Monday, May 18, 2009

Dubois' Solution

How does Dubois, WY, do it?

That was the question we asked ourselves as we drove into Dubois. How does a town with a population of less than 1000 present an appearance of a town ten times larger?

The businesses along Ramshorn, the town's main street, have somehow come together to present storefronts reminiscent of a Western town of yesteryear.

The log storefronts appear to be about the same age. There must be a story behind the planning that went into the appearance, but as yet we have not learned about it.

How does a town with basically one street through the downtown and no other town within 50 miles support up-scale restaurants and businesses? Talking with the owner of Two Ocean Books, we learned that the answer was "tourism." Well, that seemed to make sense--Dubois was about 55 miles from Grand Teton NP, but other than folks like us, most people would find a motel closer to the Park and spend only one or two days touring the Park.

We later learned that several dude ranches are located in the Dubois area. I went on the internet and counted about two dozen with a mailing address of Dubois. Many of these advertise themselves as family-oriented, so the "dudes" may get a chance to get away from the chores and run into town to shop.

Our conversation with the bookstore owner had interrupted her work. She had a bucket of water and was scrubbing the portion of the wooden slat sidewalk in front of her store.

We asked about the names in the slats that made up the sidewalk. She said that individuals and businesses had paid $30 to "buy" a slat and have their name or their business name wood-burned into the wood. Not only did the wooden sidewalk fit into the Western theme of the downtown, but the money goes into a fund for the maintenance of the sidewalk.

We noticed other store owners sweeping sidewalks and generally sprucing up the downtown, which was a distance of about three blocks. It was Clean Up Day for the town.

We walked into the Tukadeka Traders in the Horse Creek Station. The store featured Native American specialty items and other souvenirs.

The store also sold beads and supplies.

That brief descriiption was all that the Discover Dubois newspaper said about the store. We walked in the door and the first display case had this necklace featured. With the price of $3800.00 for a Phoenicia Bead necklace dating back to 800-1200 B.C., we quickly realized this was not a store for the casual "beader."

A walk down the first aisle led us to display cases of beads. Prices of $25 and $38 per Venetian Bead confirmed our first impression of the quality of the product and the skill of the artisans. The customers who were purchasing beads had quite a conversation with the owner--both sides sounded very knowledgeable.

In the back of the store were some artifacts. I am reluctant to call these items hatchets. That word just does not seem to do justice to the craftsmanship that went into their construction and the versatility of the instruments.

Just before leaving the store, we found this group of beaded necklaces. Had we seen them first, they would have seemed more intricate than they did after seeing some of the older, speciality necklaces.

But walking into Stewart's Trapline Gallery and Indian Trading Post was an education. We noticed pieces of Mimbres pottery that were centuries old and asked about the labels that identified "kill holes" in the bottom of the bowls. Most of the bowls were broken and put together with the open space in the bottom.

Kit Stewart, the friendly owner and historian, explained that members of the Mimbres culture observed the custom of burying pottery bowls adjacent to the body. Later, a bowl was usually broken and scattered in pieces throughout the grave, but by the year 550 AD, this practice was largely abandoned.

Instead, a small piece was broken out of the bottom of the funerary bowl, and the bowl was then placed over the head of the deceased.

We must have spent 90 minutes talking with Kit about pottery, sand paintings, and jewelry; her husband's painting; and her craft work.

We think that it is people like Kit Stewart who take a genuine interest in educating their customers that are the answer to: "How does Dubois do it?"

1 comment:

Reina said...

I have been loving all the pictures of the National Parks. I have never been to any of these states to the west/northwest of MN so this has been quite a beautiful "education" and I have loved vicariously experiencing these things with you. As a side note, in the photo that you described as "necklaces", what is depicted is strung "Hanks of beads", similar to a hank of yarn. The beader buys the pre-strung beads, then cuts the string at the end to use only what is needed for the project; the rest are left strung for convenience and "beauty". (My closest quality yarn shop is actually a bead shop that has expanded into yarns, so I have been learning about them).