Friday, June 24, 2011

The King of Twin Rocks

Recently, I was standing behind the counter of the Trading Post closing out a sale on a pair of Ella Toney's silver hoop earrings. The customer was a seventy-something-year-old matron, coolly dressed in a light floral print blouse, brown wool slacks and spiky heeled open toed shoes. I wondered to myself just how effective those shoes had been in traversing our gravel-encrusted parking lot. When the woman first entered the store she seemed a bit high strung and jumpy but calmed noticeably as we walked the cases and spoke of the artists and their creative nature. I felt that the woman bought Ella's earrings more on my explanation of Ella and her gentle, easy going ways than the look and appeal of the earrings themselves; maybe she was searching for a calming influence.

King of the collard lizards.

The Kokopelli doors were flung open wide to let in the splendor of the day, but I was contemplating closing them and turning on the refrigerated air. It was afternoon and the outside temperature was hoovering at the 90 degree mark. I estimated the temperature in the building to be in the low 80's. I thought either Steve or Priscilla would have attempted to cool things down by now but neither one of them had. Steve was in his office on the phone and Priscilla was in the rug room folding and hanging handmade textiles. They were probably too busy to think about it. Looking into the woman's hazel eyes and along her salt and pepper hairline I did not notice any trace of perspiration. The rule of thumb around here is: if the customers are not sweating, conserve the energy.

As I ran the credit card transaction I looked out the wide picture windows to my left and noticed that the parking lot in front of the Cafe was jam packed. People were strolling about the wide, shaded porches taking in the sights and wandering through the gift shop and Trading Post. I saw a middle aged couple and what looked like their two young grandsons stopped in front of Steve's "We Give Bear Hugs" sign hung outside between the windows. They were laughing and nudging each other as if saying, "You go first!" Steve, Priscilla and I have been getting a whole lot more affection since that proclamation was placed. I personally have a stronger testimony regarding the difference between an affectionate embrace and a serious snuggle. Anyway, just as this woman was signing her credit card receipt we heard an explosion of high pitched screams and a thunder of commotion. I looked up again and saw a low to the ground torpedo shape figure sprint past the front doors followed closely by two young boys, screaming merrily and manhandling each other in an attempt to catch the scurrying creature.

Because of the strident squeals and tumultuous upheaval going on behind her the poor lady jumped perceptively and scratched and tore the paper she was attempting to sign with her pen. She whirled around and let out an oath that would have made a sailor blush. I know it did me! The woman watched the boys rush down the porch then turned to face me once more. My wide eyed look and reddened complexion must have given away my surprise at her hellish oath because she also blushed. Regaining her composure and focus the outspoken woman signed the ripped check and handed it back to me in a most delicate fashion. "Oh my goodness, that frightened me so." she said in an attempt to lighten the mood. "The boys were chasing 'the King'." I said sheepishly. "The King of what? Do you mean Elvis?" "No, not Elvis", I laughed. "The king of the collard lizards." "An uproar like that over an itty-bitty lizard." the woman said to herself as she exited the building.

'The King', in actuality, is no "itty-bitty" lizard. As far as we know he is the fourth generation of Giant Collared Lizard to have earned that title. Our children have chased and held these brutes for as long as the Trading Post has rested beneath the towering Twin Rocks. The current title holder measures somewhere around ten inches from the tip of his spindly tail to the end of his brutish nose and is a good two inches around the middle. He is not the largest of his line but a 'bruiser' all the same. The boys never did catch the royal roughneck, that is a tough challenge to inexperienced handlers. He is an elusive creature, we see him from time to time but we know he is here more by the expletives he is appropriated..."Did you see the size of that @#$%&*! thing?"

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Highway or the Byway

The other day Jana and I attended a two day conference at the Brian Head Ski Resort near Cedar City. After closing the trading post, we packed the car and prepared to head out. There were a number of things that needed to be done to ensure Kira and Grange were properly attended while we were away, so we went to Blanding to take the necessary action.

Stark Beauty

Having completed all the assigned tasks, we left town at approximately 7:30 p.m. Since Brian Head is on the opposite side of this extremely large state, we elected to head north, intersect Interstate 70 West at Crescent Junction and speed along the freeway until we ran into Interstate 15 South, about an hour and a half north of our destination. Our goal was to arrive at the lodge before 2:00 a.m. Since it was both late and dark as we traveled the freeway, there was no sightseeing, only straight driving.

At the completion of the conference, Jana and I sat in the parking lot debating whether to return via our original route or take the longer, slower way over the mountains. The freeway would be faster and bring us home sooner, but the scenic byway offered an abundance of beautiful scenery and a number of small towns to investigate. As we discussed the two alternatives, it struck me that a similar choice had brought me to Twin Rocks Trading Post. Over 20 years ago, I had decided to exit the professional life I had begun and moved to Bluff. Little did I know the impact that decision would have on my life.

Realizing southern Utah offers the largest concentration of natural wonders in the United States, Jana and I chose the mountainous route, which, even though it was early June, was still beautifully blanketed in snow. The first town we visited was Panguitch, which is embraced by the majestic mountains we had just traveled. This quaint little town is adjacent to Bryce Canyon National Park, and offers a naturally colorful view of the Aquarius Plateau.

Our visit coincided with the Annual Quilt Walk. Apparently Panguitch, which is a Paiute word meaning “Big Fish,” had been settled during the frigid year of 1864. An early freeze killed the crops before harvest, leaving the pioneers without winter stores. As the deep cold settled in, seven brave men volunteered to go over the peaks to the more established settlements to secure flour to feed the starving population. The men spread quilts over the deep snow to prevent them from falling through the soft crust. The quilt walk commemorates their heroism.

As we drove through Red Canyon near Bryce, over the pass to Boulder, down the mountain to Torrey, past Lake Powell and across U.S. Highway 95, I could not help thinking of all those heroic individuals who had tried to settle this still untamed land. Their journeys had paved the way for the rest of us. Although they may have made some inroads, there remains a vast geography of land that will never be subdued.

Southern Utah is a stark beauty that cannot be fully appreciated from the windshield of a car speeding along the freeway, or from the office of a city high-rise. Like Bluff itself, she must be experienced on a personal basis, slowly, in all her lonely isolation. As I discovered all those years ago, however, it is a byway worth taking.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

Friday, June 10, 2011


When people first enter the Trading Post it is our pleasure to strike up a conversation; to make them feel comfortable enough to get to know and trust us. As our dear old Daddy puts it: "You have to sell yourself before you can sell your product!" Because Craig, Steve and I are less than toothsome and showing plenty of wear and tear, we can not rely on good looks to make the introduction easier. As sister Cindy is fond of saying: "You have lost your luster." Because we are not and do not have the where-with-all to be "a character" like our father, we must put forth the effort to become better conversationalists. With this in mind, we do our best to steer clear of the easy and over-used intros, such as: "Can I help you?", "Where ya from?", or our three year old sidekick Lalana's favorite opener: "What's your name?"

Navajo Pastoral Scene Basket by Alicia Nelson

We are not, however, adverse to falling back on our surroundings to begin the banter. The main topic of conversation around the Trading Post these days is of the local lifestyle, the land, the vacillating seasons and, the hottest topic of all....moisture or the lack there of. After listening to us speak so eloquently of our fair landscape one thirty something year old, red-headed lass from the Emerald Isle told us: "You people are pastoralists." Not sure if I was being insulted or not I moved over to the computer behind the cash register and began to Google Pastor....I froze up on the spelling for a moment but was aided in my quandary by the young woman. She had slipped up behind me as if anticipating my action. "alists", she finished the spelling for me. "Leprechaun!" I muttered under my breath. It turned out that the pretty young lady was a teacher and proceeded to upgrade my vocabulary. The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an idealized manner, for urban audiences. As a noun, a pastoral refers to a single work of such poetry, music or drama. "That describes us perfectly!" was my satisfied reply.

There are some that understand and appreciate our bucolic attachment to local surroundings and others who do not. Steve was recently speaking with a visiting Hungarian economist and his family who became comfortable enough to blatantly ask "How can anyone live in this desolate place of rock and sand?" If Steve had not been so calmed by the influence of country life and a humble perspective toward nature he may have taken offense. My brother and business partner understands that sentiments of an ideal pastoral life is often something that is lost to those caught up in a cosmopolitan existence. We are but stewards of the Garden.

We do not always effectively present the philosophy we preach either. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a musing around a flight I took with a visiting pilot. In part it read: I shook my head, thinking, "No don't do this," and keyed the mike, which, of course, had a short in the wiring. As John glided left and dropped over the edge of the chasm a sense of calm overcame me. I breathed in the stream of cool, fresh air blowing across my face and relaxed into the dive. We leveled out somewhere around 500 feet above the brownish-red river, lined by green tasseled tamarisk. I looked up to the canyon rim and marveled at the highly textured rock formations drifting by. I was overwhelmed by the stream of stimulating visual impressions. We drifted over the roiling river and dipped our wing tips to the rankled rafters floating lazily below. As I watched the upturned faces and waving arms, I realized they were saluting us in an unfriendly manner. John informed me later that river guides do not much appreciate rip-roaring airplanes disturbing their peaceful float trips. No sense of humor I guess.

From this missive I received the following e-mail; Sorry Barry, Steve and the Team, I'm in agreement with "the river rafters"; I do not believe one human being should gain their pleasure by invading the space being used by others simply for their thrills. I have followed "Tied to the Post", stopped by for some good meals, purchased from Twin Rocks Trading Post, and encouraged friends to stop in when they were passing through Bluff. But I can't remain true to my belief that individuals should be considerate of others and stay on your mailing list, please remove me from your email list. Joe L.Meeker, Co., Talk about a faus pas. , much to my chagrin I made Joe angry. Unacceptable, unacceptable indeed! Sorry Joe and anyone else I may have offended. Time to get back into a more pastoral mode. While researching my word for the day I found a poem by Christopher Marlowe from The Passionate Shepherd. I have adapted but one word.

Come live with me and be my friend,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Boat Building

Millions and millions of years ago Bluff was part of an inland ocean. From time-to-time visitors to Twin Rocks Trading Post claim they can still feel the primordial waters. It is almost as though, for them, the surging energy of those ancient waves continues to lap against sandy beaches that have over the millennia hardened to stone.

The Wreck of the Turquoise Trader

Most travelers, however, only see the desert, with its stark, barren, solitary beauty. Personally, I fall into that category. With only seven inches of annual rainfall, it is difficult for me to comprehend this land inundated with water.

As any desert dweller knows, moisture is revered, and there is no taking it for granted. Large bodies of water are not, however, anything I have to manage on a regular basis, so the ability to navigate them has never been part of my resume. It may come as no surprise then that I am less than competent when it comes to building floating objects. That, however, did not deter Grange and Kira from coming to me when their homework projects required constructing something that could be propelled across a tub or reservoir.

Since Grange and I had only recently completed his powder horn project to satisfactory standards, I was the natural choice when it came time to manufacturing a small, self-propelled water craft. Not knowing where to start, we drove the mile and a half across town to the Desert Rose Inn to consult Uncle Amer. Amer has a master’s degree in electrical engineering, so I reasoned he must also know about building floatable objects. “Not so,” he said, reminding me that he also originated in the desert.

He did, however, give us the key to his wood shop, cautioning us against the loss of digits. Taking a cast-off piece of 1” thick lumber from the trash heap, Grange and I cut a 5” x 6” rectangle, affixed two narrow strips of wood we hoped would serve as pontoons, fashioned a frame akin to those I had seen on air boats and attached a battery powered propeller.

By the time that had been accomplished, the clock was striking 11:00 p.m. Since the competition was only hours away, there was no time to test our engineering, so it was the proverbial sink or swim scenario. The following morning Grange placed our masterpiece in the trough specially built for the contest. His confidence rose as the boat chugged out past the halfway point. His was, however, false hope, for not long after reaching the center of the watercourse, the craft sputtered to a stop and promptly sank to the bottom of the canal, resting sadly in its shallow grave.

Overlooking my initial failure, Kira enthusiastically searched me out when it came time to build a cardboard boat sturdy enough to transport her across Recapture Reservoir. “A cardboard boat?” I questioned. “Yes,” she assured me, “it can be done.”

Having located a sturdy box measuring about 21/2’ by 31/2’, we designed a hull with a shallow draft and pointed prow, inserted the crate and attached . . . pontoons made from long narrow boxes the trading post uses for shipping Navajo rugs. After duct taping every possible seam, Kira painted it turquoise blue, sealed it with bee’s wax and declared it ready.

Imagine my apprehension as we set the craft in the water, and my elation, when it and Kira actually bobbed on the surface, riding comfortably on top of the water. “Yes,” I thought, silently thanking the Water Gods. As Kira paddled across the approximately mile long course, my confidence soared. Knowing our luck may not last, I encouraged her to work harder. Kira’s style is, however, more la-la-la than rat-a-tat-tat, so she maintained her slow progress, chatting with a kayaker along the way.

When Jana and I noticed she was getting close to the finish, we got in our old Ford truck and raced around the reservoir to retrieve her. Arriving at the other side, we discovered Kira’s pontoons had failed, water had rushed in and she had sunk, just yards from her final destination.

The moral of this tale: “Prehistoric oceans and ancient dunes do not guarantee successful pontoons,” or “The older we get the more we realize there are no morals, only stories.”

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!