Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bluff, Utah & Cadillac Ranch

I like heat, but this was too much (see prev post). I decided I'd come back in the Fall.

Before continuing North I went to explore Bluff. For such a small place, it's well-endowed with several art galleries/studios and is rife with interesting folks. 

My first stop was J.R. Lancaster's outsider gallery (no longer there when I went by August, 2014 although I hear he's till around.).  J.R. is a bit of a curmudgeon, but don't let him scare yuh. IMEO most curmudgeons are simply thinkers who've gotten pissed; he's just annoyed, not dangerous. J.R.'s working a bit larger and incorporates a spiral similar to the one associated with the Sun Dagger in Chaco Canyon. He then attaches objects such as seashells and stones. Like most art, words don't suffice; yuh gotta see it.

As part of his curmudeonly demeanor, J.R. challenges visitors to create...and the spirit-of-the-day he has a unique way of incorporating a deadline; a cypress-stump timer. 

The lower portion is a sho nuff, N'aw Leens cypress stump. The upper portion, that goes 'round,  is a cypress knee. The knee hangs by a short piece of chain embedded in the point of the stump. When given a light push, the knee, which is cone-shaped and dangling from its apex, rotates around the stump. J.R.'s challenge is for you to make up a story before the knee stops. Beneficent curmudgeon that he is, he has a collection of objects, or muses. And for those who might be intimidated, the "knee" rotates far longer than you'd think!

Next comes The Fort. And this was my lucky day! As I was soon to discover, the great-great granddaughter of Bishop Nielson, one of the founders of Bluff, was staffing the Information Center. Unknowing, I sat on the floor and watched her weave a rug out of old sheets as she told me about herself. A tall, slender woman with beautiful blue eyes, she counted herself lucky to have inherited some of her great, great grandfather's stamina. She'd recently been through treatment for brain cancer and her husband had passed away five months ago. I'd read about her great, great grandfather and how his feet got frozen when he lead The Handcart Group west around 1860 so I knew what she meant.  "We just keep on going." she said with a smile. I less than enthusiastically agreed and told her I was glad she was still here. We hugged and as I went out the door I heard her asking a new group, "And what can I do for you?" As I ambled back to Eggbert, I softly acknowledged, "Another Lucky Herrmann moment."

By now afternoon was approaching and I was thinking of heading on. But I couldn't leave town without saying hello to Diana, the Queen of Bluff. Owner-by-default of Cadillac Ranch R.V. Park, she is an amazing woman. She doesn't say a whole lot, but her silences are among the most incredible I've encountered.

When I pulled in she was ensconced under the overhang of her fifth-wheel. I moseyed over and invited myself into a chair. By way of introduction, I thanked her again for telling me about Butler Wash and my long drive up from Gallup. We chatted about her children and how she sometimes wonders (not really, I suspect) if it was wise to have them. We segued into my problem of the clunk in the front end.

Now here I have to impart some history. This clunk has been plaguing me for the past several years. It comes and goes and several excellent mechanics have looked for it without success. It's been getting worse and although I've been assured the wheels aren't gonna fall off, it's had me wondering.

Diana suggested having her partner Tim look at it. We chatted on for a bit and then Diana went and got him. Tim allowed as he'd been a diesel mechanic and had some experience. He got a long screwdriver and began prying around the link pins and anti-sway bar. And lo-and-behold, he found it!!

(This is one of the times being poor is a drag. My gratitude is in the $50,000.00 range, but it's the old "beer budget, champagne taste" syndrome. I thanked him several times, but he refused money. I made sure Diana saw me slide $10.00 under a watering can for her to give him later. Later, and several miles out of town, I discovered it and another $10.00 I'd given her tucked inside a map on the dashboard.)

As we continued to visit, me basking in the enjoyment of knowing my wheels weren't gonna abandon me, Levi, Diana's grandson, Tim and I began discussing art. Thirsty, as Levi is sometimes known, was playing with a piece of rope dangling from the nose of the fifth-wheel. He looped it around itself several times making an open-air knot. He then took clothespins and placed them along the rope so they held together the places where the rope crossed itself. He then filled in the loops with clothes pins. It was a masterpiece!!

This inspired Tim to show me his "nutty people." He'd put together some nuts (as in nuts & bolts) and, using pieces of wire for arms and legs, made figures. He had a cowboy, a fisherman, a golfer and several others. He said he went to some trade shows (this was a few years ago) and had gotten some orders. It quickly became a going concern.  To make it profitable he made jigs to form the arms and legs and contracted with several folks to produce them. The jigs were works of art in themselves. 

And he had a steam engine he'd built. It had a lever that reversed the flow of the steam and made it go backwards.

And he told me about Muley Point, which is where I camped next. First though, yuh gotta get up the Moki Dugway. But once there, Muley's overlook of Monument Valley is spectacular!

Pictures eventually.

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