her down, where she declares, “Oh, that’s a beautiful rug.” or “That’s a pretty basket. Let me see.” Barry and I have counseled her to wait until we conclude the transaction before making her pronouncements, but it has been to no avail. Our costs have begun to increase as she has acquired a greater appreciation for the Navajo jewelry, paintings, pottery and the other art we buy at the store.

Since discovering Grange’s baseball, Lana’s favorite pastime has become going out on the porch for a game of roll and catch. She petitions Barry, Priscilla and me endlessly to, “Go outside” with the ball. On these beautiful autumn afternoons, it is hugely enjoyable to sit on the cement and roll the ball back and forth, like I used to do with Dacia, Kira and Grange. I often feel Lana is preparing me to be a grandparent.

The other day I was in my office working on a project when I heard Lana say to Barry, “Go outside?” The chartreuse softball was carefully balanced in her outstretched hand. “No Lana,” Barry replied, “not this time.” Being very polite, Lana generally says, “Oh, okay.” This time, however, she was persistent, “Go outside Barry?” she insisted. When Barry reiterated that he could not, she demanded, “Why not!” We all had a good laugh, and Lana got her baseball game after all.

As I sat in my office, Lana’s question kept rolling around in my mind; why not, why not, why not. It was not long before a Navajo rug weaver strolled in through the open doors. “Want to buy a rug?” she asked. Feeling a little beaten up by the economy, I said, “Well, probably not today.” “WHY NOT?” the weaver persisted. “All right,” I said, “let’s see what you have.” As she proceeded to unwrap the rug from its bath towel covering, I notice it was a spectacular Yei-be-chei weaving. The price was right, so we made a deal and everyone was happy.

Still contemplating the importance of Lana’s question, I watched as Grange strolled into the trading post. “Can we go to the pond after work?” he asked. “No,” I said. “WHY NOT?” he shot back. I responded, “Well, it’s almost October, the pond will be cold, there is a storm coming in and I am just too tired.” Why not, why not, WHY NOT, my mind kept repeating. Finally giving in, I told him to go upstairs and put on his swimming suit.

When we arrived at the pond, I could see dark clouds accumulating over the red rock cliffs in the distance. When I put my toes into the water, I could feel the chill. Jumping in, I had the sense that this would surely be the last pond adventure of the season. In spite of all that, Grange, Buffy the Wonder Dog and I had one of the best times we have ever had at the swimming hole. As the storm grew in intensity and the wind began to pick up, we climbed out of the water and dashed for the truck; arriving home just seconds before the rain come thundering down. It was truly a memorable experience.

All too often we see the reasons why we cannot or do not want to do something, only to discover that we should be finding the reasons why we can. Barry and I have found more beautiful art at extremely nice prices during the recent economic downturn than we ever remember. It reminds us of the old saying that every dark cloud has a silver lining. At the trading post we are now asking “Why not?” more often, and having more fun than ever before.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blueberries and Cream or Natures theme

Early Monday morning the sky over the trading post was a vision of blueberries and cream, with mile-high thunderheads tumbling across the vaulted heavens. The clouds accumulated and darkened with a temptuous promise of much needed moisture. As they skated across the sky, the thunderheads were torn into ragged remnants by unseen updrafts, only to reform in a continuous game of hide and seek. The filtered light of the brilliant sun backbit the clouds, adding a rich, milky outline to the pregnant formations.

Coyote and Badger Folk Art

Directly up valley to the east, between the red rock cliffs and the shadowed landscape, I noticed a heavy, deep purple downpour. The torrent drenched that portion of the parched earth in a deluge of heavenly, liquid life. Such a scene must have been the inspiration for the Navajo story of the birth of Coyote and Badger. As the story is told, earth and sky reached out to each other in a passionate embrace. This mating spawned opposites, children that are fundamentally different, yet compatible and necessary to each other.

As I watched, the interactive movement of light and shadow between earth and sky created the illusion of an erratic pulse upon the landscape. This subtle heartbeat gave me an underlying feeling of contentment and enrichment. At the same time the possibility of a lightning strike, flood, the scouring winds and/or an ear crunching crack of thunder made me a little anxious at the thought of the damage they might do. Stoic juniper and cottonwood trees stirred and shifted, as if attempting to track the seductive cloud formations across the sky. The sage, rabbit brush and clumps of golden grass all seemed to reach higher and stand taller in an effort to call down the nourishing but abusive thunderstorm.

Standing upon the cap rock above the trading post later that evening provided an impressive view to the north and west of town. The blueberries and cream sky scape was similar to the scene earlier that morning, only darker and richer with the recent sunset. There was a magnificent light show over the Bears Ears on Elk Ridge and the towering peaks of Blue Mountain. Lightning bolts scratched the sky and tapped the canyon rims and mesa tops with spectacular, raggedy bolts made up of varying combinations of red, orange and yellow discharges of atmospheric electricity. I could almost smell the fire and brimstone in the air circulating about me.

As the evening deepened, the cloud base floating over the mountains grew like a living thing. The ominous, now pitch black, clouds gathered about in a huge, billowy formation, and lightning sparked through and around it until it looked like something from a sci-phi flick. It was alive with electricity, and the lightning gave it essence and new dimension at every strobe-like stroke.

Witnessing the incredible power and visual stimulation of the storm helps me understand why the early Navajo people deified various aspects of the natural world. There is wonder, majesty, dynamic potency, along with angst and duress, within the various aspects of thunder, lightning and moisture produced by such an occurrence. Without scientific explanation, the people grew to embrace that which they loved, and feared, most. That helped explain all aspects of the human condition. Nature was given power over life and death, and was elevated above all else. The sun, moon, earth, sky and all associated events were granted the responsibility of all creation.

Being on the fringe of such a dynamic display gives me a great respect for what nature provides. Not only life and sustenance in a physical sense, but in an emotional sense as well. What I now visualize as blueberries and cream with a dash of excitement was once viewed in a completely different perspective. The imagination of these primitive yet thoughtful people gave them a common sense approach to explaining the world around them. It gave them promise and hope. Many of life's great questions were approached in this manner. The answers? Well, there lies our personal quest of discovery.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post

Friday, September 11, 2009

Past, Present and Future at the Bluff Pond

August had lapsed into September, but Southeastern Utah remained hot. The summer was stubbornly hanging on, and seemed worse than I remembered. In the cool of the morning I had gone for a bicycle ride, and despite consuming volumes of water afterwards, my core temperature was running high. Since we had exchanged the original swamp cooler for refrigeration almost ten years ago, inside Twin Rocks Trading Post it was comfortable, but l was personally sweltering.

Buffy and Grange at Twin Rocks
Buffy and Grange @ Twin Rocks.

As closing time approached, I knew what had to be done. Nothing short of a trip to the Bluff Pond would cool my jets. Finally the clock struck six and I locked the doors, flew upstairs, quickly changed into my swimming shorts and headed west.

Like a horse to the barn, a moth to the flame and a Catholic to the Pope, I was drawn to the pond. Fortunately there were no tourists standing between me and the swimming hole or there might have been a catastrophe. Not even a long line of wallet waving or bracelet buying travelers could have stopped me once I became determined to splash into those rejuvenating waters.

As I hurried over the short dirt road leading to the pond, I could feel myself being hauled along as though by a magnetic force. Splashing into its shallow depths, I was immediately transported back over 40 years to a similarly hot summer afternoon in Bluff when Duke, Barry, Craig, Tillie and I had gone swimming. Before there were life vests and Quicksilver bathing suits, Duke floated in an inner tube and held us up by the belt loops of our cutoff Levis, which was at the time the latest recreational technology.

Tillie, a large German Shepherd owned by Warren and Freda Reck, was not much of a water dog. She never failed to jump in and save us, however, when Duke dropped us in the middle of the pond and we commenced shouting for help. Tillie would dutifully swim out, circle us so we could grasp her tail and paddle back to shore in an unending cycle of mock drownings.

Feeling the heat dissipate as the cool waters soaked into my overheated body, I rolled over on my back and looked skyward. In the turquoise sky, a small flock of ravens circled far above the red rocks cliffs, which were unchanged from four decades earlier. The scene was timeless, and I imagined being one of the earliest visitors to the pond, which dates to the 1930s.

Once in a while the sky was split by jets crisscrossing the heavens on their way to one large metropolis or another, reminding me that I actually do live in the modern era. The pond has a way of bringing you back to basic values, and I could not help feeling sorry for those who have never felt the joy and relaxation of a secluded small town swimming hole. Jana often jokes that in the cities they have their country clubs and in Bluff we have the pond. With its embracing cliffs and abundant cattails growing around the edge, given the option, I will choose the pond over the country club every time.

The next afternoon I was in the trading post working at selling more rugs, baskets and jewelry when Grange wandered in and said, “I’m hot, will you take me to the pond?” “Sure,” I readily agreed. At quitting time I loaded the redheaded boy and the red dog into the old red Ford. As I floated on a log, I noticed Grange sneaking out to the middle of the pond. “Help, Buffy, I’m drowning,” he shouted. Buffy dutifully swam out, circled Grange, let him grab her tail and paddled to shore, confident she had saved the life of her young master.

As Eugene O’Neill said in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future too.” At the pond I found my past in the present, while gazing into the future.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post

Friday, September 4, 2009


A few months ago, my sister-in-law Kathy decided a brood of hens was needed at our small farm. After developing her plan, she ordered a bunch of hatchings. Preparing for their arrival, we constructed a coop with an outside run in a small portion of the old barn located on the property. Every evening we check on the little tribe of poultry, whose dietary intake is supplemented with leftover greens from Twin Rocks Cafe. The offerings are always well-received by the hungry hoard, and the time required to maintain the chickens is a small price to pay for fresh eggs.

Navajo Folk Art
Navajo Folk Art

Just before leaving the trading post one night last week, I went to the cafe to gather leftovers. While doing so, I ran into my nephew Adam. I have been sparring with Adam since he was old enough to take a punch; roughing him up is my way of showing affection. Adam is now 23 years old, stands something over 6 feet tall and is "strong like Bull!" He can easily take whatever nonsense I offer and give it back with change. I began harassing the boy and he wasted no time responding. During the resulting fracas, I felt a disturbing pressure on my rib cage. Attempting to catch my breath, I realized a rib must have come from together to apart. Silly me!

Attempting to save face and not tear-up in public, I grabbed what I had come for, along with a handful of Ibuprofen, and exited the building. Driving home was a blur; I had not suffered a cracked rib since high school wrestling. Despite not having a broken rib for many years, I still remember they hurt a great deal and take a while to heal. By the feel of things, this injury would be no different. I arrived home, painfully made my way from the car to the house and found Laurie and the girls in the kitchen fixing dinner. I sat down slowly at the table, groaning slightly at the inconvenience.

"What's wrong Dad?" asked Alyssa. Laurie turned from her food preparation to carefully eye me. "It feels like I cracked a rib", I said casually. "Oh great, when did that happen?" she asked in a concerned manner. "Somewhere between the time I grabbed Adam and the time he let me go!" I said. Shaking her head sadly, she turned back to her work and, speaking mostly to herself, said, "When will you realize you are too old for that kind of nonsense?" Her, all too true, comment hurt more than the cracked rib.

Hoisting myself out of my chair and ignoring the pain, I said, "I have to go feed the chickens." "Way to be a man, Dad!" quipped McKale, giving Alyssa a high five. When it comes to pain and suffering, I am always telling the girls to, "Toughen up. Be a man!" In this instance I guess I deserve the sarcasm.

As I headed for the door Laurie set down her cooking implements, dusted the flour off her hands and sighed in resignation. "I will go with you", she said. "No need", I commented, "I can do it myself. I'll be fine." "Then take the girls", she said. "No", I replied, "they need to finish their homework." Shutting the door behind me, I moved slowly towards the truck. Laurie has never had much use for horseplay; it makes her nervous. I grew up in a house full of roughhousers. It is a way of life for me; a lesson in tough love. My wife, on the other hand grew up with four sisters and a baby brother. The worse she ever got was a little respectful bickering over a shared sweater. Now what fun is that?

With thoughts of compromise and painkillers weighing heavily on my mind, I gained my seat and drove up the mountain road to provide for the poultry. Upon arrival, I called to the barnyard biddies. They came running to the chicken wire fence in anticipation of fresh lettuce, kale, carrots, cucumbers, melon and their most preferred tomatoes. After tossing the salad into the pen, I went to check water storage. Propping the door latch in an upright position, I entered the coop, bent down to check the dispensers and noticed several hens jockeying for position between me and the door. It was as if they were attempting a chicken run. I was not in the mood to be chasing gumps around the barnyard, so I reached over and forcefully pulled the heavy door closed. As it slammed shut, I distinctly heard the outside latch drop into place.

"Dang", I said out loud. Pushing on the door proved fruitless, I was cooped up in a fowl place. Moving to the center of the pen, I sat down on the roost to consider my options. As I rested on my perch, considering the possibilities of escape, a couple of the hens that had gotten me into this predicament climbed up beside me, as if accepting me into the flock. I shook my head and smiled, recalling the old Hee Haw skit where Grandpa Jones, Roy Clark, Buck Owens, several other cast members and a pack of hounds lay on the porch drinking hooch and singing, "Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me."

Getting up slowly and holding my side, I looked over my containment. The door was rock solid, Craig had built a new wall across the barn, and it was tight. I popped the door a couple of times just to make sure. It didn't budge an inch. I could see through the old walls of the barn, but the wood was thick and well nailed. I checked the chicken wire covering the large window-like opening over the run, but decided I might cause a greater calamity by separating wire from wood, struggling through the opening and crawling across the heavy wire covering the run. I could just see myself entangled in the mesh. Looking over the wire covered ceiling of the coop, I spied a possible exit.

About that time I heard a vehicle drive up outside. I assumed it was the folks who lease the fields and the remainder of the barn. I caught my breath and began to worry about being found with egg on my face. If I were discovered, my folly would be bandied about town unmercifully. The thought of calling for help never even crossed my mind. Ain't pride a funny thing? I heard someone get out of the vehicle, go to the other side of the barn and begin hammering. Because there was a large stack of fresh hay between me and him, I felt safely anonymous. I went to the northeast corner of the cage, wedged myself as far as I could up in the junction , reached above me and pulled at the chicken wire.

Because of my fractured rib, it was all I could do to keep from crying outloud. I finally loosened enough brads to create a small opening between the wire and the superstructure of the building. I made my way up through the grit and grime covered beams of the age-old barn to freedom as the flock marked my progress, cackling back at my grunts, groans and creative language. Dropping back to the floor and re-entering the coop with its gathering of raucous spectators, I refilled water bottles and gravity grain feeders. Bidding the flock a less than fond au revoir, I locked the door behind me, hobbled out to the truck and drove home.

When I arrived at the house and went inside, dinner was being placed on the table. Corn and beans fresh from the garden, hot rolls with homemade raspberry jam, tossed green salad with tomatoes, Green River watermelon and . . . grilled chicken breasts. I cackled crazily at the coincidence while my family gazed at my dirty, ruffled, obviously pained appearance. Laurie, Alyssa and McKale looked me over very much like the chickens at the barn. I am sure they were considering my curious appearance, over-reaction and possibly, an extended furlough to the funny farm. We sat eying each other for a moment before Alyssa perked up and, in an obvious attempt to break an estranged silence, said, "What happened Dad, chickens get your goat?"

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post