When I die

Last week, I was traveling through southern Colorado with its upside-down American flags and Trump Won banners waving in the breeze, when I suddenly got a hankerin’ for country music.

I wasn’t looking for the modern stuff that sounds like Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys with a sinus infection.

No, I wanted Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., and maybe even Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. I needed trains, whisky, bad woman, and broken hearts to lift me up.

Scanning the FM dial, I finally found what I was looking for and settled in for the ride.

A few minutes later, Tanya Tucker came across the airwaves crooning, “When I die I may not go to Heaven. I don’t know if they let cowboys in. If they don’t just let me go to Texas, Boy. Texas is as close as I’ve been.”

Now, I have always enjoyed Tanya’s music, but based upon my experience over the past several years, I have begun to question her logic about the Lone Star State.

The reason is that all the Texans have moved to Colorado, or at least have a second home there.

Whenever I visit Durango, Telluride, Salida, Ouray, or any of the other mountain towns, there they are, in droves.

Texas license plates, tight jeans, big belt buckles, and large brimmed hats are everywhere in those communities, and I wonder whether anyone is left in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin, or Lubbock.

Things have apparently changed since Tanya’s song was released in 1977, and Colorado now seems closer to Heaven than Texas.

The closer I got to Bluff, the more I pondered that northwesterly migration and the corresponding change of celestial choices.

Arriving home later that evening, I decided to consult Georgiana, the Oracle of Bluff – or at least of the Simpson home. I concluded that if anybody could sort this out it would be her.

Without Georgiana, I reasoned, Kira would be studying astrology instead of astrophysics, and Grange, like his dad, would be primarily interested in monkey business.

When I volunteered to tutor the kids in math, science, or history, the Oracle universally advised against it.

She often cautioned our offspring, “Remember when you asked your father about π and he went out for ice cream, or when you inquired about Greece and he told you the history of Crisco?”

Thankfully she no longer mentions the time Grange was studying Latin and I suggested he use Google Translate to decipher his homework. Needless to say, his instructor was not impressed with my recommendation.

When I laid out the facts as I understood them and made my inquiry about the Promised Land and cowpunchers, the Oracle declared, “Well, Indian traders and lawyers don’t go to Heaven either, so you have a personal problem.”

As Shoni the Server, whom herself recently exited this earthly plane, would say, “Right?”

That was a problem they never mentioned in law school, so over the next several days I surveyed various people who rambled through Twin Rocks Trading Post.

My goal was to find anyone who knew an attorney they believed had been allowed to enter through the Pearly Gates.

“Not a single one?” I queried as I interrogated each individual.

The universal response: “Nope. Not one.”

Just as I was about to give up, I remembered Bennion Redd, the San Juan County Attorney, federal magistrate, and all-around good guy. Surely Bennion had been allowed passage into Paradise when he crossed over in 2009.

When I was a young lawyer trying to scratch out a living in this dusty Utah backwater, I always looked forward to my conversations with this gentle man.

Bennion was an old-time lawyer, and, paraphrasing the Evangelical Christians, whenever I got into a tight spot and did not know what to do, I asked myself, “What would Bennion do?”

Answering that question consistently pointed me in the right direction and helped solve my dilemma. Bennion never steered me wrong.

Surely Bennion had made it, I concluded, even though the Oracle has, to my knowledge, always been right. Maybe early retirement from the practice saved him, or possibly there were special circumstances I could not identify. In any case, I resolved to take this up with the Oracle.

Despite the challenges associated with attorneys, Indian traders in Heaven turned out to be an even bigger challenge, and all my canvassing left me convinced the Oracle was spot on when it came to that particular group.

A thorough reading of the literature on trading posts did not turn up a single reference to that realm. There was, however, a lot of hell-raising mentioned.

Once again, this issue was not addressed during my tenure at Indian Trader Technical College, so, like those enrolled in Trump University, I considered litigation.

Eternity, after all, is a serious issue that should not be overlooked when considering one’s future. As Jamie Olson would say, “I’m just sayin’.”

What the the Oracle could not, however, know is that, being an experienced trader, trained by none other than the legendary William W. “Duke” Simpson, I had an ace-in-the-hole.

Several years ago, Corrine Roring, a philanthropist and local legend, approached me about acquiring sandstone from one of our properties to help rebuild the Bluff Coop.

“Okay,” I readily agreed.

“How much is it going to cost me?” she warily asked.

After pretending to ponder the question several minutes, I replied, “Nothing.”

“Nothing?” she repeated cautiously.

“Nothing,” I confirmed, saying, “I do, however, have one request.”

“Ahhh,” she said, expecting the worst.

Knowing her place in the afterworld had long ago been secured, I said, “If you get ‘there’ before I do, just put in a good word for me.”

I figured I had struck a favorable bargain and my odds of success were good because she was in her late 70s and I was only in my early 50s.

“Deal,” she agreed, shaking my hand to confirm the arrangement and turning toward the Kokopelli doors with a sly smile.

The stone was later harvested, the Coop rebuilt, and Corrine moved on to her greatest reward.

When I mentioned this situation to the Oracle, saying, “Guess I don’t have to go to Texas after all,” she responded, “Well, that will be a first! You better hope the admissions officer doesn’t get wind of your deal before you get through.”

San Juan Record

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