Friday, November 25, 2011


At a young age William W. "Duke" Simpson and Roseline Marie "Rose" Simpson did their utmost to infuse a strong work ethic and clear sense of responsibility into their five children. By the time we were in our early teens, my siblings and I were adept at managing a small gas station and accompanying second hand store. Although, at the time, I suspected our parents might be running afoul of child labor laws, I am now forever grateful for their insistence that we learn small business administration from the ground up. Much of our time was spent pumping gas, changing tires, drinking grape soda and Pepsi packed with peanuts, filling propane bottles, loading and unloading used furniture, eating Twinkies and chips and interacting with customers. When we were not devouring the profits, we were actually working quite hard.

I recall that at the time Duke showed up with an antique Motorola phonograph neatly contained in a suitcase style container. It was to be to sold in the second hand store, but I coveted it. After an animated debate, I finally won my bid to own it. Although most of the revenues we obtained through our work related efforts were put toward growing the family business, we assistant managers were granted a small stipend for our efforts and almost always had a copper or two in our pockets. Once I obtained the player, the next logical step toward musical bliss was to amass a record collection. Rose, however, forbade me to join the Columbia House Record Club. I remember her saying something about responsibility and financial commitment.

No problem! The friend of a friend was willing to sell me an entire collection of used albums, at a discounted rate, just to help me get started. The Black Market! I blew my entire savings on that deal, and in doing so learned several of life's most valuable lessons. First, and most importantly, the term "used" is most often associated with "scratch and dent." It was also as a result of that deal that I realized it is usually best to pick and choose, paying a slightly higher price for the good stuff, instead of buying it all cheaply and winding up with a few good pieces and a load of unusable junk. The only good that came from that deal was the song Brandy from a one hit wonder band by the name of Looking Glass and the fantastic Carol King album Tapestry.

As far as I know, Carol King never released her interpretation of the song. She, like many great artists, left that to the imagination of the listener. The song is definitely mysterious and, to me, speaks of Christianity, the Father and the Son, the passing of time and the loss of innocence. It seems to speak of the tapestry of life, and the threads that combine to make it whole. Those threads often fray and have to be unbound and rewoven to make the creation a thing of beauty. It is a song of dreams and desires, and of living a life of promise. I believed it was a great message and I played that song and Carol's album until the record was completely woren out.

It was Tapestry, and my initiation to it, that popped into my head when I first heard of the passing of a dear friend.

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.

Edith Martin

Edith Martin was a believer, a wife, a mother, a weaver and an artist. Her heart gave out at the age of forty, and she will be greatly missed.

As I watched in sorrow, there suddenly appeared
A figure gray and ghostly beneath a flowing beard
In times of deepest darkness, I've seen him dressed in black
Now my tapestry's unraveling, he's come to take me back
He's come to take me back."

It is lucky for us that Edith's tapestries remain, are possible for her family and friends to hold, and will not be unraveling any time soon. Go forth Edith and worry not, you will be remembered well.

Sincerely Barry Simpson

Friday, November 18, 2011


It was a quiet Sunday morning at Twin Rocks Cafe. But for the cooks, servers and dishwasher sitting together in one location, all booths and tables were empty. I stood at the easterly window, gazing out over the Jones farm, listening to the light chatter of the weekend employees and searching the highway for travelers. There were none; no mouths to feed and no patrons to engage.

The sandstone cliffs embracing the town were crowned with low-lying clouds, which reminded me of milk chocolate ice cream topped with Cool Whip. A light mist began to fall, leaving minute drops to accumulate on the large pane of glass. Winter had arrived.

The last crop of alfalfa had been harvested and the field’s short brown stubble glowed golden in the early morning, reminding me of the crew cuts Rose gave Craig, Barry and me when we ran wild during our early summers in Bluff. In fall and winter our unruly locks, cowlicks and all, were allowed to grow to a modest length, but once school let out, it was good-bye to any strand over one-sixteenth of an inch. After each shearing, we would run our hands over each other’s prickly mops for days, enjoying the wiry feel and taunting one another with epithets like,”cue ball,” “egghead” or “baldy.”

Winter came sooner than I had hoped this year. While it is already mid-November and I should have been prepared for its arrival, somehow I am not. I am not ready for hard frost on car windows and heavy blankets on the bed. Looking out over the lonely road, I wondered whether we had in fact skipped a few months this year, and whether it should actually be July or August. I reasoned there had been many times when I believed it was Friday, only to find it was actually Tuesday, Wednesday or even Monday. No such luck this time I concluded.

Turning to look back towards the still sleeping town, I thought I saw three toe headed boys with skin the color of our Navajo employees and patrons racing for the cliffs. The sun bounced off their closely cropped heads and their white T-shirts gleamed in the warm daylight. The three whooped and hollered as they approached Gaines’ Crack, a cleft in the rock that led to the Sand Cave located just west of the Twin Rocks. That must have been their intended destination.

I was reminded of a summer day a several years ago. I had taken a book out on the porch next to the house above Twin Rocks Trading Post to enjoy a little solitude. As I sat there bathed in light, reading the novel of the moment, I heard someone say, “Hey dad, look at me.” Glancing up at the base of the twin monuments, I saw six or seven year old Grange looking for all the world like someone who had just scaled Mount Everest.

Suppressing my fear, and telling him I would come join in the fun, I headed up the steep and rocky trail. In my youth I would have hastily scrambled up the rugged path, but I was not young anymore and my muscles and joints did not like the challenge. When I arrived next to him, I rubbed his own short wiry hair and together we surveyed our community. He, like Craig, Barry and I at his age had no fear of the land’s vertical characteristics. For me, that was no longer the case.

No, I am not ready for winter.

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, November 11, 2011

Family Matters

The other day a long-time acquaintance walked into Twin Rocks Trading Post and said, "I have known you and your family nearly 20 years and have never, not once, been in this store." "What brings you in now," I asked. "Those stories you and Steve write," he replied. "I wanted to see for myself where those parables originate." We had a good laugh, and then, because our children are of the same age group and have grown up together, I asked how his kids are and where they are living. As we spoke of his offspring, I saw great joy and satisfactions in his eyes. I know he and his wife are focused and diligent when it comes to their children, and from where I stand they are top notch parents.

As we went down the list of his children, we came to one of his sons. This young man is attending college on the other side of the state and has recently married. At this point, I recognized a disquieting sadness in my friend's countenance. "Is your boy okay," I asked, concerned for his well-being. "Yes," he replied, "he's fine, doing well in school and happily married, though his new companion doesn't think much of my wife and me. She doesn't like where I live, how I live or how I make a living." "Sounds like an outspoken young woman," I quipped. "To say the least," was his reply.

Without knowing it, my friend had touched a nerve, uncovered a concern I have about future relations with my kids. My wife and I are extremely close with our children, and I will find it extremely disturbing if I lose that bond because of an uncompromising daughter or son-in-law. I have seen it happen much too often not to be aware of the possibility. None of our brood are married, but I often worry what it might be like if a future in-law finds me . . . unacceptable. Because of his close connection to his children, this man and his wife must be deeply hurt by this unfortunate turn of events.

Twin Rocks Trading Post Interior

Time and again over the last several days my thoughts have returned to that conversation, and it has caused me to reflect on my own humble beginnings. I clearly recall living in a single-wide trailer-house behind the Plateau gas station, which was located on the south end of Blanding. Even though that mobile home had been burned out and only partially refurbished, we found it quite manageable, even comfortable. Through our middle school and and much of our high school years Craig, Steve and I slept on the floor of the living room, while Susan and Cindy shared a room and Mom and Dad occupied the master suite at the far end. There were wool blankets for doors and one partially finished bathroom, where, because no one bothered to knock, you learned not to settle in too comfortably or too long.

My brothers and I thought we had moved uptown when mom and dad had a small 1950s trailer parked next to the larger model. We built beds into the new-old trailer and moved out. Our bathroom was 30 yards uphill in the gas station, which seemed a mile during the dead of winter. It was only later we learned the move was motivated by our sisters. It seems they were less than appreciative of us barging through the door flap when they were indisposed.

Along with the gas station, our parents ran a secondhand store. Through this outlet they bought items others no longer needed and sold them to those who did. Our parents worked extremely hard to better our situation, the harmony and balance of their young, veracious brood was their singular mission. Through those and successive businesses, our parents taught us a strong work ethic, the qualities of integrity and honesty, the value of education and, mostly, the strength and security of a tightly bonded family.

I wish I could say I was never embarrassed by our circumstances, but that would be dishonest. Because I knew mom and dad were devoted to us and would support us as far as the great beyond, and beyond, I do not recall ever regretting being born into this family. I will be forever grateful for the most valuable of lessons our parents taught us, to love and to properly and frequently express that emotion.

There are two lessons to be learned here: (1) I should probably maintain an educational outlook and enroll in the Atlas School of Manners and Proper Protocol; this might help me to get along with just about anyone, and (2) be careful of what you say and do while visiting Twin Rocks Trading Post and Cafe, you just may be mentioned in one of our missives. In this case I have sworn to protect the anonymity of my friend, so his daughter-in-law will not give him hell for sharing family secrets.

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, November 4, 2011


Blue bracelets, blue bolo ties, blue rings and even blue Navajo baskets and rugs; at Twin Rocks Trading Post we have lots of blue things. Recently I realized there was yet another blue item to take into account. This realization came last Tuesday as I sat in Stephanie’s barber chair.

Although the day dawned bright and beautiful, I did not. Thinking I might have a slower, more relaxing morning, I did not crawl out of bed as early as usual. I had been working late at Twin Rocks Cafe the night before, and thought I might sleep in a bit before heading down to the trading post. Unfortunately, the telephone rang at 7:00 a.m. Not much later my cell phone alarm began to chime. In spite of my reluctance to do so, I reached over to discover what I had overlooked.

Looking at the illuminated screen, I noticed it was time to get moving. I had forgotten my monthly hair cut, without which I would begin looking like the mop head I was in the 1970s. I had been forward thinking enough to set the notice 45 minutes ahead, so I had approximately 15 minutes to shave, shower and get on the road to Blanding; a 30 minute drive. That was cutting it closer than I thought prudent. Reasoning that I could look a little like Grizzly Adams until the following day, I forewent the razor and jumped directly into the tub.

Arriving at Stephanie’s salon a few minutes late, I slipped into the chair like I had full command of my schedule. Since my record was generously tarnished from prior mishaps, Stephanie knew better. I fully expected her to say, “So, you almost forgot again, didn’t you?” She is, however, kind and did not bring up my previous tardies and absences.

As she clipped my still damp locks, we talked about our children, the local sports teams and a variety of other topics. As the conversation continued, hair began to build up on the apron laid out in my lap. As the pile grew, I noticed something funny about the accumulation. It looked . . . well, blue; not dark brown like it had when I was young, not salt and pepper like it was when I was not so young, but blue.

Steve Simpson

Now I had heard of the blue hairs of Arizona; those older individuals who drive their Cadillacs slowly around Phoenix, Sun City and Tucson, causing freeway delays and pileups on an almost daily basis. Barry and I had even seen a few of them in the trading post. I had looked on in wonder as they paraded through the store, seemingly unconcerned about the shade of their tresses. I had even considered whether I would suffer the same fate. I had not, however, intended to be one of them so soon. What did this mean? How was I to act? What would I do? Like the moment I received my first AARP notice, there were so many unanswered questions, so many serious concerns to address.

For years after the divorce, when I arrived at her door to retrieve Dacia for our monthly visits, my ex-wife would offer to dye my hair. I had always assumed she was concerned that my appearance might somehow reflect poorly on her. Never mind that she is five years younger. Now, however, I knew the truth; she had anticipated this moment, she had foreseen how soon it would arrive and wanted to minimize the trauma.

Heading back to the trading post with my newly styled pate, I had yet another realization; I would surely have to hit Barry up for a raise. How else would I afford that Cadillac my new status required or find the additional time necessary to slowly drive around Bluff disrupting traffic?

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!