by Steve & Barry Simpson
“You really don’t have to buy this rug if you don’t want to!” commented Edith Martin while she was showing Steve and I her weaving the other day.
I looked up at her with questioning eyes and asked her why she would say such a thing. She pursed her lips in Steve’s direction and said, “He doesn’t seem too interested.”
I looked at Steve sitting on the tall stool behind the counter and noticed that he seemed a bit distracted; I realized that he had been all morning.
“Be assured, Edith, we love your rugs; no one in this area of the rez is weaving such nice small rugs; yours are the best!”
I told her that nothing would make us happier than an eight-foot stack of her rugs, giving Steve a nudge with my foot. Steve roused himself a bit, looked at us and said, “That’s right! Nothing would make us happier!”
He then drifted back off to his special place and left us there looking oddly in his direction.
Shaking my head, I shrugged, rolled my eyes at Edith and wrapped up our deal, thanking her for her patience and understanding.
I came around the counter and opened the heavy, wood trading post door for her and walked Edith to her truck. I told Edith that Steve was simply lost in thought and that it had nothing to do with her.
I also told her that Steve and I agreed that there were very few Navajo rug weavers that put the time and conscientious effort into their work that she did.
As we spoke, I was fishing around in the gravel for three smooth flat rocks approximately the size and shape of a checkers game piece. Now Edith was eyeing me strangely and, her confusion apparent, she climbed into the passenger seat of her pick-up truck and let her husband know that it was time to leave.
I watched humorously as an animated retelling of what had just happened inside “the nut house” was relayed to her spouse as they departed.
When we were small children growing up in and around the tiny backwater known as Bluff, we picked up a few bad habits. These “situations” provided our parents with interesting problem-solving skills.
One such issue developed when Craig, Steve, and I somehow began having small “rock fights” with neighboring kids. Of course, they developed into full scale “rock wars” in no time whatsoever.
The Simpson boys became the undisputed city champions. Craig had an arm like a rocket launcher and could consistently place a fifteen-inch group at one hundred yards. I had a fairly decent mid-range and good accuracy while Steve could pelt an opponent with a shotgun blast from either hand, up close and personal.
We proved a cohesive, unbeatable team when challenged and soon became legendary (or infamous) with the local population.
The problem was that a well-placed stone can leave a mark. We soon had an irate mob of parents beating down our front door.
Our parents took measures such as lectures forbidding us to touch a rock for the next one hundred years, grounding us by means of ball and chain and even a healthy “whippin’” when things really got out of hand.
We wanted to quit, we really did, but when young boys are challenged to defend their honor, there are no other options. On one such title defense, a particularly sneaky kid got in close enough to crack Steve on the skull with a good-size projectile that opened up a wound and caused blood to flow.
Retribution was swift and extremely painful for the offensive character, but the damage had been done. We disposed of any remaining opposition and grudgingly trudged home knowing we were in for some real trouble.
As we slouched into the yard, mom caught sight of us, and as mothers often do, knew exactly what had been going on. She took one look at Steve’s bloodied brow and exploded into action.
I still don’t know if she had planned the scenario, but I doubt it. Before we could react, she had a hand full of rocks and was sustaining more damage than we had ever experienced before.
We scattered and headed up the street at a high rate of speed. We soon learned where we had inherited our abilities because we didn’t get out of range for a good two hundred yards.
We waited until dark to attempt a pain wracked re-entry into the house. There we found Mom and Dad sitting at the kitchen table with a pile of good throwing rocks between them. They had decided to take drastic measures.
The message was “since this is the only language you understand, we will communicate with you in this way from now on”.
Steve was hauled off to the bathroom for clean up; he still maintains a “scarful” reminder of that day on the left side of his forehead.
Mom must have dumped that pile of rocks into her handbag because from that day forth whenever we were disrespectful or out of control, we could expect to feel the sharp edge of a rock invade our space.
We quickly learned our lesson and retired from street wars; we found it easier to endure the taunts of our peer group than face Rose’s throwing arm.
Mom, however, had found a perfectly useful tool in managing her raucous boys; it didn’t take long before she could ring your bell with one of those hand selected skippers with practiced regularity. She continued to use it for many years.
After a point, all she would need to do was rattle those rocks in her hand and every one of us within earshot would “duck and cover” and refrain from further mayhem.
I am fairly certain that our mother still carries three smooth flat rocks approximately the same size and shape of a checkers game piece.
As I stood watching Edith and her husband depart, those past experiences flowed through my mind and brought a fond smile to my face. I bounded up the steps of the trading post and slowly opened the front door and stepped inside.
It was calm and peaceful inside the store as I stood in the shadows. As I had hoped, Steve was where Edith and I had left him still deeply embedded in thought. He sat there unmoving, concentrating on whatever it is trading post lawyers worry about.
I stood there for a moment and let the quiet set in then quickly dropped my right hand and audibly rattled those small stones. The sound reverberated through the store and Steve reacted instantly.
The stool he had so recently rested on blew backwards and crashed into the cabinets behind it. Steve took evasive maneuvers and disappeared behind the counter in a swift, fluid movement.
His head was the first thing to reappear, and the look upon his face was not favorable. I could see the realization set in that he had just been a victim of his past and that I had provoked it.
I provided Steve with the most humble and innocent look I could summon, hid those devilish stones and looked upon his predicament with amazement.
Steve regained his footing and strode off to his office, rubbing his scar and cursing my existence. He slammed his door shut and remained secluded for the rest of the day.
I tried to explain what had happened to the girls, but they just didn’t have the background to get the joke. All that I could get across was that ancient Pavlovian responses not only remain buried in our brains, but they emerge at the most inopportune moments.
They too shook their heads and disappeared back to their computers leaving me alone to appreciate my own twisted sense of humor and the warm fuzzy feeling it provided.
OK! All right! I have been intimidated by my two brothers into admitting that this story is not wholly true. They claim that I cannot be fully healed until I publicly admit that my grasp on reality is tenuous at best.
These two, rock-toting, totally honest individuals claim that if I were to unravel the few strands of truth from the fabric of my tale, all that would remain would be a twisted, knotted ball of yarn.
So, I openly admit my indiscretion and withdraw my inaccurate comments... Steve really did scream like a girl!