Saturday, October 20, 2012

Like sandpaper softly wearing edges off hardware



He was traditionally a creature of the backroom. 
Behind the double doors, and the stairwell to the basement, at the check-in stand (or perhaps, on the tall red-seated metal barstool in front of the Microfiche), one could find him every day. That was true for… I don’t know, sixty… seventy years.
Merton Taylor surfaced at the coffee pot in the back corner of the front room, precisely at 10 a.m. daily, and then, again at 11:30 a.m., gathering the dogs in the Scout, for the trip home to lunch. He returned in an hour and spent the rest of the day in the backroom until someone asked him for a key at 5:30 that evening.
“They would not find me changed from him they knew – Only more sure of all I thought was true,” wrote Robert Frost in 1913. Merton Taylor and Frost, it seemed, were contemporaries.
I reveled in stories he would tell of Dolores area characters past, like Doc LeFeurgy, and Reverend Flanders, and the “Wild Woman of Horse Gulch.” His odd take on life -- a constant draw for others, as well. His advice sought for particular hardware concerns, or archeology, or mining, or forestry and farming. He held court in that back room, as surely and regularly as the federal district.
I knew him just barely before the “Walmarting” of America, but I think he would have understood and liked Sam Walton, the change agent who opened his first store in Rogers, Arkansas, more than 50 years ago, and altered retailing forever.
Probably, he would not agree with him however. It wasn’t his nature to necessarily agree with anyone.
It is not that the Walmart Top 10 would bother him: everyday low prices, selection, altering the retail landscape, the decline of the labor movement, supplier partnerships, the ‘cult’ of Walmart, data-driven management, a culture of over-consumption, with the odd partner of sustainability, and the power of access. He might just be slightly miffed that he didn’t become famous and rich for embracing them.
But on second look, he wasn’t really interested in becoming either that rich or famous. He was interested in success, as evidenced by his involvement in the establishment of Dolores State Bank in 1959, and later the Bank of Telluride, but he measured things differently, I think.
He certainly looked at Dolores with different eyes than most. The long view, through birth, and school, railroad and dam building, lumber mills, plywood plants and dryland farming, depression to ‘80s recession, fires, floods, Roosevelt, and Reagan, WW II and the Iranian hostage crisis, Jack Dempsey and Elvis.
But times, they were a changing.

As Frost noted (again in 1913), in Reluctance.

“Ah, when to the heart of man,
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?”

Quite traditionally a creature of the backroom, in a time before great change, in the late fall, or early winter of a season of a different truth. One that I can barely remember.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Rob. You captured the essence of Merton very well. He was an eccentric for sure. I received several lectures from him on many topics. He also could throw a real sh_t fit when provoked. Like when someone interrupted one of his lectures.