Friday, April 30, 2010


“All I need is gas money,” she said, staring straight into my eyes. It was Friday afternoon, and the week had been long and hard. As a result, her logic escaped me and her words rambled around my head in an incomprehensible, irreconcilable jumble. “All I need is a little money for gas,” she reiterated, noting the far away look in my eyes. “Okay, but what does that have to do with me?” I inquired. “Barry told me about a woman on the other side of the state, over by Torrey, who wants pinon cream. I can’t get over there without gas!”

Nellie Tsosie @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

“Barry is out of town. You can take it up with him Monday. This is after all the Great Recession. I’m not the bank. Don’t you know this is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? Barry made me promise not to loan money anymore. Who is going to give me gas money? I won’t be able to eat lunch. I’m hungry,” I said in an irrational stream of consciousness that baffled her as much as she had me.

Apparently it was going to be one of those, “every day is a new opportunity to learn,” experiences at Twin Rocks Trading Post. Knowing full well what the answer would be, I said, “All right, why should I be the one to buy your gas.” “Who else is going to do it? We’re practically kin,” she responded. “I don’t want you to give me the money, I have cream,” she reassured me. “I have oodles of cream,” I countered. “Well, get some more,” she pushed back.

As always, Nellie’s timing could not have been better. Just a few hours earlier, I had been talking with an elderly man about his experiences on the Navajo Reservation. Bringing up the issue of legacy, he had said, “It’s not about what you take, it’s about what you leave behind. It’s not about acquisition, it’s about connecting with people.” I was still pondering the importance of his statements when Nellie rolled in looking for economic stimulation. As she explained to me, she had to keep the wheels turning or they might fall off.

Over the years, Nellie has used many traditional techniques to sell her pinon cream to Barry and me. First it was novelty, then the soft sell, then the hard sell, then hugs and now it was . . . family. It was as if she had read my mind, and knew the exact method to use. I began to wonder whether the old fellow had been a plant, maybe Nellie had sent him in to soften me up.

By this time Nellie knew she had me, so she headed for the pickup. Bringing in her inventory, she began stacking bottles on the counter, mentally calculating how many it would take for a round trip to Torrey. Indicating additional containers, I said, “Add those, you will need cash for pop and chips.” “What about sandwiches?” she asked. In full retreat now, I sighed, “Okay, write it up, I can’t have you going hungry.”

As Nellie pulled out of the parking lot and turned onto the highway, the old gentleman’s words came back to me, “It’s not about what you take, it’s about what you leave behind . . . it’s about connecting with the people.” Although she had taken my money, unknowingly Nellie had left me with something important. “We’re practically kin,” she had said, indicating that we are all one family. I felt . . . connected.

This experience reminded me of the old African saying that it takes a village to raise a child. I guess the corollary is that once the child is raised, it takes a family to support the adult.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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