Friday, August 21, 2015


Some time ago I received a telephone call from a man who said he ran an arts and crafts business in the east and wished to learn more about the Twin Rocks Trading Post. The gentleman wanted to know who we are, what we do and what connection we have to local Native Americans. As we talked, I realized his questions indicated an interest in preserving Native culture. He said his name was Leon, that he was from the Micmac and Penacook tribes and that he had become seriously concerned the history of his people, and of Native America in general, was all too quickly being lost.

Over the years many legends had come to him, and he accumulated them for transmission to the members of his tribe and to any other interested party. Leon counseled that we must collect the thoughts of our grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, children and grandchildren, whether or not they are Native American. He told me that of all the stories he had heard, there was one in particular that was most meaningful. The story was about a young man and his journey on the road home.

The legend tells of a group of Native people who lived in an expansive wood. One by one the people passed on, until only the youngest was left. One evening the youth fell asleep and dreamed of traveling a path populated by his relatives. As the boy greeted each one in turn, the elders related their personal stories. Eventually, the young man came to a rainbow with a longhouse on the opposite side. In the longhouse were people of all nations speaking openly about their traditions and living in harmony. Beyond the greathouse stood the Creator with his arms open, welcoming the young man home and telling the boy he had learned much and been given a great gift.

As the story unfolded, I began to think of the youth as an ark in which the history of his people was being invested; a vessel to carry the traditions across the waters of time. I was reminded of my paternal grandfather Woody Simpson singing his Biblical chronology, “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I saw the apple they was eatin’. I’m the man who swore, cause I’m the one who ate the core. Then came Noah stumblin’ in the dark, tryin’ to find a hammer just to build himself an ark. Then came the animals two by two, the hippopotamus, the kick kangaroo, then came the lion, then came the bar, then came the elephant without any har.” I could see Woody bouncing my brothers and sisters on his knee as his tune spilled out into the living room of his small white house in great clumps of irregular harmony.
Navajo Monument Valley or Bust Basket - Lorraine Black (#232)

I distinctly remembered Woody sitting next to me at Blue Mountain Trading Post on an old blue sofa purchased at the Phoenix flea market, relating his experiences as a Marine in the Pacific Theater during World War II. I have since discovered some of his adventures were fiction, but I still love having them. Although I remember him well, I have virtually no stories from my maternal Grandfather Joseph Correia, a quiet, gentle man who worked hard and said little.

As these memories eddied through my mind, I suddenly realized the young man of Leon’s story had died, and with him the stories of his tribe ended; the ark had sunk and the legends of his people were lost. My grandfathers both died many years ago, and with them their family stories. There is much I would now like to know about these two men, but it is too late, that boat sailed without me.

Leon cautioned me we must preserve the past, and practice the traditional ways when possible. He said most of us are not sharing the legends the way our forebears intended. At 56 years of age, Leon had made a commitment to spread the word, so he can help stop the cultural hemorrhage and keep this body of knowledge alive.

For much of Native America, and the rest of us as well, the rain has been falling some time, our culture and traditions are drifting away. Many of our narratives have either not made it into the ark or have been washed overboard and are forever lost. We must build a solid vessel and fill it with the stories of our ancestors, our own stories and the stories of our children and grandchildren. If we don’t, like the unicorn, they will not survive.

With warm regards Barry and the Team.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Who’ll Stop the Rain?

As Bob Dylan once wrote, “The Times They are a Changin’". And they are surely a changin’ round Bluff. After an exceptionally dry winter, which made us wonder whether there would be any water left to drink when summer arrived, and caused some to question whether beer might be our only alternative, the last three months have brought storm after storm to our parched landscape. Indeed, in June the San Juan Record reported a tornado touching down near Bluff, hailstorms, rock slides and precipitation at 439 percent of normal.

Now, I am a desert dweller, I was born in the desert, I have spent the overwhelming majority of my life in the desert and from all indications I will receive my ultimate reward, or final penalty as the case may be, while residing in the desert. As such, rain is sacred to me. Indeed, as a long-term Indian trader and purveyor of Southwest art, I am exceptionally fond of Hopi jewelry. With its clean lines and precise motifs, this artistic movement often communicates clouds, lightening and life-giving moisture. The Hopi, being dryland farmers and sophisticated artists, have developed an entire economy around silver and gold work representing rain. That symbolism speaks to me in a deep, resounding voice.

Never will I forget the man, who professed to be the grandson of visionary Lakota holy man Sitting Bull, leading me outside during a particularly heavy thunderstorm and instructing me to wet my hands and rub the falling droplets over my face, arms and chest. Not only did Stormy's exercise refresh me, it also left me feeling cleansed in body and spirit. Eventually Stormy ran off with two; that’s right, not one but two, German women. Notwithstanding his errant exit from southern Utah, from that moment forward, when raindrops begin falling I uniformly rush outside to repeat the ceremony Stormy taught me that afternoon. Always, that is, until this year.
Hopi Clouds and Rain Symbols Bracelet (Look for the bracelet in next weeks mailer)

When the storms initially began rolling in during May, I was, as usual, the first out the Kokopelli doors and into the deluge. After first reinvigorating myself in the downpour, I would retrieve a metal bucket and water the plants arrayed in clay pots along the trading post porch. They too seemed regenerated and appeared to dance with delight. I imagined them saying, “Nuts to tap water with its chemicals and artificial additives, this is the real thing.” During that time Priscilla tutored me on legends relating to thunder, the evolution of rainbows, coyote and To’ Neinilii, the Navajo chief of wet things. Life was good, my knowledge of local culture expanding and my thirst sated.

Then the next and the next and the next thundershower hurtled Comb Ridge or circumnavigated Blue Mountain and inundated our small valley, causing the river to rise and the weeds to spontaneously sprout. Once the ground became saturated, however, water began to seep under the back wall of Twin Rocks Cafe and percolate through the basement of the old Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. home in which Jana, Grange and I have taken up residence; Kira having abandoned us in favor of college and various other high adventures. The first few times that happened, we happily mopped up the mess and went about our business, happy in the knowledge the gods had finally smiled upon us. Comfortable our personal appeals had not been acted upon, Barry and I speculated whether it was Native rituals or Mormon fasting and prayer that eventually opened the floodgates. We desired clarification and proper documentation, so we would know how to precede and whom to contact in the event future dry spells occurred.

But the rains kept falling and we began to wonder whether someone had requested a larger allocation than was actually required. We questioned whether the experience was similar to that of a hungry man who finally finds food; once he gets started it is impossible to stop. All too late he realizes he has overdone it and must bear the consequences of his unrestrained exuberance. In our case excess water saturated our carpets, moistened our mats and whetted our weeds to the point they grew into forests. Like John Fogerty, we found ourselves asking, “Who’ll stop the rain?” While we realized our inquiry was heresy for people of the desert and that we risked being excommunicated from our red rock sanctuary, we could not restrain ourselves.

Something had to be done. So, in an effort to moderate the flow without terminating it altogether, Barry was dispatched to discuss our dilemma with the deacons and Priscilla hastened to hunt down the hataalii. For my part, I reluctantly cancelled the beer order and stood by with the shop vac. Priscilla, realizing I was feeling overwhelmed by the additional responsibilities and depressed about having to redirect the Budweiser truck, reminded me of a quote I once read to her, “Rain clouds come floating in, not to muddy our days, but to make us calm, happy and hopeful."

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