Friday, February 11, 2011

As the Windmill Turns

During winter, Sunday mornings often find me staring out across the small and lonely avenue stretching between Twin Rocks Cafe and the home of Betty and Melvin Gaines, waiting for bacon to fry, coffee to perk and customers to arrive. Several years ago, when home numbers first came to Bluff, this street, which forms the easterly portion of Bluff’s Historic Loop, was renamed Twin Rocks Drive. As the sun breaks over Sleeping Ute Mountain and begins warming the structures along this uneven patch of pavement, Bluff is chronically tranquil. Even the Canada geese, which have homesteaded the nearby Jones farm, seem reluctant to activate in the frosty dawn.

Barry and I once visited the Demele and Burnham turquoise mines located just off Highway 50, which is commonly known as the “Loneliest Road in America.” I remember standing in the middle of Main Street, Austin, Nevada, thinking I could lie down on this section of highway and take a long nap without being concerned that I might wake to screeching tires and a blaring horn. Winter mornings along Twin Rocks Drive leave me with a similar impression. But for the cold, one might peacefully and comfortably rest there a very long time without interruption.

Betty and Melvin have lived at this location long before construction commenced on Twin Rocks Trading Post in 1989. In fact, they form part of my earliest consciousness. When Craig, Barry and I began climbing Bluff’s steep cliffs, they were there to watch over us. When we had dirt clod fights with Ray and Perry, the Johnson brothers, they were there to mediate. When we went to Dorothy Nielson’s Post Office, they too were there to retrieve their mail. They are inseparable from my thoughts of Bluff.

Because cement was in short supply, when Mormon pioneers built their Victorian style sandstone mansions in Bluff they used large stones as footers to support the weight of all those sculpted blocks. Melvin and Betty are like those substantial foundations, they have supported this community an exceptionally long time.

As a buffer against the red dirt that threatens to overrun everything in this desert environment, Betty maintains a small patch of lawn in front of her house. Along its outer perimeter flowers of soft color hang on the weathered cedar post and sheep wire fence. On summer evenings, I often smell the scent of freshly mown grass as Betty navigates her riding mower over this section of greenery.

In the northeast corner of Betty’s lawn is a windmill replica that stands five or six feet tall and is approximately 36 inches wide at the base. It is similar to the much smaller version placed on Johnny Johnson’s Cemetery Hill grave site. Johnny was the paternal grandfather of the Johnson boys. His fan untimely spun itself to death; the bearings failed and its wheel fell to the ground, leaving only its superstructure to commemorate Johnny’s life.

For years I have watched Betty’s windmill spin, pondering whether there is some larger meaning in its incessant turning. Like the gray that has crept into my hair in ever increasing volume, rust has invaded Betty’s blades and continues to expand its influence over the metal. Also, like me, the winds of change seem to buffet the windmill at every moment.

Ultimately determining it might somehow be a barometer of my economic fortunes, I used to carefully track its motion. When Barry and I had a particularly good rug, basket or jewelry sale at the trading post, I would glance out the plate glass windows to see if it was whirring. If things were slow, I would step out on the porch to test the wind and note whether the wheel had stopped altogether. I justified this superstition by noting that Navajo people at times have similar, seemingly unfounded beliefs that somehow make sense.

Try though I might, I have never been able to detect any consistent pattern in the movements of that wind driven mechanism. Its speed and direction seem to have no discernible impact on my financial or emotional well being. That has not, however, stopped me from noting its movements, hoping I will one day divine my future in its pitched blades or vertical tail. As Bob Dylan once said, “Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.”

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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