Last Saturday I was tending the trading post alone. It was Steve's day off and Kathy and Craig were next door managing the cafe. Priscilla felt she needed time to spend with her grandkids, so she was absent as well. Tina and Lalana were upstairs, but unable to help because of Internet duties and play time. Outside the weather was downright nasty; a brisk, dust-laden wind was blowing through. It was cold and gritty, my sinuses were reacting poorly to the pollen onslaught and tour buses assaulted the premises. Short term bus stopovers represent a love/hate relationship for me. They are beneficial to our cafe and gift shop and marginally supportive of our gallery. For the most part, however, they only serve to raise havoc with our bathrooms and septic systems.
The problem is that bus companies advise their passengers to refrain from taking advantage of the on-board facilities. It is my understanding that since there is a high probability of fouling the shared atmosphere, the on board water closets are for emergency use only! Thus, because those poor people are held comfort station constricted for several hours at a time, they usually become victims of internal circumstance. Thus, the riders are greatly inspired to discover quick and effective relief whenever released. In short, "They have to go!" I quickly realized that since no one else was here I would have to clean-up after the quickly dispersing herd. Thus my foul mood.
By mid-afternoon I had dealt with four such encounters, with not one opportunity to finance the restocking of lavatory supplies. Just as the fourth bus departed another pulled in to fill the spacial void. Oh shoot! I thought to myself as the great vehicular behemoth disgorged its human contents and the inspired group sprinted in my direction. Sure enough, the tour group breached the Kokopelli doors and quickly lined up in the hallway leading to the bathrooms. As I bemoaned my fate, and cussed under my breath, a ray of golden sunlight cut through the red blow sand and black cloud of frustration that clung to my furrowed brow. Mrs. C. M. K. Partridge, London, England, thank you very much, blew into the building.
Mrs. Partridge was quite tiny, maybe 90 pounds, maybe not quite. The first thing I noticed when she was literally whisked in through the heavy doors was her over sized smile and vivacious laughter. Such an expression of friendliness crossed her continence that it nearly caused the developing chagrin resulting from dealing with five consecutive tour buses full of bathroom seeking missiles to retreat with the wind. Right then, there were 30 people hopscotching about the premises until it was their turn to "use the facilities." The moment they "finished their business" they would bolt for the door, because, "Goodness gracious, these articles are rather expensive!" But Mrs. Partridge was different. She looked about for a moment, walked right up to me as I sat scowling behind the counter and said in her crisp British accent, "Oh my, what a lovely shop!" Her big brown eyes twinkled from behind her dark horned rim glasses and underneath her neatly bobbed, straight, auburn hair with bangs cut straight across her forehead. I could not help smiling back, even as I winced at the sound of each ominous flush coming from the back hall. I half expected the septic system to back up at any moment.
Mrs. Partridge looked to be fifty-something years of age, she wore a golden wheat colored straw hat pulled tightly down over her impish head. The topper looked like a small woven bell and had one edge turned up tightly and attached to the main body of the hat by three embroidered flowers entwined with faded green embroidery. She wore a simple mauve colored boxy blouse covered by a coral sweater, a straight cut sand-colored skirt and brown open-toed sandals. The outfit reminded me of the fashion inspired by Diane Keaton in the Annie Hall movie of 1977. As Mrs. Partridge peered out from under that classy hat and walked about the store I could tell by her interaction with her peers that her gregarious persona effected others as it had me. As she walked, she talked, telling me of her "remarkable journey" across these "vast and glorious United States" and "how stark, yet powerful this particular landscape was." This amazing little woman's attitude was terribly infectious.
As Mrs. Partridge came to the fetish case she stopped in her tracks and breathed in deeply, as if excited by something she had seen. Pointing to the case, she said, "Is that a mountain lion fetish?" I slipped across the top of the showcase, walked over to her and looked in the direction she was indicating. Sure enough there sat a yellow Zuni mountain lion fetish. "Yes ma'am," I said as I walked around the counter to open the case. "Am I correct in understanding that the yellow mountain lion is the elder brother of the fetishes; a guardian and protector?" "That's the way I understand it," I said. "Tell me more?" she asked pleasantly. I went on to tell her the Zuni people believe the less animate an object the closer to the spirit world it resides, and the more likely it is to have the ability to transmit messages to beneficial beings. I told her how the Zuni Hero Twins had dealt a death blow to many destructive monsters in the mythological past and how the monsters had turned to stone but still maintained the breath of life. If treated well, meaning they are properly fed, nourished and gifted for their service, a stone resembling a particular animal can become a benevolent and trusted ally.
Mrs. Partridge held the fetish reverently while she beamed with excitement and told me of her older brother who had recently passed away. She told me how he had spent his entire life providing for her and doing his very best to make her safe and happy. She missed him terribly, and when she had read of yellow Zuni mountain lion fetishes, she had determined to acquire one to remind her of her brother. The story tugged at my heart strings, so I reached out, folded her hands over the carving and said; "Take this, it's a gift." The tiny little woman refused me flat-out. It seemed Mrs. Partridge had an attitude under that sweet and bright exterior. We argued amiably back and forth for several minutes and began to draw a crowd. A crowd of her supporters it seemed. Mrs. Partridge would not accept the fetish as a gift and determined to buy it outright. After several, "Oh just sell it to her and get on with it!" I capitulated and did just that. As we concluded the sale there was a loud belch of obnoxious noise from the parking lot. The bus driver was calling his charges home. Mrs. Partridge reached out, patted my hand, smiled brightly one last time, said "Thank you oh so much" and departed with her companions. "What a sweet lady!" I thought.
Lalana cleaning @ Twin Rocks.
As I stood there contemplating just how a positive attitude and a friendly smile can brighten the lives of people we meet, I felt someone lean against my leg. Looking down, I saw the friendly eyes and brilliant smile of three year old Lalana Buck, aka Lana Lou Who. "Hey sweetie," I said. "Hello Bawie", came her reply as she reached up and took my hand. The flush of a toilet and squeak of a door opening interrupted our pleasantries. An elderly man came hustling from the back hall in a great rush to catch his bus. He crashed through the front door and down the steps without so much as a thank you, see ya later or how's your mother? "Dang," I said looking back at Lana, "that was rather rude!" "That was rather rude," she repeated happily. Smiling down at my young friend and thinking of the job awaiting me in the back hall, I asked Lalana, "Have you ever whitewashed a picket fence?" "Nope!" said my young, impressionable friend. "Come on then", I said, "I will show you how it's done."
With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team.