Marilene Blair

Marilene Blair

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When I was about thirteen, Charles was workin' at the store, and he had a magazine called Ranch Romances.  In the back of it, it had pen pals.  So Paula and I decided we would write to, see if we could get our names printed in that magazine, and they printed mine.  And I got letters from all over the world, and Raymond was one of them... he was in the Marine Corps in the Philippines.  And then he went to China.  I have nearly all of his letters.  Somewhere along in there, he decided he wanted me to quit writing to everybody else but him.  So I did.

He wrote to Mother and Dad and asked if he could come to visit me.  Daddy was very much against it.  Dad had been in the service at Fort Wingate, and he said, "Servicemen are no good!  Don't want you to have anything to do with this boy."  So Mother wrote to him and told him that he was welcome to come.  And then Raymond wrote to Mother and Dad both, and Dad finally wrote to him and told him he could come.  And then when he got out of the service in Portsmouth, Virginia, I guess it was, instead of going home, like he should have, to see his parents, he caught a bus and came to Gallup and sent me a telegram when to meet him, and his telegram came with the mail, and it was late coming, so Grace and Charles and Ruthie and I crawled in the car and we went to Gallup to meet him.  Grace and Charles and Ruthie run off and left me all by myself.    And he had told me what he was going to wear, and I'd told him what I would be wearing, and we met on the streets in Gallup.

I was scared to death!    About his first words to me were, "Do you want a strawberry ice cream?"    I told him no.  He said, "Well, how about a soda pop then?"  I said, "No, thank you."  Anyway, Grace and Charles and Ruthie finally came back, and we came to Toadlena, and there was some kind of a party there that night.  They had parties there all the time, and the government school people came to the trading post, and then we went to the government school and they had bridge parties and different kind of parties, different card games and things.  When we walked through the door, Dad met us at the door.  Before that, when we started, it was kind of funny, Dad stood on the porch of the store and he shook his finger in my face and he said, "You'll be sorry, my girl; you'll be sorry!  This is not the right thing to do!"  But it was too late then.  Dad looked Raymond in the eye, and Raymond looked Dad in the eye.  They were just like that from then on.  They were closer than Dad and his own sons--they really were.  I don't know what it was, some kind of a charisma or something.  (with emotion)  They were buddies from then on.  They hardly ever did anything without each other.  It was really kind of funny, that Dad and Raymond took such an instant liking to each other.  Of course the liking was love.


[Wed buy] I imagine somewhere over a thousand [Navajo lambs a year], but I couldn't say for sure.

We herded them from Mancos Creek to Farmington, put them on the train down here.  We herded them across the mesas from Mancos Creek, clear over those mesas, and came down, what, Apache Street?  Oh, here I am talkin' with my hands again!  Apache Street.  I have pictures of when we came down Apache Street.  The cars would--Raymond would get out in front of the sheep and he would tell the people, "Please don't blow your horns, and please just get off the side of the road and let us get our sheep by."  And a lot of them wouldn't do it, they'd blow their horns, and when they did, the sheep would just go into a circle and mill right around in the middle of the road, and nobody could go anyplace.  I remember one time there was a truck driver in a great big truck.  Raymond asked him, "Please don't blow your horn or anything."  He blowed his horn anyway.  It made Raymond really mad.  He didn't get mad very often, but he grabbed the door, pulled him out of there, and shook him.  He said, "Don't you ever do anything like that again!"    I grabbed him, I said, "Raymond!, Raymond!, don't do that!, don't do that!"  Anyway, we got them on in here.  Farmington wasn't very big at that time.

[It would take] oh, two or three weeks... we'd go out every night to see where they were, and follow them along, and bring their supplies to them, the Indians that were herding the sheep.  We'd bring them supplies that they needed. 


...I remember one night....  (chuckles)  I shouldn't tell this.  But there was a big bank in the Chinle Wash runnin' down below the store, and it was about as wide as this house, maybe as wide as the yard, back behind the store, before it dropped off into the wash.  These same boys [from an earlier confrontation]--I don't know, I didn't see them, but I know it was the same boys--they drove in front of the store and around in the back, back and forth, back and forth like that.  And here I am, using my hands again!  I was by myself, and I got worried.  It was late at night and I got tired, and Raymond had a shotgun, and I got out of bed and stuck the shotgun between my legs, and I thought, I've got to figure out how to work this thing.    I touched the trigger and it went "schoom!"  And thank goodness it hit one of those big logs!  Thank goodness it didn't hit the roof, it hit one of the big logs.  But boy, (slaps hands together) it just got quiet like that, and I didn't have any more trouble that night.  (laughter)

Underhill:  They probably thought if you were crazy enough to shoot your own ceiling, who knows what you'd do, huh?! (laughter) 

Well, I learned not to fool with the trigger on the shotgun anymore!, that's for sure.  At least they quit runnin' around the house like that, back and forth.  They got out of there.


Underhill:  What might separate a good trader from a bad one?

Somebody that took advantage of the Navajos.  Somebody that would take their pawn in, and the minute it was dead, sell it; [somebody] that cheated them on their lambs and their wool.  That's the one thing I can say about my husband, he never cheated a Navajo out of one red cent.  In fact, there was a family that lived right across the state line from us that he fed all the time he was there, practically....He never cheated a Navajo in his life.  And he never sold their pawn.  There was pawn at Round Rock, and when we sold Round Rock, there was pawn that had been there for I don't know how many years, and he still didn't sell it.  I don't know what happened to it after he sold the store.  But I know that he never sold a piece of pawn unless the Navajo said that he didn't want it anymore.  That was the only way he'd sell it.  He did hang it out.  When it went dead, he'd hang it out.  The Indians would come in, and they'd say, "We don't want you to do that," so he'd put it back in the vault.  He just didn't do things like that.  I guess that's why I'm not a millionaire!    But that's all right, he was honest, anyway.  He was honest to a fault.


Underhill:  What do you think you learned from all your years living with the Navajo?

I learned to love them.  I learned to love the Navajo people.  I still love the Navajo people.  They're good people--99 percent of them are good people.  There's a few that are dingbats, just like the dingbats in the white race or any other race.  But they're good people, and I enjoyed them.  They're my people.  I feel like I'm more Navajo than Anglo, because I've lived with them all my life, practically.

Underhill:  What do you think they may have learned from you?

Elijah Blair:  Not to drive around the store!  (laughter)

 Oh, I don't think I taught them much.  They probably taught me a lot more than I ever taught them.