From Linear to Pink and Beyond

Each morning when I drop into Bluff a funny thing happens. My trips from Blanding have always proven interesting, and I never tire of the drive. When I arrive at the head of Cow Canyon and begin to drop into Bluff however, my mind kicks into overdrive, and memories come flooding back. Along with my own family experience recollections of what I have learned about the ancient and historical past frolic through my head. For instance, when I see the canyon walls closing in on me I remember a time when my brothers and I huddled in the back of an old Dodge pick-up truck headed north up Cow Canyon; dad driving, while mom, Susan and Cindy rode next to him in the cab. I recall a picnicking adventure near ancient ruins, where we received an up-close glimpse of pot shards and flint arrow points, and I relive the wonder of those first people who made a life here in the sand and sage of southern San Juan County.
Cow Canyon


My mind has a habit of frisking through its catalog of memories, with no particular attention to a historical timeline. For whatever reason, whether it is recognition through sight, sound or smell, I am drawn to images of speeding down the canyon with Steve on our road bikes, blowing by the hanging tree with a big rig on our tails. I see myself scootering down the paved road with my three young children, their screams of delight ringing in my ears as we zip past Ball Room Cave. The old rock-faced gas station at the east entrance of town brings back more fond memories; our father, Duke, and a Navajo helper built the rocky station for Rusty and Lillie Musselman. Rusty salvaged building stones from a dilapidated pioneer home across from the newly renovated Bluff Fort, which now stands as a tribute to the brave individuals who settled the town in 1880. When construction of the filling station was complete, dad rented the place and traded gas and oil for rugs, baskets and jewelry. Every time I drive past that place I imagine my father out there pumping gas and bartering for a weaving, the rug lying over the hood of a rusted-out Buick.

When I look upon the water well at the base of the Twin Rocks, near the Ancient Puebloan ruin, I get a youthful glimpse of my brothers Craig and Steve roping a semi-wild horse, providing Craig the shortest and most dramatic bronc-busting ride of his life. A drive to visit my sister and brother-in-law at the Desert Rose Inn causes me flashbacks at every back road, intersection, bridge and building. As children we pretty much had our run of the town, and we took advantage of it to probe and prospect. I bear witness to all of the true-blue Bluffoons in this town that there was not one unprotected pioneer home my brothers and I were not familiar with. It was a great way to become introduced to the history of the LDS church.

Many years ago, when I was reading everything in sight on the subject of Navajo culture, I asked a Navajo neighbor why "The People" did not care or even concentrate on a correct timeline of events. I told him I was reading an interpretation of the cultural tales by a prominent medicine man. The storyteller recounted early adventures of Navajo gods, which included the Hero Twins, and then, oddly enough, led into the birth of those same coordinate companions. In another reading I learned of Changing Woman, and how she is a representation of the earth and its life-giving, life-sustaining and life-producing qualities. The next thing I know, the author related the birth of Mother Earth to First Boy, who represents thought, and First Girl, who represents speech. " What the heck is going on here?" I asked, "Can't you guys get things straight?"

My native friend looked upon me patiently and said, "Oh, you pink people, you are always looking for a direct line." "Pink people", I queried, "who you calling pink?" My associate waved off this comment as insignificant and got back on point. "Look at your fingertips", he told me, "do they not swirl about and twist back on themselves?" I looked at my fingerprints and nodded, waiting for his impending analogy. It came soon enough. "Our People embrace the legend in the manner of the fingerprint, the timing is insignificant, the meaning and message of the story is what matters. The anecdote is a gift for us to contemplate and attempt to discover the metaphor." Clyde studied my eyes and let the thought sink in. "Open your mind, let it ebb and flow, you may discover a greater understanding." "Pink?" I called after him as he exited through the Kokopelli doors, "What do you mean by pink?"

Maybe it is the energy vortex spiraling overhead, or simply that Bluff is my hometown and the majority of my memories were formed here. Whatever the case, the place sets my mind free. My friend Clyde helped me to get past my exact longitudinal layout hang-up by suggesting that, like the Navajo people, I open my mind and do my best to interpret the stories therein. As far as the "pink" thing goes, I guess we Simpsons, as with most Anglo-American people, are pinker than white, or in the case of Steve, red, in a burnt offerings sort of way.

With warm regards Barry Simpson and the team;
Steve, Priscilla, and Danny.