Grace Herring

Grace Herring
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Listen to Grace Herring

[Trading circa 1910-1940 was] very different than it is now.  If an Indian told you he would do something, you could pretty much tie to it that he was going to do it.  They were very honest, they didn't try to take advantage of you--you had to be a little smarter than they were sometimes, but if you were on your toes, you were fine.  Very few of them would take advantage of you.  They ran the trading post on a business that they had their cattle and their sheep and their wool, and they would come in and get credit...  and when they would sell their wool and their cattle and their sheep, then they'd clear up their accounts.... 

They did a lot of pawning.  And in the pawn work, they didn't let their pawns go dead very often.  They usually took care of them.  They thought a lot of their jewelry and stuff.  When we were there, later I think they did a lot of pawning of shawls and stuff like that.  I don't remember that as a youngster--it was more their jewelry and things that were more valuable to them... 

Oh, they liked pretty cloth and they liked tomatoes and Wheaties and pork-and-beans.  (chuckles)  Shawls.  And jewelry.  They were good people.  I remember Dad had a man who took his team with a four-horse team on it, and took--Dad would give him his money and the grocery list to go to Gallup to Kirk's and other places.  The man would take the money and everything and go with, and get everything, and bring it back by team wagon.  You never had to worry about it, everything was taken care of the way it should be. 
 
 

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The trading post never had its doors closed.  Even when Mother and Dad were there, there were people who loved to come out to the trading post, 'cause it was different.  And I can remember Mother got sick once, and Dad would just invite anybody that came in, "Come in and have some dinner.  Come in and stay with us."  And Mother was ill one day, and a car drove out back of the corn house, and I remember my sister and I running out there to tell them that Mother was sick, so they wouldn't come in.  (chuckles)  And my dad would have killed us if he'd have known it.  We didn't let them come in that time.  But people would come, and they'd stay two or three weeks with us.  It was just a fun place to come and see and do things.  They went bear hunting, they had picnicking, they had all kinds of things, it was a fun place to go.  And Mother and Dad were always ready to do things with them.  Bear hunting--didn't like that. 

...Well, the trading post had those counters around like that, but you always have a lot of extra quilts and shawls up behind.  And when all this company would come, they had to be put someplace, so Mother would give them our bed in the bedrooms, and we'd take the quilts from the store and put them on the counter and sleep on the counter.  And I can remember many times sleeping on the counter and sneaking over and getting some cheese and crackers and tomatoes (chuckles) and eating them.  That was fun.  Those quilts in the store smelled like no others.  You just don't get the smell out of any of them anymore.  The salesmen used to come and stay.  They wouldn't come just one day, they'd stay two or three days 'cause it was fun--enjoyed it. 

...That little quilt that you've got there, right under your hands... the salesman would come out with a bunch of samples, those suit samples, and you could order your suit from him.  Mother took that and made the quilt out of the samples that they left her. 
 
 

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The little schoolhouse--the missionary put up the school building.  And as I remember, when they first started the school, Mother had the first classes in her front room.  And I can still remember sitting in there on the chairs, and her bawling me out 'cause I didn't do something right.  Later, he moved us over into the basement of his house, and then he built a little church there next to the mission, and that was the schoolhouse for a good many years.  And that's where we went to school with all of the white kids and all of the Indian kids that were in the community that could go to the school that wanted to.  And it was a grade school, it had from primary through the eighth grade.  It was a good many kids that went there.  Now, I taught there myself, several years, later. 
 

Underhill:  And where did you go to high school then? 
 

Well, that was during the Depression, that was a hard time.  The first year, I couldn't go, so I studied at home.  And then the last month I came into Farmington and took all the tests, and they passed me--I don't how, but they passed me.  The next year, I did come to Farmington and boarded, the second year.  The third year, the Depression hit worse than ever, and I couldn't go anyplace, so I found a place in Gallup that needed--a family who needed somebody to take care of their children, and I couldn't go until November.  I went in November, and the superintendent there let me take a test from September through November, so that I could place.  Thank goodness Heavenly Father was good enough, he let me pass, and I went ahead and finished my high school in Gallup.  Then I never did get to go anymore.  Went on a mission, got married, and had kids. 
 
 

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Back when Dad first moved to the trading post, he was immediately interested in the rugs.  As I told you before, he never bought a rug in the store.  He would take it to the front room--and poor Mother, the mud that she put up with--he put the rug down on the front room floor.  I've seen him on his hands and knees many times, showing them how they could make them better, how they could make them finer, and to use the patterns from the potsherds into the patterns of their rugs.  Now, he and Mr. Davies did that together.  They worked very close together.  He had the trading post at Crozier, which is actually Two Grey Hills now, but it was called Crozier then.  They were very good friends, and they worked close together.  Now, when they first went there, the rugs were very rough.  Well, they weren't like this--they were heavy.  And they immediately started to try to tell them to make them finer and better and to keep them definitely within the range they did.  Now, they did used to use some blue and red there, but Mr. Davies and Dad told them to keep it Two Grey Hills, which was the natural colors. 

....So after Mr. Davies and Dad--and that's written up in Mr. [Frank ] McNitt's book--did so much work with them; then after Charles took over the trading post, he became very interested in the weaving.  He was especially interested in Daisy Tauglechee.  I wish Charles could tell this story, 'cause he could tell it so much better than I did, but he wanted some way to get Daisy to get her weaving to be finer and finer.  And I can still see him sitting down with a ruler and saying, "Now, Daisy, don't you think you could make it much finer than you have made it now?"  And so he marked off in grids here how many strings going this way, and how many this way.  He said, "Do you think, Daisy, that you could make it fine enough that you could put this many in an inch?"  She said, "I believe I can."  And sure enough, she did.  And that's where the tapestry weaving started to come in, was because Charles worked with her so hard.  He has never been given credit for that--not that he wants credit, but he was the one that got them to get finer... 

It took her a long time to make one rug.  Even when she got to the little ones like this, it took her a long time.  Now, I have two of the little ones left, and one goes to each one of my children.  There was another weaver who was almost as good, and that was Bessie Black Sheep.  Her work was....  I could look at a rug and say, "This is Bessie's rug," or "this is Daisy's rug," because they're so different in what they did and what they put into the rugs.  Now, I do have Bessie Black Sheep, and I have the Two Grey Hills... See this?  Daisy was just the best of ever. 
 

Underhill:  And did she card her own wool? 
 

Oh yes, carded and spun it.  It was none of this commercial stuff.  She'd have nothing to do with that.  I wish more of them wouldn't.  It puts their rugs in a different class, they're just not the same.  Now, I think they come out with some beautiful rugs, but they're not on a par with these. 
 
 

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Underhill:  What did the Navajo people expect the trader to do for them? 
 

In those days, they didn't expect you to do anything.  They were pretty independent themselves, and they were pretty trustworthy.  There were very few of them that tried to take advantage of you.  They were good people.  Their standards were good, their aims in life were good.  Nowadays I don't know, some of these younger people (chuckles) got screwy ideas.  Iím sorry...  But they're all good people. 

The thing that bothers me most, and it's a sad thing, when we first went to the trading post, they had that big boarding school there, and they would bring all these little kids in, three and four hundred of them.  They wouldn't let them talk one word of Navajo after they hit the school.  Now, there's a lot of these youngsters who don't know how to talk Navajo, and it's a shame.  It's a detriment to them, they need to know how to talk in their own language.  I think they're changing.  Derry says down where he's teaching now that they're pushing learning their own language, and I'm glad. 
 
 

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(laughs)  Transportation!  Well, I'll tell you, when we first went out there, the roads were all mud, the wind blew, the rains came, and you didn't go.  If it rained, you just didn't go, because the washes get so full you didn't dare to.  The roads were so terrible you couldn't ride on them.  I can remember Mother at one time saying that she went to Gallup and it took her two days with the buggy to get to Gallup because it was so slow.  You didn't travel fast in those days.  The roads were not there.  Later, the roads got a little bit better and a little bit better.  I can remember when I got in the trading post, I did a lot of driving back and forth between Farmington and Gallup and I even did a lot of the trucking of the sheep and the cows.  I couldn't do that anymore!  I remember (chuckles) one time I took a big bunch of sheep to Gallup in a truck, and the darn things would keep falling down on me and smothering.  Oh! that was awful!  I had an Indian boy with me, he'd get out and punch them up.  I wouldn't dare drive a big truck like that anymore, I couldn't do it.  In those days, you had to.  You did lots of things you had to do. 
 
 

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You've seen my little house at Toadlena, where Mother built a little tent house first, because she couldn't stand the kids in the main part of the house, they were making too much noise and she couldn't get any rest.  So she had Dad build this little tent house, and she would go out there so she could rest.  After Charles and I went to the trading post, we took that tent house, converted it into a kitchen, and built a porch.  And we took the chicken house behind it and that was our front room.  And then we built other bedrooms behind.  And one night--we never locked our doors then.  You never locked your doors.  You never, ever would think of locking your doors.  And one night in the middle of the night something hit that front porch, came through the kitchen, through the front room and into the bedroom, and the first thing I knew, they were shaking Charles and said, "Charlie, wake up! wake up! come and help me!"  Charles said, "What in the world's the matter with you?"  He said, "My daughter's havin' a baby, and she's havin' a hard time, I gotta have some help."  Well, Charles got up and got his clothes on and went way up the hill to where the daughter was having the baby.  They made a big thing on some poles and a blanket and brought her down, got her to Shiprock, she had the baby all right... 

Anybody was sick, they'd ask Charles to come.  Very often I've known him to be called to somebody that was ill, because they wanted him to talk to them.  He keeps telling a story about some man, and since he got so sick himself, he said "I could take my own advice now," but this man had just given up.  He wouldn't get up, he wouldn't even try.  And Charles said he went up and talked to him, he said, "Now, look, if you'll get up every day a little while, and stay up, pretty soon you'll be all right."  And he kept checking on him, and made him get up, and after a while, the man did get okay, because he kept trying.  And quite often, if they had somebody sick, they wanted Charles to come down and say a prayer with them.  Now, that was before Charles was too active in the Church, but they wanted to have him bless them for some reason. 

I remember one time Mrs. Jumbo had a baby, and she came and got Mother and I to go over and help her.  And if you think primitive ways are primitive, you should see that!  But that was when she had the little baby that they called Charlie--and they called him after Charles after that.  Then there's people out there named for me and for Charles and for Dad.  If they liked people, they gave them their names.  You'll find them all over out there.  They liked us.  I think they felt like we were one of them.  And I feel like they're one of us, they're my people.