Acts of kindness are usually done without any thought of personal gain or any idea of what they could lead to. Sometimes they are simple, solitary gifts; sometimes they can change a life.
Jimmy Toddy was born in 1928 near the Wide Ruins Trading Post in Arizona. As a young child, he developed an interest in drawing, initially copying and adding to rock paintings found on the canyon walls near his home.
When he was in grade school, he met Bill and Sallie Lippincott, the trading post owners at Wide Ruins. He was the kind of kid who was always drawing something, and the couple wanted to encourage him. They set up a small table in the trading post and provided him with paper (usually pieces of butcher or wrapping paper) and colored pencils.
Toddy would sit at the table, draw scenes of Navajo life, and sell them to the few tourists who came to the post. Think about it--if you were a visitor interested in and learning about the Navajo people and you met a cute eight-year-old at a trading post selling his paintings, would you pay a dime for one?
According to Sallie, Navajos at the time had three names. The name they were born with, the name the white man gave them and their nickname. Toddy was the name given to him by the school. The Navajo valued their real names and didn't want them thrown about easily.
Toddy’s nickname came from a guest that Sallie and Bill Lippincott had staying with them at Wide Ruins. Peter Blos was a well-known artist from Germany who had come to paint the American Southwest. He had a habit of walking around shirtless. This was unusual as far as the Navajo were concerned, and they dubbed the artist as “No Shirt.”
When Jimmy started painting in the trading post, the small artist was given the complimentary nickname, “Little No Shirt!” I love these stories!
Sallie translated the name into Navajo for young Jimmy and for the rest of his career he generally signed his paintings "Beatien Yazz."
Toddy went on to become a Marine during World War II and later attended the Santa Fe Indian School where he studied under Dorothy Dunn and became one of the most important Navajo artists of his time.
That act of kindness of setting him up at a table in the post was probably the gift that set him on his career path.
We are proud to have several paintings by Jimmy Toddy who passed away in 2012. They are worth investing in.