Friday, June 17, 2016

Two Stories

Many years ago Jana and I decided to visit historic Southwest trading posts with Kira and Grange, have them research and write a summary of each enterprise, and publish their thoughts. We felt it would be a good introduction into their ancestry, teach them better sentence structure and grammar, and help them understand how we make our living. Trading comes to them from both sides of this marriage, and one can never write too well, so it seemed an interesting project for them and us. That, however, like numerous other proposed adventures, was put aside and eventually abandoned. English literature, Boy Scout badges, chemistry, cross country races, mathematics, wrestling tournaments, biology, tennis matches, anatomy, standardized testing and the myriad other things young people do during their adolescence became more pressing.

It would not, however, be fair to say Kira and Grange never learned their heritage. Since Jana is proud of what her family has accomplished she regularly tutors the kids on those achievements. For my part, I have generally tried to bury the numerous misfires, misappropriations and misdemeanors associated with the Simpson clan. Some stories are better left untold, so after a time I concluded silence was the best path. Kira and Grange eventually came to understand I maintain a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy when it comes to my side of the family and we all coexist in blissful ignorance.

Before discarding the historic trading post idea altogether, Jana, Kira, Grange and I visited one called Two Story, which was located near St. Michaels, Arizona. The title, as one might guess, results from the nature of its structure. Apparently not much has been recorded about this particular location, because the many books in Barry’s library only mention its name, not its history. Perhaps the operation came and went quickly because it was not notable for any specific process, incident, or event. Whatever the case, the business apparently became irrelevant at some point and was consigned to the circular file of the past.

As I recently considered the demise of Two Story Trading Post, a woman walked into the store, greeted me warmly and said, “Hi, who wrote that story about the guy and his dog?” “Barry,” I replied, pointing in the direction of his office. He was, as usual, banging away at the keyboard, tapping out the next installment. “Oh, that was funny” she said, “do you write as well?” “Yes,” I answered, acting disaffected, “every other week.” On a regular basis people stop us on the street or come into the trading post to comment on the musings, and it is always interesting to hear what stories resonate with them. Over the past several months we have had number of people ask the question I have come to dread. “Who wrote the story about . . . the Jester?” “Barry.” “Oh, who wrote the one about the . . . ugly dog?” “Barry.” “You know, my favorite is from years ago, about . . . a large pitch pot. Who wrote that?" “Barry.”
Steve & Barry Simpson

A few years ago Father Ian, the then recently retired Episcopal priest of St. Christopher’s Mission emailed a request to use a few of our stories in his autobiography. As is our habit, we readily consented. “Sure, use whatever you want,” we told him. We have always been fond of Ian and were flattered to be included in his personal narrative. When we were young we spent a lot of time at the mission, so we also have an affinity for the place. When our personal copy of the book arrived, I snatched it up and began reading chapter-by-chapter, eager to know which stories had been selected. Having reached the climax, I found there was not a single sentence of mine in the book, not even one. Instead, there was Barry’s description of our southern Utah landscape, Barry’s thoughts on one of his winter walkabouts, Barry’s memories of . . . well, you get the picture. Musta’ been an oversight I concluded and put the text aside, grudgingly acknowledging the selected stories were actually pretty good and fit well into the story Ian was telling.

Like Two Story Trading, Twin Rocks also has two stories, some are physical and some are emotional. Barry and I have decided Twin Rocks is a great stew of people mixed together to form a delicious feast, and since he and I have diverse views on many topics, we end up telling widely differing tales of our daily life here at the post. As a result of all the recent attention, Barry has begun advocating for a book featuring all the best Tied to the Post stories. While I think it is an interesting idea, I have begun to worry what might go into that book and whether my history, like that of Two Story, might end up in the circular file. Hoping to ensure that will not happen, I have retained an agent and am considering writing a story about a funny man with an ugly dog who wandered into the trading post to buy a pitch pot. If that doesn’t get them talking, nothing will.

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

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