Friday, December 6, 2013

Find-A-Way People

A few weeks ago, Kira asked me to help with her college admission essays. As a high school senior, she is actively searching for a place to continue her education and apparently thought my experience writing about Navajo rugs and baskets; silver and turquoise jewelry; and the trading post life might be useful.

Kira (lower right) and her cross country team mates

Questioning her judgment, I asked if she had ever actually read any Tied to the Post stories. She had not. Advising her that fiction is my forte and facts are often sacrificed in the interest of a good, or even mediocre, story, I suggested she might reconsider her invitation if she was applying to institutions more prestigious than B S U, I C U or I O U. In spite of my counsel she persisted, so we assembled our tools and settled in to write.

Kira had already begun fleshing out a few ideas, and we both liked the one focusing on what it was like to be born and raised in the “Red Rock Wilderness” of southern Utah. Noticing what we were discussing, Jana mentioned the recent U.S. Census had classified San Juan County as “frontier." This designation is reserved for counties with population density of less than two people per square mile. Consistent with that finding, our friend Cleal Bradford has for years labeled the residents of Bluff “modern day pioneers." This of course refers to the challenges faced by the founders of this isolated community, and those confronted by its current residents.

The original pioneers, who set out for this area in the fall of 1879, expected their trek to last six weeks. Instead, the journey turned into a six-month ordeal. As they reached what is now known as the Hole-In-The-Rock, a steep sandstone cleft that led down to the Colorado River, some argued they must turn back and abandon the expedition. Jens Nielson, a Danish convert to the Mormon Church who had seen much worse, advised them, “We must go through. Even if there is no way through, we must go through.”

Nielson’s philosophy has guided Barry and me through our 24 years at Twin Rocks Trading Post. Indeed, although we realize the words were never really spoken by Gene Kranz during the ill-fated moon mission, we long ago adopted the Apollo 13 motto, “Failure is not an option.” Like those in Nielson’s party who feared descending into the sandstone abyss, we frequently ask ourselves, “How we will ever get through?” The answer is most often uncertain. We, however, persist, and in the process have become “Find-A-Way” people. Just as Bluff’s patriarchs conquered the Hole-In-The-Rock, Barry and I have always gone through.

As Kira finalized the essays and sent them to the universities of her choice, I realized it was I who will soon be attending I O U. Oh well, one way or another we will find a way.

With warm regards;
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; the team.