Prior to 1983, when we still operated our Navajo rug business out of the front office of our father’s Pepsi Cola business in Durango, it was a common sight to have a pickup truck pull up in front of the bottling plant and see an older Navajo woman emerge with a Navajo weaving rolled up in a Blue Bird flour sack.
When a weaver walked into my Dad’s office, everything else stopped. He would get everyone in the group a Pepsi and they would catch up on the family stories. Salesmen, bankers or anyone else that was there to do business with the Pepsi company had to wait. The weavers came first.
One of the oldest weaving relationships that I can remember was with a woman named Mary Reid. She was from Ganado, Arizona and was an imposing figure. Mary was a short, large woman, with a beautiful smile, a great sense of humor, and the ability to weave beautiful, simple rugs, both large and small. Although most of her rugs were in the primary Ganado colors of red, black, grey and white, she also excelled at vegetal dye pieces, not a common ability. Mary was related to Mae Jim, Sadie Curtis and several other Ganado weavers, but I never was able to understand how. The Navajo have a complicated clan and family system and sometimes it can get a little murky for those of us on the outside. She spoke no English and always had a family member with her to translate which did not inhibit the conversations we would enjoy when she brought her weavings to Durango.
When Dad and Mark Winter were putting together the “Durango Collection of Southwestern Textiles,” which is now at the Center of SouthwestStudies at Fort Lewis College, their choice for a spectacular Ganado weaving for the collection was one of Mary’s pieces.
Mary passed on in 2004. During her last years she could no longer weave large rugs, but she had no intention of quitting. Like many of the older weavers, her work at the loom kept her vibrant and living.
When she finished a weaving, Mary’s son, Ronny, would call and ask, “Mom has another rug. Do you want it?” I was always amazed that he had to ask, but it was just a part of his family’s polite nature. I’m sure he knew we would never say no!
By that time, Mary was having a hard time walking and it was difficult for her to make the trip from the reservation, but she wouldn’t miss it! She was proud of her work and enjoyed the opportunity to visit and share time with Ronny, who always took the day off from his job to bring her to Durango.
Recently, we receive one of Mary’s weavings from collector whose children were not interested in Navajo weaving. He wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it. This weaving is among the last that Mary wove. It is a beautiful and intricate Ganado red measuring 35” x 48” in new condition. It comes with a framed photograph of Mary with the weaving. It is $4500.00.
Mary was one of those people that you meet and work with in life and never forget. Having this weaving again has brought back wonderful memories.