Friday, August 15, 2014

Two Girls Gone

Barry and I are in a funk, and this monumental muddle is affecting our ability to negotiate for Navajo baskets, trade for turquoise and bargain for beads. Indeed, we can hardly function at all. Fortunately, Priscilla is here to manage things while we mope about. Without her this would be a colossal catastrophe.

McKale and Alyssa Simpson

What, you might ask, has created such a crisis for two happy-go-lucky guys like us. Yes, it is true that residing in Bluff and working at Twin Rocks Trading Post is roughly the equivalent of living in Shangri-La. If we looked hard enough we might identify a few snags, but they would be difficult to identify and hardly worth the effort. The early pioneers arriving in this community knew, and contemporary settlers know, “This is the place.” While many associate that statement with Brigham Young and the Salt Lake Valley, at the time he made his declaration he had not seen Bluff. The confusion is, therefore, understandable.

As anyone who has ever visited the trading post knows, this joint is all about family. Virtually from the day they were born, our kids have been at the store; first in bouncy chairs situated on back counters, then in “Snuglys” strapped across our chests, next in packs slung on our backs and finally scurrying about on their own steam. Once they grew independent, they scaled boulders, shimmied through crevices and leaped from ledge to ledge on cliffs behind the buildings. They have been trading post kids from the start.

Indeed, when they were still too young to be interested in anything other than ice cream, cake and cookies, Barry, Jana and I convinced them to start their own businesses. “Traders in Training,” became a way for them to generate spending money and save for college. It was also a vehicle for teaching them about art, artists, Southwest culture and personal finance.

Kira Simpson and Navajo Artist

Now they have grown and are abandoning the post. In less than two weeks, Barry’s youngest, McKale, will be heading for a LDS church mission, first in Mexico City and then in Bakersfield, C.A., and Kira, my middle child, will be making her way to college in Swarthmore, P.A.

While they are excited to be moving into the next phase of their development, Barry and I are despondent. Even Buffy the Wonder Dog is walking about aimlessly, intuitively understanding our plight and clearly sympathetic to the cause. Priscilla, fed up with our lackluster performance and believing tough love was the only solution, ordered us to, “buck up.” That, however, has not worked; we are inconsolable. Indeed, Barry is so affected he has threatened to break his covenant against bathing, thereby upsetting our carefully developed business plan.

Therapists, psychologists and cardiologists have all been consulted, and the unanimous conclusion is, “Ain’t no cure for a broken heart.”

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

Friday, August 1, 2014

Raining A Parade

It has been hot in Bluff, and also dry. As the month of July exhausts itself, with temperatures topping 100 degrees Barry and I have been closing the Kokopelli doors and turning on the refrigeration earlier and earlier each day. Fearing she might overheat, Barry has also begun bringing Buffy the Wonder Dog inside the trading post. Although keenly missing the attention she receives while reclining on the outside steps, Buffy seems content to lie on the cool concrete of the storage room floor until the workday is complete and it is time to head home for supper.

For months Barry, Danny, Priscilla and I have scanned the skies for rain clouds, murmuring quiet prayers intended to coax the thunderheads our way. We have become so desperate Barry even proposed doing a rain dance. Priscilla, however, nixed the idea, saying we do not have adequate training and would likely extend rather than shorten the drought. I had to agree with her assessment.
Buffy at her home on the porch.

As an alternative, I suggested petitioning the missionaries at Bluff Fort for assistance. They have, after all, done miraculous things over there. Since Danny is the only Mormon on the premises, and therefore the only one with bona fide influence in this arena, we elected him our emissary. He, however, deferred, saying he needed to reserve such favors in the event more pressing needs arise. Since his second child, a daughter, will arrive soon, we agreed he had a legitimate excuse.

So, all summer we have watched as our appeals go unanswered and clouds float past without so much as a sprinkle. Last Monday, however, things changed. As we went about our afternoon routines, secure in the knowledge we had once again been neglected, there came an unfamiliar sound on the metal roof of Twin Rocks Trading Post. “Rain,” someone speculated, causing us to hurry toward the picture windows to see if the assessment was accurate. Sure enough, our pleas had finally been addressed and heavy raindrops fell upon the thirsty land.

We immediately heaved open the heavy wooden doors and paraded outside, neglecting the customers who lazily inspected turquoise jewelry, Navajo rugs and baskets. When Barry and I arrived on the porch, we were not surprised to find the servers, cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and managers of Twin Rocks Cafe already outside, stretching out their hands to grasp a bit of moisture for splashing on their faces and rubbing on their arms to show appreciation and bless themselves with the holy water.

At the trading post our visitors were obviously from a wetter climate, which prevented them from fully appreciating our affinity for thunderstorms. Consequently they did not anticipate or comprehend our abrupt exit. As a result, they stumbled around the showroom a bit and, not knowing what else to do, eventually joined our celebration.

For those who have never lived in the desert, it is easy to underestimate the emotional effect even a small amount of rain can have on an individual. Since we work with the Navajo people on an everyday basis, it is likely Barry and I have a heightened sense of awareness when it comes to water. This accentuates our response to rivers, streams, cloudbursts and other wet things.

Navajo stories personalize natural phenomena like clouds, wind, rain, thunder and lightning, which are generally distinguished by the four sacred colors; black, blue, yellow and white. Sex is attributed only to rain, which can be either male or female. Heavy, fast, crashing storms with thunder and lightening are considered male. Light, gentle, nourishing showers are referred to as female.

Having interrogated Priscilla several times, Barry and I have never received a satisfactory answer to the question why Navajo legends all too often blame males for coming and going quickly and leaving a path of destruction in their wake, while females are viewed as kind, tender, patient and nurturing. At one point Barry even suggested we ask our wives for their opinions on this particular topic. I thought it best to leave them out of the discussion, lest we become black and blue.

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