Friday, June 21, 2013

The Basket Maker’s Hands

After 23 years at Twin Rocks Trading Post, I have begun to notice significant changes in many of the people we have known over that period of time. “Changes”, as most will realize, is code for how they, and Barry and I, have aged, physically, mentally and emotionally.
The Basket Makers Hands

Whether it is related to our age I do not know, but Barry and I have begun to sit for a time in the mornings, recapping the previous day and talking about things we need to do. Things like spending more time with our children before they leave home and fishing.

Years ago we would come in, sweep the porch, polish the glass and get right to work. Now it takes a while to prime the pump, and at times it is noon before we are fully engaged. Then we have to eat lunch, and before you know it, it’s quitting time. We are talking about incorporating a daily nap into our program, but have not been able to fit that into the otherwise busy schedule. As an alternative, during siestas we may just hang a sign around our necks which says, “Please wake for service.”

In addition to all the other changes, recently I realized Buffy and I have grown sensitive. As my hair and her face have turned whiter and whiter, more and more visitors to the trading post refer to her as “old dog”. When that happens, I advise them Buffy does not like that term and becomes extremely upset when it is used to describe her current circumstances. What I do not say, but what they surely realize, is that I am actually more concerned about me than her.

This morning Elyce and her sister, whose name I did not ask because she spoke only Navajo, came in looking for ceremonial baskets and Etta Rock pitch pots. It has been incredibly dry in southern Utah this year, so they, like the local farmers and ranchers, are water starved. Consequently, these siblings have decided on a traditional ceremony to bring down the rain. They promised to send some our way if we gave them a special deal, so Barry and I did not hesitate to oblige. Indeed, we would have donated the weavings all together if they had asked. We too are suffering from moisture deprivation. It is so bad around Bluff that Barry was recently researching how he might get an appointment to the federal government’s waterboarding research project.

Elyce is likely in her 50s, but her sibling just turned 80. Elyce said her sister used to make gobs of baskets, but her eyes have dimmed and rheumatoid arthritis has deformed her hands. At this point she cannot focus well enough and does not have adequate dexterity or strength in her fingers to properly place the stitches. The weaving machine has therefore ceased production, and she is forced to purchase rather than produce ceremonial baskets.

Unfortunately this is a situation Barry and I find quite often. The older basket makers can no longer execute, and the young people are too busy, too uninspired or just patently not interested. Looking at those hands, I was reminded of Mary Holiday Black and how many times I have wondered when she will also stop producing.

When Barry and I were young, many of the older traders told us we would not see any more Navajo rugs and baskets by the time we were their age. We are now their age, and wonder whether the prophecy is coming true. If it does, who’ll start the rain.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; the team.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Buffy the Duck Dog - Tales of a Trader’s Dog, Part Four

As anyone who has visited Twin Rocks Trading Post in the last nine years knows, my name is Buffy and I am a trading post dog. My duty is to lie on the porch, wag my tail and greet patrons as they come up the stairs to meet Barry, Steve and Priscilla. I have been at my post through rain and shine, heat and cold, winter and summer almost a decade, and it may be time for a little variety.

Buffy the Duck Dog

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, primarily because I get to meet people from every walk of life; red, yellow, black and white. Most of them are kind; they talk to me, scratch me behind the ears, rub my belly and, from time-to-time, give me doggy treats. Never have I been handled roughly. In fact, the people of the trading post take care of me exceptionally well. The customers even show me rugs, turquoise jewelry and Navajo baskets they have purchased and must instinctively know of my taste for Southwest art.

Admittedly, however, I have grown restless. While I don’t care to give up my day job, I am looking for a way to make extra income. My people, Steve, Georgiana, Kira and Grange do not watch television, so I have been scouring the local newspaper and numerous periodicals scattered around the house for ideas. I have toyed with a number of alternatives; mixed martial arts fighter, marriage counselor, building contractor, long-haul trucker and many others. Unfortunately, I am too old to get into the ring, failed relationships make me sad, hammers don’t fit my paws and I am too short to see over the steering wheel of a big rig, so none of those professions have panned out.

The other day, however, I was perusing a copy of Time magazine and noticed a story about A&E's Duck Dynasty. Last year I saw an episode on cable television while Grange, Steve and I were traveling, and became enamored of Phil, Alan, Willie, Jase, Jep and Si. The article reminded me how fond I am of this family. These guys have made a fortune in the duck call and hunting business. They have also become as famous as the Kardashians, and had countless wedding proposals. Having never been in a serious relationship of my own, that interests me.

As a Golden Retriever, I was bred to be a gun dog, raised to retrieve downed upland game. My breed is intelligent and versatile, many of my extended family have become guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf and even . . . hunters.

While the magazine talked about Miss. Kay, Terry Bradshaw, wives, in-laws, outlaws, children, grandchildren and members of the local church, there was not a single mention of hunting dogs. “How,” I asked myself, “can these guys get along without a dog like me on the show?” Since I am a lover not a biter, I have a few reservations, but nothing that can’t be overcome. Consequently, I have sent in a resume and hired Steve as my talent agent. Since those guys are currently renegotiating their contract, maybe I can get a spot on the show. If you don’t find me at the trading post next season, look for me, Buffy the Duck Dog, on A&E. Until then, happy tails.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; the team.