Before our wedding I thought it best to show my fiancé’ all the card she was about to be dealt. We drove north, past the University, up a scenic canyon, off the road, and finally to where my family had set up camp. The Cache Valley Rendezvous was always one of the tamest so I figured it the best venue to inform without terrifying my city dwelling bride to be.
We had been dating almost a year and she knew nothing of this. It was and has been that dark corner of my closet that cannot go away, but hasn’t seen the light of day for more than a decade. I was not ashamed of my roots, but much like wasabi, too much at once, or even a little bit if unexpected, can be hard to recover from. The two of us did not dress up, we just played tourist.
It did not take long to shock her. “Was that man naked?” she asked forgetting not to stare. “Of course not, he’s wearing a breach cloth, and I’m pretty sure a beard that long counts as a shirt,” I answered. I could see I was losing her so I suggested we try something more up her alley, like shopping.
Trade’s row had lots of shiny things but no sequins. Glass beads, feathers, carved horns and all sorts of animal products did not elicit the same response from her I had witnessed in countless malls. Perhaps it was due to the ornamental wares being accessorized by rifles, pistols, large knifes, and steel traps. It all seemed normal to me. Perhaps it was the raccoon hat that did her in; the one with the animal’s face left intact and positioned right over the wearer’s brow. I had to act quickly or she would never last to to the campfire that night.
Navajo Tacos saved the day. She had never heard of this staple food, nor had she ever heard of, nor met, a Navajo. She decided that anything involving fry bread, or its Anglo cousin the scone, was almost worth enduring and she decided to stay. Unfortunately so did the breach cloth man.
As we sat in camp with family and friends we regaled her with tales of rendezvous past. She was unimpressed with my boasting of winning the men’s division “mountain man run” at the age of twelve, wanted nothing to do with black powder, but was frighteningly natural with a tomahawk. I told her of how it was common for the nights to get a little loud at some encampments, and how it was just as common to find those who got too noisy to find themselves paraded through camp at unreasonably early hours wearing horse hobbles being forced to ring non hangover friendly cowbells. She had never heard of hobbles.
I don’t think she had ever heard a dulcimer before that evening either. The campfires of my youth were not the contrived sorts of scout camps. They were places where camp business was handled, awards for the day’s contests were given, and where my father would compete for the tall tales trophy. He was especially good at creating fantastic lies of his mountainly exploits and recounting fictional adventures. He explained how he had battled grizzly bears, Black Feet, and mothers-in-law. His stories won prizes and the hearts of his children. I think it took another Navajo Taco to win the heart of my wife.
The two of us have never been back. We soon left that part of the country entirely. As I write this the summer is coming to a close, she is with the kids at a city park, and I’m in a library at a major University. I hear jackhammers through the window, can see lots of golf shirts and boat shoes, and I smile to myself knowing I can “stick” a Green River knife from more than ten paces.