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

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