One piece at a time

Lately, I know I am feeling my age because all I talk about is how the world has changed and how I am unprepared for the “new normal.”

Every day I find myself humming 1970s songs from Linda Ronstadt, Poco, and the Eagles.

When I speak with my siblings, they are struggling with the same issues.

Many years ago, I saw a Navajo medicine man use a large quartz crystal to rewind time and reset a bad situation. If that healer had not gone on to the great unknown, I would get him on the phone. I am ready for a change.

In any case, I have been thinking back on the past several years and realizing my life is defined by a series of mileposts, both mental and physical.

As I traveled the freeway of life, I have constantly marked my journey by certain monuments and occurrences. As the years passed, certain things have stuck in my consciousness as indicators of a specific time or event.

Those mile markers stretch out in a six-decades-long chain of events that reminds me where I have been and what I have done.

As a young man in my teens, I remember sitting at a silversmith bench in the backroom of Blue Mountain Trading Post, repairing bent or broken turquoise and coral jewelry, and listening to radio commentator Paul Harvey on the local station, KUTA, AM 790, Voice of the Canyonlands.

KUTA, like many things from that era, is long gone. At the time, however, it was one of the only ties I had to the outside world.

Each afternoon, in addition to the daily news, Paul brought us the names of people married 50 years or more.

During that phase of my life, I could barely conceive of two people spending that much time together without something going desperately wrong. Whether it be bad tempers, bad health, or just bad luck, there were far too many things that might get in the way of a couple staying together five decades.

While I can’t imagine any woman being able to survive 50 years with me, 2020 marked the halfway point, so who knows.

Another touchstone that delineates that phase of my life, and also impacts my present reality, is a song by the immortal Johnny Cash entitled “One Piece at a Time,” which also came to me courtesy of KUTA.

In Blanding, UT, country music was king, and, as we all agreed, Johnny was the king of country. Cash’s song is about a laborer who works many years in a Cadillac factory, and, over the course of his career, carries off enough parts to cobble together his own unique Caddy.

The construction of our trading post family is like the building of Johnny’s car; we are a collage of parts and pieces collected over the past 30 years.

There have been many times a component had to be jettisoned or re-engineered because it was not adequately aerodynamic or simply did not fit.

Overall, however, we have been able to fashion a functioning, although admittedly oddball, piece of machinery.

When I think of that car Cash sang about, I see a Cadillac with a sporty tail fin on one side and smooth lines on the other, different colored seats front and back, windows that leak, a combination of white- and black-wall tires of various sizes, a mosaic of exterior colors, and an engine that chugs out clouds of black smoke. Beautiful in its own way.

The car of my imagination is much like our extended trading post family, which has many disparate parts: artists, collectors, buyers, and sellers.

This vehicle sometimes fails to fire on all cylinders, doesn’t move very fast, and has more than its share of loose screws.

Although we rarely ride around in style the way Johnny did in his patchwork Cadillac, our machinery does drive everybody wild with the unusual way things are done.

San Juan Record

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PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
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