Friday, December 30, 2016

Antiquing with Della – Napless in New Mexico

In thinking of Mary Emmerling, our 2017 Special Guest
 at the Fort  Worth Show, I found this from a while back.... 
Reprinted from Antique Prime Magazine, June 2001

So we went to New Mexico, crossing over the hot Texas panhandle to the early Spanish outpost in North America, with its ancient culture and living pueblos and cool air and billboards that read: “Stuckey’s –Rattlesnake Heads, Tamales and Cappuccino.” We’re ready for anything. I’m 18 (months) and our Big Red van is loaded to the roof with antiques to sell. Mom’s got a cooler with pimento cheese and Willie is on the radio. This is the life. And I plan to stay awake for every minute of it. 

Our first stop is Albuquerque for The Great Southwestern Antiques, Indian and Old West Show, held every August at the Lujan Center at the state fairgrounds. Mom wheels me with my stroller into one room with 27,000 square feet of every old west thing you can think of, from a $60,000 classic Navajo blanket to a $6 Fred Harvey postcard from old Route 66. Some of the best old west things are the 150 dealers themselves –like long, tall Jim Hislop with his handle bar mustache working a heavy trade with even taller W.T. Bailey over a pair of early cowgirl gauntlets. W.T., who is my friend and who can just flat out-talk Jim, ends up with the gauntlets.

Another friend of mine is the man with the long white hair and the top hat, J.D. Scott from Oklahoma. He has a booth full of big 1940s Roy Rogers movie posters and a showcase full of Skookum dolls. I really like those Indian dolls with the real blankets, but no one ever lets me play with them. Still, this is a great show. Mom is looking at the most beautiful Navajo rugs she has ever seen in the booth of Mark Winter who runs a trading post on the Indian Reservation. I myself am more inclined to the table where Roger Baker shows off all the Bowie knives and gold rush and saloon antiques. I have never been to a saloon, but my big brother studied them in college.

Mom wants to visit with Cindy Rennels from Oklahoma and see all the quilts and blankets she has brought. You’d think with all the soft rugs and blankets and quilts that I would be sleepy. No luck, mom! No naps in New Mexico! Before we leave, we say hi to Mary Vidano from Colorado who travels all year long searching for Old Hickory furniture and western advertising items. We’ll see you up the trail tomorrow in Santa Fe, Mary. And that’s where we’re headed.

So Big Red takes us North, climbing on cruise control, up, up through a landscape that mom says looks like the moon covered in sage. We stop to pick some smelly pinion branches to put in our hotel room. Up, up, finally we emerge on the high desert with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains spread out behind the city of Santa Fe. It is cool in the afternoon. It is August. There are old Spanish style buildings and little winding streets. Texans, when they die, want to come here.

Big Red pulls into the graveled driveway of the Silver Saddle Motel with its weekly rate and flower garden and little tables set up  outside to drink coffee. I myself don’t need much coffee. We’re staying upstairs in a stuccoed room with our own kitchen and tiny bathroom. We carry up our suitcases and my bed and the pimento cheese and the pinion. Then we go downstairs to find my friends Brenda and Jarrell. They’re dealers from Texas too and they are going to help take care of me. Why does someone have to take care of me? I’m fine! And still no naps!

We all drive downtown to the Sweeney Center which will be the home of the Old West & Country Show, the Ethnographic Show and the Indian Art Show. Tonight all us Old West dealers are gathering in the parking lot, waiting to unload. Jarrell pulls out a cigar and heads off to do some horse tradin.' I don’t see any horses. I do see real silver saddles and chaps and spurs and even some 1950s kids’ cowboy stuff lined up on dollies to go into the show. You can’t play with those dollies either! Finally, we go in. Jarrell helps Mom set up and Brenda and I just try to not get run over.

After we set up, we now have some room in Big Red, so we head for Target to buy lamp shades to put on the lamps mother brought to sell and pillows. My mom makes pillows out of antique weavings. She sews them at home and takes them flat to the show to make extra room in the van. We go to Target to buy pillows almost every night to stuff the pillowcases and sew them up. They like me at Target. We get to the Silver Saddle motel and eat our pimento cheese. I watch Jay Leno and Mom makes pillows. I make an exception and go to sleep.

The next morning the Old West Show opens with preview breakfast. The first customer is Alan Edison from Edison’s Old West Store in Ketchum, Idaho. Mom says Alan always buys “off the top of the show”---he knows exactly what no one has seen before and he buys it first. He gets the big blue horse hooked rug that we found at Brimfield -- a whole other story--  and the folk art wooden cowboy that we picked up early one morning in Virginia and the pillows stuffed last night. My good buddies Mary Emmerling and Reg Jackson come to buy mom’s Saltillo pillows. My mom remembers Mary from New York. Mary brings over Wendy Lane and makes her buy a pillow too.  Wendy runs a vintage store here called Back at the Ranch. That night, after show, and just before we go to Target, we go stand on the bench and peek in Wendy’s store. If you go in the daytime, it’s open.
Right to Left, Me, Wendy Lane, Mary Emmerling & Pillows

Mom sells hard for two days. She meets Bettie and Loretta from San Antonio who pull down every single pillow. Loretta sits on the floor and says “I’m not sure which one.” Three hours later, she and Bettie buy ten of them and promise to see us again, which is also a whole other story.

During the slow time of the show, Mom visits with other dealers like our friend Clarice from home who has a great Saltillo weaving for sale and Steve and Julie from Dallas (Julie likes me) and Pam who Mommy and Daddy went to High School with. They are all set up at the show near the room where the Back-Rub Lady works. You can get a professional massage at the show. Very Santa Fe. We don’t get one, but maybe someday….

Mom sees a 1920s cowboy tapestry and calls a customer on her new cell phone. They say, buy it. So it’s bought and sold at the same time. That’s lucky. I got lucky too when Mom’s old friend from New York, Joan, came by to meet me for the first time. She bought me a red sweat shirt that says “Paris.” Red’s my best color and that’s not Paris, Texas!

After the show, we pack and pack and load and load. Finally we go out to eat at Tomasita’s, our favorite place, with Brenda and Jarrell and other dealers who celebrate the show and swap tall tales while I tear up all the napkins and eat the tortillas. No pimento cheese tonight!

The next day is our day off, so we –guess what? –make pillows! We also go to the flea market by the Santa Fe Opera where I get a red Pueblo Indian girl’s dress with rick rack. This is the life!

That night we all meet again in the Sweeney Center parking lot to unload for the Ethnographic Show. Now you may ask me what is an ethnographic? An ethnographic antique is anything made by hand from any place in the world –Asia, Africa, the South Seas, Latin America. Mom holds down the USA with African-American quilts and painted game boards and hooked rugs and braided rugs …and pillows.

The show is huge, with a big preview party Friday night. GUESS WHAT? Daddy comes! He hands Mom a beer and takes me away to see beautiful and amazing things –--religious artifacts, Spanish colonial furniture and silver crowns, textiles, jewelry, tribal masks and the wonderful Santos that Mike McKissick displays on the wall of Waterbird Traders while I dance on his counter top. Nan and Dave Pirnack from Colorado have the most colorful booth with a huge painted birdcages and folk art carved figures. Our booth is next to the kitchen where sometimes dealers will bring customers to see things that are special. Daddy and I saw someone one roll out something that had yellow feathers like Big Bird on the kitchen floor and say, “It’s $100,000.” I think that’s a lot.
Steve looking happy, Mike looking wary--- of me?
I visit everyone!
That night we take a walk up Canyon Rd to see the galleries and adobe houses and bungalows. It starts to rain, so Daddy goes back for Big Red and Mom and I sit on someone’s porch bench and watch a lightening storm over the mountains. Mom thinks about how hard the early Texans fought to make sure Santa Fe was part of Texas and how much harder everyone else fought to make sure that it wasn’t. She remembers coming to Santa Fe with her family and staying in the big La Fonda Hotel. She remembers coming later in college and staying there again –that time for the ten cent admission to the ladies room.  Very Santa Fe.

The next day there are kids everywhere at the Ethnographic Show. Some are just enjoying the colorful antiques and some have grown up coming to these shows with their parents, like me. Many are running around with their own cell phones and walkie-talkies. They are hustling--- cleaning showcases, fetching food for dealers, carrying packages. One boy about nine showed me a wad of cash he made working at the show. Daddy has to fly home, so during pack up Mom hires that boy to play with me for 2 hours for $10. But packing takes longer than 2 hours. At midnight, we are the only ones left, pulling out of the parking lot. I managed to stay awake again.

The next day we are heading home. We had a great time in New Mexico. Before we leave, we visit the talking parrot at the plant store next to the Silver Saddle. A talking parrot!  Life doesn’t get any better than that. Good bye, New Mexico. We’ll see you next summer, but that’s a whole other story.

Until then, happy trails and keep looking for the big one. Your friend, Della.  

1 comment:

  1. I love Della's blog and learning more about your antique shows and all the prep. Jack loved watching you (and Della) pack and re-pack your van so you would have room to buy more wonderful items to sell. Happy memories:-)


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