Where's the toast?

A 2020 survey of Bluff residents found that, on average, we are over 68 years of age. Although there are only about 250 citizens in town, that still adds up to a lot of years.
This finding has led to many wisecracks about memory, or the lack thereof, in our community. I would relate a few of the jokes, but I can’t remember the punchlines.
Thankfully I have Priscilla to back me up when I forget something important at the trading post. She, however, is older than I, so I am not sure how long that system will hold up.
Earlier in the week Rick, Frances and I were sitting in the trading post talking politics, business, and a variety of other issues. The three of us engage in these discussions almost every day we are in the store together. The topics are wide-ranging, and almost nothing is off limits.
As Frances raged on about Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and the state of the Republican party, two customers wandered in through the Kokopelli Doors.
During these bull sessions, customers are encouraged to sit down in one of the many chairs scattered around the trading post and weigh in on the current issue, or any other topic they feel is worth discussing.
To justify our “investment” of time, Rick, Frances, and I tell ourselves the conversations are similar to those held in historic trading posts like Ganado, Klagetoh, Nazlini, Crystal, and Wide Ruins, where operators, visitors, and customers sat around a potbelly stove each winter morning, drinking coffee, chewing tobacco, and sharing the news of their world.
It was a way of communicating and disseminating important information about local people, places, and events.
As it turns out, our customers were brother and sister – he from Chicago, she from Minneapolis. They were in the area to bring their father’s Navajo rug, acquired in the 1920s, back to Navajoland.
It was their intention to honor their dad’s request and repatriate the weaving to the Red Mesa Chapter. Since they were returning a rug, I did not consider they might want a replacement.
So, I was surprised when the brother snatched up a Chief Blanket, put it on the counter and said, “I’ll take this one.”
In the process of concluding the transaction, I offered to roll and wrap the weaving in butcher paper. “Just fold it so I can put it in my travel bag,” the customer directed.
I dutifully complied, advising the buyer, as I have been reminded many times, “Wool has a memory.”
What that means is, when storing Navajo rugs, you should roll them because the creases resulting from folding can be difficult to remove. Wool remembers, Bluff residents don’t.
As I explained to the blanket buyer, I was first introduced to this concept by Mark Winter, who later became known for reviving historic Toadlena Trading Post and reenergizing the Two Grey Hills style of Navajo weaving.
Before we were married, my wife Georgiana and I were in Las Vegas where Mark was doing a western art show. We were thinking about getting married at the Elvis Chapel, but ultimately decided on the Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast.
Mark was kind enough to spend a great deal of time with me, showing classic Navajo blankets from the 1800s woven with raveled red woolen flannel cloth known as bayeta.
As we browsed the weavings, Mark said, “You can tell it’s raveled because wool has a memory. Even though the yarn has been rewoven into a Navajo blanket, you can still identify its original kinks.”
Red bayeta was developed by British merchants to compete with Spanish wool. Bayeta was dyed in Seville, Spain and Manchester, England for export to North America, eventually finding its way to trading posts in the Southwest.
When it arrived in Navajo country between 1830 and 1860, Native weavers raveled it and rewove it into blankets. It became the primary source of red yarn in Navajo weaving during that era. As you might guess, blankets from that period are pricey.
As I spun my yarn about bayeta, Priscilla reminded me of a story we heard about an elderly couple living in Bluff.
The tale goes like this: Bob and Marlene (Not their real names), fearful they were developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, or the like, went to see their doctor. The physician gave them a thorough examination and concluded, “You’re both in great shape for your age, go home, relax, and if you’re still having trouble with your memories, write things down so you don’t forget.”
Returning home, Bob and Marlene decided to spend the evening watching TV. At one point, Bob got up to go into the kitchen for some ice cream.
“Where’re you going?” asked Marlene.
“Just planning to grab some vanilla ice cream,” Bob replied.
“Oh great, will you get me some too?” Bob nodded and continued into the kitchen.
“Shouldn’t you write that down like the doctor recommended?” Marlene said.
“No, it’s just some vanilla ice cream, I can remember.”
“In that case, how about some chocolate syrup and a cherry on top too?” Marlene added. Again, Bob nodded.
“Well shouldn’t you write it down?” Marlene repeated.
“It’s just some vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and a cherry on top, I’ve got it,” Bob said, growing weary of the continued questioning.
Bob was in the kitchen banging around about 15 minutes before returning with two heaping plates of ham and eggs.
Marlene inspected her plate, looked at Bob, and demanded, “Where’s the toast?!”
And that is life in Bluff, San Juan County, Utah, USA, where the average age is 68, and only wool has a memory.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday