Saturday, October 10, 2020

“Shop in Utah” Lifeline

For the first time ever, Twin Rocks Trading Post and will be offering a 30% discount off the listed retail price of all arts and crafts from local artists. These deductions will be good until the end of the year. Our current difficulties and the federal government’s efforts to save small businesses have made this possible. Here is the reason why:

The look on her face worried me. News of the COVID-19 pandemic had just recently arrived in Bluff, and everyone was frightened. Not just of the virus, but also the economic devastation trailing not far behind. How were we going to manage the health, safety, and financial issues brought on by this illness? Nobody knew, nobody even understood what questions to ask. 

Jessie had come into the trading post with Navajo folk art to sell. Unfortunately, we, like many others, realized the available resources had to be shepherded and the checkbook was locked down. “Nobody is buying,” she said, her voice cracking. “Yes, I know,” I replied. “This is going to be bad.” That was March of this year, and memories of the 2008 Great Recession were still fresh. Many of us were just recovering from its effects and feeling comfortable about undertaking new ventures. That crisis was hard on artists; this one looked to be catastrophic.

As the months dragged on, I have continuously worried about artists like Jessie, wondering how they can sustain themselves when their primary source of income vanished overnight. Of course, ours had as well, but we have alternatives not available to most craftspeople. We could wait this one out, they couldn't. Help would be needed, and it didn’t look like any was immediately forthcoming. For the basket makers, rug weavers, folk carvers, silversmiths, and others we had seen on an almost daily basis, this was looking like a matter of survival.

Rick, Priscilla, and I schemed to support some of the artists, but we knew we could not possibly help them all. Then the federal government signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act into law, and money began to flow to small businesses like Twin Rocks Trading Post. Our first grant application to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), which was a conduit for federal CARES funding, was to address hunger relief for local families. That “Shop in Utah” grant involved partnering with St. Christopher’s Mission and Whitehorse High School, and has so far provided over 10,000 meals to hungry individuals.

Having set hunger relief in motion, we are now working on assistance to local artists. Twin Rocks Trading Post has always had a close association with Southwest art and artists, so this was a natural for us. When the second round of “Shop in Utah” grants was announced by GOED, we devised a plan to offer our customers a 30% discount on all retail items in the trading post. The grant money would replace the revenue associated with the discount and that funding would be reallocated to purchase art by local artists. It seems a little complicated, but it’s not really. It works like this: If an item carries a retail price of $100.00, the customer can purchase it for $70.00. The $30.00 discount is reimbursed by the “Shop in Utah” grant, and Twin Rocks allocates that same $30.00 rebate to buy local art. Everybody wins.

So, here is the good news: Beginning October 15, 2020, and concluding December 31, 2020, by purchasing art from Twin Rocks Trading Post, you are entitled to a 30% discount off the retail price. In addition to the deduction, you will be helping not only keep art and artists alive and working, but hopefully will also stimulate new and innovative avenues of artistic expression. No longer will Jessie and her fellow artists have to be told, “Sorry, we simply cannot buy your work.” So, call, write, send a smoke signal. We are here to help you help local artists. There is no time to waste.

Friday, October 2, 2020

They Are People, Too!

As a young man, I developed a serious aversion to pulling weeds.  Maybe it was because no matter how many you extracted, there were always more coming up.  Whatever the reason, I hate that job and studiously avoid it when possible.  The other day, I noticed I had put off attending to the ever-increasing patch in front of the trading post longer than I should and the noxious plants demanded attention. The morning was bright and sunny, so I decided it was time to act.

Pulling on my working gloves, I grabbed a milk crate and sat down in front of the trading post to remove goat heads and cheat grass.  About that time, a restored 1969 Chevy Chevelle convertible pulled up a few feet away. The stereo, which was set to LOUD, blasted out Sly and the Family Stone’s Every People, a song released about the same time the car was originally manufactured. “There is a yellow one that won’t accept the black one, that won’t accept the red one, that won’t accept the white one,” Sly and the family vocalized.

The driver of the Chevy wore a loose-fitting tie-dyed T-shirt emblazoned with a peace sign, looked a bit like Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, and likely had come of age during the 1960s. He leaned over, gave me a friendly wink, switched off the car, and headed into the cafe for breakfast. As I sat there uprooting unwanted plants and scrutinizing this visitor from the era of Vietnam, LSD, free love, and Woodstock, a beat-up reservation car lurched to a stop just west of where I sat.

Two stylish Navajo women got out of the jalopy and headed my way. Sitting down on one of the boulders next to me, they asked, “Do you know where Lena Poyer lives?” “Of course, I do,” I responded. “I used to buy rugs from her.” “She lives over there,” I said, pursing my lips in the Navajo custom and indicating southwest towards the reservation.

One of the women explained she was Lena’s relative, but had not seen her in decades. The woman had moved away to live among the “whites.” Feigning disappointment, I said, “Really, you left us for those guys?” “Yea,” she said, “I married one, too. My kids are half. Even my nullies (grandchildren from your son) are white.” This time I acted even more disappointed that she had traded the reservation for the Anglo world. 

The woman seemed to have assumed I was serious, and that I was at least part Navajo. Maybe it was my Portuguese ancestry, which gives me a darker skin tone, or maybe it was the way I indicated direction with my lips. In any case, she looked at me in earnest and said, “Well, they are people, too!”

The Navajo ladies left to continue the search for their long-lost relative, and a few minutes later my visitor from the 1960s strolled out to his car and fired it up. As he backed out into the street, the stereo kicked in and I heard Sly singing, “We got to live together.” I couldn’t help thinking that insight often comes at the most unexpected times and from the most uncommon messenger.