You’re fired! With those words, my trading post career almost came to an abrupt and terrible end.
The day began so promisingly; the sun was shining, birds were singing, Priscilla had come to work early, and even grumpy old Rick was in a good mood.
With all those indicators pointing in the right direction, I was sure things were going my way.
Recently I had been reading several self-help books, like How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to be a Big Daddy in Your Little Paddy.
All my hard work was finally paying off. Customers were smiling more, once in a while I got a friendly hug, and I had even been mentioned as a candidate for Trader of the Year.
Never mind that I am the only person promoting the nomination.
How could I have anticipated that before noon my life would be in ruins, I would have no visible means of paying tuition for the children, my wife would be contemplating separation, and, worst of all, I could no longer call myself an Indian trader.
Now, to be perfectly honest, there have been times when I have questioned whether fate dealt me a bad hand by delivering me into this frontier town where most residents live for a good scuffle.
Having put up with their bad moods so long, however, I have become somewhat immune to the more temperamental inhabitants of this outpost.
Recently a friend described the people of Bluff as “survivors.” Scrappers and fighters are probably more appropriate terms.
In spite of all that, day after day I had come to Twin Rocks with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
Tourists who ask questions that scramble my brain and frazzle my senses, and neighbors who question my every action, are heartily embraced – or at least tolerated.
I worked hard to be patient with community members who throw ill-tempered fits when they disapprove of my projects.
Had I been an oyster, I would have turned out strands of pearls by now. I am not, however, a shellfish. I am an Indian trader, and nothing else matters.
Yes, I can buy baskets, rugs, and folk art. Yes, I have been tempered by the fire of aggressive artists with ingenious schemes.
Yes, I am beginning to understand the difference between Morenci, Blue Gem, Royston, and Bisbee turquoise. And, most importantly, I have learned to spend more than I take in.
Using a famous Winston Churchill quote as the basis for my fundamental philosophy, I had adopted the motto, “Never, Never, Never stay within your budget.”
That, I discovered, is the hallmark of a real trader.
It has been about 30 years since I watched television at home. Because TV permeates society at every level, however, I often heard about the Donald Trump and his television show The Apprentice, “You’re fired!”
You’re fired, humph, finally the voters fired him. And none too soon.
As for me, I have only been fired once. Well, technically twice, but I don’t care to talk about the second time. With my new sensitivity training, I was convinced nobody would ever dismiss me again. No sir, nobody.
Then destiny arrived in an unexpectedly small package. I was packaging a Ruby Coggeshell rug, and the first container I tried was too small.
Priscilla graciously offered to go upstairs and get me a larger box. I smiled broadly, and, in my best Opie Griffith voice, said, “Yes, thank you. That would be swell.”
Fate walked into the trading post at 10:49 a.m. with an unassuming air. Clad in green camouflage Capri fatigues, she was a slightly disheveled woman with a disarming grin.
“Good morning,” I said, with a smile I thought would charm even the most hardened tourist.
“Hello,” she pleasantly responded.
Her next comment sealed my doom. Looking straight at me with laser-like precision, she asked, “Do the Indians who make this actually get any of the money.”
In a flash I realized that my hard labor had accounted for nothing. Although I tried to hold back the comment, I blurted out, “No, we never give those poor devils anything, and they still keep bringing all this stuff.”
With a wink of her eye, my tormentor turned and walked out into the sunlight, her disarming grin morphing into a sly smirk.
“Surely this would show up on social media,” I thought.
Shortly thereafter, at 10:52 a.m., the dream ended, with Priscilla’s impression of Donald Trump dismissing yet another unhappy apprentice.
As she regained herself, she said, “Have we become Santa Fe? I can’t allow you to act like that. You should be fired.”
Even though I knew she couldn’t actually terminate me, I understand how important she is to the day-to-day operation, so I started whimpering. Falling on the floor, I began to cry.
After about an hour, Priscilla could take it no longer and, in the interest of avoiding additional embarrassment to the customers, finally gave in.
I was resurrected, but only after executing a written covenant promising that I will henceforth be on my best behavior with townspeople and tourists.