Friday, March 29, 2013

Biomimicry, Barry and Buffy the Wonder Dog

The other day I was on the Internet looking for articles that might help Barry and me navigate this difficult business climate. Since 2008 I have been completely baffled by the U.S. economy, so I read whatever I can to minimize the confusion and help ensure our success.
Barry and Buffy reclining on the mat

As I surfed the web looking for enlightenment, I came across a story entitled 8 Lessons From the Birds and the Bees. Lest one get the wrong impression, it should be noted the piece was on CNN Money, not one of those sites your mother, father and the FBI warn you to avoid. I will admit, however, that the possibility of learning more about “the birds and bees” intrigued me, so I clicked on the link.

Rather than being about sex, love or the relationship between a man and a woman, the story was about biomimicry, the science of copying nature to solve human problems. The introduction noted that many inventors had created useful items by studying the natural world, and that companies as diverse as Colgate-Palmolive, Levis and Nike had developed products using biomimicry.

For example, by studying how geckos cling to flat surfaces, Amherst University students and scientists invented “geckskin”, a reusable fabric that adheres to almost everything. A piece of geckskin the size of an index card can hold up to 700 pounds. Insects are also contributing. An African architect designed a shopping center based upon termite mounds, which uses 60% less energy than traditional buildings. Even more interesting, Nissan is researching schooling fish and bumblebees to determine how they travel side-by-side at high rates of speed, change direction frequently and never collide. Apparently this will be important in driverless cars and preventing traffic jams and automobile accidents.

As I considered this information, I realized Barry was way ahead of me on the issue. Yesterday as the late afternoon sunlight slanted in from the west, I noticed him reclining on the mat in front of the Kokopelli doors. When we first opened Twin Rocks Trading Post, Duke used to sleep on the futons we set outside each day, so I concluded Barry had likely inherited the “napping on the porch” gene.

When I inquired into this particular situation, Barry informed me he had read the same article and was in fact doing research. He had noted that Buffy the Wonder Dog was living a long, happy, stressless life and he was trying to mimic her lifestyle to see if it would improve conditions for humans. If it did, he thought we might be able to develop a new revenue stream. All it would take he explained was the purchase of a few more mats. This, he enthused, will allow us to market and sell “Buffy Therapy”, which involves sleeping in the sun and, on occasion, letting visitors rub your belly and scratch behind your ears.

There are times I am sure Barry is a certifiable genius, and this is surely one of them. Look for Buffy Therapy at your favorite trading post.

With warm regards,

Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lloyd Adams

My wife Laurie recently wrote an article about her grandfather Lloyd Adams. Because Lloyd was born and raised in Bluff, we thought he might prove interesting to our readers. Enjoy!
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Lloyd Adams was born December 26, 1894, in Bluff, San Juan County, Utah. He was the fourth child of John Ernest Adams and Margaret Christine Nielson Adams. When Lloyd arrived he was greeted by one older brother and two sisters. Later, two more boys and three girls joined the family.

Lloyd Adams

His family owned a cattle operation, and from a very early age Lloyd helped his father with the livestock. He learned to ride horses almost before he could walk and was considered an exceptionally good horseman. One of his contemporaries said of him, “Lloyd would leave the saddle cinch loose so he could slide the saddle around to the side of the horse, enabling him to ride through the low cedar and pinion tree branches as he pursued a maverick cow.” At Bluff celebrations Lloyd always rode as one of the main jockeys. It was about his tenth year that he really started punching cows with his dad. The range where the cattle grazed spread from Bluff to Elk Mountain and down into the lake country.

While still a young boy, Lloyd spent much of his free time with his grandmother Adams who raised bees and extracted honey for the family. Most of the family wealth came from sheep and cattle, however, they also raised corn and alfalfa; their main crops. Bluff had only so much farming ground, so the settlers divided it up, allotting each family approximately 10 acres. Everyone raised a garden, fruit and hay. Each family also owned a milk cow, a pig and some chickens. In the winter when the river was frozen, they’d cut and stack cubes of ice (approximately a foot thick) and tuck sawdust (hauled from the saw mill) around the blocks. The ice would keep all summer, which was a necessity to store food until the new crops produced. The ice was also used to make their special summertime treat - ice cream!

The only store in town was the Bluff Co-op, and nearly everybody in town had stock in it, including the Adams family. Grandmother’s honey was a valuable commodity. Needed supplies not grown in Bluff were hauled in with teams consisting of four horses hitched to a wagon, two if they had a trailer. They went as far as Durango or Mancos, Colorado and Thompson Springs, Utah to meet up with the closest railroad. It wasn’t until 1920 that trucks starting taking over.

Water was as hard to come by then, as it is now. Bluff residents used water from the San Juan River primarily for irrigation; letting the sediment settle out before using it for culinary purposes. They dug shallow wells when they first settled by digging between 10-30 feet down, lowering a bucket and retrieving it when the container was full. It wasn’t until they drilled deeper and found artesian pressure that the river became less important and they had decent drinking water.

Lloyd and his younger brother Melvin had the energy typical of young boys, and did their fair share of mischief. The shade tree on Bluff's Main Street was a favorite place for the townspeople to sit out on benches in the evening. One night the boys created some degree of excitement when they tied tin cans to the tail of a big old bull and chased it up the street. They were also known to "borrow" their share of the melons that Bluff grew in abundance. Where there was a prank, Lloyd would generally be found.

In the years Lloyd lived in Bluff there wasn’t a lot to occupy one’s time, other than hard work, so they created their own fun. The "Swing Tree", a large cottonwood near the river, was a favorite place for people of every age, but especially for spending the evening with that special person. Another date idea was horseback riding. The young men would get the best horse they had and take their sweetheart for a tour around beautiful Bluff.

Cliff flowers (only grown in Bluff and a certain area in Egypt) were sought after from February through March. They grew in the seeps between the high cliffs and talus slopes and had the sweetest aroma. Everybody would go up and see who could get the biggest and prettiest bunch.

Back in those days, the youth of Bluff also enjoyed rattlesnake hunting. These snakes were plentiful in the rocks, and the boys would compete, sometimes choosing teams, to see who could get the biggest and most rattles. They walked as far as Butler Wash hunting them. Lloyd claimed he was never bitten.

Fishing was another favorite past time. To increase their catch, they bought a seine. One of the boys would take the end of it and go straight out in the river and then circle way around. Then he’d come right back to the bank, pulling it in. Pretty soon the fish would be corralled and they could pull them up on the bank. Four or five boys could handle it, but the more the merrier. Catfish, suckers and carp were enjoyed by all.

During Lloyd’s youth, there were no doctors in Bluff, so the residents would have to send for one in Cortez on an as needed basis. The doctor would arrive on horseback. There were, however, two or three midwives who made Bluff home. They took on the nursing chores and the day-to-day illnesses.

During Lloyd's youth, the Indians in Bluff weren’t hostile. Every once in a while one would get out of line, but for the most part everyone got along fine. In fact, they would hire the local Ute and Navajo people to help with much of the work. In general Bluff consisted of Mormons, until gentiles came in as laborers with the stock freighting and oil booms. Lloyd claims there was no difference between them, except that the Mormons had their church duties. The prominent Mormons were the ones who settled disputes and more or less ran the town.

Some of Lloyd’s fondest memories were of the holidays, including Christmas, which was celebrated with stockings and presents - just not on the scale it is today. Other events included school programs and plays, May Day with the May pole, ball games, dances at the Ball Room cave, parties, swimming at the Swimming Hole and all sorts of town games.

Lloyd’s courage and pioneer spirit were evidenced early in his life, when he was only twelve years old. At this age he accepted the responsibility of taking a message to a Mr. Tanner who was out on the range. Lloyd had to tell Mr. Tanner that his son had been killed in an accident. There were no roads at that time, so bearing the tragic news on his faithful pack horse, he forged his own way into the wilderness to find Mr. Tanner. It took several days of searching, from Bluff down to the lake country, but Lloyd was able to accomplish his mission.

Lloyd attended school in Bluff. At that time they had eight grades and two teachers, one for the four upper grades and one for the lower four. The school was a two room building. After graduating from 8th grade he attended school in Provo at the Brigham Young Academy, always coming home during the spring. When Lloyd was 18, his family decided Blanding offered a better chance of farming and ranching (since their farm ground along with their big beautiful home had been, for the most part, washed away by the flood of 1911). Looking for more opportunity, he and his family left Bluff, making Blanding home. It was here Lloyd found his true love, Althea (Allie) Williams Adams.

With warm regards,

Barry, Steve, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thoughts on Cowboys and Facebook

“He’s the real deal”, Meredith said.  She, Barry, Cindy and I were sitting on the porch of Twin Rocks Cafe, enjoying the mid-March sun and talking earnestly about, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a variety of other social networking sites that have developed over the past few years.  Barry and I have decided we are living in the dark ages when it comes to social media, and Meredith, a whiz at that sort of thing, has agreed to enlighten us.  The object of Meredith’s comment was a cowboy.  Not the urban or rhinestone type, but the “real deal”; part of a dying breed.

3 Cows

As the late afternoon shadows glided across the cement, a rusty 1970s era Dodge flatbed pickup, with worn-out stock trailer attached, approached from the west.  Making an arcing circle in the gravel lot, its driver parked parallel to the street.  On the back of the truck was a gray, white and black short-haired cow dog and in the trailer was a fully saddled and bridled horse.  Two calves accompanied the steed, cozying up to it like they were its offspring.

The door of the Dodge creaked open and the youthful cowboy eased out.  He wore leather chaps, a large brimmed straw hat and a sweat stained mustard yellow button-down shirt.  Standing next to the truck, he unhitched his chaps, carefully placed them on the seat and pulled up the legs of his well worn Wrangler jeans, exposing the bright red, intricately embroidered tops of his riding boots.  Tucking his trousers into the boots, he walked towards us, spurs jingling.  Barry and I concluded the only thing missing was a turquoise bracelet or two.

He was a long, tall drink of water, likely 6’ 5” or more, and a front tooth was missing.  We decided he must be in his early to mid-twenties, although the range had unnaturally aged his skin.  As he walked passed our table, he nodded his head, politely acknowledging us.

The next day I was meandering around Twin Rocks Trading Post, arranging baskets and Navajo rugs and generally doing the busy work associated with managing a small business.  As I rambled about the store, a couple walked in.  They said they were from eastern Wyoming, and he was also a real cowboy.  Though different in age and dress; he chose lace-up boots, a silk scarf around his neck and a less ostentatious hat, this older man had the same, quiet, respectful demeanor as the younger man who had visited a day earlier.  Pleasant to talk with, the older fellow told stories of working outside with the livestock in 30 degree below zero temperatures and being on the range when the wind cut like a razor.

As we talked, a 20ish woman wearing a rumpled, loose fitting dress and orange Crocks on her feet, scurried in.  Stepping between the cowboy and me several time, she interrupted our conversation with self-important comments, checked her Facebook messages on the smart phone and generally upset the peaceful atmosphere of the trading post with her frenetic personality.

The cowboy endured the interruptions, answering her inquiries with a gentle, patient and understanding air, continuing our conversations when she subsided.  Experience had taught him, hers was a temporary inconvenience.  If he could survive 30 below, he could surely survive her.  Finally his wife, having had enough of the woman’s impertinence, turned towards the door.  As the cowboy did the same, the woman decided she too needed to go and, rather than waiting her turn to exit, inserted herself between the cowboy and his wife.  He held the door, tipped his hat as she went out and gave me a knowing wink.  When the store was empty, I thought about the marketing we were doing with Meredith, the “disclose everything, look at me” attitude of the Facebook crowd and cowboy values.  Manners, respect for others, courtesy, patience and honor are all things a cowboy inherently understands, and things the Facebook generation, and those of us venturing into that realm, need to appreciate.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Stormy Weather

Recently my family and I found ourselves traveling north along the I-15 corridor near Salt Lake City while a blizzard swirled all around us. The air outside our Honda Odyssey van was below freezing, and the snow was sticking to the pavement. Because he has the most experience driving in heavy traffic during icy conditions, my brother-in-law Wade was behind the wheel. We were on our way to the Natural History Museum of Utah to see an exhibit of the Twin Rocks Trading Post Navajo basket collection. The show, called "Weaving a Revolution", features baskets the trading post transferred to that institution almost five years ago.
Wade, Lisa, McKale, Laurie, Alyssa and Barry

Since someone had to stay home and man the fort, I had missed the show's January opening. At the time Steve drew the long straw, so, fighting an even larger storm, he traveled to Salt Lake City to represent us. Arriving safely, he managed the necessary lectures and stood fast throughout the pomp and circumstance associated with the ceremonies. I had been trying to get to the museum since that time and was looking forward to re-establishing a relationship with the collection we had built over the past 40 years.

As we made our way over the Point of the Mountain between Utah Valley and Salt Lake City and exited onto the I-215 belt route, which circumvents much of the city traffic, the snow became worse. I worried we might have to cancel the trip, but Uncle Wade assured me we could make it. The women folk felt safe, so on we traveled. My wife, Laurie; daughters, Alyssa and McKale, with Laurie's twin sister, Lisa, were along for the adventure. Our son, Spenser, had forsaken us, preferring a date with a BYU coed over a trip with his family. Dating seems to be his favorite past time these days. We soon found our way to Foothill Drive, all the while slipping and sliding onward and upward. And we darn near made it. As slick as it was we were forced to stop a block shy of the museum. That was, however, close enough for us to walk the remaining distance.

We entered the museum, stamped snow off our feet and brushed huge flakes from our heads and shoulders. Right off the bat we knew we were in a special place. The Natural History Museum has the look of a massive slot canyon, and features a very tall window displaying representative samples of the various collections. And yes, there were some very familiar baskets in what is referred to as the "Canyon". Because Lisa Thompson, the museum's Public Programs Manager, left tickets for us, we were whisked right on in and turned over to Chris Eisenberg, the Director of Philanthropy. Chris asked where we would like to start our tour. I wasted no time telling him it was the Simpson Family Basket Collection I wanted to see, so Chris led us to the second floor.

Up the ramp we went, passing in front of the crystal collection, which slowed my pace a bit. I saw an impressive and extremely rare specimen of Morganite (Red Beryl) from the Wah Wah mountains of western Utah, which made me drool. Alyssa and McKale suspected I might be tempted by bright shiny objects, so they refocused my attention by dragging me around the corner to my beloved baskets. I swear, when I saw those weavings displayed there I nearly wept as a tsunami of emotion swept over me. As I looked upon those weavings I recalled the artists, designers and stories surrounding each and every piece. I was having flashbacks like crazy, the people around me must have thought I was nuts, because I was babbling out information as it came back to me. Talk about a stream of unrecognizable consciousness. I could not get close enough to my old friends. I imagined what the night janitor might say about the multitude of nose prints I left on the glass cases. My family kept their distance as I viewed the displays. I don't know for certain, but I might have embarrassed them. To say the least, the show was amazing. McKale eventually took me by the arm and led me through the rest of the museum. What a great place! I am definitely planning to return and discover more of their treasures.

Several hours later, as my wife Laurie led me from the building into the now gorgeous afternoon light, she reminded me about the times she gave me grief for having the baskets stored away in a cold, dark warehouse, only sharing them with the public when there was space enough to do so. She also knew about the time and effort we spent gathering the collection, so she was very much aware of how I was emotionally attached to those baskets. After seeing the show Laurie commented, "I was really angry with you guys when you transferred the basket collection, but now that I see it here represented so beautifully, how well the curators and staff have displayed the baskets and told their stories, I now realize they are in a very good place." Laurie had found "Hozho" with our decision to place the collection with the Natural History Museum. "Hozho" is the Navajo word for harmony and balance and is the basic premise behind the stories contained within almost every basket in the collection.

There were numerous people and organizations involved with the transfer. The logistics were often overwhelming, and there were instances where we thought the whole crazy deal would just fall apart. Steve's attorney training came in handy on several occasions. For all the right reasons the transfer did occur and so far it has been beneficial to everyone involved. Not only did the conveyance help us overcome some trying economic times, it also allowed us to place the collection in a wonderful and worthy home. The deal also allowed the artists to receive the attention and notoriety they so rightly deserve. We understand that when the show ends at the Natural History Museum it will travel to other prominent museums across the country, as might the artists. The undertaking proved to be an emotionally stormy process for all of us at Twin Rocks Trading Post, but we have discovered harmony and balance in doing so. We now know it was the right thing to do; our Hozho is assured.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

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